How To Choose The Right Keywords For SEO

Keywords are the foundation of a good SEO strategy. Choose the right ones, and you can see your rankings and traffic increase. Choose the wrong ones and your pages may never see any organic traffic

Here’s our step-by-step guide to finding the right keywords for each page. 

What Is The Right Keyword For a Page? 

Before we dive in, we need to agree on one thing: what the term “right keyword” means. 

It’s not enough for a target keyword to match what the page is about. It also needs to tick these boxes:

  • It has search volume: if no one is searching for a keyword, there’s no point in creating a page around it 
  • Your audience is searching for it: if the people who are looking for a keyword are not ultimately going to be interested in your product or service, you don’t need to target it 
  • You can rank for it: if the competition is too high, you might not want to attack that keyword just yet

Why Choosing The Right Keywords Is Important For SEO

To give you the shortest possible answer, choosing the right keywords will help you rank well while choosing the wrong ones won’t. 

Keywords form the backbone of any successful SEO strategy. They are what searchers type into a search engine when looking for something. 

If you optimize a page for the wrong keyword, it will see fewer visitors, and the people who land on your pages might not be interested in your product or service. If you can’t convert your visitors, you are wasting resources on creating the wrong pages. 

The wrong keywords will also make search engines believe your website needs to rank for something you don’t want it to rank for, and you will have a hard time getting them to change their minds. 

The right keyword will attract just the right kind of audience, at the right stage of the sales funnel. It will help you establish yourself as a reliable and authoritative brand. It will help you grow your business. 

How To Choose Keywords For SEO

Here’s our 14-step guide for choosing the right keywords for SEO purposes. 

Think Like Your Audience

Before you start doing keyword research, make sure you are looking at keywords from your audience’s point of view. 

What are their pain points? What problems are they trying to solve? What words and phrases are they likely to use to find a solution? What do they already know about the solutions available? What would they like to learn more about that you can teach them? 

You will naturally understand the products or services you offer much better than your audience. If you use search terms that are familiar to you, but not to them, you will skew your keyword research results. 

Consider Search Intent

There are 4 types of search intent

  • Navigational intent: when a searcher wants to find a specific page. For example, they might type “spotify login” into the search bar when they want to log in to Spotify. 
  • Informational intent: when a searcher wants to find specific information. For example, they might ask a search engine to tell them “can you listen to the light we carry on spotify”. 
  • Commercial intent: when a searcher wants to find out more before they make a purchasing decision. For example, they could ask “is spotify premium worth it”. 
  • Transactional intent: when a searcher is ready to make a purchase. They could say “subscribe to spotify” in this case. 
Inforgraphic showing various types of search intent
Image from https://www.seerinteractive.com/insights/what-is-search-intent

As you can see, what a searcher is looking for will directly impact what they type into the search bar. In order to choose the right keywords for a page, you need to match search intent. 

Don’t optimize a product page for informational intent, for example. If someone is looking for “best shoes for running”, they will want to see a list of good shoes. They won’t want to be shown a single pair of shoes. Instead of optimizing a product page for this keyword, you can create a blog post that will target iy, and funnel traffic from there to your product pages. 

In order to understand the intent behind a search query, you need to type it into the search bar and see what kinds of results come up. If you are seeing lots of product pages but very few blog posts, this is the kind of content you want to create too, and vice versa. 

Note that search intent can sometimes be unclear, and Google may decide to rank a variety of pages for it. When this is the case, do your best to provide a helpful page, and see what keywords it starts to rank for. You can adjust its focus once you see which queries have the highest traffic and conversion rates. 

Consider Sales Funnel Stage 

Another important consideration is where in the sales or digital marketing funnel the searcher is located. 

  • Searchers at the top of the funnel (TOFU) are still building awareness around the problem and you as a brand. They aren’t well-versed in industry jargon, and they aren’t looking for specifics. They are searching for top level answers.
  • Searchers at the middle of the funnel (MOFU) are trying to choose the best solution for their problem. They are ready to explore more deeply and learn about the options available to them. 
  • Searchers at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) need to be shown why your solution is the best one. They are comparing options and already know what else is available. 
Visual representation of a digital marketing funnel.

