Nick Baird

Nick, the SEO guru, specializes in catapulting businesses to the forefront of search engine rankings. With a keen eye for cutting-edge tactics, he’s dedicated to maximizing client revenues. Elevate your online presence with Nick’s tailored strategies for unparalleled success

Keyword Research

Keyword research can seem mystifying to those who aren’t SEOs. I’m sometimes asked to look into my “magic 8-ball” for suggestions. The process takes time to get good at, but a high-level understanding is easy to grasp. 

Choosing the exact words your target audience uses, and incorporating these terms into your content, will help you get found through Google and earn you sustainable inbound business. 

What Tools Should I Use?

Start by choosing a tool. SaaS companies in the SEO space have created searchable databases, with millions of phrases, from which to dig for gold. I suggest:

  1. Google Keyword Planner (free)
  2. Ahrefs (paid: ~$100/month)
  3. Semrush (paid: ~$100/month)

Plug in a keyword with your chosen tool and you’ll be greeted with information about search volume, estimated difficulty to win the term, and suggestions for similar keywords. We’ll be using all three to evaluate what to target.

How Does Keyword Research Work?

Once you’ve decided on a tool, the first step is to build a list of potential targets. During this stage, we’ll be casting a wide net; we aim to have at least 1000 potential phrases to choose from. 

  1. Identify Relevant Topics: Without using a keyword tool, brainstorm a list of topics that your target audience might search for. These will become the seeds we explore in future steps. 

For instance, I received this seed list from a client who hosts marathons in Africa

  • Running Kilimanjaro
  • Marathon in Africa
  • Ultra marathon
  • Half Marathon
  • Arusha
  • Tanzania
  • Trail running
  • East Africa
  1. Turn Seed Phrases Into Keyword Lists: 

Here’s what the above seeds produced. I pulled this from Ahrefs and put it into a spreadsheet for future reference. 

For another example, if you run a financial advisory firm, and “401(k)” was on your list of topics, you’d be greeted by the following from Ahrefs:

One keyword has turned into four. Not only that, but since our tool sorts results by search volume, we can be certain that these topics are top of mind for potential customers. 

Continue walking through the grapevine of keyword suggestions until you’ve exhausted your seed list.

  1. Reverse Engineer Competitors: Ahrefs and Semrush both include a “website explorer” tool. Search the URL of a competitor and you’ll be greeted with every keyword they rank for. Add the most fruitful to your list.

Which Keywords Should You Target?

Now you have a list of potential keywords, hopefully ~1000 long. Choosing what to write content around, and what to ignore, might seem overwhelming at this stage. That’s OK, we’ll narrow that list down shortly. 

You’re looking for the best balance between volume and difficulty

Evaluate Difficulty

It’s not possible to win every phrase you find. In fact, it’s not possible to win most of them. That’s why our tools estimate difficulty of ranking. 

For new websites, start with only the lowest difficulties. That’s 0-10 in Ahrefs.

For established websites with domain authority of 30 or more, you can target more difficult (and higher volume) search terms.

Ranking locally is easier than nationally. Local search is tied to geographical location, so you have fewer competitors to outcompete. 

Evaluate Search Intent

Not all Google traffic is equally valuable. Consider the classic sales funnel.

There are considerably fewer people at the bottom, but since they’re closer to a buying decision, they’re more valuable to target than those at the top. 


Those who are aware or interested are asking questions.

“How do I…”
“What is…” 

People who who have decided to buy researching providers and doing cost/quality comparisons.

“Solution A vs Solution B…”

“Best XYZ firm near me…”

“How much does ABC cost…” 

Your goal is to be there when they take an action.

Pro tip: If you aren’t sure what kind of content fits with a search phrase, Google it yourself and look for what appears. Google painstakingly matches search intent to search results; you can count on what appears to roughly match what somebody was looking to find.

Head Terms vs Long-Tail Keywords

Often, the best keyword to target will be what’s known as a long-tail keyword.

Shorter searches have higher volume but are incredibly difficult to rank for. 

Conversely, more specific searches have less volume but are considerably easier to rank for. Look for specificity in your keyword research and build content around those phrases.

Conclusion

Keyword research is essential for effective SEO content creation. It helps you understand your audience’s search habits and attract more traffic. Best practices prioritize keywords based on relevance, authority, and search volume while using a mix of head terms and long-tail keywords.

Remember, traffic for these keywords can change over time, so it is important to go back and reanalyze them every so often. 

Discover the secrets to skyrocket your business’s visibility and dominate search engine rankings in 2024.

Nick Baird

Nick, the SEO guru, specializes in catapulting businesses to the forefront of search engine rankings. With a keen eye for cutting-edge tactics, he’s dedicated to maximizing client revenues. Elevate your online presence with Nick’s tailored strategies for unparalleled success