What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is one of the foundations of search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO is a vast field encompassing many aspects. There are two broad topics in the field of keyword research which I will provide a brief overview. The first being Keyword Identification and the second being Keyword Ranking.


Keyword Identification

Your target market will have a set of terms which are used during various points of a user journey before visiting or purchasing from your site. This set of terms are known as keywords. The topic of keyword identification for a given field is vast. There are many terms, tools and techniques for keyword identification. As a result, I am just going to highlight some important points.

Terminology used for each keyword term:

  • Volume - Number of monthly searches
  • Search results - Number of relevant website results

There are different keywords used in the numerous stages of a users journey. ie, initial a user buying a car may type ‘cars’ as a search term. After visiting some websites (possible including yours), they will search ‘buy ford car’, then ‘buy blue ford car’ and possible end with ‘buy blue ford car air conditioning alloy wheels’.

This is a silly example, but I used it to highlight some key points. The terms ‘cars’ is highly competitive keyword. There will be many many types of website competition to be ranked number one for this term. As the search terms evolve over the users buying journey (‘buy ford car’, ‘buy blue ford car’) the terms are becoming more niche, and more focused, and thus, less competitive. For example, if you sell ford cars, then you would hope to rank higher for the term ‘buy blue ford car’ compared with ‘cars’. The last search term I gave ‘buy blue ford car air conditioning alloy wheels’ is a long-tailed search term. This is considered to be a good place to target as theses terms have much less volume and impressions, but are less competitive.

A good starting point for keyword research is to use the google keywords planner.


Keyword Ranking

Analysing the ranking of a website for a certain keyword is a constantly evolving topic. In the early days of SEO, you could simply type a keyword into a search engine, and get the ranking of your site for that keyword. There were tools that would do this scanning at regular intervals for a long list of keywords. You could then see how certain strategies would improve (or hinder) your site ranking for each keyword.

These days, things are a lot more complicated. Search experiences are tailored based on a number of different characteristics. If the user is logged into a google account, using desktop or mobile etc. Therefore, we cannot track keyword rankings as we used to in the early days.

The motivation for changing is actually ultimately based on the end user. Google, for example, suggest that search results for every user should be different, such that they are tailored for the users specific requirement. You can see how time of day, weather, location, user preferences could all effect a number of search terms amongst a set of users.

As a consequence, the best way to look into keyword ranking is to use google web master tools (other search engines are avaiable, bing, yahoo or duck duck go).

Google Web Master Tools

Using this tool you can see important metrics for each search term like:

  • Impressions - The number of times you website was displayed in the search results for a search term.
  • Clicks - How many times your website was clicked for a term.
  • Average Position - The average position you website appeared at for a search term.

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