How do you apply this to keyword research? 

Let’s say you sell a toothbrush called “the best toothbrush” or TBT for short. Your TOFU audience will use queries like “how many times a day do I need to brush my teeth”, or “how long to brush teeth”. 

Your MOFU audience will be looking for “best toothbrush for sensitive teeth”, or “sustainable toothbrush”. Your BOFU audience might look for “TBT reviews” or “TBT experiences”. 

Notice how different these keywords are. By creating pages to target these search intents and sales funnel stages, you can reach audiences at exactly the right time, ensure a minimal bounce rate and increase your chances of converting them. 

Analyze Your Competition

You should also analyze the keywords you competitors are ranking for. This will give you a good overview of the queries searchers are using in your niche, and you can adjust your strategy accordingly. 

You can use an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush for this purpose. Both come with various insightful features. You can get a list of all the keywords a website is ranking for, you can see which pages are targeting which keywords, as well as all kinds of useful metrics for each keyword. 

Ahrefs has an “Organic competitors” feature that will list the websites they believe you are directly competing against. You can also use their “Content Gap” to find keywords your competitors are ranking for, but you aren’t. 

SEMRush has these same features under slightly different names. 

Check What You Are Already Ranking For 

In order to choose the right keywords for your SEO strategy, you will also need to take some time to check what you are already ranking for. You can do this both by manually searching Google, in your Google Search Console, or by using a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush. 

IMAGE FROM SEARCH CONSOLE HERE

Understanding what pages are performing well for which keywords can help you choose what you want to rank for next. 

For example, you may discover that a lot of your content around a certain topic is ranking very well indeed. You can then use this knowledge to create more pages around it, and further improve your authority and relevance. 

You may also learn that some of your pages are not ranking for the keywords you’ve optimized them for, but are performing well for keywords you wouldn’t have expected. You can then re-optimize them, change some of the content, or take any other action necessary. 

Make a Broad List Of Keywords For Each Page 

Armed with knowledge about search intent, sales funnel stage, competitor keywords and your own keyword performance, you can start making a list of keywords for each page you want to create. 

Start by brainstorming without the help of the internet, always keeping in mind what your audience is likely to look for. Write down both exact match and long tail keywords. The more the merrier at this stage. 

You can then augment your list with some competitor research. Don’t qualify keywords yet. Write down everything that makes sense. 

Look for LSI keywords too. Use your favorite keyword research tool to expand your list. Use Google’s autocomplete feature to see what else people are typing into search. Use the “People also ask” section to get even more ideas. 

This is also a good time to make a list of any branded keywords you think you should be using. 

You can select a couple of keywords that are likely to be the primary ones for the page. This is the keyword that is most directly tied to the topic of the page. You will need to use it in the title tag, in the URL, in the meta description, in at least one heading, and disperse it throughout the page. 

You can choose your secondary keywords after you complete the rest of the steps we outline below. 

Note that you may change your mind about the primary keyword as well, once you analyze your list. This is still just a preliminary research phase. 

Finally, don’t forget about the possible dangers of keyword cannibalization. You want to ensure that none of your pages competes for the same keyword. 

Ensure The Keyword Is Relevant And Valuable For Your Website 

Now that you have some keywords to work with, you will need to analyze them from several angles. The first one is relevance and value

If you sell a product or service, this means you want everyone who lands on your website to be a potential customer. If they have no chance of converting, you don’t want to waste their time. 

Note that relevant keywords aren’t just transactional ones. You should choose keywords with an informational and commercial intent as well, and target them via your blog. 

If you monetize your website via ads or affiliate links, you will welcome all traffic, and all keywords that are relevant to the topic of your website will be the right ones. 

Realistically Assess Keyword Potential 

Understanding the true potential of a keyword will help you choose the ones you want to create content around, as well as the most important secondary keywords to add to a page. 

