Search has taken over the buyer's journey. When customers have a question or problem, they turn to Google. By answering your prospective clients' questions better than anyone else, you'll gain awareness, trust, and respect of those interested in your solution, expanding customers' lifetime value.
Keyword research gives you essential insight into what your target audience is searching for on Google. The understanding you get from search terms can help guide your content strategy and overall marketing plan.
Keyword research is therefore a crucial part of SEO. This article will cover the fundamentals of keyword research and outline a step-by-step guide.
In this chapter, we'll cover the basic concepts of keyword research. First, you'll learn precisely what keyword research is and why it's crucial to SEO.
What are Keywords?
Keywords are the words and phrases we enter in search engines to find what we're looking for. When you build your content around words and phrases that people search for, your website can rank higher for those terms.
For example, if you're looking to buy a new dress, you might type into Google: "black cocktail dress." Even though this phrase has more than one word, it's still a keyword.
Keywords are what most people call Google searches or queries.
You may have heard about keyword density - which is how often you should place a keyword on your page. This is no longer a critical SEO factor because search engines have evolved. Instead, search engines use well-written content aligned with search intent when ranking pages.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research discovers the words and phrases that people use in search engines such as Google, Bing, and YouTube.
Keyword research helps you answer questions with specific data about:
- What topics are people searching for?
- How often are people searching for the information?
- How do they want that information formatted?
Researching keywords gives us an understanding of how important yet difficult it is to rank specific keywords in organic search results.
One study shows that over 90% of all pages get zero traffic from Google, and another 5% get ten visits or less a month. Avoid this mistake by researching keywords and their search volume.
By discovering the words your customers type into Google you learn the voice of your customers and target audience. This keyword research allows you to target your content, driving the right traffic to your website, and increasing your sales and engagement with customers.
Search engines keep evolving. They are better at recognizing the intent behind that keyword search, and whether the content on a webpage solves that intent. This is why using keywords that exactly match a person's search is no longer the most critical ranking factor.
Keyword research acts as the north star of your SEO campaign: it tells you where to go and whether you're making progress.
Why is Keyword Research Important for SEO?
Keyword research is the SEO cornerstone. It's the road map for your site navigation, page titles, content strategy, and even links. Keywords provide both the direction and the benchmarks and adapt and change as your website needs do.
Understanding and researching keywords is essential to make your website appear in the search result when people type the words into search engines.
Keyword research helps you better understand your target market because it gives insight into what your customers are searching for and the precise words and phrases they commonly use.
By researching keywords for their search volume, competition, and general intent, you can answer the questions that most people in your audience want to know.
Keyword research impacts all the other SEO tasks that you perform. So - it's essential to get it right.
When to do Keyword Research?
For any new website, keyword research should be the first step of SEO.
It's needed when you're:
- Seeking a new niche.
- Looking for fresh content ideas.
- Optimizing your existing content.
What makes a Good Keyword?
The right keyword will unlock the doors to increased search traffic. Your target keywords need to meet four critical criteria:
- Significant Search Volume: It's pointless to optimize for keywords that no one is searching for.
- High Relevance: Your keywords should align closely with the services you offer.
- High Conversion Value: Choose keywords that lead to sales and engagement rather than curious browsing.
- Reasonable Competition: Be realistic. Target keywords that you can hope to rank for.
It's vital to map keywords to the buyer's journey stages, whether it's the Awareness, Interest, Desire, or Action stage.
What are Long-Tail Keywords?
Long-tail keywords are search terms with lower search volume and competition levels. They are usually longer (3+ words) and more specific than less targeted, or broader searches. Long-tail keywords are used by your visitors when they're closer to a sale or voice search. They clearly communicate the searcher's intent and are the foundation of an effective SEO strategy.
Think about it: if you google "shoes" (a broad keyword known as a "head term"), the chances you're going to buy a pair are slim. You're looking for more information or ideas. But if you google "cheap running shoes with arch support," you know what you're looking for, and are far more likely to buy.
Long-tail keywords account for 70% of all searches. Matching your target audience's search intent to long-tail keywords is simpler than head keywords as the phrases are more specific.
Why are Long-Tail Keywords Important For SEO?
The two main reasons to focus on long-tail keywords are:
- Less competitive.
- High conversion rates.
Reason #1: Long-tail keywords are less competitive.
Long-tail keywords are often simpler to rank for than "head" keywords. It's easier because fewer websites compete for high rankings in Google's result pages.
If we search for "table," there are over 5 billion results. Also, for Google, the search term is ambiguous, so it gives different answers, including:
- Premier League table.
- Restaurant names.
