SEO Basics: Keyword Research


Whether you are looking to build a new website, landing page, build, or publish a new mobile application, image, or video; to be found online you need to ensure what you are doing is optimised for search engines.


You should at the very least, have an idea of what keywords are best to incorporate within the project. You may, like many, be making assumptions about what keywords are best suited and then incorporating those keywords within your SEO strategy, or basing your strategy on them. This is a very risky approach as more often than not, those assumptions turn out to be at best, not optimal for the business, and at worst, an absolute disaster in the form of a keyword with very low to no search volume. The below is an example of a recent keyword we looked at for a business that designed their website homepage around this one particular keyword, which they believed would be pertinent to the success of their business being found online.


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The above keyword carries a monthly volume of only 10 searches, across the United Kingdom. This keyword is not in any way optimal for a business website home page, or a top-level landing page. You would incorporate this keyword as an example, supporting other relevant content (perhaps as a subheading) on a page targeting higher volume search terms (like the below keyword with a monthly search volume of 12,100!), or as the main topic for a blog post/piece of content marketing.

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Furthermore, this business caters to a national market (across the UK), providing IT. If you are building a website for your business, you should be approaching the build with a long-term SEO strategy. In this instance then, we would suggest you target higher volume keywords for your homepage and product/service top-level pages without including geographic locations; so long as you have optimised your site correctly, it will gain authority over time and rank better - so surely you want to rank for a higher volume keyword(s), right?


In terms of targetting specific geographical locations, if you are a national business, there are advanced website development techniques that will assist you with doing this, without flooding your site with additional pages to index and spreading your crawl budget too thin (particularly important early on when you have minimal referring backlinks and domains).


This isn't a one size fits all approach, however. If you are in an extremely competitive market like SEO services, you may want to start by targetting lower volume keywords and adjust your site as you gain some traffic. Either way, an effective strategy should include producing new content targetting lower volume, longer tail keywords (through sub/second-level pages and blog posts), and leave your homepage and top-level pages to acquire backlinks over time. You should have an SEO strategy based on effective keyword datasets containing hundreds of high and low volume keywords to avoid common SEO pitfalls, with a solid site hierarchy to make it easy for search engines to regularly crawl the most important pages of your site.


Use these free SEO keyword research tools to get started in putting together your strategy. You can also use our SEO laboratory which is significantly more efficient, and covers all basic & advanced SEO tooling to index and rank your website more efficiently and effectively. Unlike other SEO tools, our SEO Laboratory includes an hour of consultation per month with a Digital Scientist, to review your project and provide guidance, training, and support (contact details at the bottom of the page for access).


Let's start generating some keyword ideas using free SEO tooling:


1. Google Search: Autocomplete


Using Google search to get started for supporting a brainstorming session is a great idea. You will probably recall that as you type in your search query into google it attempts to complete your search query and or shows you alternative queries.

The related keywords shown are based on other popular queries, so this can give you some great ideas to get you started. Use the search functionality to put together as many keywords as you can, related to your product, service, market, or subject matter. You can also hit enter and see the first page results to give you potential competitors and content producers and examine their sites for other related keyword ideas (see point 5 further down).


2. Google Trends


Google Trends is a fantastic tool for identifying related topics and search queries. One of the most intriguing and useful functions is its visualisation of search query trends. You can not only find top/rising related queries but see how popular they are, going back as far as 2004!


Now obviously, as the years have gone on the internet has become more a part of everyday life and with it the dominance of search engines. The most recent data and trends are of most relevance therefore, I would look at the last three to five year period to provide a good insight into the growth of a particular topic or the trend of a particular search query (keyword).


You should use this tool to produce and analyse both short and longer-tail keywords. Run each of your brainstormed keywords through this tool to assess the popularity, trend (is the trend line growing or declining?), and to find alternatives. Add them to your data.


If you find any declining search terms, don't disregard them yet, we need to know what their actual search volumes are to understand the opportunity and the potential reasoning for any decline or 'blip' (as shown below a blip in the trend of UK searches for 'eyelash extensions' as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic).


3. Soovle


Like the autocomplete functionality of Google Search, Soovle is another free keyword research tool that provides suggestions with similar functionality but from a greater number of sources, not just from Google. This keyword tool will pull on Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, Amazon, and Wikipedia. This can really help you grow your search volume by covering those platforms.


Change the platform by selecting one of the icons below the search box, otherwise it will use the default source (being Google).


4. Wordstream

This is a great keyword research tool in terms of ease of use but it is only free for the first 30 searches. It is, however, a more user-friendly tool compared to Google keyword planner (and doesn't require having an Adwords account, covered further down in this content).


Enter your keywords and you will be provided with a larger, more diverse list to work through.


5. Google Chrome Browser (Page Inspection) + Competitor Website


With any market research, being aware of what your competitors are doing can be invaluable.


Put together a list of your competitors within your market (don't focus on national providers if you're targetting a local area unless you're short on opportunities). Visit your competitor's website and look at their page hierarchy, paying particular attention to the main navigation bar to understand their site layout. You can also view their sitemap (typically by typing in their domain URL followed by /sitemap.xml ).


You are also looking at their page URL slugs (such as www.digital-scientists.co.uk/seo-services-uk) for an indication of their main page keyword (assuming their site is search engine optimised, of course).


You should also view their header1 (h1), page meta(s) title, description, and keywords and page link anchors, which should outline the main keyword targets for each page (if looking at a link anchor, the content will relate to the keywords of the linked page).


You can view this information quickly by right-clicking on the page and selecting Inspect (Ctrl+Shift+L)

Once open, CTRL+F to search the page elements and html. If you type in h1, keywords, title, meta you can normally find the information you are after. See example below

Subheadings, content/copy, and microcopy also provide an indication of page keywords but these carry less weight with google rankings. The page structure, content, may all be directly related to the main page keywords, targetting synonyms, or lower volume longer tail keywords but they should be relevant to the main topic of the page. Have a skim through.


