WHAT DOES SEO KEYWORDS MEAN

Matthew Carter
Hello friends, my name is Matthew Carter. I’m a professional link builder for a large SEO agency in New York City.

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PORTFOLIO

If you’re struggling to think of more keywords people might be searching about a specific topic, take a look at the related search terms that appear when you plug in a keyword into Google. When you type in your phrase and scroll to the bottom of Google’s results, you’ll notice some suggestions for searches related to your original input. These keywords can spark ideas for other keywords you may want to take into consideration.

More and more, we hear how much SEO has evolved over just the last 10 years, and how unimportant keywords themselves have become to our ability to rank well for the searches people make every day.

For instance, if I took that last topic bucket for an inbound marketing software company — “marketing automation” — I’d brainstorm some keyword phrases that I think people would type in related to that topic. Those might include:

To verify what a user’s intent is in a keyword, it’s a good idea to simply enter this keyword into a search engine yourself, and see what types of results come up. Make sure the type of content Google is closely related to what you’d intend to create for the keyword.

Let’s say, for example, you’re researching the keyword “how to start a blog” for an article you want to create. “Blog” can mean a blog post or the blog website itself, and what a searcher’s intent is behind that keyword will influence the direction of your article. Does the searcher want to learn how to start an individual blog post? Or do they want to know how to actually launch a website domain for the purposes of blogging? If your content strategy is only targeting people interested in the latter, you’ll need to make sure of the keyword’s intent before committing to it.

Step 4: Research related search terms.

See those numbers in parentheses to the right of each keyword? That’s their monthly search volume . This data allows you to gauge how important these topics are to your audience, and how many different sub-topics you might need to create content on to be successful with that keyword. To learn more about these sub-topics, we move onto step 2 .

But that doesn’t mean keyword research is an outdated process. Let me explain:

Keyword research provides valuable insight into the queries that your target audience is actually searching on Google. The insight that you can get into these actual search terms can help inform content strategy as well as your larger marketing strategy. However, keywords themselves may not be as important to SEO as you may think.

And to some extent, this is true; using keywords that exactly match a person’s search is no longer the most important ranking factor in the eyes of an SEO professional. Rather, it’s the intent behind that keyword, and whether or not a piece of content solves for that intent (we’ll talk more about intent in just a minute).

Now that you have a few topic buckets you want to focus on, it’s time to identify some keywords that fall into those buckets. These are keyword phrases you think are important to rank for in the SERPs (search engine results pages) because your target customer is probably conducting searches for those specific terms.

Although more and more keywords are getting encrypted by Google every day, another smart way to come up with keyword ideas is to figure out which keywords your website is already getting found for. To do this, you’ll need website analytics software like Google Analytics or HubSpot’s Sources report, available in the Traffic Analytics tool. Drill down into your website’s traffic sources, and sift through your organic search traffic bucket to identify the keywords people are using to arrive at your site.

To kick off this process, think about the topics you want to rank for in terms of generic buckets. You’ll come up with about 5-10 topic buckets you think are important to your business, and then you’ll use those topic buckets to help come up with some specific keywords later in the process.

By researching keywords for their popularity, search volume, and general intent, you can tackle the questions that the most people in your audience want answers to.

Want a bonus? Type in some of those related search terms and look at their related search terms.

Like I said in the previous section, user intent is now one of the most pivotal factors in your ability to rank well on search engines like Google. Today, it’s more important that your web page addresses the problem a searcher intended to solve than simply carries the keyword the searcher used. So, how does this affect the keyword research you do?

Why Is Keyword Research Important?

And so on and so on. The point of this step isn’t to come up with your final list of keyword phrases. You just want to end up with a brain dump of phrases you think potential customers might use to search for content related to that particular topic bucket. We’ll narrow the lists down later in the process so you don’t have something too unwieldy.

If you’re a regular blogger, these are probably the topics you blog about most frequently. Or perhaps they’re the topics that come up the most in sales conversations. Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas — what types of topics would your target audience search that you’d want your business to get found for? If you were a company like HubSpot, for example — selling marketing software (which happens to have some awesome SEO tools. but I digress), you might have general topic buckets like:

I’m going to lay out a keyword research process you can follow to help you come up with a list of terms you should be targeting. That way, you’ll be able to establish and execute a strong keyword strategy that helps you get found for the search terms you actually care about.

For an inside look into how Ahrefs can aid you in your SEO keyword research, check out our case study and exclusive interview here.

