SEO: Keyword research for business owners

By Roman Berezhnoi June 17, 2021 289 views

SEO: Keyword research for business owners

As it was mentioned, the purpose of SEO is to attract valuable visitors on your business site. 

Keyword research is a key practice of SEO services that help to create a great content for business sites. 

But there are a lot of myths and misconceptions. How to do effective keyword research for business sites? 

There are a lot of ways to do keyword research. Let us express F5 Studio’s approach of keyword research in straightforward terms. 

What is keyword research?

The vital factor (many SEOs think that is the “ranking” factor) is the content of your site. Because search engines index and rank content of pages. Content engages visitors and converts them into leads or customers. But the searcher’s journey starts from search queries or keywords. Also you write content around keywords to give your option of reply to a search query. That is why keyword research is important for SEO.

F5 Studio’s SEOs define keyword research as follows:

Keyword research is the practice of identifying queries that drive valuable, relevant traffic to websites.

For ecommerce sites we can define keyword research in this way:

Keyword research is the practice of estimating how much revenue should be expected from optimizing for keywords.

Anyway, you should think about how many conversions those queries produce for you. Unfortunately, not many people think about how many conversions do search queries generate. But professional SEOs have to think about website conversions, not search volume, difficulty or other “SEO metrics”.

Many SEOs start keyword research by using “SEO tools”. It is a bad practice because:

  • “SEO tools” ignore your audience, your customers, their needs and pains. In other words “SEO tools” can’t help you to find 0 search queries, long-tail keywords and specific search queries
  • there is a difference between keyword research for a new site and keyword research for a new page or for the content that is already existing on a site
  • “SEO tools” have no access to data of search engines. If you use “SEO tools” you will get inaccurate data. 

So, keyword research is a marketing process that requires some target audience research, analysis, creativity, and expertise.

You’ll see why that is so.

Before you start to do keyword research

Here are questions that need to be answered before you start to do your keyword research.

Do you have a SEO marketing strategy? Do you have a plan for search optimization?

In fact, you can use a lot of tactics to help your business grow in the web search. You can create a query space for a new site or for a new brand. You can add a FAQ page to your SaaS product site or to add a blog to an ecommerce site. In other words you must understand how you will do your business. Marketing plays a big part.

Will you do keyword research for new content or for the content that is already existing on their site?

There is a difference between doing keyword research for a new site and for the new page or content that is already existing on a site. It means using another approach to find some additional keywords for a content that already exists.

How well do you know your target audience, their needs, and pains?

SEO is a part of marketing. You must know your target audience to do SEO. Understanding your target audience will help you to identify many keywords that are related to your business.

How well do you know a subject to be able to produce original, expert content to phrases you’re identifying?

In other words, do you need to hire an experienced writer? 

As you can see, keyword research requires some thought, analysis, and expertise. There is no “SEO tool” that could help you.

Keyword research for a new site

F5 Studio’s keyword research process will help you:

– create a site that has a menu and content that is different from other sites in your niche

– create a site that drives a significant amount of traffic even though you never built a single link to them

– create a site that’s unlikely to get hit by algorithms, core algorithms updates or any updates in search engines.

I hope you’ve answered the questions before starting your keyword research. Well, let me share with you the keyword research process of F5 Studio’s SEOs.

Step 1. Brainstorming topics related to what your website is about

What is your new site about? Which terms your target audience would use to find pages of your site. Think in terms “how do I clean my floor”, “some place to take my family for dinner”, “got to find the right bracket to put it up”. 

It can be a challenging task. That is why you need to understand your target audience.

You should identify “the main keywords” that many people usually use for looking for the products, services or information. 

Start your keyword research with the kinds of queries you ask. Analyze what you search for and why, and then look at what the search engines show you in response to your queries. These search engine responses may reflect what other people are searching for, and how they search for it.

Let me give you an example.

I want to create a website about Cherkasy (a city in central Ukraine) to attract tourists from Western Europe, UK and the USA. It will be a business website, because I plan to promote the top-class holiday club. 

So, it seems easy to identify keywords. Can it be something like a “holiday club in Cherkasy”? It can be a good main keyword for local searchers. But I need to get traffic from the UK, Western Europe and the USA. I think many people from the UK, Western Europe and the United States have never heard of Cherkasy. They don’t use “holiday club in Cherkasy” to take a vacation in Cherkasy. 

But people from the UK, Western Europe and USA come to Ukraine to spend their holiday. That is why, I have a chance to attract some of them. I need to represent Cherkasy as a tourist city where foreigners can find some interesting things.

So, I identified a few keywords “Ukraine leisure destinations”, “best destination of Ukraine”. 

But if I try to optimise my site for these keywords, I will fail. Look at the image.

This Google's SERP shows high-competitive keywords

If you open Ukraine: 11 best places to visit you won’t find Cherkasy. Also, it is difficult to compete with popular sites such as Tripadvisor. 

But if I dig deeper, I will see other keywords. These keywords are “where to relax in Ukraine”, “reasons to spend your vacation in Ukraine”, “places to visit in Ukraine”. Also I would use the “Ukraine leisure destinations for yachting enthusiasts” keyword. 