So, to rank #1 in Google for that query, you'd need to outrank 5 billion other sites. Not an easy task.
Whereas, if you focus on "oak dining table," we get 149 million results. "Oak dining table 6-seater," which is even more specific, has 40 million results.
Those long-tail keywords have way less competition than the head term "table." Plus, long-tail searchers are further along in the purchasing journey than those who search for head terms.
Reason #2: Long-tail keywords have high conversion rates.
Long-tail searches are more specific. Long-tail keywords clearly communicate searcher intent. Because of their specificity, they typically have lower search volume, but bring more convertible traffic.
For example, take a generic keyword like "Atkins diet." Someone searching for it is probably trying to learn what it is. Or how it works? Which means they aren't ready to buy yet. But, if someone is searching for a longer phrase ("Atkins diet supplement"), they're much closing to buying.
In Google Ads, generic keywords (e.g., men's sunglasses) often have lower bid costs than long-tail keywords (e.g., ray-ban wayfarer sunglasses) as advertisers know long-tail are more likely to convert.
Bottom Line? The traffic you get from long-tail keywords converts well.
What is Keyword Stuffing?
Google defines "keyword stuffing" as:
"the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site's ranking in Google search results."
In the early days of internet usage, this was the common way to attract the attention of search engines. Today search engines have evolved into something far more sophisticated and this practice no longer works. However, some Taiwan companies still try to boost their search visibility with the repetition of keywords. But - it's a myth and can harm your search results.
Examples of keyword stuffing include:
- Unnecessarily repeating keywords.
- Adding keywords that are out of context.
- Using keywords that aren't relevant to the topic of the page.
- Repeating the keyword using the same color as your background.
- Inserting blocks of the same keyword.
- Hidden Text.
Best Practices are to place your keyword in your title tags and body content but don't go overboard. Write naturally, include your keywords, and avoid keyword stuffing!
Your content should aim to educate and engage with your readers. When you repeat the same term over and over, you're unable to fulfil this goal. You're not fulfilling search intent.
PRO TIP: User dwell time (the time people spend on a page) helps improve your SEO ranking.
What is Keyword Density?
Understanding keyword density can help you identify if you are contributing to a problem with keyword stuffing.
Keyword density is how many times a searchable keyword appears within the content of a webpage. It's calculated as a percentage:
Keyword Density =
(Number of words in copy) / (Number of times keyword appears) x 100.
For example, if a blog post has 1,000 words, and a keyword appears 50 times, that means the article has a keyword density of 5%.
How to calculate keyword density?
smallseotools.com has a free tool to calculate Keyword Density for English Language Pages.
Is keyword density important for SEO?
NO! A best keyword density is a myth. Chasing a keyword density won't help your Google rankings.
Google has confirmed too:
"Keyword density, in general, is something I wouldn't focus on. Search engines have kind of moved on from there." John Mueller, Google 2014
There isn't a best keyword density score to rank higher in Google listings. Google uses natural language processing (NLP) to understand the context of the words in your query.
Focus on long-tail keywords that match your audience's common queries or represent an opportunity or problem to solve.
How semantic search influence keywords?
In the past, Google crawled through your pages to pick out individual keywords. Now, Google focuses on semantic search.
Semantic searching is looking for the meaning behind the words, rather than counting how many times a word appears. Google understands natural language the way humans do by using:
- Searcher intent.
- Query context.
- The relationships between words.
This switch to intent-based search is because consumers now use:
- Different devices (mobile, desktop).
- A broad set of queries.
- Voice Search.
For example, ten years ago, you typed, "LA Bagels." to find a breakfast location. Now, we may say, "Best breakfast places."
While you didn't say bagels, Google understands that bagels and breakfast go together. Plus, Google knows your location, so it assumes you're looking for breakfast results in Los Angeles.
Google has migrated from cut-and-dry keyword phrases to understand your intent and context. Now, you'll see a set of results listing bagel places relevant to your search.
In semantic search, user intent means crafting content that satisfies a searcher's intent, not just their exact keyword. As a result, rather than focus your SEO on ranking each page for each individual keyword, focus on building topic-based content which we cover in Chapter 4.
What are the keyword research stages?
I have broken keyword research up into three stages:
- How to Find Keywords.
- How to Choose Keywords.
- How to Use Keywords.
Let's dive into the details of each step in the following chapters.
How to Find Keywords for SEO
Keyword Research Strategies
In this chapter, we'll lay out a keyword research process you can follow to help you develop a list of terms you should be targeting.
Here's how to do that in four simple steps:
- Market research.
- Brainstorm a list of topics.
- Generate keywords from each of those topics.
- See what keywords your competitors rank for.
Let's dive right in.
