Understanding Keyword Research (Without SEO Experience)
What you need to know about keyword research with little-to-no SEO experience required.
First, keyword research is a foundational element of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. If an agency is going to try and help you with search engine marketing and is not going to conduct keyword research, then you should ditch that company and go with another. KWR is a critical process that helps businesses identify the right keywords to target, in order to rank higher on search engines and drive organic traffic to their websites. It’s ok to have no SEO experience (let’s say your a marketing generalist in charge of digital as well); it’s essential to have a basic understanding of keyword research and its importance in your overall SEO strategy. After all, SEO is still better for online commerce vs. paid (and other marketing tactics).
Here’s a great stat for you – 53% of all web traffic comes from organic search. Only 15% comes from paid search.
Table of Contents:
- What to look for in keyword research with no experience in SEO
- How to determine if an SEO agency’s advice is trustworthy
- An overview of keyword intent categories (transactional, commercial, informational, and navigational)
- Additional sections to help you navigate the world of keyword research
Keyword Research for Clients with No SEO Experience
If you’re new to SEO, keyword research can seem daunting. But don’t worry – we’ll break down the basics to help you understand what to look for in keyword research. An agency should provide these details at a minimum.
Here are some key aspects to consider:
- Keyword difficulty (KD): This is a metric (usually rated between 0 and 100) that assesses how challenging it will be to rank for a particular keyword. Each tool (like semrush, ahrefs, etc.) have their own formulas for calculating KD, but they’re all easy to grasp and usually pretty consistent between tools. They consider factors like competition and the strength of the websites currently ranking for that term. The goal? Net new it’s going to be hard to start competing out of the blue for terms yours competition is beating you at. However, if you have good domain authority (also called domain rating, or domain strength), you can challenge for a term with a high KD. Aim for a balance between good search volume (at least 100 per month) and moderate difficulty (35-65 score – depending on industry). Hint: check longtail (more than 3 words) keywords. It’s rare, but sometimes you can find a term with good volume and no competition as a backdoor into your content.
- Search volume: We just mentioned volume – ideally, you should target keywords with a high search volume, as this indicates that a significant number of people are searching for those terms. However, be aware that high search volume keywords can also be highly competitive (KD), making it difficult to rank for them. Hint: if you’re a well know brand that’s already in the top 1-3 spots for market share in your industry, you can attack most heavily contested keywords head on. If you’re new, or not a market leader, you’ll have to use content and SEO marketing tactics to be a little more strategic in ranking.
- Long-tail keywords: These are longer, more specific keyword phrases that are usually less competitive and easier to rank for. They often have lower search volumes but can generate highly targeted traffic. Incorporating long-tail keywords into your strategy is a smart way to capture niche audiences (or if you don’t have high market share, use as another entrance into your audience).
- Relevance: Your chosen keywords should be relevant to your business and the products or services you offer. This ensures that the traffic you attract is genuinely interested in what you have to offer. If your biggest product is a pink water bottle, you’ll need to find keyword combinations for people that might want to buy it. E.g. think out of the box a little: maybe “cute water bottle” is just as relevant instead of just “pink.”
There’s a bit more to it (we’ll talk more about that later), but this is a great starting point for understanding.
Evaluating the Trustworthiness of an SEO Agency’s Advice
When working with an SEO or Digital Marketing agency, it’s important to be able to assess the quality of their advice. Here are some tips to help you determine if an agency’s recommendations are trustworthy:
- Transparency: A reputable agency should be open and transparent about their methods and strategies. They should be willing to explain their process and answer any questions you may have.
- Realistic expectations: Be wary of agencies that promise overnight results or guarantee top rankings. SEO is a long-term process, and it takes time to see results. A trustworthy agency will set realistic expectations and focus on sustainable growth.
- Case studies and testimonials: Check for case studies and testimonials from previous clients. This can give you an idea of the agency’s track record and the results they’ve achieved for other businesses.
- Industry knowledge: A reliable agency should have a solid understanding of your industry and its unique challenges. They should be able to provide tailored advice that’s relevant to your specific niche.
- Ethical practices: Steer clear of agencies that employ black hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing or link schemes. These tactics can lead to penalties from search engines and ultimately harm your online presence.
