Keyword Research
- SEO, SEO Strategy

What Is Keyword Research And Why Is It Essential For SEO?

I assume that you know the basics of SEO since you are trying to figure out how to undertake keyword research. Therefore, I don’t want to bore you with theory. However, I don’t rule out that some part of my audience belongs to newbies. Consequently, I’d like to shed light on some theoretical aspect of the subject. Besides, sometimes it’s essential to realize how to prepare your mind for the new data.

As always, this article will contain a lot of data. So, please use the document outline for navigation.

Well, let’s take a look at our list of topics:

  1. When keyword research does matter
  2. Keyword Research & SEO
    2.1 High-competition keywords
    2.2 Mid-competition keywords
    2.3 Low-competition keywords
    2.4 Long-tail keywords
  3. How to start keyword research
  4. What tools to use
    4.1 Google Search Console
    4.2 Google keyword planner
    4.3 SEMRush
    4.4 Ahrefs
  5. How to gather the data
  6. How to evaluate and analyze the keyword data
    6.1 Keyword Difficulty
    6.2 Search volume & Global Volume
    6.3 Return rate
    6.4 Costs Per Click (CPC)
    6.5 Top countries by volume
    6.6 Parent topic
    6.7 Parent topic’s value
    6.8 Traffic potential
  7. How to structure keywords and create a semantic core
  8. Implementation of the keywords into your website structure
  9. Embedding keywords into your page
  10. Conclusion

Even if you consider yourself an experienced webmaster, I’d recommend you to get acquainted with all the topics in the list since they may contain some surprising data. Let’s get it started!

When keyword research does matter

If you are about to do keyword research, I think you are in the respective stage:

  • You’ve just started and don’t know what to write about
  • You have a website and want to extend the list of keywords
  • You were going to evaluate your competitor’s data

That’s why I want to touch some theoretical aspects of the topic.

No matter what’s your primary purpose, you need to ask yourself, why it’s essential for you to undertake keyword research? The question may seem naive and even dull. But don’t hurry up with conclusions.

Sometimes, you don’t need to accomplish keyword research. Are you surprised? Do you consider me crazy? No, I’m not.

The reason why I’ve raised the question is that you might hurt your SEO due to keyword research. I want you to grasp the idea. Search engines have become smarter for last five years. Do you remember the sanctions for the EMD domains? The same thing happened to keywords.

Google wants you to be natural. Consequently, the search engine suspects you at every turn. Earlier, Google analyzed your backlink profile on the subject of manipulations. Today, the all-seeing eye is watching for your keywords.

Let me give you an example. BUSTLE is a website for women which generates about 50 million unique visitors per month. Sometimes, the organic traffic jumps up to 3 million unique visitors a day.

I bet, the guys behind BUSTLE don’t care about keyword research. It’s straightforward to explain if you pay your attention to how much content they publish every day.

Most websites such as BUSTLE are presented in the Google News. Because of this, these projects have another SEO strategy.

The only thing I want you to realize is that they don’t undertake any keyword research. So, if you work in the info niche closely related to news, you need to forget about keyword research. Don’t waste your time. Your primary goal is to get into Google News.

When you don’t need to do keyword research?

  • If you prepare your website for Google News
  • If you are capable of publishing much content
  • In the case, if your site contains little text content

In other words, if you manage a massive web project, you have a team of copywriters who publish about 30-50 articles per day, I don’t recommend you to destroy the “naturalness” of your website thanks to keyword research.

In all other cases, keyword research does matter.

Keyword Research & SEO

Now it’s time to separate your efforts and tasks in keyword research. As a rule, there are two types of keyword research.

  • You need new keywords to create the website structure
  • You demand new keywords to write more articles

It’s essential to separate these tasks since, depending on your needs, you should do different things.

In the first case, your goal is to create the so-called semantic core. In the second, you need to grab new keywords to expand your website with new blog posts relevant to particular keywords. Don’t mix both tasks since it’s a harmful practice.

The next thing I want you to realize is that there are four types of keywords from the SEO point of view.

  1. high-competition keywords
  2. mid-competition keywords
  3. low-competition keywords
  4. long-tail keywords

I know that you are aware of these details. However, as a rule, most webmasters misunderstand these four types or mix them.

High-competition keywords

As a rule, most webmasters believe that high-competition keywords are those that contain only one or two words. However, this opinion is wrong.

