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Dec 9, 2022

How To Do Keyword Research for SEO and PPC

Suman Samal, Asst. Marketing Manager
Suman Samal
How To Do Keyword Research for SEO and PPC

Contents

The keywords required for a successful blog are different than the ones required for a product page. Marketers need to select the right keywords so that blogs, product listings, and various other landing pages of a company website perform better and attract more organic traffic. 

Whether you are an SEO strategist, content marketer, content writer, editor, or performance marketer, thorough research is key to identifying target keywords for successful marketing campaigns. 

From top-of-the-funnel information seekers to bottom-of-the-funnel prospects looking for their next purchase, knowing the right keywords will help you target customers at every stage. 

In this blog, we will help you understand everything about how to find keywords for SEO and PPC that help you rank on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex. 

What is keyword research?

We live in the age of search, click, and swipe. Search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex have become the go-to source for everything. From casually looking at the latest cars to buying one online, the world of search has unlimited possibilities.  

And the reason for search engine success is their ability to provide the best ways to do something online. They crawl, index, and track websites continuously to select the best ones for a given search by matching the keywords present on websites with a user’s search query. 

Keywords are important words or phrases that will help you increase your visibility online. 

Keyword research is a methodical way to find search terms that add value to your content and help search engines better understand your website. Selecting the right keywords makes your brand more visible on search engine results pages and reach your target audience.

Simply put, keyword research helps you find the best words or phrases with a high search volume and low difficulty so that you can rank your website, digital ads, ebooks, landing pages, and other digital marketing collateral higher and get more relevant traffic from search engines. 

Why is keyword research important for your website?

The internet has more than a billion websites and over 5 billion active users. It is a goldmine of opportunities, but the competition is tough. 

Thorough keyword research helps you increase your visibility online. By using the right keywords, you help search engines see your website as a reliable source of information. 

This means whenever somebody searches for content related to your choice of keyword, your website is featured among the SERPs. The higher you rank, the higher your visitor traffic will be. 

Gradually, as you keep targeting high-opportunity keywords, other websites will start linking to yours as a thought leader in your industry niche. Keyword research allows you to establish topical authority for the most relevant search terms. 

Keyword research also helps you build a strong online presence that gets highly targeted organic traffic from direct searches, backlinks, and social shares. 

When do you need keyword research 

Frankly, you can do keyword research at every stage of business. Keyword research insights can be used for a variety of purposes, from validating your business idea to crossing your first 100 customers. 

For example, let’s say you want to start an online education business in Michigan, and you’re thinking of starting with an agriculture topic like ‘fish farming.’ A quick keyword research exercise can help you check if fish farming is something people are interested in. 

Well, the answer is no. Look at the Google Trends result for ‘fish farming’ in the US over the last 12 years.

Screenshot of Google trends result for fish farming in US

In the United States, fewer people are searching for ‘fish farming.’

You can even zoom in on Michigan. 

Screenshot of Google trends result for fish farming in Michigan

Even in Michigan, there has been a sharp decline in search popularity for ‘fish farming.’ People do not search for fish farming. We can also say that people may not be looking to learn about fish farming. So if you are considering starting an online education business, fish farming is not a good candidate for the first course. 

From ideation to creating content, keyword research can be used in various ways. It enables you to make informed decisions about your online business. Keyword research tools like Google Trends are a great way to identify the general trend about a topic, idea, or specific search term. 

Let’s look at some important situations where a complete understanding of keyword research helps you get the best results.

To write a blog article

Blogging is an ideal method to create a permanent online presence. It will help you establish your organization as a thought leader on subjects related to your products and services. 

Keyword research assists you in identifying popular topics and questions among your target audience. By including highly targeted and relevant keywords in your blog content, you increase your chances of ranking higher on search engines. 

The more insightful your blog is, the higher your chances are of ranking in the top 10 and getting more organic traffic. 

For better SEO ranking 

Everyone knows blogging is a great way to connect with your target audience. So, pick any industry and keyword, and you can be sure that another company is already writing about it. 

What differentiates the successful from the "still trying to figure it out" marketers is search engine optimization. SEO is the process of including targeted keywords in your website content and the code behind it. 

