How to Perform Keyword Research and Usage at an Expert SEO Level

Jen Saunders
Reading Time: 7 minutes

If anyone tells you that keywords no longer matter, you are likely talking to someone who also believe that leprechauns live in the bushes and thunder is really just God yelling at his wife.

Keywords still matter. In fact, they are core to any content strategy hoping to funnel organic traffic that converts. Those rather vanilla, self-proclaimed SEO experts will be quick to put focus on high-quality content addressing buyers but completely overlook the value of keywords. Whether you are migrating a website and want it to have SEO value, or you are optimizing product pages to get better ranking and conversion keywords are necessary for framing the right messaging that targets various buyer groups and adds to your growing revenue.

Understanding how buyer’s engage your brand and industry’s content is the foundation to keyword discovery and usage. In other words, the power in your keyword research exists in better understanding your target buyer audiences and how they search for your content, products and services.

You will ultimately need to know what broad keywords are relevant, and then determine how to branch them out into longtail and contextual versions that satisfy both users and Google’s search engine.

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Plan Your Research

Keyword research is not like jumping into a swimming pool; you need to plan out exactly what it is you are trying to accomplish and set the research points to accommodate your discovery goals. These are the most common considerations made by organizations embarking on keyword research:

  • What are people searching for?
  • What is that search volume?
  • What sites do these people typically visit?
  • What content format do they prefer?
  • What common problems are associated with these searches?

This article will provide you with the tools and strategies necessary for unearthing this information, while giving tips on how to avoid keyword research mishaps and build strong content that leads to organic traffic conversions. Once you determine how your buyers are searching for your content, you can orchestrate a blueprint that mirrors how the best strategic SEO agencies in Los Angeles deliver modern new approaches to search engine optimization that leads to transactions.

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Know Your Buyer Audience for Keyword Targeting

Before you can perform keyword research, you must first understand how your buyers consume information relevant to your brand, products and the industry as a whole. Performing in-depth buyer personas will help you eliminate assumptions about your customers while getting granular so that keywords can be crafted with valuable context. Buyer personas are semi-fictitious representations of your actual customers that capture a number of traits that help SEO experts craft high-quality keywords. When creating buyer personas, consider the following points:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Education
  • Family status
  • Job title
  • Job roles and responsibilities
  • How career success is measured
  • How and where information is consumed relevant to job
  • Who the person reports to at work / hierarchy

Based on the industry, some of these points may not be relevant. But overall these are standard components to typical buyer personas. In order to source the right information, you will need to engage in some research. Start by talking to the sales department; ask them what the typical pains and needs are expressed by leads, and determine what motivates them to make a purchase, and what discourages them from pulling the trigger. It is also wise to send out surveys or questionnaires to current clients, and leads who haven’t yet converted. Give your contacts an incentive for filling out the questions that can help you determine good, contextual keywords based on a thorough buyer persona. This could be a contest or a discount on a special offer. Just make sure the questions focus on the buyer and reveal how they emotionally connect to your products and services.

Finally, go through your customer emails and make a spreadsheet revealing all revealed pain points, most commonly asked questions, reservations, and praise. Once you know your buyers inside and out you will be able to create longtail keywords that combine emotional context with the value of your products.

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How to Create Keywords with Consideration to Search Volume

From a surface view, going after keywords with the highest search volume seems to make the most sense. After all, high search volume means more people are using the keyword. But this also means more time and work is required to rank for this keyword. SEO professionals refer to this as “keyword difficulty” and will often incorporate SERP features, such as Knowledge Graph and Carousel.

Though these broad keywords attract lots of traffic, there is usually little value in trying to rank for these for two main reasons: (1) big brands usually dominate page one of Google and have SEO budgets hard to compete with, and (2) even if you can rank for these keywords the invested dollars hardly ever justify the return, as the keywords and their supported content are not specific enough in context or topic to convert readers into leads, let alone paying customers.

