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Keyword Research in Digital Marketing

Keyword Research in SEM RushIf you have ever looked into ways to boost your website performance, drive better traffic or rank more highly in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) then it is likely you have also heard of Keyword Research. In fact, the truth of the matter is that Keyword Research is actually the most vital ingredient to any digital marketing strategy and should be one of the first actions any business takes in its digital marketing implementation. Like flour in a baking recipe, without it your digital marketing strategy, like your baking is likely to fall rather flat.

In this article we have summarised everything there is to know about keyword research; what it is, the best ways to utilise keyword research to increase your website ranking, as well as genius keyword research tools that make the whole process easier and more straightforward.

What are Keywords?

Keywords are the essence of the topic of any business. Every time a user searches a phrase, that’s a keyword. It could be something as simple as ‘tennis match’ or ‘best coffee in town’. They are the flags that search engines use to identify potential relevant content to serve in response to searches, they do that by matching the keywords in the searches with the keywords that they identify in your web pages.

Short Tail Keywords

Short tail keywords refer to much broader topics rather than niche subjects. For example, ‘running trainers’, ‘best holidays’ or ‘dark chocolate’.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are more specific phrases. People often confuse long tail keywords with being longer in word count however this isn’t the case, they are simply more detailed terms. For example, ‘blue running trainers’, ‘best holidays in the winter period’ and ‘dark chocolate bars with no gluten’ are all long tail keywords.

What Is Keyword Research?

Keyword research helps you to gain understanding of what your target audience are currently searching on search engines like Google or Bing. Obviously, the top results in every search are the ones most likely to be clicked on so every time your target audience searches a query, you should aim to be the first in line to answer. It is thought that around 75% of internet users never even look past the first page of search results, so it’s important to ensure your content is as relevant and helpful as possible so the search engines rank it highly and you can be seen immediately, preferably in the top 3 if at all possible.

Keyword research involves analysing, comparing and prioritising keyword opportunities as well as discovering the language your audience are using to find the helpful information they’re looking for. You can then target those key phrases in your content to appear in their results pages. The research also helps us gauge what words people search when looking for a specific product or service, as well as understanding the psychology of the target audience and what they want. With this information, you can use the terms that are applicable to your business that people are searching for to help optimise your website, create efficient ad text and be first to be found for relevant terms, by relevant people.

Ensuring your site is found first means that more people will engage with your services rather than those of your competitors, but keyword research isn’t a one-time thing. It should be an ongoing process to stay relevant in the market, keep up to date with what people are searching for in relation to your products and services and to help you continue to rank competitively.

Why Keyword Research Is So Important in a Digital Marketing Strategy

  • Keywords can help explain to your audience what your business offers, the type of people you’re looking to help and why you are different from your competitors.
  • Ranking for specific keywords can help users determine what you can do to help them, and your Unique Selling Points (USPs)
  • Your content strategy: by using high volume keywords to architect a collection of relevant, useful articles and content pieces, you can engage with your focused target audience and give them the information they’re looking for at the right time, in a way that is aligned with their place in the buyers journey.
  • By targeting specific keywords on different pages on your website, search engines will understand your website’s focus and rank your business accordingly. It also makes it easy for the search engine to choose the most relevant pages of your site to serve in the SERP, which makes for a better user experience and higher chance of conversion.
  • Keyword research can also help you compete better – you can discover search terms your competitors are ranking for, and how you rank in comparison to them. This can also highlight opportunities to take a different approach and try alternative keywords that you not already have thought of.

Benefits of Keyword Research for SEO

On-page SEO is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website from search engines, such as Google. It’s done by optimising your on-page content. Search engines display only the most relevant information on the web to best answer the searchers queries, therefore if you want to be ranking for your target audience’s questions then you have to ensure you’ve done your research.

Keyword research is vital to boosting your SEO ranking. Interestingly a study by Ahrefs found 90.63% of pages get no traffic from Google…at all…. This is probably due to the fact website owners are writing and releasing content that their customers simply aren’t searching for. Alternatively, they are writing useful content but are not using the relevant keywords and are not optimising it. Essentially all these pages, and that business, are digitally invisible. The effort of writing them was entirely wasted and potential customers are going elsewhere. By determining exactly what your target users are searching for you can target the terms that matter to them on your website pages with pertinent, helpful information alongside effective calls to action. As a result, search engines will recognise the value of your site with regard to the query and rank you highly. This encourages relevant, engaged, targeted traffic and increases the rate of conversions.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your organic SEO and rank highly, find out more about what effective SEO looks like.

Keyword Research for PPC

The benefits of keyword research equally apply to paid advertising. Search engines’ highly intelligent algorithm systems display the best results to the right people based on a number of factors but most importantly the keywords (and negative keywords) the advertiser has selected. On the odd occasion the wrong ads can be displayed to the wrong people which means money down the drain and a wasted click; however this is usually the fault of the advertiser choosing the wrong keywords in their campaigns. Effective keyword targeting in PPC campaigns help to connect product, service or information to the right searches with the right intent, maximising ROI.

Learn more about optimising PPC and utilising best practice for best results.

How To Do Keyword Research Effectively

Keyword research is a simple process but requires attention to detail, a good understanding of the target audience (actual data, not assumption), some creative thought and a lot of focus in order to ensure the rest of your marketing strategy lies on a solid foundation.

