SEO Keywords: Everything You Need to Know

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The goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is to drive as many website visitors as possible from Google and other search engines.

But not all traffic your site receives is equal. Just because Google Analytics shows that your website generates many visitors doesn't automatically make it a success.

You have to know why they're checking out which pages on your website and what you want them to do upon landing on your site.

To know the answers to these questions, you need to develop an SEO keyword strategy.

In this post, you'll learn what makes keyword research important, the variables you must know when researching for SEO keywords, and the tools to find them.

What are SEO Keywords (and Why Are They Important)?

SEO keywords are search queries you optimize for your site pages to help each one rank for their respective queries.

Once users type in these terms on search engines, you want your site to be one of the first pages—if not the first—they will see on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Time and again, the higher your page appears on organic search, the more clicks it'll get, resulting in more website traffic.  

According to Advanced Web Ranking, the first position on SERPs receives 43% clicks, followed by 14% for the second and 8% for the third as of June 2022.


Reaching the first position on SERPs for queries you optimized for is of utmost importance. But getting to this point requires you to conduct keyword research, the process of finding and analyzing terms people use to search for content online.

We'll discuss in detail how to research keywords that make ranking to the top of SERPs much easier for your website. But, for now, below are reasons why SEO keywords are critical for your online business:

  • Make your site easier to find online - Assuming that your site is relatively new, SEO is arguably the best way to get it in front of your target audience. Through effective keyword research, you can find easy-to-rank-for keywords and optimize for each. Creating the most appropriate content for search queries enables you to rank on top of SERPs and get the most clicks possible from them.
  • Develop sales funnel - Some search for keywords for informational purposes, and others to help them make buying decisions. Knowing where your researched keywords fall under allows you to create content to bring your audience down your sales funnel. For example, content that familiarizes your audience first with your business belongs to the top of the funnel (ToFu). On the other hand, pages that convert visitors into leads or customers belong to the bottom of the funnel (BoFu).  
  • Increased conversion rates - Having a well-defined sales funnel, you can mobilize your visitors to perform your desired action, whether joining your mailing list or purchasing your products or services. This lets you monitor your SEO efforts and scale as necessary.

Keyword Research Concepts

Before we dive deep into the keyword research process, let's look at the most important terminologies first.

Understanding what they mean enables you to find the best keywords to target for your website.

Related Keywords

When conducting your keyword research, you want to find terms that are related to your site's topic or niche.

To give you an idea of how this work, type in your topic, which will serve as your seed keyword, on Google search.

The SERPs will contain sections showing you keywords that are connected to your seed keyword, such as:

  • Autocomplete - shows a list of keywords in which Google attempts to complete your search query.
  • People Also Ask - contains questions that people ask about the seed keyword. After clicking on a question, the section shows two new additional ones related to the question you clicked on.
  • People Also Search For - shows a small box under a page on SERPs that you clicked on and hit "back" afterward (also known as pogo-sticking). The box contains search phrases relevant to the page and the seed keyword.
  • Related Searches - appears at the bottom of the search results page

The queries you'll find here are related keywords to your seed keyword. Optimizing for these terms enables you to build topical authority, which results in higher rankings if executed correctly.

Google search is not a keyword research tool per se but is a good place to start your research, especially if you don't have a budget for a premium keyword research tool.

But you can extract more keyword ideas if you use any keyword research tools we'll discuss later on.

Search Volume

Search volume is one of the first factors most people look at when choosing keywords.

It refers to the number of times a query is typed on a search engine in a month.

You want to find keywords related to your site with high monthly search volume. Targeting keywords that lots of your audience search for allows you to grow your website's search traffic faster once you start ranking on top for them.

Using the data from Advanced Web Ranking above, you can estimate how many visitors your site will receive depending on its search position.

For example, the target keyword's monthly search volume is 1,000. Expect approximately 430 visitors a month from that keyword alone if your page ranks on top of search results (1,000 x 0.43).

A keyword's search volume is dependent on the search engine.  

While Google is synonymous with search engines worldwide, it's not the most widely used in some countries.

China uses Baidu, Russia uses Yandex, and Korea uses Naver as their primary search engine, to name a few.