High-competition keyword may contain four and even six words.

Another delusion is that any SEO tool could show you the exact competition by this keyword. This statement is also wrong since their reports are nothing but an estimation. In fact, there is no tool which might showcase you the exact value of competition.

In other words, there is no golden rule which might allow any tool to evaluate the level of competition. Each case is unique.

For instance, let’s take a look at the keyword “Lucifer.”

According to Ahrefs, “Lucifer” is the keyword with low competition. You’ll require backlinks from ~49 websites to rank in top 10 for this keyword. However, I bet that even if you were lucky to obtain backlinks from 100 sites, you wouldn’t be in the TOP 10 by this keyword in Google SERP.

There are many reasons why.

  • Google doesn’t know who or what you mean by typing “Lucifer” in the search string
  • “Lucifer” is a seasonal search query since it relates to a television series of the same name which is broadcast on FOX
  • When some news appears on the subject of the series, dozens of media outlets compete for this query
  • Now the series is canceled; as a result, the competition by this keyword started to decrease

As you may see, if we are talking about the high-competition keywords, there are many factors which affect the competition.

Mid-competition keywords

The next widespread delusion is about the mid-competition keywords. How to define the golden mean between the keywords? What is the medium level of competition?

In fact, the mid-competition keywords are your primary target. Never start keyword research for high-competition keywords. I claim that it’s a wrong strategy.

It’s better to focus your attention on the keyword with medium competition, in the case if we are talking about the building of a semantic core.

However, never try to adapt your articles to the mid-competition keywords. Over time, Google should rank your website by this type of search queries. You can’t affect these keywords unless you purchase backlinks. I don’t recommend you to do that since I preach the white-hat SEO practice.

Summing up, you need to target the mid-competition keywords for the following purposes:

  • Building a semantic core
  • Your primary goal to rank for
  • Allow Google to rank your website by this kind of keywords naturally

Low-competition keywords

This type of keywords ideally fits your titles. It’s recommended or even essential to optimize your blog posts/articles to promote them by the low-competition keywords.

As a result, low-competition keywords is your primary target in keyword research.

You need to realize the following things:

  • You dream is to rank in Google by a high-competition keywords
  • To reach the goal, you must to optimize your semantic core for mid-competition keywords
  • The primary content of your website must contain the articles optimized for low-competition keywords

That’s how the SEO magic works.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are the term which is applied to the unexpected keywords a visitor accidentally or advisedly types into the Google search string.

Long-tail keywords also serve as the target of keyword research. In some cases, such keyword may serve as a basis for the SEO strategy.

What are the long-tail keywords in fact?

You never know what to expect from a visitor or consumer who is searching for a product or service in the Google search string. Of course, there is a group of keywords which is commonly used by the vast majority of people.

Long-tail keyword example

However, sometimes, a user doesn’t know how to formulate a search phrase. As a result, he is about to type in the Google search string an unexpected set of words. In SEO, we call these search phrases the long-tail keywords.

There are two ways how to obtain the data about the long-tail keywords:

  • Define them in your GA report
  • Commit keyword research using special SEO tools

According to several studies, the long-tail keywords include about 70% of search traffic. That’s why such type of keywords is essential for your keyword research.

Summing up, to use the long-tail keywords is the essential practice for boosting organic traffic and conversions.

How to start keyword research

We have just finished up with theory, let’s get down to practice. Now you realized why it was essential to read the theoretical aspects. Please do it one more time if you misunderstood or missed the topics presented above since you need to comprehend the data above to move forward.

Let sum up what you need to do next:

  1. Define your target (high-competition keyword)
  2. Create your website structure (semantic core = mid-competition keywords)
  3. Determine the subjects of your blog posts/articles (low-competition keywords)
  4. Find out how to fill out your text with the long-tail keywords

At this stage, everything is clear with your keyword research strategy. It’s essential to learn these basics before starting using the keyword research tools since; otherwise, you will be doing it blindly.

Keyword Research SEO Tools

Now everything is ready for keyword research. The only thing you need to realize is what tools to use to cope with this task.

There are a lot of SEO tools which might you assist with keyword research. Let’s take a look at the most distinguished of them:

I’m aware of that there are much more tools for keyword research. However, I don’t want to waste your time by describing the useless or out-of-date tools.

As you may have noted, there are two free and two paid tools on the list. Let’s take a look at them closer.