Step 1: Market Research
Before your business can grow through SEO, you'll need clear insight into:
- Who you are?
- Your target customers.
- Your business goals.
The reason for is because the keywords you think you want to rank for and what your audience actually search for are often wildly different things. Matching the two is essential for success.
Start with user research because your keyword strategy can't attract your best clients until you know:
- Who they are.
- What they care about.
- Their problem/pain points.
- How to map the buyer's journey.
User research helps you understand your customers better. It allows you to tailor your content, messaging, and services to meet your target audience's specific needs, behaviors, and concerns. An empathy map helps visualize and understand your customer's needs:
Begin with insight. Think about the problems your product or services solve. What search terms will your prospective clients use to find a solution?
How we grew an eye clinic to 14,000 visitors a month
Let's give an example, Dr. Eye Clinics' goal was to rank for RELEX SMILE laser eye surgery. But in our research phase, we discovered most Taiwanese people weren't aware of this procedure yet. As a keyword, the search volume was exceptionally low as their prospective clients' default search was for LASIK or PRK surgery. We developed a comprehensive guide to laser surgery comparing the different laser vision treatments. Now, the site generates over 14,000 visitors a month.
Step 2: Brainstorm a List of Topics
All keyword research begins with a topic, idea, or head keyword called a "seed."
Begin by understanding how customers might search for your business or services. Ask yourself:
- "What topics related to my business or services do people search for?"
- "What topics come up frequently in sales conversations?"
From these broad topics - you would drill down to specific keywords (e.g., teeth whitening strips, how long do dental implants last, veneers before and after).
If you're struggling, check the Performance report in Google Search Console, where you can see the keywords that you already rank for.
Step 3: Generate keywords from each of those topics.
It's time to find some keywords that fit into each of those topics. These are the phrases you think your target customer is conducting searches on and are therefore essential to rank well for.
9 Ways to Generate Winning Keyword Ideas:
1) Use Google Suggest or Autocomplete
Google offers suggestions to help people get the most relevant results. Also - it's a clever idea to use incognito or secret mode - so the results aren't influenced by your search history.
You've probably noticed that when typing, Google suggests related search queries directly in the search form. As these predictions come from real search data, you KNOW they're relevant.
Start by typing your seed term into the search box to see the suggestions.
We can try different combinations to further refine the terms:
1. TOPIC A-Z - gives hints for words starting with A
2) Best TOPIC…
3) Use * as a wildcard. e.g., TOPIC *
4) Use YouTube Suggest to find popular topics:
2) Searches Related To
Like Google autocomplete, you can find it at the bottom of the results page. Here you'll find eight keywords closely related to your search term.
These keyword ideas come straight from Google because they're relevant and popular.
PRO TIP: Click on a "Searches Related To" keywords box to generate a new list of related keywords.
3) People Also Ask
Often you will see the "People also ask" box.
These are questions around the topic of the keyword you typed in that people ask. These phrases are a gold mine for Long-Tail Keywords.
PRO TIP: If you click to expand one of the items, Google shows even more questions.
Keyword Research Tools
4) Use AnswerThePublic
AnswerThePublic helps us automate and discover keywords, combining Bing and Google's suggested searches and visualizing them in a search cloud. It helps to get keyword ideas in the form of questions.
Just enter your topic, and AnswerThePublic further breaks the keyword into:
- Alphabetical (a-z): autocomplete suggestions from Google and Bing for each letter in the alphabet.
This search cloud is helpful as a successful SEO campaign answers the questions of your audience. With the advent of Google's BERT update, content relevancy is an even bigger deal, and allows you to perfect content for more conversational keywords.
Unfortunately, AnswerThePublic doesn't offer Chinese results. But, with Google Translate, you can easily translate the .csv file to speed up the process. Then check search volume with a keyword tool.
1. Helps you discover new long-tail keywords and synonyms.
2. Helps you answer questions that can get you into Google's featured snippets.
3. Gain audience insight and understand what keeps them up at night.
1. Free version is limited to 3 searches a day.
2. Can't search by Chinese keywords.
5) Use Google Keyword Planner
Google Ads Keyword Planner is a powerful free tool. It helps you choose the right keywords with the following options:
- Discover new keywords: Get keyword ideas for your product or service.
- Get search volume and forecasts: See search traffic volume and future estimates for your keywords.
The catch is that Google Ads aim is to help you with placing ad campaigns, not SEO. So – often Google restricts showing the exact search volumes for your keywords.
1. Helps you discover new long-tail keywords and synonyms.
2. Learn competitor keyword research.
3. Focus on local SEO by localizing to a specific city to get search volume.
4. Get commercial search intent keywords.
1. Doesn't always give exact keyword search data, usually specifies a range.
2. Requires account sign-up.
How do I get Google Keyword Planner?
