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Complete your keyword research for SEO in 9 steps

Tackling search engine optimization (SEO) for your small business? Then you must get your keyword data right. Think of keywords as your foundation SEO building blocks. Do a good job of laying these blocks and search engines will find and rank your site. And that’s an important step in making sure your audience knows you exist.

Keywords are a big deal. Done right, keyword research for SEO can help catapult your site to success. New to SEO and keyword research? Follow these nine steps and get started.

Step 1. Write Down Assumed Keywords

The public uses certain words and phrases for businesses like yours. They put these into search when looking for your products and services. Your first task is jotting down all the words you know Jo and Joe Public are using to describe your industry.

For example, if you’re a photographer you probably know people search for things like:

  • professional photographer
  • wedding photographer
  • pet photography
  • family photography
  • affordable photographer
  • corporate photographer.

Keep track of all the phrases and words you come up with by starting a spreadsheet. Not only does this make you super organized, it makes assigning keywords to each web page much easier.

Use your keyword list to guide decisions for your organic and pay per click SEO campaigns.

As well as giving you words you want to rank for, this list can uncover negative keywords. These are the words and phrases people might use, but that you don’t want your business showing up for in Google.

Step 2. Use Google Search Console

The Google Search Console (GSC) is a dashboard that reveals information about your website. It tells you who your site visitors are and what keywords they used to find you.

To use GSC you have to prove to Google that you’re the site owner and authorize it to crawl your pages. Once you’ve got the thumbs up it integrates with your Google Analytics.

You can now see which keywords are associated with which landing page on your website and how they are performing in Google search. You’ll also see the search volume for specific words that you might want to compete for. Using these tools provides you with keyword opportunities that you did not previously have.

Step 3. Check Website

Telling you about means giving away one of my biggest keyword research and content marketing secrets.

Why do I love this site? When you search for a particular word or phrase it returns a list of alternative, alphabetically sorted keywords. Pick the ones relevant to your business, products and services and add them to your spreadsheet. But that’s not all…

Ever find yourself stuck for article or email newsletter ideas? Answer The Public provides visual data for questions your audience are typing into search. It does this by adding ‘how’, ‘what,’ ‘when’ and ‘why’ to keywords.

Savvy business owners will transform these into content pieces. It’s a great way to answer your audience’s worries and concerns so you’re useful to them. You’ll never be stuck for what to write ever again!

Step 4. Check

Another cool site to check is Plugin your topic and it returns questions that people also ask in Google.

Step 5. Look at the Google Suggestions

You know those keyword phrases you instinctively knew? Well, pop them into Google and see what happens. Are you seeing a list of suggestions coming up as you type?

These are ‘Google suggestions’ and are another great way to uncover which keywords. They might be subtly different to the ones you first thought of but these are the words and syntax your audience is using. So you should use them on your site, too.

Step 6. Check Keyword Magic In SEMrush

Bulk up your keyword database by using free keyword tools like SEMrush. It’s usually a paid service, but when you’re finding your feet with SEO keyword research make the most of the free trial. Now you can get into exploring the different options. Like Keyword Magic.

Just how magic is Keyword Magic? Well, it magically provides you with over two million keyword ideas, sorted by topic. Selecting the best keywords and saving them or exporting them into other SEMrush tools is now super easy.

If you find you really like the SEMrush tool, then ta-da! Here’s my affiliate link that gets you money off.

Step 7. Check Competitor Organic Keywords In SEMrush

It’s a good idea to keep and eye on the keywords you competitors are trying to rank for. The reason isn’t to copy them. It’s because it gives you a chance to spot holes in their plan and attract your audience a different way.

Again, tools like SEMrush lets you check keyword competition (low, medium or high) and the keywords your competitors are targeting or ranking for.

SEMrush provides data on 6.5 million keywords and regularly updates its indexes. Using their tool to find competitor organic keywords is easy. Simply enter your competitor’s domain name into the SEMrush search bar.

Results show all the keywords your competitors are ranking for. It also provides plenty of additional information including traffic percentage and the specific page where a keyword is ranking.

Use this information to your advantage by looking for keyword patterns. Usually, a site’s top four keyword phrases have a similar theme or keyword angle. Spotting this pattern means I can either create a new page for my client to target similar phrases or optimize an existing one so it’s more competitive. This is useful when building a creative campaign.

Step 8. Check Keyword Difficulty

Some keywords are harder to rank for than others. In a perfect world you’ll target common words used by your audience (as discussed in step 7) but aren’t sucked up by your competitors. If everyone’s using it, it’s harder to rank for.

For example, “wedding photographer” is hard to rank for compared to “air diving wedding photographer.” (Not even sure that’s a thing, but it should be!)

So how can you find these unicorn words? The difficulty tool in SEMRush is a good start. Type all of the keywords you’ve collected into this tool and it guides you on which ones are good targets and the ones that are best avoided. (Unless you love to make your SEO life difficult.)

You can get this calculation for up to 100 search terms at a time, quickly narrowing down your keywords. As a result you’ll be giving your company the best chance of outranking sites on the first two pages of Google.

Step 9. Choose Your Target Keywords

Now you know the ranking difficulty, pick keywords that have high volume and lower difficulty. These are the keywords you’ll use on your website. This method provides you with the best chance of ranking by using low difficulty keywords. If your site is a bit newer to the scene, pick keywords with a difficulty rating of 30 or less.

And that’s it. Using these nine steps you should have no problem finding the keywords you should target for a great SEO strategy.

The quick way to do keyword research

Not got time for all nine keyword research steps? When you need to focus your efforts on other business tasks, but want to get your SEO strategy moving in the right direction, I can help. Take a peek at my Keyword Research services and they only one step you’ll need to take is telling me a bit about your business.

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Barb Davids - SEO Consultant

Barb Davids is an SEO consultant and owner of Compass Digital Strategies. Driven by data and analytics, she works hard to get business-changing results for her clients, such as 256% more website traffic and 22% more leads. Connect with her: Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter
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