Every business dreams of ranking page one on Google—and rightfully so.

Seventy-five percent of people never scroll past the first page, meaning all the effort you put into creating content could be all for naught if your page never reaches the top of search results.  

But anyone who knows anything about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knows that achieving the page one spot isn’t exactly a breeze. So, how do you get on the path to achieving page one status?

It all starts with one very important step: keyword research. In this blog, we’ll cover the best strategies for researching the right keywords to boost the visibility of your blogs and web pages. 

What, exactly, is keyword research?

For starters, keyword research is the process of identifying search terms and/or phrases that people enter into Google (or other search engines) to find content like yours. In your case, you’re likely looking for keywords that attract purchase-ready buyers, or people who could turn into customers over time. 

screenshot of auto-generated keywords on google

Once you isolate these search terms, you can use that data to guide your content writing. This doesn’t simply mean finding keywords to include on your page. This also entails learning what your audience is expecting to find when they click onto your page, and making sure you deliver what they’re looking for.

Keyword research sounds pretty simple in theory. In practice, however, it’s often not. There are a lot of variables to keep in mind, including:

  • Search intent: What is the searcher looking to achieve? Is he or she looking to buy something, learn more about a topic, or be inspired?
  • Audience: Who does the search term attract? Do users fall within your target audience? How familiar are they with your industry and/or product?
  • Keyword competitiveness: How hard will it be for your page to organically rank above competitors? Who is ranking on the first page now and what is their domain authority like?
  • Relevance: Does the keyword align with your area of expertise and the product or service you have to offer? Can you fully address the topic at hand?
  • Search volume: How many people actually search these keywords in a given month? Does that volume fluctuate throughout the year? Also, how important is reach versus audience makeup (i.e., would you rather cast a wide net that captures a diverse audience or a small net that captures a more specific, relevant audience)?    

How to research keywords: 4 key steps

1. Use your industry insight

A great deal of keyword research involves understanding your target audiences. Towards that end, the best place to start is with you, your team, and your current customers. What do you already know about your customers’ values, goals, and the questions that they have when researching companies like yours?  

Your sales and customer success teams can offer a wealth of knowledge based on their everyday interactions with your customers and prospects. As you aim to engage people at different levels of awareness and sales-readiness, tap into your team’s expertise to come up with a preliminary list of keywords to dig into.

Your keywords (and overall content marketing strategy), after all, should ultimately exist to serve and guide your consumers. It’s easy to lose sight of this when you dive straight into keyword research and become engulfed in data. 

2. Find a reliable keyword research tool

There are countless keyword research tools to choose from, some of which are free to use and others which require a paid subscription. However, not all keyword tools are created equally.

Some platforms only provide basic data. Think: search volumes and organic competitiveness. Others go much deeper. Imagine: competitor analysis, geo-based search data, trends, and topic-based keyword suggestions.

Paid tools tend to provide much deeper insight that puts keywords into context, so that you can invest in keywords with greater confidence and find opportunities to optimize your page.

ContentEdge, for example, includes a Content Insight report. Using this tool, you can discover the average length and reading level of top-ranking pages. You can additionally see what semantically related words you should include within your content to boost your chances of ranking. 

screenshot of content insights report

3.  Choose quality over quantity

Search volume can sometimes behave like a vanity metric. It can lure SEO beginners down the wrong path—promising tens of thousands of monthly views, only to lead them to a dead end, where their page never comes close to ranking for that keyword.

The reality is, keywords with massive monthly search volumes are rarely easy to compete on (anyone who’s winning on them currently are likely big, authoritative sites that have been doing SEO for years). Nor are these keywords often specific enough to attract the right audience for your site. For this reason, search volume should never be the sole basis for choosing a term. 

Rather, you’ll typically want to start off by targeting lower volume keywords with lower organic difficulty. This means that instead of targeting short-tail keywords, you’ll want to target long-tail keywords that attract a more relevant crowd.

For example, let’s say you are a personal injury law firm in San Francisco and you try to rank on Google for the short-tail keyword  “lawyer for hire” because it has an average monthly search volume of 750,000. Now, let’s say that you actually start ranking for “lawyer for hire” but you’re getting inquiries from people looking for a business lawyer or an immigration lawyer.  Your firm doesn’t provide these services, rending a majority of the traffic irrelevant.

Though you may have, for a time, enjoyed more traffic to your site, you’re now dealing with unqualified leads and high bounce rates that signal to Google that most users aren’t finding what they need from your site. You’re in a way worse off than you were before because Google is deeming your content irrelevant and may suppress your page from SERPs entirely.

On the contrary, let’s say that you target the long-tail keyword “best personal injury law San Francisco.” This only gets around 500 monthly searches, but it’s  high-intent, low competition, and relevant to what you actually offer. The people who land on your site through this search are much more likely to convert into a client. If just 10 of those visitors convert, you’ll have ended up with a much better ROI than if a handful of the 750,000 visitors from earlier converted. 

4. Understand your competition

The best keyword strategies take into account the competition. In fact, some of your best keywords ideas may come from investigating your competitors’ organic strategies.

For instance, using ContentEdge, you could plug your competitor’s URL and analyze their online activity. ContentEdge will spit out a list of keywords that your competitor is currently ranking for, allowing you to discover opportunities that you already know attract the right audience. 

screenshot of domain explorer report in contentedge

Look for keywords and topics that you’re an expert in and aim to provide deeper, more insightful content than what your competitor currently offers. The same rules apply here as always: find keywords with low-to-medium difficulty scores and high relevance to your business.   

In summary

Keyword research is not as straightforward as it may seem. But by establishing the right processes, you can develop a better eye for finding the right keywords to target and maximizing your SEO ROI.

If you’re still not sure where to start or need an extra hand, reach out to our RankScience team. Our SEO experts can help to steer your team down the right path and help to build high-ranking, high-quality content to back up your keyword strategy.

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in January 2020 but has since been updated to reflect more up-to-date tips and information.

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