Keyword research is a fundamental and vital aspect of successful digital marketing.

A Backlinko study has found that up to 85% of Google’s first page search results have titles with relevant keywords, while blog posts that contain target keywords in the URL have a 45% higher click-through rate (Backlinko, 2023).

Without a doubt, understanding the essence of keyword research is the first step towards unlocking the full potential of search engine optimisation (SEO).

However, the realm of keyword research is multifaceted, ever-changing and, at times, difficult to navigate: as search engine algorithms evolve and user behaviours change, so must your keyword research strategies.

In this guide, we explore why keyword research is indispensable, delve into the various types of keywords, examine key keyword metrics, shed light on our approach to researching keywords for your website and unveil the top-notch keyword research tools at our disposal.

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process through which digital marketers and SEO experts uncover the words and phrases that internet users employ when conducting online searches.

These search terms, or keywords, hold the power to connect your website with your target audience, channelling organic traffic to your website.

Imagine you have beautifully crafted webpages with high-quality content, a user-friendly interface and an array of products or services to offer.

However, without the right keywords, your online presence might as well be a hidden treasure chest buried beneath the ocean floor.

Keyword research, in essence, helps you create the map that leads visitors to your treasure of information or offerings.

So, let’s break down what SEO keyword research entails:

Identifying keywords

At its core, doing keyword research for SEO is about identifying and cataloguing the specific words and phrases that users enter into search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

These words encompass a wide range of topics, industries and niches, making keyword research a versatile tool applicable to virtually any online endeavour.

Analysing search intent

SEO keyword research goes beyond merely listing words; it involves dissecting search intent, namely the reason why users are searching for those words.

Understanding search intent is crucial: are users seeking information, products, services, or answers to specific questions?

By unravelling this information, you can tailor your content marketing strategy to fulfil user needs effectively.

Content optimisation

Armed with insights gained from keyword analysis, you can strategically optimise your website’s content.

This involves incorporating relevant keywords into your webpages, articles, product descriptions, blog posts, landing pages and meta tags.

This optimisation process ensures that your content resonates with search engines and ranks higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) [Link to ‘The 13 Best SERP Tracking Tools to Use in 2024‘ article].

Enhancing visibility

Search engine algorithms are designed to display the most relevant and valuable content to users.

By aligning your content with the right keywords, you increase the chances of your website appearing prominently on SERPs.

This enhanced visibility will attract more organic traffic to your site.

Targeted audience engagement

Keyword research enables you to target a specific audience interested in your niche or industry.

Instead of casting a wide net and hoping for random visitors, you can attract individuals genuinely interested in what your website offers.

Speaking directly to your target audience leads to higher engagement rates, longer time spent on your site and better conversion rates.

In essence, keyword research is the strategic backbone of your digital marketing and SEO efforts. It bridges the gap between your website and potential visitors, ensuring that your online presence is both discoverable and appealing to the right audience.

Why is keyword research important?

Keyword research is the pillar of a successful SEO strategy, as it plays a pivotal role in your online visibility and growth.

Let’s explore in greater depth why keyword research is not just important but absolutely essential for your digital marketing efforts.

Targeted traffic generation

Imagine you own a high-end fashion boutique, and your target audience is fashion-conscious individuals who are actively looking for luxury clothing brands.

Without proper keyword research, you might inadvertently attract a wide array of visitors, including those seeking budget clothing options or unrelated topics.

Keyword analysis ensures that your website is finely tuned to attract the precise audience you want – in this case, fashion enthusiasts looking for premium brands. It acts as a beacon, directing those who are genuinely interested in your products or content to your webpages.

Competitive advantage

In the fiercely competitive digital landscape, businesses fight for the same digital real estate – the top positions on search engine results pages (SERPs).

SEO keyword research provides you with a strategic edge: by identifying search terms that are both relevant to your business and have a manageable level of competition, you can outperform your rivals.

This competitive intelligence helps you secure those coveted top spots on SERPs and enjoy the lion’s share of organic traffic.

For more information about how to run a competitive gap analysis, check out our latest guide How to Run A Competitive Gap Analysis To Outrank Your SEO Competitors.

Improved user experience

A well-crafted keyword strategy not only attracts visitors but also enhances their experience on your website.

By optimising your content for relevant keywords, you ensure that visitors find exactly what they are looking for.

This relevancy contributes to lower bounce rates, longer visit durations, increased engagement and better conversion rates.

A seamless user experience translates into higher trust, more satisfied customers and potentially repeat visits or conversions.

Cost-efficiency

Paid advertising, such as Google Ads, can be a costly endeavour, especially when targeting highly competitive keywords.

Keyword research can help you identify less competitive long-tail keywords that still yield substantial traffic.