So, if you want to rank for these countries or others that use a different search engine, you must find the search volume specifically for that search engine.

Also, geo-location can affect the number of searches of a query. For example, "best locksmith Pasadena" will have more searches in the CA area near Pasadena. The further away people are from the area, the fewer the searches will be.

This is critical among local businesses who want to increase their visibility in a city or state. To do this, they must consider a keyword's geo-search volume instead of global.

Long-Tail Keywords

Knowing about search volume, it makes sense to only focus on keywords with over thousands of monthly searches, right?

Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Unless your site attracts thousands of monthly traffic, it's unrealistic to go for these "seed keywords" despite their immediate benefit at face value.

The biggest concern with high search volume keywords is competitiveness.

We'll discuss this in depth in a bit, but in a nutshell, only authoritative websites can rank for these keywords. And if you're not on the level of these websites yet, you're better off targeting easy-to-rank keywords instead.

Enter long-tail keywords.

Referred to as low-hanging fruit keywords, each consists of more than four words.


Due to their length, long-tail keywords have low search volumes. For example, some terms would have less than ten monthly searches. This alone would discourage people from optimizing for this keyword type.

However, traffic will pile up by creating lots of content targeting long-tail keywords, which helps your site increase its authority and expertise over time.

But this can only happen if you dedicate writing and publishing high-quality content optimized for the long-tail keywords you researched.

Search Intent

In the example above about keywords, "shoes" is the seed keyword while "best running shoes for kids" is the long-tail keyword.

Searching for "shoes" will show you various pages about shoes: Wikipedia entries, different shoe brands, tips for choosing the best shoes for you, and others.

For "best running shoes for kids," the results are limited to the search query. There will be no pages about leather shoes for adults nor informational posts about shoes in general.

The difference between both queries is that the former is vague and ambiguous, while the latter is specific and to the point.

And the keyword's intent makes all the difference in your keyword research.

While you want to brainstorm keyword ideas with clear intent, you still have to organize them according to their intent types.


New website owners only have to worry about informational and commercial/transactional keyword intent.

Commercial and transactional keywords will help your site convert visitors into customers and generate sales.

But to get there, you must first build trust with your audience by showcasing your expertise in your niche and providing value to them. This is why you must prioritize informational keywords first when getting your website to rank.

In fact, according to Matt Diggity's finding, you need to have a 67/29 ratio of informational and commercial/transactional content to maximize your rankings.

Keyword Difficulty

Also known as keyword competitiveness (KC), keyword difficulty (KD) is another popular metric exclusive among premium keyword research tools.

KD determines the ease or difficulty of ranking for a keyword based on the SEO factors of pages that appear on top of SERPs.


The formula on how tools compute for the KD is never revealed. But Long Tail Pro did share its formula years ago:

KC = Page Authority (PA) +/- Page Title Factor +/- Keywords in Domain Factor +/- Domain Length

PA = (Several Factors including Domain Authority, Site Age, Page Links, Juice Page Links, Social Signals, and More)

Keyword difficulty shows you how competitive a keyword is in just a few, thus reducing the time spent on research.

Granted, you still have to verify if the SERPs match the KD shown to you by the tool you're using. For example, if a keyword has a low KD, the search results shouldn't show authoritative pages and sites on top.

Nonetheless, you can filter keywords with low KD and work your way from analyzing each one to see if a keyword is worth optimizing and ranking for. It still makes your job easier than not having this metric at your disposal.

Among keywords you'll find, long-tail keywords typically have low KD scores. This makes optimizing for them ideal if you have a brand-new site.

Best Keyword Research Tools

There are several different methods that you can use to do keyword research, depending on the tool you'll be using.

These tools allow you to see how many people are searching for specific keywords and what the competition is like for those keywords.

Below is a shortlist of the tools to help you conduct SEO keyword research and brainstorm the best keyword ideas for your niche.

Google Keyword Planner

Google's Keyword Planner tops the list because it's one of the best free keyword research tools in the market.

You can brainstorm keyword ideas by entering your seed keyword or typing in your competitor.

It provides hundreds and thousands of keyword suggestions related to your initial search.