Under no circumstances should you copy competitors' pages, content, or anything else, this is a very bad strategy and one easily identified by google algorithms.


You should now have a long list of keywords, the more keyword data - the better.


Now let's check your keyword search volume(s) and put together your datasets.


6. Google Adwords Keyword Planner


Register your Google AdWords account. Generally, I would use the same address I use for Google My Business, Search Console, Analytics, and other fundamental SEO management tools.


This tool is fantastic for any new business, or for any established company that creates great content but needs to ensure it is more optimally targetted. (You can produce all the great content you want - but if it isn't structured properly including the right keywords, it won't have much of an audience as stand-alone content on search engines for the purpose of bringing in new traffic/prospective customers).


This is the free keyword research tool you want to use for up to date information on search volumes for your keywords, although it provides quite a broad range of search volume (100-1k as an example, which isn't helpful with weighing up keywords in the same volume range, granted. Our SEO Laboratory does however provide accurate data as shown in the first two images on this page).


Enter each keyword and you will be given the average monthly search volume data, competition level, and the bid suggestion (If you're using Pay Per Click).


Produce Your Own Keyword Datasets

Once you have processed all your keywords and obtained the search volume data, you want to break this information down into datasets. This will help you organise your keywords by relevance so you can start to plan out how and where you can best utilise your researched keywords.


Your datasets should be in list format, I'd recommend on spreadsheet/excel/csv.


Now to match your keywords with your products, services, topics, etc.


Have a new tab (worksheet) for each product or service and look through your master list of keywords with their search volumes, make a judgment on what keywords are most relevant to each product or service you supply. Copy and paste each keyword with their corresponding search volume.


Now sort the keywords by volume, highest to lowest. You should see the shorter tail keywords have a higher search volume, longer-tail keywords have a lower search volume.


Search Query Intent

Searches on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines tend to fall into two categories; those showing immediate buying intent and those looking for information to make a purchase at a later date (or possible conversions if your site is successful).


The pages on your website should also reflect these two categories. For example, the pages that host your products or services should focus on keyword which reflect immediate buying intent like; ‘Plumbers near me’, ‘xyz consultants in Portsmouth’, ‘Local eyelash salons’, ‘Local BMW dealerships’, and other specific product or service information.


The pages on your website which simply offer information e.g. a blog page should focus on keywords that reflect the needs of people who are either not ready to purchase or are simply looking for information. These would be long-tail keywords and look something like this; ‘What/ why’ how do I build a desktop PC?’, or ‘What performance is the new 1080 GPU?’, or ‘How do I perm my eyelashes at home?’. Answering these questions on your site is a great way to drive traffic, generate authority and trust through your expertise, and get your prospective customers one click away from potentially buying your services.


Assign the datasets to a page hierarchy

Bearing in mind you want to try to target no more than ten keywords per page, start assigning your keywords to your page hierarchy.

Using the above hierarchy as an example, you would have keywords such as shoe store (90,500 monthly searches), online shoe store (1,300 searches), buy shoes online (880 searches) for the home page. (P.S. you could use 'Shoes' with its 210,000 monthly search volume but the competition nationally would require massive investment and an amazing SEO consultancy).


Your top-level pages (within 1 click of the homepage) Women's Shoes and Men's Shoes should have relevant keywords, synonyms, male shoes, lady shoes, longer-tail ... shoes for ladies, shoes for men but not entirely relevant to any single product if you supply a large range.


Your second level/sub pages would break keywords down further into subcategories with more focus on specific/descriptive types of shoes (heels/flats/smart/boots).


Product pages self-explanatory... Adidas Superstar Mens White etc.


I'll cover link juice/crawl budget in another post but the top-level pages will typically have more authority to rank than pages that are 3 or more clicks away from the home page. There are many strategies to support ranking and traffic of sub-pages, especially if you're targetting a high volume keyword/product. More on this in another post.


Long-tail keywords not related to a product page or service, not showing buying intent, being a lower search volume, or seeking answers to questions should generally be targetted through content marketing via your website blog. Your website blog should be directly linked to in the main nav bar of the home page, top-level page (1 click away).


Use longer-tail or geographical inclusive search terms for second-level pages, or for content marketing through your blog page. If you are a local business (not national), you may want to use geographically inclusive search terms for your top-level pages but this decision should be made when assessing the overall traffic opportunity based on search volumes and how well established your local market is.


Keywords & On-Page-SEO

Once you have matched your page topic with your keywords, you want to ensure they are included in the URL slug, meta title, description, keywords, h1 (header), main bodies of content, relevant images & videos (as alt text and title text). You can include synonyms as subheadings or the same keywords in a varying structure/order/string. Don't create a cross over of content covering different topics on a single page, you want the page to be as authoritative and relevant to the page topic as possible (it all needs to marry up).


If you require a specialist SEO partner to support your project, we work with all stages of projects and individuals from small businesses, to supporting larger corporate marketing teams or directly carrying out works. Providing consultation, on and off-site works and acquisitions, training and development. For a full scope of what we do regarding SEO, see our SEO service page.


Digital Scientist clients gain access to our SEO Laboratory where we work on all aspects of your project. You can log in and monitor your daily ranking movements, trends, domain and backlink profile, conduct research on your competitors, research new keywords (skipping the requirement to carry out most of the above content), comprehensively audit and monitor your website, and much more. If you would like to know more, contact details are below:


Email: James@digital-scientists.co.uk | sales@digital-scientists.co.uk

Phone: 02392 120 013


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Thank you for reading.

Best regards

James Eaton

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