Keyword research tells you what topics people care about and, assuming you use the right SEO tool, how popular those topics actually are among your audience. The operative term here is topics — by researching keywords that are getting a high volume of searches per month, you can identify and sort your content into topics that you want to create content on. Then, you can use these topics to dictate which keywords you look for and target.

It’s easy to take keywords for face value, and unfortunately, keywords can have many different meanings beneath the surface. Because the intent behind a search is so important to your ranking potential, you need to be extra-careful how you interpret the keywords you target.

Keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing search terms that people enter into search engines with the goal of using that data for a specific purpose, often for search engine optimization (SEO) or general marketing. Keyword research can uncover queries to target, the popularity of theses queries, their ranking difficulty, and more.

Step 2: Fill in those topic buckets with keywords.

Repeat this exercise for as many topic buckets as you have. And remember, if you’re having trouble coming up with relevant search terms, you can always head on over to your customer-facing colleagues — those who are in Sales or Service — and ask them what types of terms their prospects and customers use, or common questions they have. Those are often great starting points for keyword research.

This is a creative step you may have already thought of when doing keyword research. If not, it’s a great way to fill out those lists.

Here at HubSpot, we use the Search Insights Repot in this part of the process. This template is designed to help you do the same and bucket your keywords into topic clusters, analyze MSV, and inform your editorial calendar and strategy.

Keyword research and SEO tools such as Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Ubersuggest can help you come up with more keyword ideas based on exact match keywords and phrase match keywords based on the ideas you’ve generated up to this point. This exercise might give you alternatives that you might not have considered.

Although it does make sense to do many of those things, they’re not the primary way you optimize for a keyword.

People often get hung up on search volume and intent without stopping to think about a keyword’s value. That’s a mistake.

There are two lessons to learn from this:

In this case, almost all of the posts have the same angle: “what are backlinks?”

You need to find keywords that bear some relevance to what your business does, then judge them relatively.

‘ Value’

If you want to stand the best chance of ranking for your keywords in Google, you need to create content that aligns with intent. In other words, don’t try to rank your homepage for a keyword where searchers are looking for blog posts, and vice versa.

If you’re analyzing keywords in bulk in a keyword research tool like Keywords Explorer, you can look to CPC for a very rough sense of ‘value.’ This shows how much advertisers are willing to pay for a click from the keyword, on average.

PPC is where you pay Google to show your web page in the results for specific keywords. For example, if you sell email marketing software, you could bid on that term and appear at the top of Google’s search results when people search for it.

For example, if you were looking to buy a new jacket, you might type something like “mens leather jacket” into Google. Even though that phrase consists of more than one word, it’s still a keyword.

Most of these tools work in the same way. You enter a few broad keywords related to your industry called seed keywords, and the tool kicks back some related keyword ideas.

You can tell paid results apart from organic (non-paid) results because they’re marked as ads.

Just take a look at these two keywords:

There are many ways to do this, but the easiest method is to use a keyword research tool.

It has a Keyword Difficulty score of 84. Given that our scale runs from 0–100, that’s pretty high. It means that many of the top-ranking pages have lots of links from other websites. Because backlinks are an important ranking factor, it would be hard to outrank the other pages without getting lots of high-quality links.

How to choose keywords.

That’s what Campaign Monitor does.

For example, look at “mortgage payment calculator”:

Keywords are the foundation of SEO. You can’t possibly create or optimize content for search engines unless you know what people are searching for and what they want to see.

Does that mean it’s better to rank for “how to post on instagram” than “how to get backlinks?” Not always. There’s no point ranking for that first keyword if you sell SEO software like us. It might bring lots of visitors, but none of them are likely to buy what we sell.

For example, say that you sell headphones online. Your seed keywords might be “headphones,” “earbuds,” “earphones,” and “beats.”

Not necessarily. It depends on how difficult it will be to rank for.

What are supporting long-tail keywords?

The second is that you shouldn’t optimize your page for a supporting long-tail keyword. You should optimize it for the most popular way of searching for the topic.

Topical long-tail keywords are those with low individual search volumes that represent the most popular way of searching for a topic.

You can see from the current top-ranking pages that searchers want a blog post, so you know that’s the type of content you need to create. But what exactly should you write about? What should the angle of your post be?

There are two lessons to learn from this:

Let’s pop those into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, then take a look at one of the keyword ideas reports.

In fact, there are over 350 million one and two-word phrases in our database with fewer than ten monthly searches.

The second is that topical long-tail keywords can send tons of traffic to your site. You just need to rank for lots of them.

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