Google Keyword Planner shows the range of a keyword's monthly search volume.

This is unfortunate because there's a huge gap between 100 and 1,000 searches. Just giving you an estimate and not an absolute value, unlike most keyword tools, makes this tool less useful.

Nonetheless, the suggestions should be more than enough to help you build a content strategy for your site.

While Google Keyword Planner is free, you must sign up for a Google Ads account to use this tool. That means you have to set up an ad campaign first before researching for keywords.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is considered the best SEO tool in the market. The main reason is the wealth of data available at your fingertips.

Just a quick look at its big data statistics, and you'll be impressed by what Ahrefs offers. With over 500 million keywords across 189 countries as of writing, it has the biggest search index among SEO tools out there.

But what's more important is how a tool puts this available data to use.

Thankfully, Ahrefs delivers in more ways than one.

Its Keyword Explorer shows you everything you must know about a keyword, from its keyword difficulty to its SERP breakdown analysis.


One of the most unique features of this Keyword Explorer is the Traffic Potential. It shows you how much future traffic the search term could get based on the query's top-ranking page.

You can use this information to spot keywords with a search volume that's trending upward even before it happens. Optimizing for this term before it peaks enables you to maximize your traffic even more.

The Keyword ideas section shows you all keywords related or relevant to your seed keyword. You can then filter the keywords according to KD, SERP features, and Traffic Potential to help narrow your search.


Its Site Explorer feature lets you analyze websites using various SEO metrics. In the case of keyword research, you can see which keywords they're ranking for and how much traffic the ranking pages are getting.


You can take inspiration from this keyword list by optimizing for keywords you aren't ranking to try and leapfrog over them on SERPs.

In fact, the Content Gap feature lets you enter multiple competitors on Ahrefs to compare their keyword rankings with yours. From here, check the keywords they're ranking for that you aren't

SEMrush

Similar to Ahrefs, SEMrush is one of the more reputable and trusted SEO tools available.

What sets it apart from Ahrefs is it offers features outside of growing your search traffic, such as market analysis, social media management, link building outreach, and more.

In terms of keyword research. SEMrush's Keyword Overview is very much like Ahrefs with its own spin to it.


When clicking on the keyword variations, the tool will bring you to its Keyword Magic tool. This features provides you with a plethora of keyword ideas from your seed keyword.


The best thing about this feature is that it determines each search query's intent.

You may still have to double-check to ensure that the intent is accurate. But having this information readily available for you helps make organizing and filtering keywords much easier.

You can also do with the Keyword Magic Tool by filtering the keywords according to SEO keyword factors (KD, volume, etc.), managing your keyword lists, and more.

You can also perform competitive keyword research by typing in the domain URL of your competitors and checking out the terms they're ranking for.


Even better, its Keyword Gap allows you to find keywords your competitors are ranking for, but your site isn't.


This helps speed up your keyword research process so you can begin to create better content for these keywords and outrank your competitors.

KWFinder

KWFinder is a popular keyword research tool that balances usability and affordability.

It is part of Mangools's SEO suite that includes rank tracking, backlink checking, and website profile features. But KWFinder is hands down the best among the rest.  

It's similar to Ahrefs and SEMrush by showing your seed keyword's search volume and difficulty. It also provides the different keyword ideas and their respective SEO metrics.


The tool also lets you search for keywords your competitors are ranking for to help expand your research.

That's pretty much the extent of what KWFinder can do as far as keyword research is concerned.

But despite its shortcomings, it's a pretty solid choice for a keyword research tool. It costs more than half of what Ahrefs and SEMrush charge in a year in exchange for reliable data.

KWFinder is perfect for new websites trying to get their footing on search engines without spending a lot.

Keyword Chef

Keyword Chef is the only "true" keyword research tool in the list in that it only lets you brainstorm and analyze keyword ideas, nothing more.

That said, it's arguably the best traditional keyword research tool available for several reasons.

Aside from the ability to brainstorm keyword ideas from a topic keyword, it can extract suggestions using wildcard search operators.


You can also compute the SERP score of each keyword suggestion. It computes how easy or difficult ranking for a keyword is based on the type of sites that appear on SERPs.