Knowing which keywords to target is essential for maximizing the effectiveness of your website's meta tags (codes) and content (web page copy, blogs, and CTAs). As an SEO strategist, this will help you learn how to rank higher than your competitors and get business results. 

When you want to run digital ads 

Paid advertising and marketing strategies for your business comprise another area that could use research. Platforms like Google Ads are the best way to get display and search ads out there. The sheer, gigantic reach of these search engines is promotion heaven for marketers. 

Digital ads work best when you choose and bid on the best-fit keywords for your marketing goals. The cost of your ads depends on the popularity of your keywords (keyword difficulty), which can be understood by looking at the search volume and keyword difficulty of search terms. 

Keyword research helps you find the best keywords with high search volume and low keyword difficulty, which ultimately enables you to optimize the cost of your digital ads. 

Elements of keyword research

The results of thorough keyword research are amazing. If you want to do the best research and find the most suitable keywords, there are a few key elements you should cover. 

Search Intent

Search intent is the reason behind a user’s search query. If a person is searching for ‘types of apples,’ the intent behind that search is to find useful information on types of apples. 

If they search for ‘apples near me,’ they could be looking to buy apples from a nearby shop. And if they search for ‘order apples online,’ chances are they want to order from an online store. 

There are three main types of search intent:

  • Informational: Keywords that people use to find helpful information on topics. These have low conversion rates since people are casually looking for information. 
  • Transactional: Search terms that people use to find the best deals on products and services. These have high conversion rates since the searcher is looking to transact online. 
  • Navigational: Words or phrases we use to find a specific source of information. It could be a product review website you have seen before or a blog about a general topic. These have a high click-through rate since the person is sure about which website they are looking for. 
  • Commercial: These are words or phrases that people use with the intent of getting actionable information about buying a product or service. The goal of these searches is to conclude which product or service is the best buy. These have a high click-through rate, but a moderate conversion rate as the person is not sure which product to buy. 
Types of keyphrases

Different types of keywords have different search intents and different purposes. For example, if a keyword has an informational search intent, the searcher is only looking for information. You can use such keywords in your blogs. 

We have a comprehensive blog on keyword search intent and SEO: All you need to know. You will find detailed information about the topic there. 

There are many types of keywords other than the ones mentioned above. As a marketer, knowledge of the different types of keywords will help you select the most suited search terms for your marketing campaigns. 

If you want to know more about all the different types of keywords, refer to this in-depth blog on 14 types of keywords every smart marketer should know.

Authority 

Why would anybody trust your website? There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other websites that say they are the best source of information about a topic. 

For your target audience to trust your website, you need to show them that you know what you're talking about and that you're an expert on certain topics. And the best way to do that is to get other good authority websites to link to your content as a source of information. It’s called building a backlink profile—the more credible websites that link to you, the higher your authority.

Authority

There are other factors also, such as the dwell time spent by a search engine user after clicking on your website from SERPs. Search engines like Google rank website authorities based on a number of factors. But they haven’t shared any concrete information about "website authority" specifically. 

However, there are many tools, such as Mozbar, aHref, and SemRush, that have developed their version of authority to help keyword researchers find website authority. 

Search volume

Search volume is a time-based metric that shows you how popular a keyword has been over a certain time frame. It could be monthly search volumes or year-on-year changes. You must create a mix of high- and low-search-volume keywords during keyword research to get maximum results from your keywords. 

Short vs long keyphrases

If the volume is low, that does not necessarily mean less-important traffic. Instead, low search volume keywords are usually three or more words long, which means a clearer search intent from users. 

For example, look at the keyword ‘kitchen interior design.’ The keyword has a comparatively low search volume (100–1,000) but a high search intent. It specifies that the person is looking for information on ‘kitchen interior design.’

Screenshot of Google Keywords Planner result for interior
Source

On the other hand, keywords like “interior” have a high search volume (1K–10K) but do not specify the search intent behind them. The searcher could be looking for home interiors, car interiors, or any other type of interior. 