You need an active Google Ads account to view the Keyword Planner.
1. Go to Tools & Settings > Keyword Planner
If Keyword Planner is missing, try the following:
- Complete your account setup, including entering billing information and creating a campaign. You can pause your campaign, so, you don't spend money.
- Google Ads deactivates accounts if you have not spent any money in the past 15 months.
Discover New Keywords Tips:
Do you want to discover new keyword ideas? Start here.
1. Click Discover New Keywords:
2. Enter your keywords:
3. See results to get a list of words.
The competition column does not reflect the difficulty of keyword to rank organically, only the competition in the PPC campaigns.
Check Local SEO Search Volume
Google Keyword Planner provides you with keyword search volume for local areas, revealing how many people have searched for a term in a:
1. Choose a location. Also, set Language if needed.
2. To choose a city:
6) Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a powerful free tool that helps measure your site's search traffic and performance. It can also help you find new keyword opportunities by checking what you already rank for.
Find keywords with many impressions but a small number of clicks.
1) Dashboard > Performance.
2) Select the Average CTR and Average Position metrics above the graph.
3) For local SEO, add the Country to filter the results to give more meaningful ranking results.
- Click New Button > Choose Country.
- Select Country.
- Click Apply.
4) Sort by the number of impressions column. By default, it shows all the queries for your site. Look for keywords that have a high number of searches but limited clicks. Optimize these keywords.
5) Another choice is to filter by your website pages to see what keywords you rank for.
- Select the pages tab.
- Select a specific URL.
- Click the query tab again. It shows the keywords you rank for with that specific URL.
Sort by impressions. Look for keywords relevant to your content but have few clicks. These opportunity keywords:
- Rank between positions 8-20.
- Have a decent number of views.
If you optimize your page around opportunity keywords, rankings for that term should increase.
7) Find Popular Topics using Forums
Your target audience may use niche forums, which means you can find many keyword ideas.
Use these search strings in Google:
- "head keyword forum"
- "head keyword" + "forum"
- "head keyword" + "board"
Usually, the forum contains categories. Each of these categories is potential keywords that you can add to your list.
Drill down into the threads with the most replies - as these could be popular topics to write on.
8) Get Reddit Keyword Ideas
Reddit is a popular English network of communities based on people's interests. Using Reddit can help gauge the pulse of your international audience.
Keyworddit, a free SEO tool, scans Reddit for the phrases that people use and sorts those phrases by their monthly search volume.
This tool is brilliant to learn more about your target audience's concerns as it includes the language they use, and the topics that concern them.
The tool displays estimated US monthly search volumes for each keyword. That helps you understand the subtopics' popularity.
To learn more about a keyword, hit the "Context" link to view the Reddit thread in Google.
9) Soovle for Semantic Research
Soovle is a quick and powerful tool for doing semantic research for your industry. It's a search engine that combines suggestion services from all the major providers in one place:
Instead of searching each website, you get access to all the data in one central location. Plus, it works if the search engine has Chinese results. You can also customize it to display the engines relevant to your topic, including China search engines such as Baidu.
Soovle is simple to use:
- Enter a broad keyword phrase related to your industry.
- Copy the phases or click the download icon.
- Use those phrases for your keyword list.
Now that you have your keyword list - it's time to rank your competition.
Step 4: See what keywords your competitors rank for
Performing competitor keyword research is a fantastic way to boost your SEO. If you can reverse engineer your competitor's keywords, you can gain an edge in the search results.
Discovering the keywords your competitors' target can:
- Get insight into what is working for them.
- Reveal new keywords.
- Uncover opportunities to create new content and boost your search engine rankings.
To estimate competition using Google, we can use allintitle: "keyword phrase" to get a rough estimate on how many sites use all the key phrase words in their title tag.
Example: allintitle:teeth whitening
How Can I Find My Competitor's Keywords?
1) Use UberSuggest Keyword Tool
UberSuggest is a free SEO tool and helps you generate new keyword ideas. It's one of the few that covers simplified and traditional Chinese. Plus you can search by country including Taiwan.
2) Install the free Keyword Surfer Chrome Extension
Keyword Surfer is one of the fastest ways to reveal competitor keyword research in Google Search and works for Taiwan.
- Install the extension.
- Look at the results.
It also gives related search terms with traffic.
3) Use Google Keyword Planner
Use Google Keyword Planner to generate keyword suggestions from a URL. Input your competitors' URL to discover their keywords.