For instance, the SERP score will be high if the SERPs for a keyword have pages on free blogs, forums, and social media. That means you should prioritize these keywords on your site first to rank them faster.

Also, Keyword Chef's pricing structure is unique among all the tools featured here. Instead of a monthly subscription, it employs a credit-based payment.

Upon purchasing credits, you can use them anytime you want, as they won't expire. Only if you run out of credits should you buy again. This way, you're not pressured to consume your credit within a billing cycle to maximize the tool.

Additional Tips for Your Keyword Research Process

The keyword research tools above should be good enough to help you find good keyword suggestions to rank your site on organic search.

However, the quality of keywords you'll use also depends on how good you are at determining the best keywords from the rest.

In other words, tools alone won't get you the best results.

To help you find the right keywords for your website, you must observe the following practices:

Don't Rely Too Much on Keyword Difficulty

As useful keyword difficulty is as a keyword metric, it shouldn't be the deciding factor when choosing which keywords to target.

The fact that each tool computes KD differently gives you more reason not to trust this metric in isolation.

It should be treated equally alongside search volume, intent, and other variables. Use them to help you filter search terms the tool deems easy to rank.

Ultimately, the best metric to help you decide how easy it is to rank for a search term is by looking at the SERPs and checking the top pages for their on- and off-page SEO factors.

Consider Your Traffic Tier First

As mentioned, you can't optimize your website for keywords with high search volume and expect it to rank in days.

Aside from the keyword factors discussed above, you must also consider how much search traffic your site is getting.  

A theory posted by Chris Carter of Builder Society discusses traffic tiers. In a nutshell, sites should target keywords within the brackets of how much monthly traffic they get from search engines.

Here's a table of the traffic tier he's referring to:


Let's say your site is getting 1,000 monthly visitors. Using the table above, it occupies traffic levels 500 and 1,000.

This means you can realistically target and rank for keywords with a maximum search volume of 1,500.

As your site's organic traffic will grow, so will your traffic tiers. You can then target keywords with higher search volume as a result.

This is just a theory, but it makes much sense from an SEO standpoint.

A site's authority is determined by its link profile and content quality. If a site covers both bases properly, it should and will have increased search traffic over time.  

From here, it can finally target and rank for more competitive keywords with high search volume.

Until then, it must work its way from the bottom by targeting low competition and search volume keywords.

By observing your traffic tier while publishing content, you can slowly but surely raise your tiers until you're ready to take up more competitive and lucrative keywords.

Build Topic Clusters

You need to have a structure in mind when researching keywords.

It's good to target low-hang fruit keywords to get the most traffic in the shortest amount of time.

But you can't keep searching for the same type of keywords in your research. You must also have a site architecture that makes sense for your audience.

Enter topic clusters—a group of interrelated pages about the same topic on your site.

A cluster is composed of a pillar post that discusses the topic in depth. It is then surrounded by supporting articles that provide additional information that the pillar post didn't elaborate on.

Here's a visual representation of a topic cluster:


It's a way to help give your keyword research purpose.

For instance, search transactional keywords that you can optimize for your pillar posts. Then use informational keywords related to the pillar post for your supporting articles.

You can create multiple clusters to help increase your site's topic relevance and eventually improve its organic traffic.

Outsourcing Keyword Research

As you can see, keyword research isn't as simple as searching for your seed keyword on a tool and extracting its suggestions.

There are lots of factors to consider in your process to ensure that you find keywords guarantee to improve your site's organic traffic

If you don't have time to do this and just want to focus on creating content, you can hire freelancers to get the job done instead.

Check out the best freelancers on Legiit who can find you the best keywords to rank for your site.


They offer different packages that match your budget. You can also filter who the best freelancers are based on the number of reviews and the average star rating they received from customers.

Conclusion

At this point, there's no excuse for you not to find SEO keywords to rank for your website.

This post covered everything you should know and do to improve your keyword research process and your website's organic traffic.

About the Author

christopherjanb

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I provide COMPREHENSIVE CONTENT EXPERIENCES designed to improve my clients' online visibility by observing the best on-page SEO practices and engaging their audience with well-written and informative content.

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