However, if a keyword has zero or extremely low search volume with no clear search intent, it is best not to focus too much on that term. If not many people are searching for it, your efforts may not bring in a lot of traffic. Instead, consider targeting a group of such keywords in your content as and when they can be used naturally. 

Keyword difficulty: Cover what is keyword difficulty and how it affects your website ranking

Keyword difficulty or keyword competition is a metric that helps you understand the amount of work needed to outrank your competition for those keywords. While doing your keyword research, you want to find search terms with high search volume but low keyword competition. 

These are precious gems that are rare to find. But whenever you do, it is important to capitalize on that keyword. You can find keyword difficulty via many keyword research tools such as Google Ads Keyword Planner, Keyword Everywhere, etc. 

The 3 main criteria for selecting keywords

Now that you have a fair understanding of the basics, let’s look at some important factors to consider while selecting keywords for your marketing campaign.

For any keyword to be considered, it should fulfill these three criteria: 

1. People are searching for it. 

You should choose keywords that are actively searched for; people should be using them to look for information. Remember, the minimum number of searches needed to choose a keyword is between 10 and 100. 

2. Your website can rank for the keyword 

As of 2021, we had over 1.8 billion websites on the internet, so the competition to rank for keywords is tough. Simply selecting the most popular keywords will not produce results. There has to be a realistic chance that your website will be able to rank for the selected keywords. 

For example, if you try to rank for the keyword "interior,” your chances of getting into the top SERP position are slim at best. However, if you were to target something like “kitchen interior design,” you would have a fighting chance. 

3. It aligns with your content strategy 

Every keyword you select should be compulsorily relevant to your content strategy goals. If you want to build topical authority, your keywords should be the ones that answer the most commonly asked questions by your target audience. 

In the same way, if you want to get leads, your keywords should have a transactional purpose. For instance, keywords with terms like ‘download’ have a higher chance of generating leads since the person is looking for downloadable content. 

Step by step process of finding keywords for SEO and blogs 

Now that you have a fair understanding of keyword basics, it’s time to thoroughly understand the keyword research process. 

Although everybody develops their own keyword research process with their choice of tools, there are a few common steps that you can follow to jump-start your research:

Step 1: Brainstorm the list of topics related to your business

The first step in every keyword research process is to brainstorm topic ideas. These could be related to your product's USP, your service's quality, or some guides related to the problems your products solve. 

While looking for topic ideas, ask yourself; 

  1. “What is the most difficult aspect of my product or services?” 
  2. “What is the most loved feature?” 
  3. “Why does anybody need my product or service?”

Jot down your ideas and make a list of topics. 

For instance, if you are a travel agency that offers customized tour packages for couples. 

It is important that you position yourself as a one-stop solution for planning trips. You would want to highlight that you can help customers with various aspects of traveling, such as planning, ticketing, booking, and executing comfortable travel arrangements. 

Your answers to “What is the most difficult aspect of my product or service?,” “What is the most loved feature?” and “Why does anybody need my product or service?” would be:

  1. Making bookings for hotel rooms, taxis, and flights.
  2. Peace of mind when everything is managed by a travel agency.
  3. To get the best deals for popular tourist destinations. 

From these answers, you can come up with a list of topic ideas like

  • Best tourist destinations for couples in US
  • How to plan your next romantic trip?
  • The most romantic couple tour destinations in US

The goal of this step is to make a list of topics and subjects related to your products and services. This will act as a north star for your keyword research efforts and help you in the later stages of the process. 

Step 2: Identify relevant keywords around the topics

Once you have a list of topic ideas, the next step is to find keywords. The best and easiest way to do that is through Google Search, an often overlooked source of keyword information. 

Let’s say that you are marketing expense management software. The results from the idea brainstorming step could be:

  • Guide to Expense Management
  • Top 10 Expense Management Software 2022
  • How to select the most cost-effective expense management software
  • The importance of expense management for your business

If you type in any topic from the list without pressing enter, Google will show you a list of suggested search queries. These are alternative phrases people enter in the search engine to look for information on your topic. 