First, it’s worth noting that I hate all the tools provided by Google due to their worthless. However, these instruments are free. Therefore, I’m forced to pay your attention to them.

Google Search Console

This tool may seem utterly useless for the vast majority of webmasters. However, it allows you to research your current keywords.

Log in to your Search Console and, deepening on the version go to:

  • Search traffic -> Search Analytics
  • Status -> Performance
WMT Old
WMT New

I don’t want to focus my attention on this tool. But if you’re just a beginner, it might be useful for you to know what this tool can do.

This tool allows you to sort your keywords by:

  • Impressions
  • CTR
  • Position

You can separate the data by:

  • Search queries
  • Most popular pages
  • Countries
  • Devices
  • Search type (web/image/video)
  • Search appearance (AMP non-rich results/rich results)

That’s all you can do with this tool.

WMT Old Report
WMT New Report

Despite the seemingly worthless of this keyword research tool, it assists you with gathering the data about your current semantic core. But what if you want to append your data with new keywords? Let’s take a look at more advanced tools.

Google keyword planner

This tool was made primarily for the ad buyers. As a result, I can’t consider this tool powerful. Google keyword planner assists ad buyers in orienting themselves how much money they will spend on ads and how much traffic they might get back. That’s why these data are not correct but somewhat approximate.

Google Keyword Planner Report

Log in to Google keyword planner and follow the next steps:

  • Chose your location, language, search networks
  • Paste your keywords in the search string titled “Keyword ideas”
  • Now you can see the keywords separated by:
    1.1 Relevance
    1.2 Average monthly searches
    1.3 Level of competition (Low, Medium, High)
    1.4 Ad impression share
    1.5 Low Bid
    1.6 Top Bid
  • You can apply filters to the keywords
  • The tool allows you to download the keyword ideas

In fact, that’s all you can do with the Google keyword planner.


Let’s now turn on the expert mode and talk about the real tools capable of assisting us with keyword research. The next tools will allow us among other things to analyze that data of your competitor.

SEMRush

SEMRush Keyword Report

Since this tool was initially created as an instrument capable of analyzing your competitors, it allows you to compare the data of different websites.

Unlike Google tools, the data presented by SEMRush are structured and visualized.

SEMRush split their data into various databases. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is to choose the country of your study.

To undertake keyword research thanks to SEMRush, follow the next steps:

  1. Go to semrush.com
  2. Choose “Keyword Overview” on the left of the search string
  3. Type your keyword in the search string
  4. Choose the country
  5. Switch between Desktop & Mobile report
  6. Look at the report

To analyze the keyword of your competitor do the following:

SEMRush Domain Overview
  1. Go to semrush.com
  2. Choose “Domain Overview” on the left of the search string
  3. Paste the domain of your rival in the search string
  4. Choose the country
  5. Switch between Desktop & Mobile report
  6. Study the report

Needless to describe the SEMRush report since you can study it by yourself. Nonetheless, I want to empathize some points.

Pay your attention to the following data:

  • Organic Search
    1.1 Keyword volume
    1.2 Number of results
  • Paid Search
    2.1 Cost Per Click (CPC)
    2.2 Competition
  • CPC distribution by county
  • Keyword trend
  • Phrase match keywords
  • Related keywords
  • Organic search results
  • Paid search results

As you may see, the SEMRush repost looks more presentable versus the Google ones.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is the powerful tool which allows you to track down the backlinks of your competitor. However, the tools now have a section titled “Keyword explorer,” and this instrument is my favorite.

First, I like the visualization presented by Ahrefs. Secondly, their data are closer to reality since the project updates its database ten times faster versus SEMRush.

Ahrefs Keyword Report

Let’s take a look at the Ahrefs keyword report.

  1. Go to ahrefs.com
  2. Register a trial account since they don’t allow you use their data for free
  3. Go to the “Keyword Explorer” section
  4. Pate your keyword in the search string
  5. Choose the database on the right of the search string
  6. Push the search button to look up at the report

Ahrefs keyword report:

  1. Keyword Difficulty
  2. Search volume
  3. Return rate
  4. The total number of clicks on the search results
  5. Costs Per Click (CPC)
  6. Clicks Per Search (CPS)
  7. Global Search Volume
  8. Top countries by volume
  9. Parent topic
  10. Parent topic’s value
  11. Traffic potential
  12. Keyword ideas
    12.1 Having same terms
    12.2 Also rank for
    12.3 Search suggestions
    12.4 Newly discovered
  13. SERP position history
  14. SERP overview

As you may see, Ahrefs allows you to accomplish the more in-depth analyses of the desired keywords.