Now we can take the next step.

Step 2. Need more keywords

You can use some kind of keyword research tool to start coming up with phrases. But the next step of advanced SEO should be to brainstorm subtopics for each of the main topics.

Well, I am going to surprise my visitors with guided tours to historical places, a holiday club, bank of Dnipro river, yachting, diving, and underwater fishing. 

But I must repeat: tourists from the UK, Western Europe and the USA won’t search “underwater fishing in Cherkasy” in the near future. 

My site has to be an answer to queries “where to relax in Ukraine”, “reasons to spend your vacation in Ukraine”, “places to visit in Ukraine”. I should identify subtopics related to these main keywords. 

In some cases it is enough to use Google search predictions and related searches. But I recommend you to analyse the search engine result page (SERP). 

That analysis showed that I need to represent the city in the web search. I identified related topics:

– history of Cherkasy

– pretty places in Cherkasy (Dnipro river, mountains, parks, museums, etc.)

– yachting in Cherkasy

– hotels in Cherkasy

– holiday club in Cherkasy

– restaurants in Cherkasy

– how to do I get to Cherkasy from Kyiv, Uman, Odesa, Lviv

Honestly there are more topics than I wrote. If somebody visits that site, it can see how this site presents practically all the answers that I had previously identified by analyzing in detail the SERP. 

You should think in this way: I DO want to provide good value and I DO enjoy helping people. 

Well, I have to represent Cherkasy as the best place to visit in Ukraine to spend holiday or to relax. So, I will answer all possible search queries like “pretty places in Cherkasy, “restaurants in Cherkasy ” or “how to get to Cherkasy ”.

Also, you should analyse the SERP of other search engines (Bing, Mojeek, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia). Because a web search is not just Google. 

Data-driven mentality permeates search marketing now. The wholesale ingestion of keyword data produced a massive glut of useless content. Websites turned into mush and it was that mush that Google strove to clean up with algorithm updates. Now you can find a lot of complaints about troubles with content indexation. Maybe Google’s solution was brutal for some webmasters and SEOs, but frankly those websites were brutal for searchers.

Efficient keyword research is strategy-driven, not data-driven. The data should not be making the decisions for you. The data should not be boxing your SEO marketing strategy into a limited set of options. In fact, the data of “SEO tools” is inaccurate, pseudo-science, and useless.

In my example I can Identify 0 (zero) search queries, long-tail keywords, and high-conversional queries. My goal is a great strategic victory. I mean, simply put, my keywords have to drive relevant traffic on my website and generate conversions.

Step 3. Write content

Many SEOs and website owners think about “how to optimize content for SEO”. They use SEO content optimization lists. It is a bad practice.

Many SEO guides recommend creating “unique, high-quality, relevant content”. Also, gurus of SEO recommend to put keywords in URLs, headers (H1, H2, H3), to the in the first paragraph, to the last paragraph, optimize meta title and meta description, etc. It is good for you, because you can identify which keywords your competitors use. But it is not content optimization. 

Now you don’t have to use keywords to create a webpage copy. Modern web search engines denote search with meaning, as distinguished from lexical search where the search engine looks for literal matches of the query words or variants of them.

Keyword research has to pick the best questions for the right answers you can give people. So, I should create content that answers many questions of my target audience.

I love to spend my time at Dnipro river. Also, history and archaeology are my interests. So, I can create content by myself. But most importantly, I want to help people enjoy the vacation of a lifetime.

The main goal of this keyword research step is to see which keywords attract traffic to a site naturally before you should do anything else.

Step 4. Keyword Analysis

I haven’t created this site yet. But one of our SEOs did it for one city from another country. F5 Studio’s SEOs use this step for every project. So, I can give you some advice. 

You should use Google Search Console to check your site SEO performance. You needn’t use “third party SEO tools” to track keyword positions or traffic. You can use the webmaster tool of a specific search engine to get accurate data.

Using Google Search Console can help you see which pages are getting traffic from Google and what search queries that traffic searches for to find website pages. It is your main goal of using Google Search Console.

When should you check data in Google Search Console? It depends on how fast your content will get impressions and clicks. Look at the image.

Grathics of SEO performance

Content indexing and ranking takes some time. I marked the initial period of this process. As you can see there were significant fluctuations at the initial period. It shows that Google tried to understand what this page is about, how this page could help searchers. This period can be indicative, but I recommend you to analyse the next two weeks. The problem is you can see some “wrong” keywords at the initial period of content indexing.

What do you look for? First, use filters for pages and countries. If you don’t target Australia, you shouldn’t analyze traffic from this country.

Analyse the queries that generated clicks and impressions. If you see queries that rank 11 through 30 and attract clicks, it is good for you. That means the page is ranking well enough that it has a shot at the first page. People are really searching for these phrases. The content of websites on the first page isn’t good enough. If it were, searchers wouldn’t be visiting the 2nd page of the search results.

With some improvements of content, or with a new page, you will be able to land on the first page of the SERP and start getting more traffic.

