Written by Market My Market’s content team, with contributions from Lauren Dominguez, Ryan Klein, Gina Ritch, Amanda Guglietta, Jordan Kimmel, Tyler McNulty, Jessica Unkel, and Brandi Nicklaus
93% of all website traffic is driven by search engines. In fact, organic search engine traffic dominates paid search and social marketing efforts combined, generating more than half of all website traffic. Let’s explore what this means and why it matters.
To improve search results for your website, you need to implement SEO correctly. With SEO, keyword selection is crucial, as these words and phrases preview what your content is about. A search engine like Google analyzes that information to figure out which content is most fitting to a given query and how the page should rank for specific search terms.
Optimizing your website extensively, creating engaging content, and building strategic backlinks won’t matter if you’re targeting keywords that don’t drive traffic or that aren’t competitive enough for you to rank. The right keyword strategy, though, will enable you to generate new leads and reach your desired goals and audiences.
While selecting quality SEO keywords can be a complex and time-consuming process, it’s essential to your online success. In this piece, you’ll learn how to conduct keyword research, including tips, tools, and methods to select keywords that will boost your search engine rankings.
What Are Keywords and Why Are They Important?
Keywords are ideas and topics that shape your content. As a website owner or content creator, you want the keywords on your website or in your content to be relevant to what people are searching for so they have more of a chance to find your site. For example, say you’re a business that sells shoes. Some keywords you might want to use include men’s sneakers, women’s shoes, or best shoes for runners.
Now that you have a better understanding of what keywords are, you might be wondering why they are important to your content. Essentially, keywords are the bridge between what people are searching and the content you create to service those needs. Your goal is to rank high on search engines so you can drive more organic traffic to your website from a search engine’s results pages. You rank high by choosing keywords that will bring you the most traffic.
Remember, you need to understand your audience better to create content that will rank well organically and bring qualified visitors. You can do this by talking to your customers, seeing what competitors are ranking for, and conducting keyword research.
Contributed by Tyler McNulty, Content Specialist
What is Keyword Research and Why Is it Important?
If keywords are what users are typing into search engines, then keyword research is what businesses need to do to determine the appropriate keywords to target. After all, content writers and SEO strategists can’t just dream up any old keyword phrase off the top of their heads and expect to see results. It takes thorough research to uncover the perfect set of keyword phrases that will satisfy both users and search engines. Keyword research is ultimately one of the most fundamental aspects of search engine optimization.
Put simply, keyword research is the process by which writers and SEOs research popular search terms that users type into search engines like Google and implement these terms into blogs and pages so that content ranks highly on search engine results pages (SERPs). Generally, keyword research takes place in the early stages of campaigns, and at times, lays down a foundation for future projects, campaigns, or content. You can use keyword research to help you ideate around a new piece of content you’re writing, help you decide how to name your product features, or optimize your website after publishing.
So, why is keyword research important? Will a strong keyword research strategy actually make a tangible difference? The answer is, unequivocally, yes! Keyword research is the only accurate way to determine what people are typing into search engines, which is essential to know if you want to avoid creating content about topics for which nobody is searching. There are so many reasons why keyword research should be at the forefront of a digital marketing campaign. Here are just a few:
- You’ll better understand your brand and business: What are you selling? What are your services? If you don’t know this, identifying your keywords can help you understand who you are and how users can find your business online.
- You’ll know where you stand amongst your competitors: Keyword research can tell you vital information such as where you rank for keywords, which keywords are easy to rank, and which keywords your competitors are targeting well.
- You’ll know what users are actually searching: The keyword phrase you think makes the most sense for your content might not actually be the phrase that your customers are typing into SERPs. Keyword research can tell you what people are searching rather than what you think they’re searching.
- You’ll help Google understand what your page is about: Search engines can only rank your website if they know what your business does or what a certain page is about. Targeting keywords on different pages of your website means Google can then rank you for those keywords.
Ultimately, by identifying and utilizing keyword research effectively, you’ll be one step closer to driving traffic to your website.
