When I first entered the world of content marketing, the term “keyword research” seemed like an enigma. I felt overwhelmed, but as I invested time in understanding its nuances, I realized it’s far less intimidating than it seems. This guide distills my own learning journey into actionable insights for beginners.
What you'll learn
What is a keyword?
In the context of online marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimization), a keyword is a specific word or phrase that someone types into a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Think of it as a bridge between a searcher’s query and the content available on the internet. It’s the way people articulate their questions, needs, or interests online.
Let’s say you’re interested in learning how to bake a cake. You might type “how to bake a cake” into Google. In this example, “how to bake a cake” is a keyword. On the flip side, if you own a blog about baking, you’d want to ensure that your content includes this specific keyword or similar variations, like “cake baking tips,” so that it can appear in search results for people looking for this information.
But keywords aren’t just individual words; they can also be phrases. In fact, long-tail keywords—phrases that are longer and more specific—can be incredibly effective for targeting a niche audience. For instance, while “cake” is a keyword, “how to bake a gluten-free chocolate cake” is a long-tail keyword.
It’s essential to understand that keywords are more than just SEO jargon; they’re the foundational elements that drive targeted web traffic. By effectively using the right keywords in your content, you not only make it easier for search engines to understand what your page is about, but you also meet your audience at their point of need, answering their questions and solving their problems. This is why keywords are fundamental to your online presence and visibility.
Why should I care about keyword research?
In practical terms, strong keyword research boosts your rankings on search engines, leading to higher visibility, more clicks, and increased web traffic. Ultimately, this can translate into more conversions and revenue for your business. Without it, you’re essentially shooting in the dark—creating content without knowing if it’s reaching the people you intend to serve.
Free keyword tools for beginners
You need a toolkit before you can begin your keyword research journey. The landscape of keyword research tools is vast, but beginners don’t need to start with anything too complex.
journey. The landscape of keyword research tools is vast, but beginners don’t need to start with anything too complex. Here’s a deeper dive into the two free keyword tools I found most useful when I was starting:
- Google Keyword Planner: This is a free tool that offers valuable insights, including average monthly search volumes, competition levels, and suggested bid amounts for paid advertising. The data comes straight from Google’s own search engine, giving you authentic and reliable information.
- Ubersuggest: This tool is perfect for those who are ready to take their keyword research a step further. It provides more data points, like keyword difficulty and the estimated number of clicks for top-ranking pages. It also gives you additional keyword suggestions that are semantically related to your initial query.
I initially relied heavily on Google Keyword Planner to understand basic metrics like search volume and competition. It’s beginner-friendly and offers just enough information to get started without feeling overwhelmed.
Where do I start looking for keyword ideas?
Gathering keyword ideas is often where many beginners stumble.
It’s not just about brainstorming a bunch of words or phrases; there’s a method to the madness.
When I was getting my feet wet, here are the techniques that helped:
- General topics: List broad topics related to your business or content. Think of these as the general categories under which more specific topics can fall. For example, if your content focuses on “digital marketing,” broader categories could be “SEO,” “social media marketing,” and “content marketing.”
- Refinement: Use the tools you’ve chosen to refine these broad topics into more specific, long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are phrases that are more specific and usually longer than more commonly searched keywords. They might have a lower search volume, but they often have a higher conversion value as they are more specific.
- Competitive analysis: This involves examining the keywords your competitors are ranking for. You can use this information to find gaps in your own keyword strategy or to find new opportunities that your competitors haven’t exploited yet. This was especially valuable to me as I was refining my strategy.
For instance, if you’re a food blogger, you might start with categories like “vegan recipes,” “quick dinners,” or “holiday desserts.” From there, you’d use keyword research tools to find specific keywords like “vegan chocolate cake recipe” or “quick 30-minute dinner ideas.”
Example: Etsy store specializing in handmade jewelry
- Brainstorming: Sit down with a notepad (or your preferred digital note-taking method) and jot down all the terms that you think potential customers might use to find your type of jewelry. Think like a customer: What would you search for if you were looking for the products you sell? Words like “custom-made silver necklaces,” “ethical gemstone rings,” or even “handmade jewelry for anniversaries” might come to mind.