If their brand name appears multiple times, you can remove it with filters:
Filter > keyword > does not contain > brand name
Rinse and repeat for multiple niche sites to mine a stream of unique keyword ideas.
PRO TIP: Looking to find keyword ideas for a particular page or blog post? Select "This page only" instead.
4) Use SpyFu to track your Competitors
SpyFu allows you inspect your competitors for SEO and PPC. You can type in a domain to see all the keywords it ranks for (including the content that ranks), the ads it buys on Google, and its strongest competitors.
It's a broad and powerful tool to work out their strategy with a rich trove of information. BUT the data is only from US and UK Google searches, so results from any countries outside of US and UK are missing, making the data limited unless your competitors rank for those terms in those countries.
What to do with the results?
Focus on the opportunities you have found. Create a list of keywords that has quick wins and progress towards your larger SEO goals.
How to Choose Keywords
Now with your list of keyword ideas, your main task is to pick the terms that best fit your business. How do you decide which ones to pick?
Read on to learn how to pick keywords that are the right fit for your business.
What Makes a Good Keyword?
The three critical factors in deciding value are:
- Popular - high-enough search volume. Ask: How many people are searching for this phrase?
- Competitive - How your site fits with Keyword Difficulty. Ask: How many websites are relevant for this phrase? Are they powerful sites?
- Relevant - the search intent matches your content. Ask: If someone found your site while searching for this phrase, would they be happy? Would you be happy they found you?
If your keyword is missing one of these critical factors - then chances are it will fail.
Determine the Keyword Popularity
The more people looking for a keyword you use on your website, the more traffic your site can draw. "Search Volume" determines keyword popularity.
Search volume means how many people search for the given phrase. It's calculated as a monthly average from the last 12 months. Learning more about search volume helps you prioritize keywords and pick ones that have a strategic advantage.
PRO TIP: Since 2013, 15% of all search queries are new and have never been seen before by Google. So, don't focus solely on search volume, as no tool can truly calculate frequency.
Why is search volume important?
Knowing the search volumes of your keywords can help you:
- Prioritize your content topics.
- Estimate the traffic potential.
- Understand the keyword search trends
You think you have a perfect keyword, but you won't get any visitors even if you rank for it if nobody searches for it.
What's a good search volume?
The simple answer is, the higher the search volume, the better. A high search volume means the term is widespread, and if you rank for it, you'll get more traffic from Google.
Search demand is your search traffic potential. It is the estimated traffic your niche has, which is based on the search volume of the keywords in your business and in your industry.
The higher the search demand of a keyword, the more competitive it often is. This can be both good and bad - niches that already have existing competition are proven to have demand and potential customers. But because of this, it could be extremely difficult to rank and get your business seen in a highly competitive niche as well.
Finding the search demand and traffic potential of the niche you're planning to enter is important.
How much traffic would a page need to generate each month to have a meaningful impact on your sales or leads?
Target long-tail keywords with high traffic potential. Find high volume long-tail keywords with at least 1k-10k monthly searches. Not too competitive to rank for but have the potential to drive tons of organic traffic to your site due to its high search volume.
However, if you are in a high niche b2b industry (e.g., Original Equipment Manufacturing OEM) - then searches are often less but more valuable. Your business would likely benefit from longer, more targeted keywords with lower search volume vs. broader terms with higher search volume. For this business, even 3 – 5 new leads every month could be significant. So, targeting highly specific keywords in the 30 – 200 searches/month range could work.
By targeting more niche queries where you have a unique perspective and authority, you'll likely see long-term ranking success and gain higher domain authority.
AHREFs studied three million search queries and found that the average top-ranking page ranks in the top 10 for almost 1,000 other keywords.
So - don't judge keywords on their Search volume (or Clicks) alone.
Plus, consider keyword relevance and difficulty to evaluate whether it is a clever idea to target the keyword. For example:
- If the keyword relevance is misaligned, you'll never rank for it or get un-targeted, irrelevant search traffic.
- If the first page of results is too competitive, you won't break onto the first page.
Why are keyword trends important?
When choosing a keyword, examine the historical search volume and seasonality.
Keyword search volumes are yearly averages. That means that they can sometimes be misleading.
Some keywords only appear at certain times a year - so they won't fit an evergreen content plan.
Or a word that is slowly dying in popularity may not be best to target.
A fantastic free tool to help with this is Google Trends.
You simply enter a specific term or topic, and the tool will show you the interest on a scale from 1 to 100. It doesn't give the number of searches - just a popularity score.
Google Trends also helps spot the seasonality of the keyword. Seasonal keywords are bound to a specific time of the year (seasons, holidays, annual events).
How do I calculate Keyword Popularity?