Contributed by Jordan Kimmel, Content Specialist
How to Get Started on Keyword Research
To kick off your keyword research process, start by thinking about your ideal customer: How would they potentially search for your product or service online? What problems are they searching to find solutions? The keywords you should be targeting are included in your ideal customers’ search queries. To break down this process, consider following these steps:
Step 1: Brainstorm Main Topics That Are Important to Your Firm or Business
When starting off your keyword research, try to think in a broad sense about the most relevant topics you want to rank for in the SERPs. What are the main problems that your ideal customers bring up during consultations? What are the key solutions that your business or firm provides to help your customers? Try to come up with 5-10 topics. If you’re a personal injury law firm, for example, your general list of topics may include:
- Accident attorney
- Injury attorney
- Auto accident attorney
- Car accident attorney
- Truck accident lawyer
- Motorcycle accident attorney
- Slip and fall attorney
Step 2: Add Specific Keywords to Your List of Important Topics
After creating your list of 5-10 topics that are important to your firm or business, the next step is to identify keywords related to each topic. Try thinking of your topics in Step 1 as “buckets.” In Step 2, you’re filling up those buckets with related keyword phrases you want to rank for in the SERPs because your ideal customers are likely searching for those phrases.
Going back to our personal injury law firm example, some keyword phrases people type into Google Search for “car accident attorney” may include:
- Who is at fault in a rear-end collision?
- How serious is a whiplash injury?
- How long after a car accident can you file a claim?
- How much money should I expect from pain and suffering after a car accident?
- What to do if you’re in a car accident as a passenger?
Step 3: Consider User Intent and How That Influences Keywords Research
When creating your keywords, it’s essential to consider user intent if you want to rank well on SERPs and attract visitors to your website. Keywords can have various meanings, but the intent behind the search containing those keywords is what you should focus on. For example, the keyword phrase “car accident” can mean car accident statistics or car accident injuries. Your website should present clear solutions to the problems your ideal customers want to solve—their intent—by incorporating relevant keywords into your solutions.
You can verify that a user’s intent is in a keyword simply by entering it into Google search, then observing what results come up. What you want to look for is whether the type of content Google displays is closely associated with the content or copy you would create on your website for those keywords.
Step 4: Use Keyword Research Tools Strategically to Your Benefit
The last step is to take advantage of keyword research tools like SEMrush and Google Search Console to augment your keyword research. These tools can provide insight and help you create more keywords or keyword phrases based on search volume and exact match keywords or keyword phrases related to the topics you’ve brainstormed so far. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about keyword research tools.
Contributed by Gina Ritch, Content Specialist
How Often Should I Do Keyword Research?
Unfortunately, keyword research isn’t something you can set and forget. Much like other SEO strategies and tactics, keyword research is fickle. One moment you may be the champion of the world, and the next, your competitor is upstaging you because you took your eyes off the prize. Ultimately, this means you need to continually check, revise, tweak, and adapt your content and keyword research.
You may be wondering exactly how often you need to be examining and amending your strategy. As a general rule of thumb, it’s advisable to check about every three months. This means that if you’re using keyword tools such as Google Analytics and Keyword.com, you may want to look at how your content has performed over the last three months and adapt accordingly. If search volume has tailed off, you’ll need to fine-tune your campaign and research more relevant keywords that your audience is now using.
Revisiting your SEO strategy doesn’t need to be hard work as long as you remember that SEO is an ongoing process. If you’ve always seen SEO as a one-off mechanism, checking and revising will feel tedious. In this case, changing your mindset and approach is a game-changer.
Contributed by Jordan Kimmel, Content Specialist
Using Google’s Keyword Planner to Conduct Research
Tools that facilitate keyword research come from a variety of sources. Some of the best tools out there are free to use and relatively intuitive for people who are just getting started. One of these is Google’s Keyword Planner, a component of Google Ads. While Google Ads facilitates effective pay-per-click campaigns, you can still use the keyword planner tool by making a free account. All you need is a Google account, which you can set up easily here. If you have Google Analytics set up, you likely already have a Google account for your business.
Once you’re in Keyword Planner, click on Discover New Keywords and enter terms and phrases you already know are relevant to your business. You can enter up to 10 at a time and can even filter the results by language and location.
For a greater scope of results, avoid using too many filters in this early stage of research. Google’s Keyword Planner will reveal related keywords and other data, including the average monthly searches, competition (which only refers to the keyword’s competitiveness when using Google Ads and not when trying to rank organically), ad impression share, and top of page bid estimates. When conducting simple keyword research, you’ll want to focus on the number of average monthly searches per keyword. In Keyword Planner, the volume of searches is presented as a range (such as 100-1K).
