Keyword research is one of the highest return SEO activities that are vital to the marketing success of your WordPress website. If you are reading this blog post, you understand this quite well.
You have probably browsed plenty of articles describing keyword research process in detail. Have you noticed that all of them give you somewhat different sets of instructions? That does not mean they are giving you the wrong guides. This happens because there’s no universal, one-size-fits-all approach to executing keyword research.
What will affect a keyword research strategy for your WP site?
- Your goals and objectives: branding, exposure, traffic, leads, sales;
- Your budget, resources, and deadlines;
- Your industry and competition.
Due to these points, it might be difficult for you to apply a random step-by-step guide to your website.
We are going to use another approach to the keyword research. You will get a kind of framework that can be easily adapted to whatever goals you pursue and whatever resource you have.
The tactics and methods described below will considerably improve your traffic from Google. How do we know that? Because this very approach to keyword research was one of the main factors that helped our blog (here at Ahrefs) more than double its search traffic over the last year.
1. Let’s start! Any ideas for seed keywords?
Why do you start with seed keywords? Because they are the foundation of your keyword research. They define the niche of your WordPress website and help you identify your competitors.
It’s really easy to come up with seed keywords if you already have a product or business that you want to promote online. Just describe that product with your own words or think about how other people might search for it.
Supposing you are launching an online WooCommerce store selling handmade jewelry.
What are the first Google searches/keywords that come to your mind?
- handmade jewelry
- body jewelry
Seems simple, isn’t it? Ok, then let’s move further.
2. Generate keyword ideas
Now, when you have your seed keywords figured out, the next step is to generate a massive list of relevant keyword ideas, while keeping in mind what people in your niche are searching for in Google.
Here are the four good ways to do it.
Figure out what keywords you already rank for
If your website has been around for a while, you should already be ranking in Google for a few hundred keywords. Getting to know what they are is a perfect way to start your keyword research.
Look for this information in “Search Analytics” report of Google Search Console:
Search Console shows your average position for each of the keywords you rank for and the number of impressions and clicks this brings you. What they don’t show you is the monthly search volume, besides you’re limited to 1000 keywords only.
If you need more data, you can try some professional, paid keyword tool.
Find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for
Your competitors have likely already performed all the meticulous keyword research work for you. So you can choose the easiest way: research the keywords that they rank for and pick out the best ones.
Don’t know who your competitors are? Put your seed keywords into Google and see who ranks on the first page.
Sometimes a single competitor is enough to provide you with all the keyword ideas you need to keep your SEO team busy for long months. But if you’re still thirsty for more, go to “Competing domains” report in the keyword research tool of your choice to find more sites similar to your competitor’s.
Now let’s take a look at the competitive research loop we have just closed.
- Put your seed keyword into Google and see who ranks on top;
- Find more relevant websites via the “Competing domains” report;
- Go back to either first or second step.
The secret of finding almost unlimited keyword ideas is to repeat this process over and over again.
It’s also recommended to tap into related industries. What do you need that for? Maybe you’ll find a bag of great keywords that don’t directly relate to the product or service you’re offering but can still bring targeted visitors to your website.
Do you think you need a separate guide on the process of researching your competitors’ websites? You can get it here. If you prefer to absorb information in video format, here is the one that features some of the coolest tricks:
Using keyword research tools is really helpful
A good competitor will help you fill your spreadsheet with a heap of relevant keyword ideas, but this is not enough for niche leaders. If you want to become one of them, you need to look for some unique keywords that none of your competitors are targeting yet.
The best and the easiest way to do that is to use a decent keyword research tool. There are lots of them on the market. Here are some of the tools that are worth to try:
It doesn’t matter which tool you choose, there’s no accurate recipe for finding great keyword ideas. You have nothing else to do except for entering your seed keywords and playing with the reports and filters until you hit upon something that deserves your special attention.
Most of the tools will pull their keyword suggestions from the following sources:
- scraping keyword ideas directly from Google Keyword Planner;
- scraping Google auto-suggest;
- scraping “similar searches” in Google.
All of these methods are great, but they can rarely give you more than, say two hundred suggestions. For example, Soovle shows only 60 keyword ideas for “wordpress themes.”
