Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the success or failure of webpage ranking on search engine result pages is very dependent on keyword research and optimization in the content.
In the past, some webmasters used black hat SEO tactics such as stuffing keywords in articles, meta descriptions and meta tags to rank higher in Google and other search engines, this caused Google to develop algorithms such as Google Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird which penalized websites manipulating keywords to rank higher.
It is imperative to know how to find keywords and how to use them properly in content to rank well using techniques endorsed by search engines i.e. White Hat SEO.
What is SEO Keyword Research?
To understand the concept of keyword research for SEO, you need to know what an SEO keyword is. An SEO keyword is any word or phrase used by search engine visitors to search for information. SEO keyword research is the search for the keywords used by searchers in order to optimize articles to rank high on search engine result pages (SERPs).
People search for the same things using the same keywords or slightly different keywords, for example a user can search for “how to become rich” while another user searches for “what do I do to get rich”, these two users are looking for the same information but use slightly different words.
Keyword research is essential because search engines are machines which take garbage in and give garbage out although search engines like Google have started using machine learning algorithms such as Rankbrain to understand the intent of a user’s search and provides relevant information even if the keywords are not an exact match.
A lot of blog and website writers write content without doing proper keyword research or any keyword research at all, they tend to write based on what they think users are searching for, this is very wrong as different people think and search differently and if you do not optimize your posts for popularly searched keywords i.e. keywords with high search traffic, your chances of ranking for that keyword on search engines will be pretty low.
There are three types of keywords based on length, they are:
Head Keywords: This type of keywords are the primary keywords around which body and long tail keywords are formed, they are usually one word or two word keywords and have the highest search volumes usually in millions monthly, examples of such keywords include “money”, “seo”, “jobs”, “insurance”, etc. Head keywords are very difficult to rank for because the biggest websites in the world rank for them hence as a beginner it is not advisable to target head keywords.
Body Keywords: This type of keywords have three to five words and have moderate traffic in thousands monthly for example “how to do seo”, :what are long tail keywords”, etc. Targeting this type of keywords is moderately difficult, before targeting this type of keywords, you need to search and see how many big websites rank for the keywords, if they are not many or have mediocre content, you can then create a comprehensive post around that keyword with at least 2000 words and good backlinks.
Long Tail Keywords: This type of keywords have more than five words and have lower traffic in hundreds monthly but are usually quite easy to rank for because there is little or no competition as high authority websites do not really go for them. Beginners and low authority websites are advised to target long tail keywords for quicker results. It is also better to use long tail keywords because they usually capture the head and body keywords which means you can rank for those as well if you have superb content and high quality backlinks.
How to do Keyword Research and Analysis Properly
Proper keyword research and analysis is super important if you want your website to rank well in search engines. Here are some tips to do keyword research and analysis properly.
Choose a niche: This should be done before even creating a blog, decide what you want to blog about and stick to it, it is easier to rank well in one niche than across different niches.
Find websites with high traffic in your niche: Look for websites and blogs who rank well for keywords you want to rank for on Google, Bing and other search engines and list them out.
Use a good Keyword research tool to analyze competing websites keywords: After finding the websites which rank well in your niche, use Keyword research tools such as SEMRush, Long Tail Pro, Alexa Internet and others to find all the keywords they have.
Download the keywords and analyze: Keyword tools such as SEMRush allow you export and download all the keywords of any website. Once downloaded, you can use Microsoft Excel to sort through the data which includes keywords, monthly search volume, competition, Adsense CPC and more. Do keyword analysis to find keywords with low competition and high searches and note down.
Aggregate similar keywords together: Ranking on Google has become more difficult over the years hence, SEO specialists have to up their game too. SEO experts have found that longer, more detailed posts targeting several long tail keywords rank better than shorter posts targeting one long tail keyword.
While targeting long tail keywords, you might see several long tail keywords with the same head keyword for example “money transfer, “money transfer to usa”, “money transfer to uk”, etc, all these keywords are talking about money transfer so instead of making several posts with each keyword, it is better to make a longer comprehensive post using the different related keywords as subheadings, this way the article can rank well for several related long tail keywords resulting in more traffic overall.
Use keywords naturally in content: Google frowns upon the use of keywords in a spammy manner hence after finding keywords you desire from keyword research, write your article using the keywords in a natural way. Keywords must not be used unnaturally and should appear at the beginning and end of articles for better ranking.
Keyword Density: When using keywords, you have to be very careful not to overuse them or under use them, any of these may result in low search engine rankings. Keyword density is the number of times a keyword appears in a post divided by the number of words in the post. The formula is:
Keyword Density (KD) = (Number of times keyword appears in article/Number of words in article) x 100%
If I use keyword “make money online” 8 times in an article of 300 words, the keyword density will be (8/300)x100%=2.67% which is optimum keyword density, it is recommended that keyword density be greater than 2.5% and less than 3% in order to rank well.
Best Keyword Research Tools
Keyword research and analysis is best done using paid keyword research tools, even though there are a number of good free tools, they have many limitations. The cost of good paid keyword research tools is very worthwhile. Here are the best free and paid SEO keyword research tools from my experience.
SEMRush: For me, this is the best paid keyword research tool in the market and I have used almost all free and paid keyword tools in my 6 year SEO journey till date. SEMRush provides information on all keywords of any website you want for an affordable monthly fee with good accuracy. Keyword analysis is best done using SEMRush as it gives access to millions of keywords, keyword difficulty, keyword sources and much more.
SEMRush also provides other tools for SEO and PPC such as backlink analyzer, competing websites and more, it also allows users search for keywords by countries to get more localized results. SEMRush pricing starts at $99 per month for 10,000 keywords per website, $199 monthly for 100,000 keywords per website and $299 monthly for unlimited keywords per website.
Alexa Internet: Best known for ranking websites based on traffic, Alexa Internet is also a good paid SEO tool for keyword research and other SEO research. It provides a plethora of information on keywords of competing websites as well as other information.
Long Tail Pro: This paid SEO tool is used to find long tail keywords from head and body keywords, all you need to do is to type the keyword you want and all long tail keywords with their monthly volume and difficulty come up.
Google Keyword Planner: Is a free keyword tool owned by Google on its Google Adwords advertising platform for Advertisers but can be accessed by anyone with a free Google account. The tool allows users search for keyword ideas using head and body keywords, websites and categories such as Arts, Internet, Automobile, Business, etc.
It allows users search for keywords filtering by location (countries and cities), keyword planner also shows monthly worldwide search volume for keywords. It is the best free keyword tool and many other SEO tools, both free and paid source data from it.
Ubersuggest: Is a free keyword tool which provides a list of Google suggestions for a keyword. When searching for keywords in Google, the search engine usually offers autocomplete suggestions and “users also searched for” suggestions. Ubersuggest aggregates these suggestions and offers them for free to users, it is good for expanding keywords to see more related keywords.
Keyword research is very sensitive and should be done with multiple tools to verify results and get more long tail keywords to target and get more traffic.