Pros and Cons of Google’s Keyword Planner
Google’s Keyword Planner is usually the first go-to tool for keyword research. It allows you to find keywords by applying several different filters to get tailored results. You get an idea of search volume and can use several other metrics to plan an effective ad campaign. The program even makes suggestions for related terms you might not have thought about to broaden your results.
On the downside, Google’s Keyword Planner tends to list keyword results that are almost identical to the keywords you entered at the beginning. When looking for keywords related to “criminal lawyer,” for example, the top suggestions for related keywords are:
- Criminal defense attorney
- Criminal defense lawyer
- DUI lawyer
- Criminal attorney
If you’re looking for unique keywords, you may want to begin your search with the URL of a competitor’s landing page or the landing page of another business in your niche. You can enter the domain just below the area where you can enter up to ten keywords:
Using this filter could reveal additional search terms related businesses are using.
Other recommended tools include:
Once you’ve gathered new keywords using Google Keyword Planner or an alternative tool, it’s time to make use of your new keyword family. Some criteria you can use to narrow down the right search terms are:
- Search volume
- Organic SEO competition
Contributed by Lauren Dominguez, Content Lead
How Many Keywords Should You Use in Content?
Determining how many keywords you should use in your content will depend on what keywords you’re using, how they relate to one another, and if they contribute to your message. With a bit of keyword research, you can quickly develop a list of 20 or more keywords and phrases, but the way you use them may vary. Remember, there are three main types of keywords:
- Primary keywords are the main focus of your content, so the title and copy should reflect them. It isn’t easy to write a strong piece of content about two different topics, so try to use only one primary keyword per page or blog. Essentially, a primary keyword is a word or phrase that you mainly want to rank for on Google and other search engines.
- Secondary keywords support the primary keyword and bring additional information to your content. Use these words naturally throughout your copy so you can provide value to the reader.
- Additional keywords are any other related keywords that are phrased or spelled differently than those that are primary and secondary. It’s essentially a catch-all to get different variations of your main keywords in the content. Long-tail keywords also fall under this category.
So, how many keywords should you use in content? A good rule of thumb is to use between three and eight. That breaks down into one primary keyword, one to three secondary keywords, and one to four additional keywords. This gives you ample opportunity to rank for at least one of them. Down the road, you should reoptimize your content based on what’s currently ranking.
Ultimately, primary, secondary, and essential keywords should work together to help the user find the information they need. Content that’s high quality and longer will naturally use these words and phrases, which is a great way to rank higher on search engines and increase organic traffic.
Contributed by Tyler McNulty, Content Specialist
Where and How to Use Keywords in Content
Over the past decade, it often feels like keyword usage within content will occur naturally without the need to force keyword usage in what would seem arbitrary increments, such as every 150-200 words. There are specific areas within a page or blog where your keywords will have the most impact, and it is important to consider the placement in these sections of the content. Keep in mind that it is important to finish creating your content from a creativity standpoint, and then put on your SEO glasses for another go-around afterwards.
Let’s use “Buffalo Car Accident Lawyer” in order to demonstrate the following examples:
- Meta Descriptions
The weight of the keyword in the meta description doesn’t necessarily have the biggest impact from an SEO standpoint, but it’s certainly bolded in SERPs to confirm the relevance of the search term. If the search query was “Buffalo Car Accident Lawyer,” then the description below your SERP would appear to be “The Bills Law Firm has decades of experience serving the Buffalo metropolitan area with car accident related legal matters. Contact our firm today for a free case review.”
- Title Tags
Your most important keyword will be included in the title/meta tag, followed by an appropriate variation of the keyword or the brand.
- H Tags
Your H1 will be very similar to your title tag, with your H2 tags being more expansive, but may also include the main keyword. Examples of common H2 (sub-topics) that will still include the keywords (X representing your main keyword) include:
- Why should I hire an X
- How much does X cost?
- What to look for when hiring an X
- First and Last 200 words
Typically, your page will open with your H1 and a hook that won’t typically facilitate extensive use of your keyword. The last 200 words can commonly wrap up the content with your keywords as this will include your call to action and other internal links.