Of course, there are also advanced keyword research tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMRush, for example. They operate their own databases and therefore will give you much more keyword ideas.
For example, Ahrefs Keyword Generator shows 27,191 keyword ideas for “wordpress themes.”
Now, when you have such an abundance of keyword ideas you can thoroughly examine them or apply filtering options that are also available at the place:
- Keyword difficulty;
- Search volume;
- Clicks per search;
- Cost per click;
- Return rate;
- Number of words in a keyword;
- Include/Exclude terms.
Explore your niche well
Keywords research strategies mentioned above are extremely efficient. They provide you with almost unlimited amount of keyword ideas. Though, at the same time, they put a certain limitation on the way you think.
In some cases, you just need to study your niche thoroughly using your common sense during the process. This approach may lead to discovering some brilliant keywords that no one in your niche is targeting yet.
Here’s how to get rid of the “blinkers”:
- For example, if you’re selling jewelry, here are some of the unconventional keywords you might try targeting:Step into your prospectives’ shoes. Who are they and what bugs them?
- Talk to your potential customers. Know more about them, study their language.
- Participate in all your niche communities and social networks.
- how to look like a model in your casual clothes;
- how to become a trendsetter for your colleagues;
- what do you think about when dressing in the morning;
- best fashion style everywhere;
- different look every day without stress.
People searching for these things are not necessarily looking to buy jewelry, but they might be fairly accessible buyers.
3. You must understand keyword metrics
You have already noticed that you will need to process tons of keyword ideas. So why not to shorten your lists?
Consider the following metrics, which will be of great help.
This metric indicates the overall search demand of a given keyword. In other words, it shows you how many times people around the world or in a specific country put this keyword into Google search.
Do you know where most of the keyword research tools take their Search volume numbers? They pull them from Google AdWords, which was long considered as a trusted source.
But you can’t rely on Google AdWords anymore as, for the past few years, Google has been consistently hiding data away from SEOs:
But clickstream data will help us uncover what Google is hiding from us.
As you see, by modeling numbers from GKP against clickstream data, we get the possibility to come up with much more accurate search volumes and un-group keywords with similar meaning.
There is another thing you should always keep in mind. It is the dynamic nature of Search volume.
For example, a keyword like “christmas gifts” or “st. valentine’s day gifts” will naturally spike around Christmas time and have almost zero search volume during the rest of the year.
You can use a free Google Trends tool to check the search volume trend of a keyword:
Some of the paid SEO tools also have a similar built-in graph.
The takeaway is that search volume is basically an annual average. That is why, when you are in doubt about the “seasonality” of a keyword, check it in the trends.
There’s one problem with search volume you should know about. It doesn’t always accurately predict the search traffic.
Undoubtedly, the best way to measure the ranking difficulty of this or that keyword is to manually analyze the search results and use your SEO experience intensified with gut feeling.
But you physically can’t do this for thousands of keywords at once. That’s why the keyword difficulty metric is so serviceable.
Each keyword research tool has their own methods of calculating the ranking difficulty score. Here, at Ahrefs it is based on the backlink profiles of the top10 ranking pages for a given keyword. To put it simple, the more quality backlinks they have, the harder it would be for you to outrank them.
4. Think about grouping your list of keywords.
Supposing you have generated a multitude of promising keyword ideas and used the aforementioned metrics to identify the very best of them.
Don’t you think that it’s a good time to bring some structure to your list? How can you do this? Read on and you will get to know.
Group by “parent topic”
The days when SEOs were targeting one keyword with one page are gone. Now the professionals are facing a brand new challenge. The question is ‘should you target a bunch of relevant topics with one page or create a separate page for each set of keywords?’
No! You don’t need to create separate pages to target each of these keywords and it’s better to try to rank for them with one single post.
Another burning question is how to optimize your WP page to make sure that it ranks for additional keywords?
You don’t need to do that. The #1 ranking page may not have a single mention of these keywords, and it still ranks for them. So if they didn’t bother, you shouldn’t either.
This is the very first step to bringing your random list of keywords into order.