By incorporating these keywords into your organic SEO strategy, you can reduce your reliance on expensive paid campaigns, ultimately saving money and improving your ROI.

Content strategy

SEO keyword research not only guides your content creation but also shapes the structure and direction of your website.

By understanding the topic clusters your audience search for, you can create high-quality content that directly addresses their search intent, namely their needs, questions and pain points.

This not only attracts visitors but also establishes your authority and expertise in your field, fostering trust and loyalty among your target audience.

For more information about how to plan a content strategy, check out our latest guide Content Strategy Services: The Ultimate Guide

Adaptability and evolution

User behaviours, search engine algorithms and industry trends all evolve over time.

Consequently, SEO keyword research is not a one-and-done task; it’s an ongoing process that allows you to adapt and stay ahead of the curve.

By continuously monitoring keyword trends and user intent, you can adjust your marketing strategy to remain relevant and competitive.

Lead generation

Ultimately, SEO keyword research plays a pivotal role in lead generation.

By identifying and targeting search terms that are closely related to your products or services, you can capture the attention of potential customers who are actively searching for solutions to their problems.

When your webpages rank well for these keywords, they become lead generation machines, driving a steady stream of interested prospects to your website.

This targeted traffic is more likely to have high conversion rates and, eventually, paying customers.

Key keyword metrics

Keyword research isn’t just about identifying a list of words and phrases that people search for.

To build an effective SEO strategy, you need to evaluate keywords based on several key metrics.

In this section, we look into the essential keyword metrics that will help you make informed decisions about which search terms to target.

Relevance

Relevance is at the core of the keyword research process.

A relevant keyword is one that aligns with your website’s content, products, or services.

If your website offers cooking recipes, for instance, keywords related to technology or gardening wouldn’t be relevant.

Importance:

  • Targeting relevant keywords ensures that your website attracts users genuinely interested in what you have to offer.
  • Relevance optimises user experience, as visitors find the information they were looking for, which can lead to longer engagement and higher conversion rates.

Authority

Authority in the context of keywords relates to how established or authoritative your website is in a particular niche or industry.

Highly authoritative websites often rank better for competitive keywords.

Importance:

  • Building authority takes time and effort, so understanding your website’s current authority level helps you set realistic keyword targets.
  • Targeting keywords within your current authority range increases your chances of ranking and competing effectively.

Volume

Search volume refers to how often a specific keyword is searched for on search engines, typically on a monthly basis.

Keywords with high monthly search volumes receive a significant number of searches, while low-volume keywords have fewer.

Importance:

  • High-volume keywords can drive substantial amounts of organic traffic to your website if you manage to rank for them.
  • Low-volume keywords may have less competition, making them easier to rank for and an ideal choice for niche businesses.

Traffic potential

Traffic potential estimates the amount of organic traffic you can attract by ranking well for a specific keyword.

It considers factors like search volume, click-through rates and the current ranking of your website for that keyword.

Importance:

  • Focusing on keywords with high traffic potential can lead to a substantial increase in organic traffic to your site.
  • Understanding traffic potential helps you prioritise search terms that are most likely to bring in valuable visitors.

Difficulty

Keyword difficulty assesses how challenging it is to rank on the first page of search engine results for a specific keyword. This metric mainly takes into account the competition from other websites.

Importance:

  • High difficulty keywords are harder to rank for, and it may take significant time and effort to achieve a competitive ranking.
  • Low difficulty keywords are more accessible and can be a strategic choice for newer or less authoritative websites.

Balancing the metrics

Effective keyword research involves striking a balance between all these metrics.

While high volume, high traffic potential keywords might seem enticing, they often come with high competition and difficulty levels.

In contrast, low volume, low difficulty keywords may be easier to rank for but might not bring in substantial traffic.

The ideal approach is to identify a mix of keywords that align with your website’s content and your target audience’s needs.

This mix should include keywords of varying difficulty levels, allowing you to build your website’s authority over time while still attracting valuable levels of organic traffic.

Remember that keyword research is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that should adapt as your website evolves and as search engine algorithms change.

Continuously monitoring these key metrics will help you refine your keyword strategy and keep your SEO strategy on the right track.

Different types of keywords

Keywords are not created equal. Instead, they come in various shapes and sizes, each with its own unique characteristics and impact on your digital marketing strategy.

In this chapter, we’ll delve into the three main categories of keywords: short-tail, medium-tail and long-tail.

Understanding the differences and applications of these keyword types is crucial for crafting a well-rounded keyword strategy.

Short-tail keywords

Short-tail keywords are concise and often consist of only one or two words.

Also known as head-terms, these keywords are broad in scope and usually encompass general topics or several topic clusters.