- Family and friends: Sometimes, a second or third perspective can offer new angles you hadn’t considered. Ask them what they’d search for if they were looking for products like yours.
- Social media and forums: Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and niche-specific forums can be great for spotting terms and phrases that your potential customers are using.
- Etsy’s own search bar: Don’t underestimate the platform you’re on. Etsy’s own search bar can provide autocomplete suggestions that are commonly searched for. If you start typing “handmade,” it might autocomplete to “handmade gemstone bracelets,” showing you a potentially valuable keyword.
How do you choose which keywords to target?
- Search volume: A high search volume indicates that a lot of people are looking for that particular term. However, it also often means more competition. It’s about finding a balance between a term popular enough to bring substantial traffic but not so competitive that ranking becomes impossible.
- Competition level: Use your tools to gauge how many other websites are trying to rank for the same keyword. Keywords with low competition levels are often easier to rank for. But ensure they have enough search volume to be worth the effort.
- Relevance: Keywords should have a direct correlation with the content you plan to produce. There is no point in targeting a high-volume, low-competition keyword if it has nothing to do with your business or content.
Example: Local roofer
- Search volume: “Roof repair” might have a high search volume but is probably very competitive. “Emergency roof leak repair in [Your City]” will have a lower search volume but is specific enough to target customers who urgently need your services.
- Competition level: “Local roofer” might be moderately competitive, but adding your city to make it “local roofer in [Your City]” could reduce the competition while maintaining relevancy.
- Relevance: “Roofing services” is broad but relevant, while “best shingle brands” might have less competition and decent search volume but is less relevant if you don’t sell roofing materials.
How often should keyword research be conducted?
As I became more attuned to the dynamics of SEO, I found it useful to revisit my keyword strategy more frequently—every month.
Final thoughts on keyword research for beginners
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FAQ: How to do keyword research
Search volume refers to the average number of times a particular keyword or phrase is searched for in a search engine over a specific time period, usually a month. This metric gives you an idea of how popular a keyword is and can help you gauge its potential to drive traffic to your website.
Keyword difficulty is a metric that indicates how hard it would be to rank for a specific keyword in search engine results. It takes into account various factors like the number of websites already ranking for the keyword, the quality of those websites, and how well they are optimized. Generally, the higher the keyword difficulty, the tougher it is to rank for that keyword.
Long-tail keywords are search phrases that are longer and more specific than commonly used keywords. They often have lower search volumes but higher conversion rates because they target a more niche audience. For instance, while “shoes” is a common keyword, “women’s red leather ankle boots” is a long-tail keyword.
While it’s possible to target the same keywords across multiple pieces of content, doing so can lead to keyword cannibalization, where your own pages compete against each other in search engine rankings. It’s generally better to focus each piece of content on a unique keyword or set of closely related keywords to maximize your chances of ranking well.
A content brief is a document that outlines the objectives, target audience, key messages, and other essential elements of a piece of content, usually an article or blog post. It serves as a roadmap for content creators, providing guidelines on what to include, what tone to use, and what keywords to target. Content briefs help ensure that the content aligns with the overall content strategy and meets its intended goals.
Keyword research is essential because it helps you understand the terms and phrases your target audience is using to search for information, products, or services related to your business or content. By identifying these keywords, you can optimize your website and content to rank higher in search engine results. This increased visibility can lead to more web traffic, higher engagement, and ultimately more conversions or sales.
To use Ubersuggest for keyword research, start by visiting the Ubersuggest website and entering a keyword or phrase related to your industry or content. The tool will then generate a list of keyword suggestions, along with metrics like search volume, SEO difficulty, and cost-per-click for paid ads. You can also explore variations of the keyword, questions people are asking, and even check out what keywords your competitors are using. The data you gather can be used to refine your keyword strategy and make informed decisions on which keywords to target.
Your keyword strategy should be reviewed and updated periodically to adapt to changing trends and consumer behaviors. While quarterly reviews are a good starting point for beginners, you may find it beneficial to conduct monthly updates as you become more experienced. This allows you to stay ahead of the curve and adjust your strategy based on current data.