And if an SEO company comes to you and says the following line, “we can get you to the top 3 results within 3 months,” do not trust that. 99.9999999% of the time they’re going to be using black-hat techniques to achieve this goal. Black-hat techniques are methods that unfairly game search engines. And if the search engine finds out, they can penalize you for it (taking your website off the search engine completely).
Another stat for you, “93% of all web traffic comes through search engines.” so if you get penalized (see last sentence) and taken off of Google, you’re business could be in major trouble.
Understanding Keyword “Intent” Categories
You might hear digital marketing companies say “it’s all about the user’s search intent.” Another sign they’re a decent company, if the agency you’re working with doesn’t talk about search intent, it’s time to let them go. Keyword intent refers to the primary goal that users have in mind when searching for a particular term. By understanding keyword intent, you can better align your content with the needs of your audience.
There are four main keyword intent categories:
- “Transactional” keywords: these keywords indicate that the user is looking to make a purchase. Examples include “buy shoes online” or “order flowers for delivery.” Targeting transactional keywords is crucial for ecommerce businesses looking to drive sales through their website.
- “Commercial” keywords: commercial keywords suggest that the user is in the research phase and is considering making a purchase in the near future. These keywords often include terms like “best,” “reviews,” or “comparison.” For example, “best laptop for graphic design” or “electric toothbrush reviews.” By targeting commercial keywords, you can position your business as a helpful resource during the decision-making process and influence potential customers.
- “Informational” keywords: these are the words used when users are seeking answers, advice, or knowledge on a specific topic. Examples include “how to create a budget” or “symptoms of the flu.” By creating content that targets informational keywords, you can establish your brand as a trusted authority (think of a marketing 101 term here – these are good for building ‘though leadership’) and building long-term relationships with your audience.
- “Navigational” keywords: Navigational keywords are used by users looking for a specific website or online destination. Examples include “Facebook login” or “Amazon customer service.” While it’s generally difficult for businesses to target navigational keywords unless they’re directly related to their brand, it’s still essential to be aware of them, as they can provide insights into user behavior and preferences.
More Keyword Research Considerations
Ok, we understand the why and what of keyword research, here are some additional aspects that can further enhance your SEO understandings:
- Competitor analysis: Analyzing your competitors’ keyword strategies can reveal gaps and opportunities that you may not have considered. Even if you normally shouldn’t focus on a keyword because of its high difficulty, if your competition doesn’t do a good job on a word either, you can still look to beat them and rank higher. And look for keywords that your competitors are targeting but you aren’t.
- Content is still Queen: SEO and other marketing tactics go hand-in-hand in today’s marketing world. SEO is not just technical anymore and content marketing is the number one complimentary marketing tactics. Once you’ve identified keywords you’d like to attack, content marketing is the first means to do so. Create high-quality content using the latest, successful content types (video shorts, blog articles, guides/how-to, recipes, and over 20 other content types). Think about the areas where you can outperform them in terms of content quality or user experience.
- Seasonal trends: Some keywords may have a seasonal component, with search volumes peaking during specific times of the year (don’t have fancy SEO tools, check google.com/trends for season keyword information). Be sure to account for these fluctuations when planning your content calendar and SEO strategy.
- Local SEO: If you have a brick-and-mortar business or serve a specific geographic area, local SEO is crucial. Incorporate location-specific keywords into your strategy to help users find your business and improve your local search rankings.
- Keyword grouping and organization: Once you’ve identified your target keywords, it’s essential to group and organize them effectively. There’s parent keywords, complimentary keywords, etc. This will help you create a cohesive content plan and make it easier to track and measure your performance.
- Ongoing optimization: Keyword research is not a one-time task. Search trends, user behavior, and competition are constantly evolving, so it’s essential to regularly reassess your keyword strategy and make adjustments as needed. If you’re new to the game, refresh your keyword research every 6 – 12 months.
What’s next in my decision making proccess?
Keyword research is an essential aspect of any successful SEO strategy. It can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. And as a client (or someone with little-to-no SEO experience), it’s crucial to understand the basics of keyword research, as well as how to evaluate the trustworthiness of an SEO agency’s advice. By familiarizing yourself with keyword intent categories and additional keyword research considerations, you’ll be well-equipped to make informed decisions and optimize your online presence for long-term success.
And if I highlighted something in blue or bolded it, those are the tips and tricks that can put you above your competition.