For example, in the context of an online shoe store, “shoes” or “sneakers” would be considered short-tail keywords.

Characteristics

  • High search volume: Short-tail keywords tend to receive a substantial number of searches due to their general nature. This is why they tend to be expensive in Pay Per Click (PPC) ads.
  • High competition: Because they are so generic, short-tail keywords are highly competitive, making it challenging to rank for them.
  • Less specificity: Short-tail keywords do not provide much context, making it difficult to determine user intent.

Use cases

  • Broad awareness: Short-tail keywords are ideal for raising general awareness about your brand, products, or services.
  • Initial research: Users often start their search with short-tail keywords before narrowing down their query.
  • Brand recognition: If your brand is well-established, short-tail keywords can help reinforce your online presence.

Medium-tail keywords

Medium-tail keywords are slightly longer phrases, typically comprising three to four words.

Also known as mid-tail keywords, these keywords strike a balance between specificity and search volume.

For instance, “running shoes for women” or “best smartphone under £500” are considered medium-tail keywords.

Characteristics

  • Moderate search volume: Medium-tail keywords receive a moderate number of searches, making them a valuable choice for targeting a broader yet still specific audience.
  • Moderate competition: While they may face some competition, medium-tail keywords are generally less competitive than short-tail keywords.
  • Enhanced specificity: Medium-tail keywords provide more context and help you understand user intent better.

Use cases

  • Targeted traffic: Medium-tail keywords can attract users with a more defined interest or need.
  • Content optimisation: These keywords are suitable for optimising individual pages or blog posts with specific topics.
  • Product or service categories: Medium-tail keywords are ideal for categorising and showcasing your offerings.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific phrases, often containing four or more words.

These keywords are highly targeted and cater to users with very specific queries or intentions.

Examples include “best running shoes for flat feet with arch support” or “organic gluten-free baby food recipes.”

Characteristics

  • Lower search volume: Although the majority of online searches are based on long-tail keywords, individual long-tail keywords actually come with low monthly search volumes. On the other hand, they tend to have less competition, making it easier to rank for them.
  • High specificity: Long-tail keywords provide substantial context, making it clear what the user is looking for.
  • Intent-driven: Users using long-tail keywords often have a specific intent, such as making a purchase or finding detailed information.

Use cases

  • Niche markets: Long-tail keywords are perfect for targeting niche markets or specialised audiences.
  • E-commerce product descriptions: They can be used to create detailed product descriptions that cater to specific customer needs.
  • Blog content: Long-tail keywords are excellent for creating in-depth, informative blog posts that address specific questions or problems.

Choosing the right keyword mix

A successful SEO strategy often involves a mix of all three types of keywords.

Short-tail keywords can help you cast a wide net and increase brand visibility, while medium-tail keywords strike a balance between reach and specificity.

Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are powerful for converting highly motivated users.

Your choice of keyword type should align with your business goals and your understanding of your target audience.

A well-balanced keyword strategy that incorporates all three types can help you maximise your online presence and capture a wide range of potential customers while addressing their diverse needs and intents.

Top keyword research tools

Keyword research is a cornerstone of effective SEO, and having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference.

In this chapter, we’ll introduce you to some of the top keyword research tools that empower us at Astrid IQ to navigate the intricate landscape of SEO effectively.

These tools provide invaluable insights, helping us identify the most promising keywords, analyse competition and refine our strategies.

Google Keyword Planner

As a free tool provided by Google, the Google Keyword Planner is a go-to resource for keyword research. It offers access to vast amounts of search data directly from the world’s most popular search engine. Some of its key features include:

  • Search volume data. It provides information on how often specific keywords are searched on Google, helping us gauge keyword popularity.
  • Keyword ideas – Google Keyword Planner suggests related keywords, helping us expand our keyword lists.
  • Competitive data – It offers insights into keyword competition, which aids in selecting the right keywords for your strategy.

SEMrush

SEMrush is a comprehensive SEO tool that excels in keyword research, competitor analysis and more. Here’s how we use it to your advantage:

  • Keyword analysis: SEMrush provides detailed keyword data, including search volume, competition level and trend analysis.
  • Competitor research: We leverage SEMrush to identify the keywords your competitors are targeting, helping us uncover new opportunities.
  • Content gap analysis: This feature helps us identify keywords you may be missing, allowing us to enhance your content strategy.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is renowned for its robust backlink analysis capabilities, but it’s also a formidable keyword research tool. Here’s how we utilise Ahrefs:

  • Keyword difficulty analysis: Ahrefs’ keyword difficulty metric helps us gauge the competitiveness of specific keywords, ensuring we focus on the right targets.
  • Content research: We use Ahrefs to discover the highest-performing content related to your keywords, enabling us to create competitive, top-quality content.
  • Competitor analysis: Ahrefs provides insights into your competitors’ keyword strategies, allowing us to stay ahead of the curve.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Moz Keyword Explorer is known for its user-friendly interface and valuable keyword insights. Here’s how it contributes to our keyword research efforts:

  • Keyword metrics: Moz Keyword Explorer provides essential keyword metrics, including difficulty scores and search volume data.
  • SERP analysis: We use it to analyse the search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords, helping us understand user intent and competition.
  • Keyword lists: Moz allows us to create and manage keyword lists, streamlining our research and tracking efforts.