Also you should pay attention to impressions. For standard organic listings (10 blue links), an impression is recorded even when it hasn’t been scrolled into view. So, in the 10 blue links, if your listing is #9 and below the fold, it still counts as an impression. That’s a good sign. It means that Google adds your site to the SERP for the search query. 

If your pages don’t get clicks or many impressions, it doesn’t mean that you fail. It means that you need to improve your content. Also you can revise your keyword strategy. 

But, sometimes, all that you need to do is wait. Modern search engines manage tens of millions of web pages. On the other hand, if you create really unique, useful content, the pages will be ranked in a few weeks.

So, you should improve your content. There are two ways to provide improvements:

– expand your content to get more information about that keyword into the existing page

– create a new page targeting that keyword

You should choose the second option, if your page has poor SEO performance. It doesn’t mean that you did bad work. Most SEOs, digital marketers get more traffic by luck than by effort. Also, there are a lot of factors that influence the SEO performance of your site.

Well, update your content and check SEO performance in a month or two. Anyway, you need to update and to improve your content from time to time. 

I recommend you to generate more keywords for your site. Try to look for non-competitive, long-tail queries. Use Google Search Console, analyse the SERP, to brainstorm. 

Now we can move to keyword research for existing sites.

Keyword research for the business site that is already existing 

Keyword research for the content that is already existing, as you understand, differs from keyword research for a new website. Why?

If you need keyword research for your site that is already existing, it means that your keywords and content don’t attract relevant traffic.So, you should start from keyword analysis.

Keyword analysis is the practice of evaluating a query and its relevance to the content that received or not received traffic from the query. Also it is the practice of estimating how many conversions a specific query drives to a  website.

In other words you should answer some questions. Is my site targeting the right keywords? Is my site optimizing correctly for them? Is it a good revenue or conversion rate for me?

This is why the strategy-driven approach is so important for SEO. This approach helps you understand where further improvements are required. 

Use Google Search Console to analyse SEO performance of your website. Google Analytics can help you to learn more about user behaviour on the site. I know, Google Analytics is not a perfect web tracking tool, but it is free and allows you to get some useful data. If you have an ecommerce site, you can enable Enhanced Ecommerce Reporting. While you focus on strategy, data can help you.

Also, I recommend you analyse the SERP. Web search is a dynamic environment. Many sites lose positions in the SERP because their owners didn’t update content. Searches can change search queries. You use seasonal keywords. The shrinking of markets gives further cause for losing ranking of a website. So, you need to analyse the SERP, market and your target audience behavior.

Anyway, you will come to the conclusion – you should add content which adds to the freshness of the website. 

Anyway it is about using expanded keyword tactics. What does it mean?

You should provide keyword research. In some cases you can use step 4 from the previous paragraph. But I recommend you to do the whole process of keyword research.

Next step, you should think about how to add new content. You can update existing pages or create new pages. It would be better to update several existing pages and to add new pages. Then you can create content and update your site.

Total Collision & PDR is one of our projects (see presentation). When we are redesigning their site we added more content and more pages to expand keywords. It is a basic SEO service of F5 Studio that includes a website development service. These tricks made an auto body shop more visible on Google for local searchers. 

In many cases content updating can help you get good ranking and drive more traffic. I think you should continue to add content to keep your website performing well in the organic SERP. 

New ideas

You might have noticed that the world of SEO is constantly evolving. Of course, this is the reason why we all have the constant questions of the future in SEO and “Is SEO dead?” and that you can’t use it for your business for a long time. Some SEOs claim that SEO is not about keywords and you don’t have to use keywords.

But it is not a new idea to be exact. Some SEOs have been focusing on topics instead of keywords since 2010. You should know which topics people are interested in. Now it doesn’t sound like a radical idea. 

At SMX Frédéric Dubut, the PM of overall Bing’s core search team, said that he thinks SEOs need to move from keyword research practices to intent research practices. He said with search engines focusing more on intent versus keywords, with the deployment of BERT and other machine learning techniques. 

F5 Studio’s SEOs can confirm it. Both ways work for SEO. So, here is some advice.

Every topic demands that you come back to it, review what you have done, and calibrate your work to remain relevant to whatever people are searching for today.

Don’t simplify the intent research practice. So, you can’t optimize a product page only for transactional query. In many cases (and niches) you should optimize the product pages for all intents (informational, transactional, and navigational).

Also you can read about Natural Language Processing and entities. But Google uses entities and NLP very differently than many SEOs think.i

But, while these SEO theories served their purpose, there have been limitations. In many cases you need to use keywords to optimize the content of pages. The need to use keywords can be empirically established. 

Conclusions

You may think that it is a simple method of doing keyword research and it’s true. But SEO, as a part of marketing, requires a natural gift for finding great keyword opportunities. Another reason to avoid using “keyword research tools”. 

Focus on your strategy. Your strategy should be based on understanding the queries of your target audience. But certainly remember about conversions. You can find keywords that generate traffic, but it makes no sense without conversions.

In this way you are able to provide effective keyword research to optimize your site.

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