Getting ranked on the first page of Google may seem like a daunting task. It may seem so daunting that it seems like basic keyword research won’t even help you crack the surface.
The hard truth is that ranking an article on page 1 isn’t as easy as it used to be.
There are a lot of factors that go into ranking and keyword research, and unless you are an established site, it’s hard to get good positioning.
The good news?
There are still plenty of long-tail keywords out there to rank for, and SEO is an amazing way to compound your effort into results over time. It’s also an amazing way to open up the traffic gateways to your site, all at no cost or cheap (compared to other methods of driving traffic).
Let’s take a deeper dive into what keyword research is, how to conduct it, and how to incorporate those keywords into an article that will ultimately help your audience.
How Do Keywords Work?
A keyword is anything that a user types into the Google search bar.
Once they hit enter, that search becomes accounted for in Google, and other companies tap into Google’s statistics to show you how many people are searching for that keyword on a monthly basis. These are the SEO research platforms that give you the data you need to succeed.
Keywords are usually more of a key phrase, since they almost always contain more than one word.
All key phrases are just shortened to the term “keyword” when talking about SEO and researching for your articles, so keep this in mind going forward that we are talking about both when talking about keywords.
Once someone submits their keyword (a.k.a. search query) to Google, it is then Google’s job to show them the most relevant page on the internet that will help answer their question.
It is our job as marketers to provide the most helpful resource for users so that Google deems us worthy enough to show up in the coveted top 3 spots for our specific keyword.
There is also other real-estate you can snag such as the search snippet or related questions, but those are outside the scope of this article on the basics of keyword research.
How Do I Know Which Keywords to Use?
Google alone processes around 40,000 searches per second, or 3.5 billion searches per day.
With that many searches going on, how in the world do we know what to target?
That’s where our research comes into play.
Ultimately, you want to choose keywords that have a mixture of high-traffic, fit our niche, and that you will have a good chance to rank for.
If you don’t have a niche picked out for your business, do it now. You can’t serve everyone in SEO. A good, focused audience will allow you to target your keywords with laser focus and become an authority in your space according to Google.
Keywords are made up of head terms and long-tails.
We need to put our efforts towards the ones we will be able to rank for.
After all, we can’t help people with our knowledge if they can’t find us.
Long-Tail vs. Head Term Keywords
Head terms are the main term within the longer term that people search for. These are usually one or two words.
Think “Marketing Agency”.
Since these are the main term, they are very hard to rank for in almost all niches.
Short-tail keywords consist of 3 words, and are a little easier to rank for since there is extra variation that everyone searching for the head term may not be searching for.
Think “Marketing Agency in Chicago”.
This is more specific and will narrow down the search for the user. This means it’s easier for us to rank for than the head term, but will still be pretty hard since that’s a competitive market.
Not all hope is lost though.
That’s where long-tail keywords come into play.
Long-tail keywords are the full phrase that people are searching for. Savvy searches usually type long-tail keywords into the search bar because they know they will get the best answer for their specific case.
Think “Marketing Agency in Chicago That Does Sales Funnels”
This is a very specific term.
True that it will have less searches than the head and short-tail terms, but we have a better chance of ranking for this long-tail keyword since the competition is less fierce and we can actively gear our content towards this one term.
Now that we have the breakdown of the different parts of a keyword, let’s see how we can start researching keywords that can be helpful to our business.
How Do You Research Keywords?
There are a ton of methods and SEO programs you can use to do keyword research, but as this article is about the basics of keyword research, I will limit the scope so you don’t get overwhelmed.
If you are just starting out, you likely want to get your feet wet by utilizing free tools out there available to you.
Once you advance you can get into the paid tools that offer more information to really hone in your strategy and track your progress.
I’ll give you an idea of the paid SEO tools first to get it out of the way.
Top Paid Research Tools
There are a ton of paid offerings that will give you really in-depth knowledge about keywords, how to use them in context, and other SEO stats about your site that factor into your Google ranking (sorry, it’s not all just about writing well-optimized content, but that’s the place to start!).
These programs start at $99 per month and go up drastically from there depending on the number of keyword searches you need to do research on, and how many keywords you want to track over time.
Moz and SEMrush offer limited free research if you sign up for a free account on their website.
Ahrefs offers a $7 trial to get your started with their full suite of tools.
As mentioned before, it’s best to get some free research under your belt and build up your website before you can really justify paying that kind of money every month for a top-level program.
Where Can I Research Keywords For Free?
If you are looking to get SEO keywords for free, there are a few good options for you.
First, I suggest you try out Ubersuggest.
You can do some basic keyword research for free, without signing up for an account, and they give you more free results if you do decide to sign up.
You get truncated results, meaning some are hidden, but you can get a basic understanding of what direction you should go with your article.
You Can Always Just Use Google Search Console
Did you know that you can do keyword research right within your Google Search Console account?
Your website should already be hooked up to Search Console when you submitted your website to be indexed by Google, so from that date on you probably didn’t know you were already collecting valuable information about how you are being found online.
The upside is that you can see what you are already being found for in search results. You can see how many clicks you are getting and how many impressions each search term has.
This will give you ideas on keywords to optimize your existing pages for, and maybe some new keywords to focus on.
The downside is that you won’t find research for a specific new topic you want to cover, and you can only analyze your site and not peek in on your competitors.
I cover how to use Google Search Console for keyword research in my basic keyword research training, the Make 100k Count guide.
How Many Keywords are Good For SEO?
It’s important to be topically focused within your articles (although this may not always be the case as Google is moving towards passage ranking as well as page ranking).
As such, make sure that you include your main keyword within your content at a frequency of 2-3%.
If you need help with keyword density, free plugins such as Yoast for WordPress can help you determine if you are using the keyword too much (keyword stuffing), or not using it enough.
You should also use variations of your main keyword and LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords that would naturally go with your keyword and give it context.
An example of LSI keywords would be focusing on the keyword “Apple”. You could either see terms like “computers”, “iPods”, and “laptops” around it or “granny smith”, “red delicious”, and “gala”.
The words surrounding your keywords matter to the context of your piece and help the user (and Google) understand things better.
The Most Important Rule of Keyword Usage
While keyword count and LSI keywords are important, there is one thing that is more important and should always be implemented in your content creation.
That rule is to always write for your audience.
If a keyword doesn’t make sense in a sentence, your reader will get confused, or know you are trying to cram keywords in to rank.
The reader wants a good experience that answers their questions.
As long as you are using some basic keyword research and making a helpful piece that makes sense for your end user, you are off to a great start!
Your Free Basic Keyword Research Training
I hope you now have a better understanding of the basics of keyword research.
The main intent is to make sure you are finding phrases that people type into Google that have enough traffic to capture for your website, while trying to provide the best resource available on the subject.
As you’ve probably gathered, keyword research goes much deeper than everything I’ve laid out here today. There are many more advanced topics that you can cover, and Google is getting smarter and savvier by the day.
It’s an ongoing pursuit to learn the basics and keep adding to your knowledge base on the best way to implement.
If you want a visual of the basics, I invite you to download my free Make 100k Count guide.
The guide is about how to turn website traffic into revenue, and I also include a section in the beginning about how to drive traffic in the first place.
Within that section you will find a link to a video where I explain a lot of what I’ve covered in this guide, plus a few extra tidbits and software that may help you excel at SEO and content creation.
If you want the guide and the free video training, be sure to check it out here.