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Keyword research is still essential in the era of intent-based searches.
Keeping track of what customers search for helps us understand our users and gives us the opportunity to create content relevant to their needs.
Every SEO and content marketing strategy, therefore, should have a keyword research process in place.
In this sponsored episode of Search Engine Nerds, I interviewed Tim Soulo, Head of Marketing and Product Strategy at Ahrefs, about keyword research that’s geared toward SEO and content marketing.
Soulo also discusses the importance of competitor analysis and why it’s the best place to start when doing keyword research.
How should one approach the keyword research as a whole?
Tim Soulo (TS): In terms of approaching keyword research, I figured there are two types of people who need to do keyword research.
- On one hand, we have people who already have some kind of business, some kind of website, and they’re looking to expand their presence in the search results, to target more relevant topics and such. They somehow already know what they want to write about, what kind of pages and articles they want to have on their site.
- On the other hand, we have people who are looking to start a website. They don’t know what it’s going to be about, they just know that they want to make money, probably with affiliate sales or something like this. They’re basically looking not for just some keywords to target, but actually for a niche target, and to research the niche a little bit to see what kind of keywords are there and what kind of potential is there.
Brent Csutoras (BC): Most of our listeners are going to know what they want to target, they just don’t know how to approach – really picking the right keywords and knowing the difference between what they want and what their audience wants.
TS: This is very important, and I think this is kind of the core, the essence of keyword research. It is basically about knowing how people are actually searching for whatever you have there, like product or service, or whatever. This is why we need the keyword research tools.
Basically, the first keyword research tool that people start playing with is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner.
This is actually a tool for advertisers, so it’s not so good for SEO practitioners. But, still, when you’re starting out, you can get a lot of insights from Google Keyword Planner, and this is a great starting point.
If you put whatever your product or service is, how would you describe it in words, into Google Keyword Planner, it will show you quite a few keyword ideas. Usually, they cap it around 500 or 700.
But, this is already enough for you to see what are the other keywords relevant to what you just entered. So, all you need to do is enter the product, but I’m not saying to enter the brand name of a product. I’m saying to enter the kind of how would you describe the product.
So, for example, if you sell, I don’t know, frisbees, just type frisbee into Google AdWords Keyword Planner, and see what kind of keyword ideas it will give you. This is our starting point.
There are many other keyword tools. At Ahrefs, we have also our own. But, actually, except for the tools that will give you a list of ideas based on your target keyword, we call them seed keywords – the keyword that you use to get a big list of ideas – there are also tools where you can plug the website of your competitor, and these tools will show you all the keywords that bring them traffic from search. Again, we have this kind of tool at Ahrefs.
I think most people probably know who their competitors are. Do you find that that’s a good place to start as well?
I think that’s actually the best place to start. But, to be honest, I don’t quite agree with you that everyone knows who your competitors are.
This, again, comes down to the point that you mentioned earlier, that people don’t even know what’s the right way to search for whatever they have. This is why these sites that they think they are competing with might be a little bit different from their actual competitors.
So, the way to find your competitors is, first of all, you need to know some keywords related to your industry, to your niche, to wherever you sell. Then you put these search queries into Google, you see which websites will pop up, you examine these websites, and you see if they seem to be doing the same thing that you’re doing.
Then, if you’re sure that this website seems to be your competitor, you then plug it into one of these tools that will show you all the keywords that this website is ranking for in Google.
This is an amazing place to start… If someone is already targeting these keywords, they’re doing it for a reason. So, by looking at what your competitors are targeting, you’re ensuring that these keywords have some business value.
Once you’ve got a laundry list of keywords, how do you organize that and start to make a decision on what you actually want to use?
TS: This is the exact reason why I said that using the kind of seed keyword approach to get a list of keyword ideas is not the best strategy compared to researching your competition.
Because if you generate a huge list of keyword ideas, going through all of them manually is kind of a little bit of trouble.
But, when you enter a website of your competitor, not only you can get the list of all keywords that they are ranking for, you can actually get a list of pages that are bringing them search traffic.
So, basically, this is the same list of keywords that bring them traffic, but all keywords are already grouped by landing page already.
You don’t have to figure out how to group all these keywords, all these keywords are already grouped for you, and instead of targeting keywords, you will be targeting pages. This is very cool.
When we start moving into the conversation of content marketing, how do you approach content creation and content marketing with the goal of SEO in mind?
TS: The first thing that I can say here is that if you want to rank, you need to ensure that the page that you’re going to create, the page that you’re going to publish, is going to be better than what’s already there in the top 10 search results. Because if you cannot make a better page, then you don’t really deserve to rank.
Google is looking to show the searchers the best result for whatever they’re searching, so your goal here is to create this best result for them so that Google would put it at the top. And creating the best result, it depends on what results are there.
If you want to do a better piece, you need to thoroughly study what’s already out there and try to create something better. But, oftentimes, this comes back again to the topic of authority on a certain topic.
For example, let’s take us at Ahrefs. We work with a lot of SEO data, we crawl the entire web, so we have a ton of information that no one else has.
When I write an article, I don’t really research what’s already there a lot because I know that what I’m going to say is going to be unique to us only, because we are the only ones who have this information.
Click here to check out SEO guides and research studies authored by Tim.
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Think you have what it takes to be a Search Engine Nerd? If so, message Loren Baker on Twitter, or email him at loren [at] searchenginejournal.com. You can also email Brent Csutoras at brent [at] alphabrandmedia.com.
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