KeywordTool.io

KeywordTool.io is an excellent resource for uncovering long-tail keywords and optimising for different search engines and platforms. Here’s how it enhances our research:

  • Long-tail keyword discovery: We use KeywordTool.io to unearth long-tail keywords that might be less competitive but highly relevant to your content.
  • Search engine variations: It supports keyword research for multiple search engines, including Google, Bing, YouTube and Amazon, expanding our reach across various platforms.
  • Content ideas: KeywordTool.io provides content suggestions based on your target keywords, aiding in content planning and creation.

Our arsenal of keyword research tools is a vital component of our SEO expertise at Astrid IQ.

By harnessing the power of these tools, our team of SEO experts gain a deeper understanding of your niche, uncover valuable keyword opportunities and refine our strategies to enhance your online visibility.

These tools, combined with our industry knowledge and data-driven approach, ensure that your SEO efforts are not just effective but also adaptable in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Learning keyword research analysis is only of the many steps that go into a successful SEO strategy.

Our SEO keyword research service: A step-by-step guide

At Astrid IQ, we take pride in our comprehensive approach to keyword research.

In this chapter, we’ll unveil the inner workings of our bespoke SEO keyword research services, demonstrating how we transform raw data into a strategic advantage for your website.

Understanding your goals

The foundation of any successful keyword research endeavour begins with a deep understanding of your business objectives.

Our team of SEO experts work closely with you to understand your unique goals, target audience and industry landscape.

By aligning our efforts with your vision, we ensure that our keyword strategy is tailored to your specific needs.

Keyword brainstorming

Once we’ve honed in on your goals, we embark on a keyword brainstorming journey.

We compile an initial list of potential keywords relevant to your niche, products, or services.

This brainstorming session is both an art and a science, drawing on our years of experience and creativity to identify keywords that resonate with your audience.

Competitor analysis

Understanding your competitors is paramount in keyword analysis.

As part of our keyword research service, we conduct a thorough competitive analysis to assess which keywords your rivals are targeting and how successful they’ve been in their marketing efforts.

This analysis reveals gaps and opportunities in your market, allowing us to strategically position your website.

Keyword metrics

Our keyword research process hinges on a thorough analysis of key metrics:

Relevance

We ensure that each keyword aligns with your business’s core offerings and target audience. Irrelevant keywords can lead to wasted resources and poor user experiences.

Search volume

We analyse search volume data to gauge the popularity of keywords. High search volume keywords can drive significant traffic, but we also consider the balance between volume and competition.

Traffic potential

Estimating the potential traffic each keyword can bring to your site helps us prioritise keywords based on their expected impact.

Keyword difficulty

We assess the difficulty of ranking for each keyword. Balancing high-difficulty keywords with more accessible options allows us to create a well-rounded strategy.

User intent

Understanding user intent is crucial. We delve into the psychology behind keyword searches to ensure that your content addresses the questions, needs and problems of your target audience.

Prioritisation

Armed with a comprehensive list of potential keywords and a deep understanding of their metrics, we prioritise them based on their relevance, search volume, traffic potential and difficulty.

This prioritisation process helps us create a roadmap for your SEO strategy, guiding our efforts towards the keywords with the most significant potential impact.

Content strategy

Keywords are not standalone entities but integral components of your content strategy.

We leverage our keyword research to inform your content creation efforts.

This includes optimising existing content and generating new content that aligns with high-priority keywords.

By doing so, we ensure that your website provides valuable, targeted information to your audience.

Monitoring and adaptation

Keyword research is an ongoing process and so are our keyword research services.

We continuously monitor keyword performance, adapting our strategy as needed to reflect changes in user behaviour, search engine algorithms and your business objectives.

This agility ensures that your SEO efforts remain effective and competitive over time.

At Astrid IQ, our team of SEO professionals can take care of the entire SEO process for you.

For more information about our SEO services, see our SEO Consultancy Services, or simply call us between 9am and 5pm on 07976 642348 or email seo@astridiq.co.uk.