There are several free tools to use that we outline in Chapter 2:
1. SEO Surfer.
2. Google Ads Keyword Planner.
PRO TIP: Well-written content generally ranks for many other phrases, and the total search volume will be higher. Don't be hooked on search volume alone; view this as a starting point.
Determine the Keyword Difficulty
SEO is a zero-sum game. If you want to get traffic for a page, you do that by taking someone else's traffic. The only way to take someone else's traffic is if Google decides your resource is better than theirs.
Keyword Difficulty is the process of evaluating how hard it is to rank for a specific keyword in Google. The higher the keyword difficulty, the harder it is to rank for that keyword.
A keyword's difficulty score is often calculated by:
- Number of backlinks – the number of pages that link to your site.
- Quality of backlinks – the page authority and relevance of the linking sites' pages.
Google's PageRank is the "strength" of a website in the eyes of search engines based on these link metrics.
If Google's top search results show many low-authority websites, there is a high chance of ranking for the phrase. If you're targeting Traditional Chinese, it is often less competitive than Global English as there are fewer search results.
However, always manually check before going after keywords because many other factors affect ranking difficulty. It's not possible to boil down Google's ranking algorithm to a score.
How to calculate keyword difficulty?
Many keyword tools will give you a score:
1) AHREF Keyword Difficulty Checker
AHREFS Keyword Difficulty Checker is the simplest as it requires no sign-in, but it only gives the top 3 results. You can switch the interface to Simplified Chinese.
- Enter Keyword.
- 2. Choose Country.
- 3. Check Keyword Difficulty.
Ubersuggest gives 3 free searches a day.
- Enter Keyword.
- Choose Country.
- Check Keyword Difficulty.
What these scores mean?
Because each keyword tool's score uses a separate scoring metric, don't compare the difficulty scores between different keyword tools. Instead, compare the difficulty metrics between the keywords on each site.
Don't take the difficulty as the only clue. The score is a guideline and not an absolute value. Always check the top 10 search results for content, and search intent.
If your content is better, you can always outrank websites with higher authority.
Why is keyword difficulty important?
If you choose a hyper-competitive keyword, you might have trouble getting listed on Google's first page. As 92% of people searching don't go past page 1 of Google - trying to rank for those terms may not generate traffic.
If your site is brand new, then focusing on low-competition long-tail terms may get better wins at first.
If your keyword is super competitive, narrow your niche. Find the sweet spot by choosing:
- Keyword topics with at least 1k - 10k in monthly search volume.
- Long-tail keywords (2-3, or even longer keyword search phrases).
What is Domain Authority?
Domain Authority (DA) is a ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how likely a website is to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs) using a 0 to 100 scale. The higher the DA, the better chance it will rank, theoretically.
Other tracking companies have developed their own ranking scale:
- Majestic uses Citation Flow and Trust Flow.
- Ahrefs uses Domain Rank and URL Rank.
- Ubersuggest uses SEO Difficulty and Domain Score.
DA is a metric SEOs made up. Some of our clients often confuse DA as something Google uses to rank, which isn't correct because Google uses PageRank. Moz confirms this:
"Domain Authority is not a metric used by Google in determining search rankings and has no effect on the SERPs."
Think of Domain Authority as a benchmark, not a goal. Your user experience and quality of content all factor into Google's rankings. On a general level, high-DA sites often dominate search, but we have designed sites with lower DA scores that consistently beat better scores.
Domain authority can help us work out our link building outreach.
How to calculate domain authority (DA)?
To quickly check your score, use the Moz domain analysis tool.
To compare the page strength:
If you want to quickly compare the strength of your competitor's websites for a keyword term:
- Install the MozBar (free!) extension to your web browser.
- Turn it on and type your keyword into Google.
- Review the Domain Authority (DA) of the results on page 1.
Analyze Keywords Based on Search Intent
Keyword relevance is the most obvious but also the easiest to overlook. We want to match your content's purpose with the searcher's intent (the reason they're searching).
Always look at the search results page for your keywords to:
- Uncover the Keyword Difficulty by who ranks as the authority for the search term.
- Discover the search intent behind the keyword to see if the content matches your target audience's goals.
- What does someone using this keyword want to see?
- Are they looking to buy? For information? For a specific page (like a login)?
- Are they looking for businesses like yours?
- Do the results contain multimedia such as videos, pdfs, or images?
If so, the search query is best addressed with that content type.
- Are the results mostly commercial or informational in nature?
There are four search intent categories:
- Informational – you search for general information.
- Navigational – you search for a specific website or brand.
- Commercial – you want to research before purchase.
- Transactional – you want to buy online.
How do we do this?
