What Matters When Doing Keyword Research?
Before you create content for your business website or your client’s website, it’s critical to understand how that content can affect a website’s chance of ranking in search engine results pages.
While some content may not be geared toward driving organic search traffic (like news pieces and press releases), if your goal is to get visitors to your site from sources like Google, keyword research is a must.
In this piece, we’ll talk about why you need to dive into the research before you start writing, what numbers matter when performing this research, and where you should trust your gut when it comes to creating content.
Why Keyword Research?
is the process of looking into what users type into search engines to find what they’re looking for.
It takes into account data like the number of people searching for a particular keyword or topic, how competitive a website needs to be to rank for those keywords in search engine results, and how search engines interpret user searches.
Here are some other factors that you should consider in your keyword research.
What Metrics Matter?
Keyword research is both qualitative and quantitative. If you go by gut feelings alone (or what you just like to write about), you might find that your content under-performs.
This happens a lot when business owners fall into the trap of writing about their products and services from their own perspective, often using industry jargon and terms that most of their customers may not even know.
Understanding the numbers behind keywords helps to mitigate that issue and the time wasted investing in the wrong type of content.
Search volume tells us how many people are searching for a topic on a particular search engine. Depending on which tool you use, search volume is generally given in monthly amounts. So you can get an idea of whether it’s worth your time to go after a particular keyword.
For example, if a search term gets ~1-10 searches per month, it may be less worth your time than one that gets ~2000 searches per month because you could get more potential traffic coming from the 2000-search topic.
Search volume is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to deciding on content topics. Sometimes going after the lower-volume keywords means there’s potentially less competition (so you can monopolize the search engine results). Also, ranking on these keywords might drive more qualified traffic which is potentially further down the funnel and closer to making a purchase.
Average CPC (Cost Per Click)
You might know that CPC is a metric typically associated with paid advertising (or PPC–pay per click), but it can be a useful metric to understand in terms of organic keyword research, as well.
Looking at the CPC for a given keyword gives you an idea of what your potential competitors are willing to pay to show up in the ads for that particular search. You can get an idea of how valuable that keyword is.
For example, if a keyword has an average CPC of $0.50 it might be worth capitalizing on the lower competition, or it could mean that the keyword may not be worth your time investment.
JP’s keyword research results indicating the CPC for questions related to a specific keyword term
A keyword with an average CPC of $7.00 tells you that a lot of people are bidding a lot of money to show up at the top of search engine results pages, and could be too competitive for your brand or might be worth the extra effort to show up first in organic search.
The key to keyword research is to understand the story all the data tells you about a particular keyword or keyword group.
Google Trends Statistics
In a more zoomed-out approach to keyword data, Google Trends gives you an overarching idea of how a particular keyword or topic is trending over time.
This is great for seasonal searches related to your product or service as well as emerging trends in search and industries.
One of my favorite examples of this is looking at searches for Starbucks’ seasonal drinks.
Here we can see when people start searching for their favorite fall latte each year, and how much more popular the pumpkin spice latte is than Starbucks’ flagship winter drink, the peppermint mocha.
Data like this tells you if searches for your target topic are on the rise or waning, and potentially when to start writing about seasonal topics to capitalize on increases in search volume.
What Qualitative Data Matters?
The numbers are important, but often only tell part of the keyword story. While it’s critical to understand why these stats matter, there are times where understanding the landscape, researching the qualitative data, and trusting your gut come into play.
Google Suggest Keywords (A-Z)
Some tools like JP give you Google’s autosuggest keywords for any topics you’re researching. The autosuggest keywords are the related topics that Google will try to fill predictably as you’re typing your search into results.
Not only is this useful for searchers, but it can tell us what other topics Google sees as related to the one we’re researching.
You can use this data to enhance the article you’re writing or deep-dive in another piece as part of a series.
Related Search Keywords
Similar to autosuggest, the related search terms give you potential fodder for expanding an article to include more of the topics people are looking for around a certain search term.
For example, if I’m searching for information on rebuilding my transmission, at the bottom of the search engine result page, I can see the related search keywords that Google understands as similar to or in the same realm as my topic.
If I’m writing a piece on rebuilding transmissions, I can use this information to understand that people want to know:
- The cost
- If it’s worth rebuilding the transmission vs buying a new car altogether
- Whether they should rebuild piece by piece or replace their transmission in one fell swoop
- Where they can find transmission repair shops near them
I can then use that info to make my content on this topic even more useful for my target audience.
What’s Happening in SERPs
It’s also critical to look at the search engine results for your target keyword to get an idea of what Google and Bing think users want to see for a particular type of query.
There are many different types of search engine results, from Local Packs to Product Suggestions and News Carousels to Featured Snippets. By understanding what search engines think users want to see, you don’t waste your time on creating content that doesn’t have a chance at the top of the result.
For instance, I once had a client who didn’t understand why he couldn’t move up the search rankings for searches related to “shower doors.” His company was an industrial glass manufacturer.
When we search for “shower doors,” we can see that Google assumes that people want to purchase a shower door for their own personal homes, not purchase 100 shower doors at a bulk discount.
The Google search results for the keyword ‘shower door’ focuses almost entirely on a retails, not wholesale, user intent
We know this because Google shows both a Local Pack for places like Home Depot and Lowe’s as well as a Product Carousel to feature shower doors that searchers can buy online and have delivered to their homes.
This was a case of a mismatch in how Google interpreted that search and how my client wanted to show up. And, all in all, meant a waste of content on his part, since the query wasn’t tied to what his business actually did according to the search engine.
Trust Your Gut
Sometimes all the data related to keyword research can cause analysis paralysis. Lots of data points can mean different things to different marketers, so where can you go with all that info?
This is where trusting your gut as an expert in your industry comes in handy.
You know your business. You speak to your customers or sales/service reps every week. You can listen to how your customers talk about your product or service on the phone or online.
Use that information to help you sort through the information and choose target keywords that will serve your business AS WELL AS your target customers.
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