What do you need to do? You need to find which keywords are semantically and contextually related and group them under a “parent topic” to target with a single page.
Group by intent
Now your semantically related keywords are grouped by “parent topic” and mapped to different pages of your website. The next step you should take is to group these “pages” by “searchers’ intent.”
There’s always certain and oftentimes it’s very specific expectation behind every search query that people put into Google. Your goal is to unscramble that expectation in advance so that you could build a page that would perfectly match it.
It’s quite challenging sometimes. Let’s take a keyword, “tattoo,” for example. What’s the searchers’ intent behind it? Most likely it’s one of these two:
- See some pictures of tattoos.
- Learn more about the process.
The best way of puzzling out the intent behind the search query is to google it and see what comes up first. Google is getting better day-by-day in identifying the intent behind each search query, so the search results usually talk for themselves.
The SERP above serves both these intents with an image strip accompanied by a Wikipedia link.
But then you get tattoo shops, tattoo magazines, the latest tattoo trends, Justin Bieber’s new tattoo that is crazier than all his other tattoos, and so on.
What are all these doing in the search results for the keyword “tattoo”? Well, it looks like Google has identified that it’s what people looking for the keyword “tattoo” want to see.
Ok, once you figure out the intent behind your keywords, you might want to map it to the stage of the sales cycle it represents.
There are many ways different marketers map out the so-called “Buyers’ Journey.” Here’s one of them:
Image credit: customerjourneymarketer.com
You can map your keywords to any of the existing models or come up with your own one. That’s entirely up to you. The only recommendation here is to stick with whatever makes the most sense for you.
Group by business value
This grouping method is closely related to grouping by intent. But this time, you need to find out which intent drives the best ROI for your business.
If your primary goal is traffic and brand awareness, you might focus on keywords that will bring crowds of visitors but won’t necessarily convert into leads or sales.
If your marketing budget is unlimited, you can focus on such kind of keywords. But most of the entrepreneurs can’t afford this approach… Are you one of them? Then, think well about which keywords will drive your business and which ones will only drive your vanity metrics.
Most often, marketers will focus on keywords with commercial intent, as they are driving sales and grow their business. Not sure how to identify these keywords? Here’s a pretty cool guide for you.
Please note that prioritization is not the “final step” in your keyword research process. It’s rather something you do naturally as you move through the aforementioned steps.
While you’re generating keyword ideas, analyzing their metrics, and grouping them, you should be thinking about the following:
- What is the estimated traffic potential of the keyword (group)?
- How tough is the competition? What would it take to rank for it?
- How many resources should be invested in building a competitive page and promoting it properly?
- What’s the ROI of that traffic? Does it only bring brand awareness or actually convert into leads and sales?
It will be easier for you to add dedicated columns in your keyword research spreadsheet to give scores to each keyword idea. Then, based on these scores, it will be much easier to catch the “gravy train” that will take you to the best ROI.
Please keep in mind that you shouldn’t pick out the “easiest to rank for” keywords, your target are the ones with the best ROI.
Any keyword research tips from you?
We tried to squeeze as much useful info about keyword research as we could without making this guide too long to read. Our primary goal was to adapt the process and make it universally applicable to any WordPress website or industry.
There’s obviously more to keyword research than that. So we would love you to share some of your favorite tips, tricks, and lifehacks that were not mentioned in this guide.
Cheers, the comments section is all yours!
Great article. I am a blogger and I struggle with this keywords thing but you have explained more and giving me some good advice that should help me increase my traffic, will try it fingers crossed it works. Will let you know how it goes.
Good article. Thanks for the intro.
I really like your article, I am your subscriber. Anyway I am using DeepMiner from http://icyseo.com to find great long tail keywords. You can check it out, it’s free.
Agreed Fred ! Google keyword planner is the best choice to find out the right keyword according to the targeted segment.
The Google Keyword Planner is recently changed. Its not like in the pic above anymore. No clear data of monthly searches. Only a wide range. and also the blue bar graph /diagram is not shown anymore. What is the best free alternative?
It is still like that; you just have to have an active AdWords campaign. There is no real alternative because Google is the only one that’s going to have Google’s search volume data 🙂