Contributed by Ryan Klein, Managing Partner
Ways to Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is a common practice where brands fill or “stuff” their web pages with target terms. A common belief in SEO is that a page will rank better in search engines for a target term if it is repeated as much as possible, but this practice can destroy your SEO efforts. There are two types of keyword stuffing: visible and invisible. Visible keyword stuffing can include practices such as:
- Using irrelevant keywords
- Inserting blocks of the same word
- Adding terms out of context
- Repeating words or phrases unnecessarily
Invisible keyword stuffing, on the other hand, is placed into the content management system’s backend, which can be read by search engines. Common invisible keyword stuffing practices include:
- Overusing terms in meta and comment tags
- Hiding repeated keywords in your page’s code
- Repeating words and phrases in the alt text
- Concealing text on a page, such as using white font on a white background
Unfortunately, both visible and invisible keyword stuffing can lower your search engine rankings. Long ago, keyword stuffing was common practice for SEO marketing, but today search engines will penalize pages that partake in this strategy. Google has been known to take pages down entirely for overusing keywords–and users aren’t fans of the practice, either. Keyword stuffing can make web pages more difficult for humans to read and turn customers off from your brand.
Avoiding intentional keyword stuffing is simple, it’s curbing the accidental keyword stuffing that becomes tricky. Try these tips to avoid unintentionally overusing target terms for your page:
- Write for your audience. When creating new content, try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes rather than concerning yourself with what the search engine will see. Google in particular has become fluent in the natural language of users over the last few years and will reward pages that read more naturally.
- Create alternative keywords. Expand your keyword list by incorporating different variations of the target terms you are hoping to rank for. This will help prevent overuse of the same words throughout the page and will make your content more interesting for readers.
- Read your content. Once you finish a page, read through it from start to finish. This will help you pick up on repetitions that you may not have noticed while you were writing and allow you the opportunity to reword anything that doesn’t make sense.
Don’t let your rankings suffer from keyword stuffing. Overloading your content with target words and phrases may seem like an easy answer for SEO, but it could hurt you more than help you.
Contributed by Brandi Nicklaus, Content Specialist
Analyzing the Effectiveness of Your Keywords
Selecting the right keywords is an essential part of a successful SEO strategy. Certain keywords will allow you to generate more organic traffic to your website, which is the ultimate goal of SEO. To identify the keywords that will produce the most organic results, it’s important to recognize what makes those keywords effective: the search volume and the level of competition.
The search volume of a keyword shows the popularity of that term as it is organically queried by users through search engines. If a term has a high search volume, it means that many individual queries are being submitted for that particular keyword.
Level of Competition
A keyword’s level of competition is based on how many websites are ranked for that specific search term. Certain popular keywords may have a high level of competition, such as generic terms like “clothing” or “restaurant,” which can make it difficult to improve keyword rankings.
An effective keyword will rank well in your desired search term and will not have too much competition. Determining what keywords will be most effective and work best for your goals can help you generate continuous organic traffic. To monitor the effectiveness of your SEO keywords, pay attention to metrics and reports based on your keyword’s performance.
- Conversions: How many website visitors become customers or prospective clients?
- Bounce rate: How many visitors leave your website after viewing only one page?
- Organic traffic: What is your CTR (click-through rate)? How many visitors do you receive from search engines?
Powerful keyword strategy comes down to how effective your terms are at generating interest from visitors. Programs such as Google Analytics can help you determine the best course of action for producing strong SEO keyword techniques and obtaining more organic traffic for your website.
Contributed by Jessica Unkel, Content Specialist
Contact the Specialists at Market My Market Today
A keyword strategy serves as the foundation, backbone, and growth engine for your SEO efforts. If you get keyword research up and running properly, your ongoing efforts will prove easy to achieve. In order to shape your online presence and guide all other SEO initiatives, it’s important to select SEO keywords that closely correspond to what your audience is searching for and strategically position them for best results. And, if you’re serious about your keyword research, it makes sense to invest the time, money, and effort necessary.
At Market My Market, our digital marketing experts will provide you with reliable, high-quality results on the back end so that you can see real results on the front end. SEO is our forte, and our passion for helping companies succeed is what makes us who we are. Discover how we can improve your site’s ranking and position your firm as an industry leader. Contact us to request a free consultation by completing our contact form or scheduling a call directly.