Do you want to take your SEO strategy to a new level and reach more customers or more sales via the organic channel?
Then you should definitely work with the right keyword research because sustainable success in search engine optimization depends on careful research. In this article, I show you how I do my keyword research for customers or for my own projects and which aspects I pay particular attention to.
This guide is very deep and detailed, so if you want to skip the theoretical background, I will include a screencast at the end of the video, which explains my process and in which I will work through a few examples.
The essentials in brief
- A detailed and correctly carried out keyword research is essential for the long-term and above all sustainable success of an SEO campaign.
- The most important components of keyword research are above all the search intention, the search volume, and the competition.
- There are various SEO tools that can help you with keyword research. However, you should also use so-called reverse engineering, for which you do not need any special tools at all.
Keyword research: what is it?
Search engine optimization is not a special art or something that you have to study for years. It is actually relatively simple. Nevertheless, there are differences in the implementation – in other words, you can do keyword research either way and that is exactly where the professional differs from the beginner.
The goal of SEO optimization is to create content that is structured and optimized so that it can later be found by the user. People also like to speak of so-called SEO texts.
The primary goal of keyword research is to determine the search volume of individual keywords (or search terms). This is the only way I can determine the demand – in other words, how many people actually search for keyword xy every month?
There are also other goals. For example, I can use keyword research to determine the semantics between individual keywords – so I can identify topics and sub-topics as well as the relationships between the individual topic areas and then replicate them later on my page and text structure.
Background: Everything you should know about keyword research
In the following, I want to explain the theoretical background of keyword research. The better you understand the context in search engine optimization , the easier it will be for you to use it in practice.
What is a keyword?
As already briefly indicated, a keyword is nothing more than a search term. Users use search engines, such as Google, to perform a specific action. For example, this can be a problem or a question. But we’ll come back to that later, especially when we talk about search intent.
Each keyword has a monthly search volume, which indicates how often users search for exactly this term on average. These values can be read using various tools and should primarily serve as a guide.
Keywords are primarily divided into two parameters: the number of word strings and the search volume. Keywords with a relatively lower search volume and a word chain of 2+ words are usually referred to as so-called long-tail keywords.
Keywords that consist of one or two words and have a high search volume (e.g. 1000+) are called short-tail keywords. Some also say head keywords. A large part, however, are the keywords between the two extremes, the so-called mid-tail keywords.
An important rule that you should already remember at this point is the following: The more specific a search query is, i.e. the lower the search volume and the larger the word string (long tail), the higher the later conversion.
This connection is actually quite easy to understand because shorter keywords such as “lose weight” are very broad and there is no one intention (see next point) behind the keyword.
What is the search intent?
Search intent is certainly one of the most important concepts in the area of search engines. I try to explain this very complex construct in this article as simple as possible – ultimately you do not have to understand the entire background, but only those aspects that are directly necessary for keyword research.
Later I will also create a separate article about the search intent and link it to you here as soon as it is online.
As I mentioned earlier, the user is pursuing a specific goal with his search query on Google or any other search engine. If we pause for a moment and think about what we have been looking for on the Internet recently, we will probably think of the following situations:
- Looking for information on a specific topic
- Searched for a specific café or any café near us
- We wanted to buy something specific
- We just used Google to go to amazon.de
In fact, most of all search queries are linked to informative user intent – in other words, the user uses the Google search engine to get information.
If we want to write about a certain topic (read: keyword), we always have to pay attention to the search intent behind it. A simple example shows how crucial the search intent can be:
Let us assume that we run a financial website and come across the subject: interest calculator. We check the keyword with any tool and find that there is definitely an attractive search volume. So does that mean that with a detailed article on the subject of “interest calculator” or “calculate interest” we have a chance of ranking on Google?
No. Why? Very easily! The search intention for this keyword is clearly that users at Google want to see a simple and compact interest calculator – not a guide or an explanatory video, but a very simple interest calculator.
What does that mean specifically?
You should always think about the search intentions of the users when doing keyword research. What does the user actually do when he types in a certain keyword on Google? What does he want to achieve with it?
Unfortunately, the whole thing is not always so easy to determine – by the way, not even for the complex and intelligent algorithm from Google. I will give you a few tips and tricks in the practical section on how you can get relatively reliable results when analyzing the search intention.
At this point you should already remember the following: Several keywords can have the same search intent. The reader has a specific goal and can achieve this goal with different search terms. This means that a topic page can rank for several keywords – it is not uncommon for a detailed subpage for up to 2000 or even more keywords to appear on Google.
What type of content do I need to make a ranking likely?
In this section, I would like to specify the topic of search intent again. In the first part, I showed you how you can use Google to identify a keyword’s search intent. Now I would like to give you a few tips regarding the content.
Most of the time, the user already has a rough idea of what kind of result he wants to see on Google. We can take advantage of this and use reverse engineering to analyze the top 3 or top 5 results.
Let’s say we want to write an article on wealth building. To do this, we enter our keyword in Google as usual and take a look at the first 3 or 5 search results – with the exception of advertisements.
As we can see, we already find the first similarities in the SERPs (search results). All articles refer to specific tips, strategies, or rules for wealth creation. This is already a relatively clear indication of the direction in which our article should go later.
Who are we writing for? Target group and buyer journey
Another component of keyword research, which you can put in the area of search intention, is the so-called target group analysis. Put simply, it is a matter of having a concrete face for the future reader.
In principle, the search queries driven by information can be divided into 3 rough patterns:
Users who search for it on Google usually have a problem. They are most likely in an urgent situation right now and want to know how to clear their clogged drain.