How to gather data

Now you have all you need, both strategy and tools. It’s time to collect the data.

I think that the best way to gather your data is to apply all the tools at once. At least, I do my keyword research that way.

Follow the next steps in order to cope with the task correctly:

  1. Go to your Search Console
  2. Grab the keyword data by pushing the button “Download”
  3. Now you have a list of your current keywords
  4. Log in to the Google keyword planner to define the desired keywords you want to get organic traffic from
  5. Use SEMRush as the tool which will allow you to discover the related keywords
  6. Use Ahrefs for the in-depth keyword study
  7. Unite all the gathered data in one document (MS Excel Table or Google Sheet, as you wish)
Export Data From WMT

Now your data is collected. It’s time to analyze it.

How to evaluate and analyze the keyword data

I bet your goal is to increase your website’s organic traffic and revenue. That’s why you want to undertake the keyword research; isn’t it? Accordingly, it’s essential to know how to evaluate and analyze the potential of the keywords you previously collected.

It’s time to look at each point of our report more detailed. I’d like to analyze the Ahrefs report since it seems more accessible, in my opinion.

Keyword difficulty

This parameter allows you to realize how strong the competition by the desired keyword on the scale 0 through 100. I claim that this indicator is crucial since there is no other way to learn the cost of your time and resources you need to surpass the competitors.

Talking about the strategy, as I have mentioned above, keyword difficulty may serve as the indicator of your target.

  • If the competition is incredibly high (orange and red zone), make this keyword your target
  • If the indicator is medium (yellow area), use these keywords in you semantic core
  • If the competition score is low (green zone), you need to write the articles on the topic of the keyword

Summing up, the value of keyword difficulty assists you with your SEO strategy.

Search volume & Global Volume

As a rule, the Search volume indicator correlates with Keyword difficulty. However, this rule has exceptions.

You may have guessed that Search/Global Volume is the indicator which allows you to estimate how often a target keyword is searched per month in a given country/globally.

But please bear in mind, don’t mislead yourself thinking that Search volume is equal to Traffic potential!

Return rate

The return rate is the metric exclusively introduced by Ahrefs. Thanks to this indicator you can estimate how often the visitor type the same keyword into the search string.

Though these data may seem unnecessary at first, this indicator showcases the possibility to see the same visitor on your website thanks to search engine not because of a bookmark.

The return rate might be useful for the seasonal and eventful keywords.

Costs Per Click

If your primary goal is to earn money thanks to Google AdSense, this indicator is vital for you. Thanks to this metric you can estimate the potential revenue the keyword might generate.

Some webmasters aim to know the net worth of their own websites and projects of their competitors. As a result, the CPC value is the most significant figure in the keyword research.

Top countries by volume

While Global volume allows you to evaluate the total number of times a visitor is typing in the search string to find answers to his questions, the metric titled “Top countries by volume” allows you to estimate the potential of a keyword in each country.

If you promote your goods or services in some country, you can separate the data by this indicator. However, these statistics are also essential if you work globally.

Parent topic

This metric allows you to determine the top keyword which dominates upon your minor keyword. In other words, if you promote a mid-competition keyword, this indicator will let you figure out which high-competition keyword might be your next target.

This metric is especially essential if you work with long-tail keywords to determine the subject a visitor possible meant.

Parent topic’s value

I think it’s clear that if you were lucky to define the parent keyword, you’re interested in the determination of its value.

I want to repeat one more time. You need to know your primary target. This statement looks evident. But everything is not too simple.

Let’s imagine you started a blog. You write about everything and have no particular goal. But one day you started received the organic traffic from Google. You want to determine what keywords trigged the appearance of the organic traffic.

Thanks to parent topic and its value you could define where to go next. Is it clear?

Okay, I’ll give you an example. My first website was a travel blog. I was writing thereby about my experience while traveling. But I have noticed that Google provides me the organic traffic by the keywords which start from “interesting facts about… France, Germany, Sweden, etc.”

I shortly realized that it is my micro niche, where the parent topic is “facts about.” Such a discovery allowed me to cover this niche and transform my first website into a blog about facts.

I hope now it’s clear.