Here’s an example: imagine there is a real estate company that focuses on selling homes to LGBTQ customers in niche communities that support their unique needs (liberal neighborhoods, short distance to desired hot spots, etc). Ranking for keywords like “real estate agents” or “homes for sale” may draw tons of clicks, but there will be very few conversions. However, going after more buyer-focused keywords like “homes for sale in gay communities” or “LGBTQ realtors” will target the right buyer audience, even though the search volume is significantly smaller.

Search volume isn’t nearly as important as it used to be. As Google’s algorithm has grown smarter due to its AI and machine learning attributes, user intent tops search volume (if in fact the brand’s goal is to generate revenue through organic search strategies, and not simply rank for the hell of it).

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SEO Friendly Keyword Ideas Exist in Virtual Paper Trails

One great way to research keyword opportunities is to pay attention to the different places your customers go to online for industry-related information. If you are able to create a virtual paper trail showing which online magazines, journals, message boards and social groups your customers engage, you can create a list of shared similarities that signify value points.

For example, if you own a scuba diving training center and retail store, and an overwhelming number of your customers visit sites that promote night diving, you can bet that contextual keywords that incorporate night diving, or keywords relevant to night diving scuba gear, would be of high value to ranking content that converts.

It is also worth noting if the virtual paper trail offers any insights into the buyers themselves. Sticking to our previous example of the dive shop, let’s imagine that some of the most popular social groups tend to be predominantly occupied by women. It would then be safe to say that keywords like “scuba gear for women” and “women’s scuba groups” could help rank content for a buyer audience that would convert well.

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No Pain, No Keyword Game

Remember, people almost always search for something because there is a pain or a need that requires a solution. If you are searching for “1950s Flash Gordon comics” it is likely because you are a collector and you desire adding to your collection, and certain pain points will likely apply. If someone searches “how to kill ants”, they are likely having an ant invasion in or around their home and need a solution for killing the ants, and some customers may have specialized pains that will impact keyword structure.

So what does this mean? Keep in mind that keywords targeting niche topics like the ones above can always go deeper to reflect more detailed pain points. This means performing keyword research requires various considerations to the topic at hand by understanding the searcher’s needs in various scenarios. In looking at the Flash Gordon comic book collector, some keywords could be:

  • First edition 50s Flash Gordon comics
  • Mint condition 50s Flash Gordon comics
  • Low cost Flash Gordon comics from the 50s
  • 50s Flash Gordon comics fine to mint condition

As for someone searching for a solution to their ant problem, keywords could include:

  • Pet-friendly ant poison
  • Ant poison for kitchens
  • Child-safe ant traps
  • 24-hour exterminators for ants

By better understanding your buyers, you will have the insight to map out specific pain points. And once you know these, you can create keywords and content topics that target individual buyers as opposed to one generalized mass group.

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Tools for Keyword Research

Performing good keyword research also means you have access to tools that help you determine better value. Here are the most popular tools used by SEO agencies in their quest to drawn organic traffic that converts:

Google Keyword Planner – Historically, the most frequent starting point for SEO keyword research has been Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner. Just keep in mind that data restriction exists, as the keyword planner segments keywords into joint, large search volume range buckets.

Moz Keyword Explorer – This tool uses live clickstream data to extract search volume, keyword difficulty and keyword opportunity metrics in an accurate and easy manner.

AnswerThePublic – This is a free tool that populates frequently search questions surrounding specific keywords. If you are going to use this tool be sure to also check out another free tool called Keywords Everywhere–you can use these in tandem to prioritize ATP suggestions par search volume.

Google Trends – The search engine’s trend tool helps SEO specialists spot keyword trend fluctuations based on seasonality. For example, “Superbowl party decorations” will peak in the immediate weeks prior to the Superbowl.

SpyFu – This tool allows people to see what keywords their top competitors target and rank for. When discovering longtail keywords your competitors are targeting, you also gain industry insights that may help with your audience targeting efforts. 

Feel Empowered to Run an Expert-Level SEO Strategy?

If these keyword research tips gave you some great ideas, we think you will love our FREE guide on the new, modern approach to SEO that’s helping businesses gain revenue from organic traffic. Download the guide below, give it a read, and call us with any questions (hey, we love to chat about business growth too).
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