April 3, 2024

Keyword Research and Targeting: An SEO Essential Guide

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3 min

Keyword research and keyword targeting can be an overwhelming task. Breaking down the components into manageable sections will help. Firstly, for search engine optimization, determine what it is you’re optimizing regarding your niche. This involves pinpointing the specific terms, commonly referred to as “keywords,” that individuals would be using in their search queries, which you aim to have your website prominently appear for in search engine results, such as those from Google.

Simple enough, for example, most people would think, “I want my artificial turf company to show up when people in my area search for Turf.”

Unfortunately, Google rarely works like that. Here are a few key factors to take into account when determining the keywords you want to target on your site:

Search Volume – This is the number of users actively searching for a particular keyword. A higher search frequency for a keyword correlates with a larger potential audience for your content. On the other hand, if a keyword isn't being searched for at all, there won't be an audience to discover your content with search engines.

Relevance – If a term is frequently searched for that’s great: but what if it is only slightly relevant to your prospects? Relevance seems straightforward at first: if you’re selling dog training courses you don’t want to show up for searches that don’t have anything to do with your business, like “pet supplies” which encompasses all pets, like cats and birds, and maybe only matters for treats and leashes.  But what about terms like “dog training”? This might intuitively seem like a good description of what you do, but most of the traffic for this very competitive term will be searchers who don’t have any interest in buying your service and are looking for information on how to do it themselves.

Competition – As with every business, in SEO you want to consider the potential costs and likelihood of success. For SEO, this means understanding the relative competition (and likelihood to rank) for specific terms. You need to understand who your niche is, who your prospective customers are, and what they’re likely to search for. If you don’t already understand who your prospects are, thinking about that is a good place to start, for your business in general but also SEO.

From there you want to understand:

  • What types of products are they interested in?
  • What problems do they have that need solving?
  • What type of language do they use to describe the things that they do, and where are they located?
  • Who else are they buying things from? This means your competitors, but also could mean tangential, related products.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have an expanded list of possible keywords and domains to help you get additional keyword ideas to determine the most optimal search volume and competition metrics to optimize for.

Once you have the list of core topics that your prospects and customers describe what you do, start to input those into keyword tools like SEMrush’s Keyword Tool or Google Ads Keyword Planner. These tools look at thousands of different search results and will show you each search term, how high the search volume is, and the difficulty of ranking.

SEMrush Results

Because “Turf” is such a vague and all-encompassing term, when we run that keyword we see just how unfocused the search is. In the image, some of the top related terms by Search Volume include turf-related injuries, types of cuisine, and clothing. This means to even get to the business's main focus of “Artificial Turf”, you would have to compete against other unrelated business types like restaurants and medical professionals.

If you have an existing site, you’re likely getting some traffic from search engines already. If that’s the case, you can use some of your keyword data to help you understand which terms are driving traffic and which you might be able to rank a bit better for. Google provides a free service called Google Search Console. This is a very valuable SEO tool both for unearthing search query data and for diagnosing various technical SEO issues.

Once Google Search Console is set up, you can select the performance tab on the left to see the search queries that are driving traffic to your site.

Google Search Console Example

These could be good terms to focus additional content promotion and internal linking around, and could also be great “core keywords” to help you get more great ideas about what to target.

Once you’ve taken the time to understand how users think and what they search for, look at the keywords driving traffic to your competitors and related sites, and look at the terms driving traffic to your site, you need to work to understand which terms you can conceivably rank for and where the best opportunities to optimize are.

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