Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of SEO. Finding the right keywords to target can significantly increase your website’s visibility in search engines, allowing you to reach more of your target audience. In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the step-by-step process for researching and selecting the perfect keywords to optimize your content for.
By the end of this article, you’ll understand:
- Why keyword research is crucial for SEO success
- How to brainstorm and identify relevant keyword opportunities
- Tips for analyzing keyword difficulty and competition
- How to prioritize keywords to focus your optimization efforts
- Best practices for optimizing your content around selected keywords
- Methods for measuring keyword performance and iterating on your selections
With the right keywords, you can attract more organic search traffic to your site. This step-by-step guide will help you find the best keywords and topics to target in your content to maximize your SEO results. Let’s get started!
Understand Your Audience
The first step in finding the perfect keywords to target is understanding who you are creating content for. Really get to know your target audience and the questions or problems they may have that your content can help solve.
Think about what terms and phrases your audience would use when searching for information related to your content topic. The keywords and search queries your target audience uses provide hints as to what keywords you should focus on targeting.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. If you were searching for the type of information you plan to provide, what words or phrases would you type into Google or another search engine? Your audience likely has similar thoughts and uses similar search query language.
Identify the core topics, questions, and search intents behind what your target audience is looking for. This ensures the keywords you target will attract people genuinely interested in your content.
Brainstorm Relevant Keywords
To find the perfect keywords to target, start by brainstorming all the terms and phrases related to your topic. Try to be comprehensive and think of keywords from different angles.
Some tips for brainstorming keywords:
- List all the products/services you offer related to your topic
- Include synonyms and related terms
- Use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush or Ahrefs to find additional keyword ideas
- Look at what keywords your competitors are ranking for
- Think about what words your target audience may use when searching
- Include long-tail variations like “how to X” or “X reviews”
- Consider misspellings and closely related words
The goal is to come up with a big list of relevant keywords. Don’t worry about search volume or difficulty yet – this is just about gathering possibilities. Be expansive in your brainstorming to ensure you don’t miss good options.
Keyword research tools can suggest additional keywords you may not have thought of on your own. Plug in some seed keywords related to your topic and browse through the suggestions. Look for additional keyword ideas in the related terms and search queries.
Cast a wide net when brainstorming to provide plenty of options to analyze further in the next steps.
Identify Seed Keywords
When coming up with content ideas, it’s a good idea to start with a few core “seed” keywords that accurately describe your topic. These seed keywords should serve as the foundation to help you identify a larger list of potential keywords to target.
To identify your seed keywords:
- Brainstorm 2-3 words or short phrases that summarize the essence of your topic. These should be precise and descriptive terms.
- For a blog post about keyword research, good seed keywords would be “keyword research” and “search volume”.
- Avoid generic or broad terms like “marketing” or “SEO”. Seed keywords should narrowly define your topic.
- You may already have ideas for seed keywords based on your existing knowledge about the topic. Draw on this domain expertise.
- Search for your topic in Google. Review the related keywords and search terms suggested by Google to discover more seed keyword options relevant to your content.
Choosing the right seed keywords is key. They provide the starting point to then expand into a larger list of keywords to research further. Take the time to select seed terms that accurately reflect your core topic and intended focus.
Expand Seed Keywords
Once you have identified a few strong seed keywords, the next step is to expand this list to find additional relevant keywords and long-tail variations. There are a couple strategies to expand your list:
Use Keyword Research Tools
Powerful keyword research tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz’s Keyword Explorer allow you to take a seed keyword and find related keywords and long-tail variations. These tools analyze search data and keyword relationships to suggest additional keywords that are relevant to your initial seed terms.
For example, if your seed keyword is “how to learn piano”, these tools may suggest related keywords like “piano lessons for beginners”, “easy piano songs”, “how to read piano sheet music”, etc. The related keywords can give you ideas for other terms people may search when interested in your topic.
Analyze Search Queries
Look at actual search queries in Google Search Console or other keyword tools to find questions and long-tail variations people are searching for around your topic. For example, searches like “how long does it take to learn piano” and “what is the best book for learning piano” can give you keyword ideas.
Aim to identify 1-2 word keyword expansions, 3-4 word long-tail expansions, and question-style expansions relevant to your seed keywords. These help you brainstorm all the possible ways people search for your topic.
Review Competitor Content
Look at related blog posts and content from competitors ranking for your seed keywords. See what other keywords they are targeting that could be relevant for you as well. Their content may also spark additional keyword ideas you haven’t thought of.
Expanding your seed keywords helps develop a robust list of highly relevant keywords to research further and potentially target. Use these strategies to find hidden keyword opportunities you may have otherwise missed.
Analyze Keyword Difficulty
Once you have a list of potential keywords, the next step is to analyze them to determine which ones are viable targets. There are two key factors to look at:
- Search volume – This indicates how many people are searching for a given keyword each month. High search volume for a keyword indicates higher potential traffic if you rank well for it. However, it’s important to balance search volume with difficulty. Targeting extremely high search volume keywords that you have no chance of ranking for will not be fruitful.
- Competition – This measures how hard it will be to rank for a given keyword. Factors like current page authority of sites already ranking, and number of backlinks influence competition. The higher the competition, the harder it will be to rank for that keyword.
Aim to filter for keywords with enough search volume to be worthwhile for your content, but without competition so high that you have no realistic chance of ever ranking. Look for “long tail” keywords very specific to your topic as they often have good search volume but lower competition. Avoid generic high volume keywords if they attract sites with extremely high authority.