Screenshot of Google Search Bar Suggestions for guide to expense management

As you can see, “expense management policy,” “employee expense management," and “business expense management” are all alternate terms that people use in Google searches. 

These are your first set of keywords. 

Now press ‘enter’ and look at the search results. 

Screenshot of Google Search Result for guide to expense management

You will see more keyword ideas for your topic. Pay special attention to the ‘People Also Ask’ and ‘Related Searches’ sections. They reflect the most recent and relevant keywords for your topic. 

In addition to the previous keywords, “expense management best practices” and “purpose of expense management” are also good keywords to target. 

Make a final list of keywords for each topic based on how often people search for them, how hard they are to rank, and how relevant they are to your topics. An ideal keyword cluster has a mix of short-tail and long-tail keywords. 

Use more advanced keyword research tools if you want to do a thorough keyword analysis. Refer to this detailed Scalenut blog on "15 Best Free Keyword Research Tools Every Marketer Should Know in 2022" for the best tools you can use.  

Step 3: Do competition keyword research to identify opportunities

The next step in your keyword research is to look at how your keywords compare to those of your competitors. Here are the steps to do that:

  1. Start with a Google search for your keywords. 
  2. Look at the topic and websites that appear.
  3. Analyze each competitor web page for keywords they use apart from the one you searched for. 
  4. Also, look at the different topics they talk about. 
  5. Make a list of the keywords and topics that your competitors cover. 

Let’s say you work in a digital marketing agency and are trying to rank for a keyword like "organic digital marketing.” Your Google search will show something like this.

Screenshot of Google Search Result for organic digital marketing

With a quick look, you can see that Hubspot has a web page ranking for that keyword. When you open that web page and search for all variations of “organic” in Hubspot’s content, we see that they have used many variations, such as “organic social media" and “organic marketing examples.”

Screenshot of variations of organic digital marketing used in Hubspot Blog
Source

The method we have used is called the “Ctrl+F” method. There are many other ways to find competitors' keywords. Check out this Scalenut blog post on “How to search keyword on a website” for more information on how to find keywords on competitor websites. 

Step 4: Do thorough SERP analysis

Another important step is to analyze the SERPs for content ideas and understand the level of difficulty in ranking for your keywords. 

If you are targeting a keyword like “organic digital marketing,” you will compete with the likes of Hubspot, Glofox, Rockcontent, and Shopify. While they are very popular websites, it is not impossible to outrank them. 

Go through the content of at least the top 10 SERP results and look for possible content gaps they might have missed. Take note of how much information they have covered and their subtopics to rank for your keyword. 

Step 5: Check intent, search volume and competition for keyword 

To zero in on your final list of keywords, the next step is to check the search intent, search volume, and existing competition for the keywords you identified in the previous steps. 

Prioritize keywords with search volumes between the lowest and most competitive keywords. In the end, put those keywords into groups based on what people are looking for when they search those terms and organize them based on keyword competition (low to high). 

This way, you should have a list of keywords for every type of search intent, with an increasing level of competition. A list like this will help you identify high-volume and low-competition keywords and create high-performing content that targets the specific search intent of your target audience. 

You can use this list as a guide to selecting the best keywords for every page on your website. For example, informational keywords can be used in blogs, and navigational keywords can be used in web pages such as the homepage, product page, service page, or any other landing page you create on your website. 

Step 6: Shortlist the right keyword for your blogs and articles

The SEO landscape is an ever-changing space; what ranks today may be replaced with another term tomorrow. The above process will help you find the right keywords to help you get quick wins and build a solid content strategy for your website. 

How to do keyword research for digital ads

Digital ads are the best thing to happen in marketing. They help you target a wide range of customers with better control over your budgets. But to get the most out of your digital ads, you need to find the most cost-effective keywords. 

Let’s take a look at how you can do that. 

Step 1: Identify CPC for each shortlisted keyword

The first step is to identify the cost-per-click (CPC) for your digital ad. You can do this using the Google Ads Keyword Planner. This is a free tool available to every business with a Google Business account. 

You just have to sign up to use Google's Keyword Planner. 

