SEO campaigns live and die by the keyword research.

The success of your online business on search engines depends on how well you’ve researched for your site’s target keywords.

Even if you have the best strategy in place in the hope of dominating Google’s organic search, if your chosen keywords suck, then your strategy is pretty much useless.

Truly, one cannot truly explain the importance of your chosen keywords for your SEO. It is the heart of whether your website will sink or swim on search engines.

Therefore, this guide will explain how you can find the right keywords to target for your online business. I will share you the exact process of conducting keyword research like how the experts do it. I will also provide you the best tools and resources to make your keyword research much easier.

That said, keyword research is an arduous task. It is a time-consuming process not for the faint of heart. You need to have the elbow grease and the patience to dig deep into the provided data and find the right keywords, just like finding needles in a haystack.

Why should I care about SEO in the first place?

This is a fair and legitimate question. Keywords are the last thing businesses should think about when building a site. The main concern is providing their target audience with valuable information and services relevant to their needs.

However, since the competition is building up, you need to take advantage of anything you can get. Consider that you’re going up against established businesses with years of experience in the industry and deeper pockets. From the very start, the odds are stacked against your favors, so you need to find a way to outsmart them.

This reason is why SEO is beloved by small businesses and startups.  Due to the low overhead and high conversion rate, it provides people who are just treading water in the business to make a big splash in your niche.

I have written a Mention blog post that details some of the best SEO success stories. The examples stem from the fact that they lacked online presence and visibility. It is through SEO that these companies were able to thrive and fully realize their potentials. Keep in mind that the companies mentioned in the post like Complete Plumbing Source and Maldive Traveller aren’t household names. They were only able to gain a foothold in the industry by organizing a comprehensive SEO strategy that focuses on their strengths.

So where does keyword research factor in all of this?

SEO Search Engine Optimization, Ranking algorithm

Target keywords refer to the search queries users type in on Google search. If they want to learn more about SEO, then they’ll simply type in “SEO” or “SEO tips” on the search bar. Pretty straightforward, right?

Now, what you want to do is find the right keywords for your online business.

The goal of SEO is to make your site easier to find on Google. So if you’re running an SEO company or if you have a post about SEO tips, then you want to rank on top of Google search for the aforementioned keywords.

While it sounds simple enough, the tricky part here is that it isn’t. There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to keyword research and you need to be aware of those factors in order to find out the best keywords for your business.

Below are some of the variables that you need to concern yourself with before you begin conducting your keyword research:

Goal

Ranking on top of organic search results for your keyword is the main objective. However, what is your intention in ranking on top? Do you want to drive lots of traffic to your site? Are you looking to build an email list? Do you want to acquire more leads from your site?

By defining your goals, you will have a clearer picture on which keywords to choose.

Intent

Not all keywords are built the same. That’s because users don’t share the same intent when searching for keywords. Two of the most common keyword intents are informational and transactional. The former refers to keywords that aim to educate and inform the user about a topic. From the examples above, “SEO” and “SEO tips” are informational keywords because it is assumed that the user wants to find out more about SEO in general.

The latter refers to keywords that users search when they want to purchase something, or at least interested in purchasing. If somebody wants to buy SEO tools, they’d probably type “best SEO tools” or ” what SEO tools should I buy.” Both clearly show that the user has an interest towards SEO tools, which makes the keywords transactional in nature.

It is also possible that people can search with the intention of learning more about the topic to make an informed purchasing decision. Keywords that start with “best” normally end up being informational and transaction.

Volume and difficulty

You can divide keyword type into two categories: head terms and long-tail. The former refer to keywords will not more than three words while the latter indicate those with four words or more.

Both can easily be defined by their average monthly search volume (AMSV). Since head terms are more general, they garner the most searches in a month. On the other hand, long-tail keywords are much more specific and precise. It also means that they have the least monthly search volume.

As a rule of thumb, you want to target keywords with the most searches in a month so you can increase your visibility on organic search, especially if you are ranking on the first page for this type of keyword. At the same time, the keywords with the most searches are also the most difficult to rank for. This is true for head terms, where sites like Wikipedia and industry giants appear on the first page.

Instead of choosing head terms, you can go with long-tail keywords. While they have lesser search volume compared to head terms, they also have lesser competition on organic search. Therefore, it is much easier for you to rank for these keywords. Not to mention, you have better chances of converting organic visitors since the keyword is specific; therefore, you’re probably writing about something they’ve always wanted an answer to!

Manually conducting your keyword research

Ideally, you’d want to research for keyword sin conjunction with a tool because it’s more efficient. However, it is important to know how to perform the research without tools so you will understand the process.

1. Finding potential keywords to target

First, you want to determine the keyword that best describes your business. Let’s go with the example keywords from above and say that you are running an SEO agency. Sign up and log into Google Keyword Planner and type “SEO agency” on the search bar.

You can also filter the results by location, language, or others so you can conjure more specific data.

What this tool does is help you find keywords to target for organic search results. based on keyword volume From the screenshot below, it shows how much monthly search volume a keyword garners. Unfortunately, the tool only shows you the range of search volume a keyword receives. Nonetheless, this is good enough to give you an idea on which keywords to target.