Before you begin you should ensure you have a clear understanding of your industry and who your target audience(s) are to enable you to highlight specific terms you’d want to target as you go. If you are a little hazy then go back a step and clarify your personas. Remember part of keyword research is about prioritising the main keywords you want to target for; there’s no use coming up with hundreds of keywords to rank for, you won’t know where to begin. Keep it focused, direct and relevant.

Finding Seed Keyword Ideas

Firstly, it’s vital you gather a group of ‘seed’ keywords that will be the basis of the next steps. These keywords don’t need to be specific but rather broad terms you think your users will be searching. Your seed keywords won’t necessarily be the terms you target, they are just a base point to work from, as it suggests in the name, ‘seed’ terms to grow from.

For example, if you sell books for young students your seed keywords may be:

  • School books
  • Educational books
  • Books for learning
  • Study books

If you are targeting more than one audience then research them separately because it is likely that each audience will be searching for your products and services for different reasons, using different keywords.

What Are Your Competitors Ranking For?

Find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for. This could be found from a simple google search, examining how they have structured their content on their site, or using keyword research tools. Assessing competitor’s success on specific terms will enable you to find potential gaps in the industry to fill or it may give you the opportunity to build on what the market is currently offering, in a better, more attractive way.

If you haven’t considered who your competitors might be, you can search your seed keywords and see what comes up. That way you can assess who you’ll be competing for in the search engine ranking when you begin optimising your site with keyword targeted content. Remember, unless you check you won’t be 100% sure who your key competitors are and online competitors might be different to offline ones.

'School Books' phrase Google Search screenshot example

Of course, if you see big companies being shown don’t assume they’re competitors, for example ‘amazon’ or ‘ebay’. Find sites that are on a similar level to you and businesses of a similar focus and size.

Using Site Explorers

Once you think you’ve found competing sites, you can use a site explorer tool such as Ahrefs site explorer or SEMrush’s market explorer to generate keywords your chosen competitor sites are ranking for. This way you may discover brand new keywords you never thought of or unique searches that could be relevant to your business. Furthermore, you can analyse other competing domains to discover more competitor sites and more keyword ideas, completing a picture of your industry’s competition and finding gaps for growth.

Best Keyword Research Tools

Good quality keywords are the most efficient way to attract relevant traffic to your site. Luckily enough there are a range of excellent tools to help you find the right keywords you should be ranking for to draw quality traffic with a higher likelihood of converting.

Here we’ve listed just a couple of those tools, some are free, and some having pricing plans depending on the scope of your organisation.


SEMrush is an excellent all-round keyword research tool that can help to discover and congregate a list of keywords using the Keyword Magic Tool. Enter your seed keywords, choose the location and see what keywords show around each seed keyword term.

SEMrush 'Keyword Magic Tool' screenshot example

The Keyword Magic tool displays a range of different metrics from Volume (the average number of monthly searches) to Cost Per Click (CPC) to different SERPs features to the number of results that show up. SEMrush isn’t a free tool, however if you’re serious about ranking highly on SERPs and maximising relevant traffic to your site, it can be a vital one to have.

Google Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner is another great tool to use and it’s free. It helps to discover new keywords related to your business and generates estimates of the searches the keywords receive, and the cost to target them in paid advertising. From this you can organise keywords into categories related to your brand and create successful, targeted campaigns.


Ahrefs Keywords Explorer is one of the best keyword research tools out there. It enables you to gather detailed data for any search query and generates thousands of keyword ideas and opportunities. Select the search engine you’re interested in, for example Google, YouTube, Amazon or Bing, enter your seed keywords and you’ll begin to see insightful data being generated from keyword difficulty (how hard it will be to rank in the top 10 organic google search results), search volume, clicks and PPC data and global volume by country.

What Next?

Once you’ve verified who your audiences are, compiled seed keywords, checked your competition and entered them into the keyword research tool of choice; you should have generated a range of useful, relevant search queries. Now it’s time to sort your results to ensure you keep keywords that are relevant to your business and those terms you want to specifically target in your content.

Download the results into an excel spreadsheet and begin highlighting terms you want to rank for including titles for potential blog content which can be used to optimise your content strategy. You’ll notice you find negative keyword terms you absolutely do not want to rank for, in which case you should highlight these and put them aside. Discover the value of negative keywords and learn how they can be incorporated into your PPC marketing strategy to increase ROAS (Return On Ad Spend).

Now you’re ready to begin allocating selected keywords to existing pages on your site or perhaps new pages where you feel you’re missing content. Developing your content around these keywords and devoting pages to content related to the keywords gives your content a strong keyword and topic focus which increases the likelihood of it ranking. Fresh, focused and planned content can expand your reach and drive even more traffic to your site which is why keyword research is so important. Learn more ways to generate better content ideas to shake up your content balance and identify further opportunities to provide relevant, helpful information to your readers.

Get in Touch with the Digital Marketing Experts

Innovation Visual are Organic Search SEO enthusiasts, we love to help people like you optimise their content so it ranks better in search engines, attracts more relevant site traffic and has measurable impact on your bottom line.

Now you understand the importance of keyword research and the impact it can have on your marketing efforts. We hope we’ve answered your questions but if you would like more information or need some help to get it right first time then get in touch, we’d be glad to help. You can start seeing improvements in your organic rankings with help of our digital marketing experts.

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