The best way to discover the intent is to look at what ranks in the first SERP: Type the potential keyword into Google and look through the first page results; then optimize the page's content to match search intent. That's the only way you stand a chance at winning.
Sometimes, the keyword may be topically relevant to your page but not right for the search intent.
As a dentist, you want to focus on the new teeth whitening product you sell for home use.
Your keyword research term is the "best teeth whitening kit". It's got good search engine results, and you think you can rank for it.
However, when looking at Google's results page, your chosen keyword is not suitable for your content. Why? The intent doesn't align with your content.
Google clearly understands "best teeth whitening kit" as a commercial intent keyword – all the results are comparisons and product reviews. If you're trying to rank for "best teeth whitening kit" with a product page, it's not going to happen as the intent is transactional. Google knows searchers are in comparing mode, not purchase mode. That's why the top five results are all comparison best of pages.
The solution would be:
- Target keyword with suitable intent (e.g., "teeth whitening kit price").
- Create new content to match the search intent (e.g., a comparison of the best teeth whiteners with links to your product).
The goal is to match the searcher's intent with your website content. Create content that satisfies a searcher's intent, not just their exact keyword phrase. The better their experience, the better your search results with Google. SEO is the user experience.
How to Use Keywords for SEO
Behind every search is a human trying to solve a problem.
It is important to remember that Google no longer crawls billions of web pages seeking individual keywords. Its ranking algorithm seeks words with related meaning – semantic context.
This chapter will share a high-value approach to create content optimized for search results by creating topic clusters from your keyword research.
It's an advanced SEO strategy that perfects content for semantic search. We shift the focus from keywords to topics.
The topic clusters concept is from HubSpot, and we've refined the idea further.
Think of seed keywords as topic clusters (the content hub)
A topic cluster or content hub is a collection of pages all organized around a specific topic. Your Keyword research helps define this cluster.
Each topic has a pillar page targeting a broad topic, linked to several related sub-topic pages. The pages are hyperlinked and give general information on the main topic and in-depth insights into the sub-topics.
Linking content back to the pillar page helps search engines discover your content and place it in search results.
Think of your content in terms of topics you want your business to compete in, rather than separate keywords. Keywords still play into your overall strategy, but topics are now the umbrella under which your keyword strategy runs.
By displaying all your company's knowledge on a topic in one specific spot, you'll become known, trusted, and reputable about that topic. Plus, it allows you to organize your content around your customer's journey.
What is a Topic Cluster?
They consist of three parts:
- The Pillar Page is the top page at the center of the cluster. It provides a high-level overview of the topic.
- Supporting Cluster Content covers subtopics in-depth of high-level topics mentioned in the pillar content piece.
- Internal linking connects the hub page and subpages. The links act as spokes on a wheel, helping search engines and visitors understand that all these content items are related to the hub's theme.
Here's an example for a pillar page around SEO:
Why Are Topic Clusters Important?
In the past, marketers could win on Google by targeting a single keyword per page. Now, targeting entire topics is the key. This shift helps you become an authoritative expert in your field.
People's search queries are longer and more conversational due to the rise of voice search. With the rise of personalized search, keyword ranking is more fluid because Google tailors search results to each user. Finally, search engines are better at uncovering semantic meaning.
Keyword stats to remember:
- 64% of searches are four words or longer.
- 20% of mobile Google searches are now voice.
- 15% of all queries on Google are new and never searched for before.
- 43% of search queries now show "People also ask" snippet.
So, Google ranks pages that best match the user's intent and context rather than pages with the highest density of keywords.
Most blogs are structured to create individual blog posts that rank for specific keywords. This result is disorganized and hard to find the exact information the user needs. Plus, your URLs compete against one another in search engine rankings when you produce multiple blog posts about related topics.
Topic clusters solve this by shifting from targeting particular keywords to focusing on topic relevance and semantic context. By optimizing your articles around a topic, you're creating contextually rich content. Topic clusters strengthen the semantic relationship between posts. As a result, it helps Google evaluate the posts' topical relevance better and creates broader search engine authority.
This approach to content creation centers around helping the user find the content they are searching for, regardless of the exact keywords they typed.
How to create a Topic Cluster?
There are 4 steps:
- Define the main topic or theme you want to rank for.
- Create a Pillar Page that covers all aspects of the topic on a single page.
- Create supporting Cluster Content based on specific keywords related to that topic.
- Hyperlink them to each other.
This SEO approach is:
- Use the pillar page itself to target more competitive and shorter tail keywords.
- Use the supporting cluster content to target more specific and longer tail keywords with less competition.