Google Keyword Planner AMSV

Only focus on the average monthly search volume column since it’s the only data relevant to organic search results.

If you’re not satisfied with the keyword suggestions provided by the tool, you can jump to Ubesuggest to unearth more ideas. Just type the topic keyword of your site and browse through the results.

Ubersuggest

If you’re interested in using any of the results, you can check their boxes and click “Download” or “View as Text” so you can copy and paste the chosen keywords on your Google Keyword Planner to find their monthly search volume.

From here, you should have a bank of keywords to choose from.

2. Determine difficulty of keywords

To validate your keywords, you need to take a quick look at your competition. Go to Google and type the keyword you’re planning to target. If you’re targeting local search, you want to enter the domain extension of Google based on location (for example. Google.com.my for Malaysia).

Look at the first page or the top ten results for that keyword for the competitors you should focus on.

Organic search results for seo agency

Here’s how your elbow grease should come into play. To determine whether or not you can outrank the pages on the first page of search results, you need to manually analyze and assess each page. That means checking for on- and off-page SEO factors of the pages.

To make life easier for you, simply download the Woorank extension for Google Chrome. It is a free tool that helps provide you an aggregate score of a page based on different SEO factors. While it is in no way the most accurate measure of a page, it nonetheless provides you a general idea of a page’s score, which you can use to compare others.

Woorank

If you want a tool that allows you to export data like internal and external links in a page, keyword density, and others, then SEOQuake is another Chrome extension and Firefox add-on that you want to look into. You can compile valuable data of all your competitors in a single spreadsheet so you can compare each of them and see the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Once you have the data, below are some of the questions that you need to ask yourself if this is the keyword that you ought to target:

Can I produce better content than they do?

Amidst all the different ranking factors, the only variable you need to concern yourself with is value. If you honestly think you can create a much better, more useful, and more valuable content than your competitors, then, by all means, you should target this keyword.

Can I link to pages from their link profiles?

While you probably will target keywords from websites with more authority than yours, you need to develop a strategy to level with them. Another important SEO factors are backlinks. It is the backbone of an effective off-page SEO campaign, so you need to build a strategy that will allow you to garner lots of links from authoritative sites.

The creation of highly valuable content that is better than the rest is a great link bait tactic. You will have already covered this part, assuming that you truly have created a much better content. However, as mentioned, you will be up against sites that are well-entrenched in your respective industry. Therefore, you need to be more proactive when building links to your site.

One of the best ways to do this is blogger outreach. In general, you want to find different influencers or people who have a significant following and clout in your field. Once you’ve found them, reach out to them with your page and ask a backlink from them. Some people won’t link to your site immediately, so you need to be creative when sending them a cold email with this proposal. You may also want to strike a relationship first and build off that before you pitch your page to them.

Depending on your approach to blogger outreach, this is potentially the fastest way to generate backlinks to your site and close the gap that exists between you and that top spot in search results.

Tools you need to use for keyword research

Following the keyword research blueprint beyond may take you hours or days to find the best ones for your business. However, instead of manually sifting and sorting through each keyword, you can simply use the premium tools below to help you unearth data in less time.

LongTailPro

As a keyword research tool, LongTailPro is arguably the best in the market. It helps you uncover hundreds and thousands of keywords that you can use for your business. More importantly, it allows you to filter keywords based on their difficulty so you won’t have to manually each page for your target keyword.

SEMrush

This tool is your all-in-one SEO platform. I would argue that LongTailPro has better keyword research functions. However, since it is only part of your SEO strategy, you might as well consider using a tool that will help guide you through the whole process.

SEMrush fits the bill of helping you conduct competitive research and backlink analysis so you can dig deep down your link building efforts.

SEO Content Audit

Arguably the most interest feature from this tool relevant to keyword research is the SEO Content Template. After entering the keyword, the tool will provide you data on how many words to write, what semantic keywords you should use in your content, and which sites you should acquire a backlink from to rank on top of search results for that keyword. Basically, with just once click, you are automating your keyword research!

Ninja Outreach

The tool will help expedite your blogger outreach process. Let’s assume that you will execute this strategy to help acquire more backlinks for your site. Ninja Outreach will help you reach out to the right people using its Social Prospecting option to see influencers in your spaces. From there, you can develop an email template that you can use to reach out to them.

Ninja Outreach

The tool will automatically send the email to your chosen influencers at intervals. Once sent, you can scale the results by seeing who opened and replied to your emails or not.

One of the issues of blogger outreach is the ineffectiveness of your email template. Therefore, you need to make it as compelling as possible to also prevent annoying influencers.

Wrapping it up

Once you have identified the right keywords to use for your site (ideally between 5-10 keywords), you can proceed with developing your site’s SEO campaign, both on- and off-page. Your keywords will provide clarity on how to approach building your SEO strategy. If you followed the steps and used the tools mentioned above, you can guarantee that your SEO campaign will give you a fighting chance against bigger and more established competitors.