Ideally, you want to target keywords with 300-1000 monthly searches and low-medium competition to start. Use keyword research tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush or Google’s Keyword Planner to analyze volume and difficulty for your list. Focus your content optimization and linking efforts on your most viable target keywords. Continuously refine and expand your targets based on performance data over time.
Prioritize Target Keywords
After expanding your initial list of seed keywords, you’ll likely have a sizeable list of potential keywords to target. The next step is to narrow this down to the 10-20 keywords that are best aligned with your goals. Here are some tips for prioritizing your target keywords:
- Look at search volume estimates and focus on keywords with decent volume. You want keywords searched at least hundreds of times per month, if not thousands or tens of thousands.
- Consider keyword difficulty and focus on “just right” keywords – not too easy and not too hard. Look at metrics like backlinks and search competition to estimate difficulty.
- Focus on keywords that align with your target audience and content themes. Choose keywords where you can provide value and expertise.
- Identify keywords that have buyer intent – people searching are looking to make a purchase or acquire information. These should be prioritized over casual search queries.
- Look for valuable long-tail variations of your core keywords, like “benefits of daily exercise” rather than just “exercise.” Long-tail keywords tend to have less competition.
- Make sure to include common misspellings and synonyms for your core keywords. These variations will still drive relevant traffic.
- Use keyword grouping to identify closely related clusters of keywords around topics and themes. Targeting a group can be more effective than individual keywords.
- Create a priority matrix with keywords categorized as high, medium or low priority based on volume, competition, relevancy and commercial value.
At the end of this process, you should have a list of 10-20 core keywords that check the boxes on search volume, difficulty, relevancy and value for your goals. Focus content optimization and promotion efforts on these winners. Keep measuring and iterating as you build your content library.
Optimize Content for Keywords
Once you’ve identified your target keywords, it’s time to optimize your content around them. This ensures your content is easily discoverable by your target audience searching for those keywords.
When optimizing your content, focus on using your target keywords in strategic places, while keeping the text natural and engaging.
Use Target Keywords in Headlines and Body Copy
Aim to use your primary keyword in your title and H1. Then, work it into your subheadings (H2, H3 tags, etc.) and body copy. The keywords should flow naturally in sentences. Don’t over-optimize or force keyword placement.
Include Keywords in Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions summarize page content in search results. They don’t directly influence rankings, but compelling meta descriptions can improve click-through rates. Use your target keyword and incorporate words and phrases from your title.
Check Keyword Flow
Read your content out loud. Do your target keywords fit logically within the text? Or do they disrupt the cadence and flow? Move keywords to different areas if they sound awkward or seem overly placed.
Optimizing your content for your target keywords helps search engines understand your focus. But keep readability as the priority, allowing keywords to inform—not dominate—the narrative. With a balanced approach, you can create discoverable, engaging content tailored to your audience.
Measure Keyword Performance
Once you’ve published your content optimized for your target keywords, it’s important to track how those keywords are performing. Here are some tips:
- Use Google Search Console to monitor how your pages are ranking for target keywords over time. Are they moving up in rankings? Which keywords seem to be gaining the most traction?
- Check Google Analytics to analyze traffic to those optimized pages. Are visitors finding them through the keywords you targeted? Look at top search queries driving traffic to see if new relevant keywords are worth targeting.
- Set up rank tracking through a tool like SEMrush or Moz. This will give you an automated report on how your site ranks for keywords, and how that changes week to week.
- Consider expanding your keyword list based on related keywords driving traffic. Look for additional “long tail” variations that searchers are using to find your content.
- Revisit top-performing pages every 3-6 months and update content to reflect new keyword opportunities. Freshening your content with new keywords will help maintain and improve rankings.
- Don’t obsess over rankings, but do pay attention to meaningful traffic and engagement from keywords. If visitors from keyword searches are highly engaged, keep optimizing for those terms.
- Be patient. It takes time for pages to start ranking for competitive keywords. Stick with high-potential keywords even if progress is slow. Consistent, high-quality content will pay off.
The key is continually tracking keyword performance over time, both existing and potential new keywords. Use what you learn to guide optimization decisions and expand your reach. Measure results, test new keywords, and keep improving your strategy.
In summary, finding the perfect keywords to target takes research, planning, and iteration. The key steps we covered were:
- Understanding your target audience and buyer personas
- Brainstorming an initial list of relevant keywords and phrases
- Identifying seed keywords with good search volume
- Expanding the seed keywords into longer variations
- Analyzing keyword difficulty and competition
- Prioritizing keywords to target based on opportunity
- Optimizing your content for your high priority keywords
- Measuring performance and iterating on keywords
Keyword research is a dynamic process that requires continuous optimization. Don’t treat it as a one-time task. As you receive more data from your content marketing efforts, look for new opportunities to update your keywords.
Keep trying new keyword variations and combinations. Stay on top of trends by tracking keyword performance and search volume changes. With the right research upfront, and commitment to refine over time, you can discover your perfect revenue-driving keywords.
The key is to stay focused on creating high-quality content optimized for your ideal reader. The search traffic and conversions will follow.
Now that you know how to research and select profitable keywords, it’s time to put these steps into action. Start brainstorming keywords and come up with an outline for your next high-value blog post. Use the keyword research process to identify topics and terms your audience cares about. Craft compelling content around those keywords and provide the information your readers need.
With smart keyword research and reader-focused content, you can build an audience and consistently rank at the top of search results. So don’t wait – start researching and writing today. Your perfect keywords are out there waiting to be discovered.