If we look at this situation from the perspective of a purchase process, the user is currently at the beginning of his journey. He is aware that he has a problem and needs a solution.
In this situation, it is clever to pick up the user with his problem and first explain why drains are clogged at all.
The next step in the buyer journey could be that the user comes across a solution in our article, for example, a pipe cleaner. He is considering buying such a pipe cleaner and is suddenly in the phase of consideration.
The next step is to convince him of the positive aspects of a pipe cleaner so that his decision becomes a decision.
The three phases of the buyer journey summarized:
Keyword research: practical application, instructions, and tips
In this part, we go through the process of keyword research together – let’s forget all the theoretical stuff and concentrate on the process. I will gradually add the appropriate steps to the individual steps.
I would like to go through the process using the example of a few keywords, but first the note: It should not be an exact step-by-step instruction. I am simply trying to explain my procedure to you and explain what I do in each step and what I pay attention to.
Step # 1: Seed keywords as a starting point
The first step of keyword research is to identify so-called seed keywords. These serve as the starting point for your further research. In principle, you can find seed keywords in two different ways (ideally, you should use both methods):
Possibility 1 – brainstorming: You think about which keywords your potential customers could enter on Google. As a rule, you will already find some approaches and can also derive seed keywords from these approaches.
Option 2 – Competition-based KW Research: With this method, you analyze the Google rankings of your immediate competition with the help of an SEO tool, such as Sistrix or Ahrefs. This shows you which keywords work for your competitors and also gives you seed keywords.
You then use the determined seed keywords as a starting point in your keyword tool, e.g. the KW Finder. If you enter a seed keyword in the KW Finder, it will generate further keyword suggestions for your search query.
The aim of this first process step is to delimit your topic. You can do this by finding out all the relevant cornerstone keywords and jotting them down. Instead of the KW Finder (paid tool) used here, you can also use free alternatives such as Ubersuggest.
At the end of this step, you will usually receive a very detailed list of keywords and keyword ideas. But if you think that the keyword research has already been completed at this point unfortunately have to disappoint you.
Step # 2: Find search suggestions and sub-topics
After we have already filled our list of keywords well, we want to deal with the so-called search suggestions and sub-topics in this step. Anyone who has already worked cleanly (and with a good tool) in the first step will not have as much work to do in this step.
However, I have outsourced this step in this article, because in practice I also work with other tools like in step 1.
First, let’s take advantage of other Google search suggestions. To do this, we simply enter one of our seed keywords and scroll to the end of the first search results page. There Google shows us further search for suggestions.
For larger topics, these search suggestions provide pointers to search refinements – i.e. those searches that users are looking for after they have already googled our seed keywords. In the case of larger subject areas, it can then make sense to target some of these aspects later on your own subpages (pillar cluster content).
In the case of smaller subject areas, the search suggestions are an indication of sub-topics, i.e. we can incorporate these keywords directly into our article. We compare these suggestions from Google with our existing keyword list and supplement them if necessary or useful.
Step # 3: W questions, keyword grouping, and structure
In the third step, we take a look at W questions that users are looking for on our topic. We can either do this with a tool like the KW Finder, or we can use the free tool answer the public.
The W questions help us to structure the article later. It is best practice to use questions as headings in an article and then answer them in the following paragraph.
Next, let’s get to the grouping of our list of keywords, which is now probably very extensive. We select suitable keywords based on the following criteria:
- Which keywords have the same search intent?
- Which keywords do not fit thematically at all?
- How are the individual keywords related to each other?
- Which keywords can easily be on a page?
I always do such a grouping in Google Sheets and also work very intensively with different colors.
Please note that keywords such as “drain clogged” or “clogged drain” are usually keywords – this will make your list extremely short.
Keyword research: the best resources and entry opportunities
Which SEO tools are best suited for successful keyword research?
In this section, I would like to explicitly introduce you to my current favorite tools in the field of keyword research. I use both free and paid tools in my everyday life, which is why I would like to present a good mix here. I will also give you a short introductory video for each of the tools presented and introduce you to the functions.
Tool # 1: The KWFinder
The KWFinder from Mangools was one of my first paid SEO tools and I still use it almost every day. KWFinder’s main strengths are finding synonyms and related keywords. I use the KWFinder mainly for the first steps of keyword research, simply to get an overview of all keywords.
By the way, you can also use the tool to determine W questions and autosuggestions – the functions are well thought out and helpful, but I usually use other tools or just Google.
Tool # 2: Ahrefs
Right at the beginning of the note: I have done more or less professional search engine optimization for over 2 years and was too stingy to finally get the tool. Before that, however, I could always try it out for free and was always thrilled. Ahrefs has one of the largest keyword databases of all SEO tools and also the largest record of backlinks.
Nevertheless, I have to admit that I hardly use Ahrefs for keyword research. The only exception – and that’s the main reason why I have it now is the competition-based keyword research.
You do this by looking at your best competitors and using Ahrefs to determine their organic keyword rankings. I will write a little more about this in the next section.
The art of keyword research is to delve so deeply into the topic that you can assign all the different search terms to each other and understand exactly what the intended user is trying to do. There are various approaches and tools to carry out professional keyword research – but the theoretical aspects behind it remain the same.
In today’s era of search engine optimization, the main thing is to think about its content and future visitors. Whoever does this already has an advantage over the competition. Outdated concepts such as keyword density, headings and the targeted placement of keywords play a very minor role today.