Here’s how to assess the potential of a keyword:

  • Consider keyword difficulty: keyword difficulty will tell you how difficulty it will be to rank on the first page of search engine results. If your website is new and small, you will want to start with keywords that have a lower KD and work your way up. 
  • Consider search volume: search volume will tell you how many monthly searches a keyword gets. It can be used to predict how much traffic you could get , depending on where you rank. 
  • Check the traffic of top ranking pages: you can use the Ahrefs Chrome extension to check how much traffic top ranking pages are actually getting for a keyword. For example, if the top three pages only see dozens of monthly visitors, the keyword may not be as lucrative as you thought. 
  • Consider traffic potential: while SEO tools will give you the traffic potential of a single keyword, this is just the traffic you could get if you were to rank number one for that one query. In reality, you will never rank for only one keyword. The true traffic potential of a page is calculated by combining the potential traffic of all keywords it might rank for. 
  • Consider how likely you are to rank: you also need to check how many backlinks are pointing to the top results, and how good their content is. If you can’t hope to write a better page or to build better backlinks, you might not rank for that keyword. 

Create a spreadsheet with separate tabs for each page you want to create. Then list all keywords you’ve found for each page. Export the keyword difficulty, search volume, traffic potential and all other relevant metrics from your preferred keyword research tool. 

You can then sort your sheet by various columns and analyze the numbers. Make a list of all keywords you want to include in your page.. 

Don’t forget that you will naturally be adding plenty of relevant keywords if you write quality content. However, making sure the most lucrative and relevant keywords are a part of your content will only improve your rankability. 

Don’t Get Too Attached To Keyword Difficulty (Or Any Other Metric) 

Don’t forget that metrics like keyword difficulty and search volume are determined by third parties. They don’t actually tell you what a page is ranking for or how much traffic it gets. They may or may not adequately reflect how lucrative a keyword is, or how difficult it will be to rank for it. 

Use these metrics as a guide, but always view them with a grain of salt. Sometimes the keywords that appear to hold the least potential turn out to be the best ones, and vice versa. 

Choose One Tool And Stick To It

Make sure you only use one keyword research tool to check keyword metrics. You can use as many as you want to do the actual research and compile lists of keywords, but don’t use both SEMRush and Ahrefs, for example, to check keyword difficulty and search volume. 

Different tools use different parameters to come up with keyword metrics. If you use more than one, you will only confuse yourself and taint your keyword list. Pick one and stick to it. 

Look For Long-Tail Variations

Don’t forget to look for long-tail variations of exact match keywords. While they sometimes have lower search volumes, they can certainly be worth your while. 

Pay special attention to long-tail keywords in the form of questions. Most searchers will use them when they have informational intent, and they can be a great source of topics for your blog. 

Consider Your Content Creation Capabilities 

Before you commit to creating a page, take a moment to consider how qualified and capable you are. 

For example, if you only have one writer at your disposal, who is not a subject matter expert, you will need more time to create a top-quality page. If you have a team of expert writers who have personal experience on a topic, the quality of your content will be exponentially better. 

Don’t try to attack keywords you can’t create great content for. Start smaller and cover topics where you do have the expertise and knowledge. Build up your E-E-A-T first, and then expand to more challenging topics. 

Focus On Topic Clusters 

When selecting keywords, don’t forget to consider the topic clusters you can use them to create. They will improve your website’s topical relevance and authority, and help establish you as a valuable source of information. 

If you do your keyword research well, clusters will naturally start to form. The deeper you dive into your main topic, the more smaller topics, usually targeting long-tail keywords, will become apparent. 

Don’t forget to also connect your clusters with internal links, as you don’t want to create content silos that aren’t relevant to each other. Use Link Whisper to automate the process of internal link creation and save yourself hours of manual internal link creation.  

Monitor Your Results  

Finally, don’t forget that you need to continuously monitor how your pages are performing. 

Don’t obsessively check your Search Console and Analytics every day. Indexing and ranking takes time. Set up a rank tracking schedule that suits the nature and size of your business and your content publishing rhythm. 

Make changes and improvements as you discover an opportunity for them. The more you know about a page and how it matches search intent and which keywords Google thinks it addresses best, the easier it will be to improve them further. 

Wrapping Up 

Now that you know how to choose the right keywords for SEO, you can get right to work. Keyword research can both be immensely exciting and extremely dull. However, if you invest enough time and effort in it, you can walk away with a list of terrific keywords that will serve as stable foundations for your growing business. 

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