Traffic potential

This indicator showcases the potential amount of organic traffic your website might receive if you rank # 1 by the parent keywords.

We research keywords to determine the amount of traffic they could generate; isn’t it? Accordingly, we need to take this metric into account first of all.

Structure your keywords to create the semantic core

Now you know how to:

  1. Undertake keyword research
  2. What tools to use
  3. How to gather the data
  4. You know how to evaluate and analyze the keyword data

It’s time to explain to you how to structure your keywords to create the semantic core.

What is the semantic core?

This term is applied to the three semantic structure of your website. If you are not acquainted with this term, you can’t even imagine how it is essential in SEO.

But today, our mission is to figure out what keyword research is and how to apply this technic in practice.

In fact, any other author might stop writing at this point since our mission is completed. But I want you to know what to do next.

Why undertake keyword research if you don’t know what to do with all these data?

Generally speaking, I had to create the semantic core yet before starting your website. However, even if you own the one, it’s time to make adjustments to its structure.

Since the semantic core is the tree structure, we need to build it up as the descending hierarchy. In fact, you already know it.

  • High-competition keyword is your goal
  • Mid-competition keywords build your site structure
  • Low-competition keywords are the subjects for your blog posts

Let me give you one more example. As a rule, I don’t use my SEO blog to provide you with another example. But now it’s the opportune moment.

  1. My goal is to rank # by the keyword “SEO;” it’s the top of the pyramid
  2. One of the primary steps towards my goal is to be in the 1st place by the keyword “SEO tools;” in fact, this is the high-competition. But in this case, I’d like to consider it as the mid-competition keyword; I have this keyword in my site structure
  3. I have written this article titled “What Is Keyword Research And How To Use It For SEO” to appear in the 1st place by the low-competition keyword (in my example), “what is keyword research”
  4. I titled my article such a way since I want to hook on the long-tail keyword “what is a keyword research tool”

Well, you’re right! It is another unfortunate example since SEO is the subject with extreme competition. But my goal was to explain to you my semantic core. In your case, you need to use less competitive niche. Don’t follow my steps 🙂

Summing up, you need to build the semantic core to implement this structure into your CMS.

Implementation of the keywords into your website structure

After you finished keyword research and built the semantic core, it’s time to implement this structure into your site.

To simplify my next example, I will use WordPress as the CMS. Let’s take my SEO blog as the “bad” example one more time.

  • My blog is all about SEO, and my goal to rank # 1 by this keyword
  • I’ve created the huge category called “SEO”
  • By the way, my domain contains the keyword as well (but this is not the EMD domain)
  • The category SEO includes a list of subcategories such as:
    1.1 Basics (meant SEO basics)
    1.2 SEO Strategy
    1.3 On-page SEO
    1.4 Link Building
    1.5 WordPress SEO
    1.6 etc.
  • My subcategories are my mid-competition keywords (for this example)
  • Each my single article is my attempt to climb onto the 1st place by a low-competition keyword
  • Finally, I use the long-tail keywords on my pages (we’ll talk about it later)

I hope this example allows you to realize how your site structure must look like. In fact, that’s the target of your keyword research.

Summing up, the next step after keyword research is to apply them to your website structure. But you need to do it correctly thanks to the tree hierarchy.

Embedding keywords into your page

The final step of the keyword implementation is to use them right on your pages. I want to warn you that you must be especially careful to avoid over-optimization. But you need to use keywords on your pages.

How to use keywords on your page correctly?

  1. Use the keyword in the title of your page
  2. Embed the keyword in your subheadings
  3. You can use the keywords in navigation, if possible
  4. Sometimes, it’s essential to add the keywords to your meta description
  5. Use keywords in the ALT tags
  6. You must use keywords while writing your texts, but it must look natural
  7. Use long-tail keywords in any paragraph you want if you were lucky to discover them

There are a lot of articles on the subject of on-page optimization, including the one written by me. But the vital thing you need to care about is how to implement them correctly.

Conclusion

As I have mentioned above, this article contains a lot of words. But I’ve been trying to make these words to sound like “keywords.” I hope that all the data provided in this colossal article will be useful when you decide to undertake keyword research.

Honestly, keyword research it is an art. Few can cope with this task with ease. But if you manage to become an ace in this area, you will be able to create astonishing web projects. I wish you good luck in keyword research and hope that the result will positively affect your online business.

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