1) Define a Cluster Topic:
Find topics relevant to your brand, audience, and a cornerstone of your business. By building content around this topic, you'll become a thought leader and help your prospective clients grow trust in your products and brand. It should be part of the awareness (educational) stage of your buyer's journey.
Step 1: Identify the Cluster Topic through Research
Look at your buyers' persona and ask:
- What problems do they have?
- What are their pain points?
Aim to identify the core problems that your company solves for your buyers. Think about 3-5 primary or seed keywords that are broad in your niche.
Look at your transactional pages - your product or sales page for content clusters as they:
- Tie directly into your product or service.
- Build up your authority around your primary products and services.
The topic should be broad enough to create 10 - 20 subtopics. Use keyword research to ensure your topic matches your customers' searches.
Having cluster topics enables your content to act as a sales funnel that turns visitors into leads and into paying customers.
Step 2: Use Keyword Research to Map Out Cluster Content
It's time to turn your list of core buyer problems into a topic cluster with keyword research.
We would recommend looking for keywords with between 400 - 10,000 monthly searches.
Pro Tip: Evaluate the top three search results for your target topic or subtopic before developing content to ensure your topic matches search intent.
2) Create a Pillar Page
A pillar page covers all aspects of a topic on a single page. They are vast pieces of content and often how-to guides. (e.g., 'The Ultimate Guide to Taiwan SEO').
Think of ungated long-form content. Think about it as a vast blog post, an ultimate guide that can contain 15-20 mini-topics. Think an E-book. This pillar page should aim to answer every possible question when somebody searches for your topic keyword.
Pillar pages range from 3,000 to 10,000 words and cover:
- "A-to-Z" guide.
- 101 Guide.
The more comprehensive this single post is, the more keyword variations and sub-topics you cover will help build that thematic relevance. This long-form content usually has higher engagement as it answers the user's question or entirely solves their problem. Weave in related keywords and long-tail keywords in your content and headings.
Think about your customers' most significant pain points. What information do they seek to find solutions to their problems? Getting to the heart of their problems and offering relevant, educational information will help create a useful pillar page.
Use the "people also ask" section of Google or tools like AnswerThePublic for your keyword topic to guide you.
Adopt the searcher's mindset when writing. What content would you excite you, and which format would you prefer if you were searching for that topic? Check search intent in the top 3 results.
An excellent pillar page is:
- Divided into chapters or content sections.
- Use headlines for easy skimming.
- Internal table of contents navigation that goes to or skips specific chapters.
- Download option to convert some traffic into leads with a pdf download form.
- Uses tables or graphs to visualize information.
3) Develop Subtopics.
Subtopics are related, long-tail queries that will serve as the primary focus for your supporting content. Subtopics help to cover a topic fully in detail.
Think through your buyer persona's pain points - create questions that clients have, then develop content to answer these questions. Work with your sales team or subject experts to define the relevant search terms.
Most subtopic posts content should be driven by:
- Keyword research.
- Feedback from sales and support.
Use keyword research to identify entry points for new readers. Identify informational keywords that are associated with your core transactional pages. Google's "Searches Related To" at the bottom of the page can help. Keywords should target the sales funnel's top and middle – content that helps searchers who are seeking information and education.
Develop bottom of the funnel content by interviewing your sales and support teams about what customers are having trouble with. This process helps you address the entire buyer's journey, from awareness through purchase.
- Top of Funnel: Use keyword research to address high-level topics, introduce new readers to your brand.
- Middle of Funnel: Use keyword research and feedback from sales and support to tie problems to your specific solution.
- Bottom of Funnel: Use sales and support feedback to write directly about your product.
Use Google's Keyword Planner to dive into search volume.
An excellent subtopic page is:
- Specific to the long-tail query.
- Highly relevant and supports the cluster topic.
- Answers frequent questions about the cluster topic.
- Stands on its own as another content piece (blog post, video, podcast, infographic, eBook, etc.).
Plus, you'll want to confirm these subtopics have SEO value through basic keyword research.
PRO TIP: It's no good just throwing keywords randomly into the page. The goal is to create compelling content by providing real value to real people.
4) Build Hyperlinks between Pillar Pages and Cluster Content:
An essential element of getting results with content clusters is a strong internal linking strategy. Linking between articles gives Google messages that your content is related and allows you to pass authority between articles.
Remember to follow this process:
- Each cluster content includes at least one link to the pillar page.
- Every link to the pillar page has the topic phrase as anchor text.
- All pillar pages link to relevant topic cluster content using relevant keywords as anchor text.
Let's wrap this up
The above should help you understand the basic concepts of keyword research and plan your content strategy.
Now you might be thinking of taking this to the next level and implementing these strategies we've learnt. Reach out to iamrobert to help you with this journey.