To use this tool, do the following:

  • Visit the Google Keyword Planner Website
Screenshot of Google Ads Keyword Planner Homepage
  • Sign in/sign up and log in to your Google Keyword Planner account. 
Screenshot of Google Ads Keyword Planner Options
  • Select ‘Get search volume and forecasts,’ and enter your keyword. 
Screenshot of Google Ads Keyword Planner Results

On the right, you will see a detailed report for that keyword, along with the expected CPC range. You can also use this tool to discover new keywords with the same statistics. Simply select the ‘Discover new keywords’ option in the second step.

Step 2: Make sure you shortlist negative keywords as well 

Simply creating a list of keywords and finding their CPC is not enough. Google ads run on a complex logic of selecting when to show your ads for maximum results. Add negative keywords to your digital ad campaign to make sure you don't waste money on irrelevant keywords. 

Screenshot of Google Ads Keyword Planner Negative Keywords

For example, if you are targeting an ad on “lawn tennis shoes for men,” negative keywords to look at can be “baseball shoes for men" or “running shoes for men.”

The audience searching for these terms is probably not looking for lawn tennis shoes. Therefore, it's best to highlight your negative keywords so that your ads are not shown for them. 

You have three options to specify a negative keyword:

  • Broad Match: Keywords that are broadly similar to your target keyword.
  • Phrase Match: Keywords that contain the words from the keyword that you are targeting. 
  • Exact Match: Exact keywords that you enter.

Depending on what you choose, Google will either ignore anything that has to do with your negative keyword in a general way or just ignore the negative keyword itself. 

Remember, negative keywords are keywords that you don’t want your ads to be shown for; if not done, you might end up spending unnecessary money as Google will show your ads for irrelevant searches, which will not convert.

If you’re selling lawn tennis shoes for men, it's best to show your ads for lawn tennis search queries only. 

Step 3: Identify intent and group keywords in buckets 

Once you have an idea of the cost of keywords and have a list of negative keywords that you want Google to ignore, the next step is to create keyword clusters based on search intent, like we did in step 5 of the keyword research process. 

Step 4: Set up the highest bidding for commercial keywords 

Among all the keywords that you have for a specific digital ad, place the highest bids on keywords with commercial intent. For example, we would want to put the highest bids on keywords like “buy law tennis shoes for men” or “lawn tennis shoes for men online.”

Mistakes to avoid while doing keyword research 

Keyword research is not as easy as it may seem. You must ensure you're always moving in the right direction to get the best results. The following are a few pitfalls to avoid while doing keyword research:

  • Do not stick to your first keyword list. Ensure that you do thorough research before finalizing your list. 
  • Do not target high-search volume and high-competition keywords right at the start. Save them for a time when your website has built considerable topical authority on subjects. 
  • Always use at least two keyword research tools for cross-checking your keyword selection. 

Keyword research is the cornerstone of your SEO strategy

Keyword research is the best way to build a solid SEO strategy that will give results. Many marketers fall into the trap of quick fixes and skip this step, only to find that the quick-fix list of keywords is not attracting enough website traffic. 

We hope the information above helps you find the best keywords to help you reach potential customers. 

If you’re looking for an all-in-one keyword research tool, you may want to check out the Scalenut Topic Cluster Generator. This nifty tool analyzes the internet for relevant keywords and produces multiple keyword clusters with their search volumes. It helps you select the right topics and plan successful content marketing and SEO campaigns.

About Scalenut

Scalenut is an all-in-one SEO and content marketing platform that is powered by AI and helps marketers all over the world make high-quality, competitive content at scale. From research, planning, and outlines to ensuring quality, Scalenut helps you achieve the best in everything. 

Empower your content marketing campaigns with AI. Sign up on Scalenut, and start creating content today.

Suman Samal
Asst. Marketing Manager
ABout the AUTHOR
Suman Samal
Asst. Marketing Manager

Suman Samal is a Asst. Marketing Manager at Scalenut. She is a technology enthusiast with a keen interest in content marketing and SEO. She truly believes that with the right set of tools every organization can improve the ROI of their content marketing campaigns. She spends her time managing content operations at Scalenut and ensuring that everything we publish is of the highest quality.

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