If you want to optimize your website and its content for search engines (and you do), you need to know which words to focus on. If you don’t know what your audience is searching for, or how competitive the keywords are that you are trying to rank, it’s easy to get frustrated. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools out there to help you succeed (and a lot of them are free). If you are new at this you have to remember it takes time to become good at anything, keyword research is no different. Sure you can come up with great options from the starting line, just be prepared to put your time in and be patient. Here are  10 tips and tricks you can use to improve keyword research and propel your SEO efforts forward.

1) Speak Their language

Before you dive into keyword analyzers and all that other fun stuff you have to remember you are dealing with language and everyone speaks differently. Make sure you put yourself in your audience’s shoes so that the keywords you select resonate with them. A 50-year old businessman and a millennial may not use the same search terms to find their next car. It’s up to you to spend a little time understanding your target, learning what their interests are, figuring out how they might be feeling so that you can intelligently solve a problem they might have. Because keywords are basically solutions to problems. So before you even start coming up with your preliminary list, you might want to ask your target about a problem they might be having, or search a forum your audience may have already asked a question in. You could even ask in Facebook or follow a particular hashtag in Twitter to explore options. I’m sure you can think of other ways as well but the main point here is to always remember who you are talking to.

2) Find Potential Keywords

After you have given some thought to your audience and have a broad list of words that will fit the bill you can use Google Autocomplete to enter a general keyword and see the specific, long-tail varieties that are typically searched for. Another favorite of mine is thesaurus.com, just five minutes in here and I have multiple long-tailed keywords which offer a slightly different approach to the same search term but ideally  some will have less competition.

Improve Keyword Research Google

3) Use Advanced Tools to Determine Relevance

Once you’ve found keywords that seem to be the right fit, it’s time to determine exactly how they are being used. Three tools can help you here: First is  Moz Keyword Explorer, followed by Ubersuggest and another favorite is WordStream’s Keyword Tool. These will  allow you to gain some serious insight into what your audience searches for, and how many others are trying to rank for the same terms already.

In MOZ Keyword Explorer once you submit a keyword you will get multiple options. One of the first things I like to do is ‘See all keyword suggestions’, by clicking this you will usually get an extensive list of suggestions and you can export that list to an excel sheet. Typically, I will check off the most relevant terms for my page and export only those. Others like to export the entire list and run it through TermExplorer or another similar tool that provides additional SEO data..

Using these tools generally follows a simple structure: you type in a keyword you think is relevant to your brand, and the software determines its relevancy and quality. It functions much like a search engine, but will only be effective if you know what the metrics you receive in return actually mean.

Improve Keyword Research MOZ

4) Know What to Look For

Armed with the tools, it’s time to learn a little more about the metrics you’re looking for when finding the right keywords for your brand. Most keyword tools evaluate phrases based on 3 variables:

  • volume describes the amount of searches for that exact keyword in a given time frame (usually a month).
  • competition shows the degree to which other websites already rank for the keyword. The higher the competition, the more difficult optimizing your strategy for this keyword will become.
  • opportunity shows you the potential return you can get from a given keyword, if you happen to rank on the first page.

Of the three, you should pay attention to the first two: volume and competition. Try to find the balance between keywords that are no higher than average in competition, and have at least a low to medium search volume for maximum success.

In MOZ SERP (Search Engine Results Page) Analysis you will get a rundown of the current first page of google. Here you will find:

  • A list of pages already ranking with the keyword you an interested in, what the listed page and their main domain authority is (The higher the number the more authority that page has).
  • Information on how many root domains (RD’s) are linking to that page, the more links the better.
  • And of course there are the Facebook shares which should not need much explanation.

This Analysis should give you a great overview of where you stand against the competition when looking for keywords. If you find Googles first page has low page authority scores and not many linking RD’s then go for it. If  you play your cards right you should be able to dominate the first page for the keyword you are interested in.

5) Find a Niche

This should probably be number one but I will assume that you will read this entire post before venturing out. You cannot be broad when it comes to keyword research.  First off any simple keyword has already been used to death by countless pages, and secondly, people trust experts in a particular industry more that they trust jack-of-all-trades. Typically, we use the 3-step rule when it comes to defining keywords in a niche. These steps would be Category > Niche > Sub-Niche, you can go further than that, in fact I would recommend going  4 or even 5 steps down. So if the keyword you were looking at is Guitar Strings I would suggest something like Guitar Strings > Blues > Easy to Bend or for Jet Engines something like Jet Engines > Turbofan > Boeing > 747 . Using this system helps you rank higher, it keeps your content focused and it decreases bounce rates significantly because when a reader finds your page it’s exactly what they were looking for.

6) Understand Keyword Trends

Another crucial part of successful keyword research is to not only find out the metrics that matter for exact keyword, but adjust those keywords based on general trends. Google Trends, for example, showcases not only current search volume on a given keyword, but also a history of how often users on the website typed in the term over the past years.

You can even filter down the trends based on geographic region and related queries, allowing you to gain a better understanding of whether a keyword makes sense for both you and your audience. The better you understand keyword trends, the more likely you are to build an SEO strategy that benefits your website not just now, but in the future as well.

Improve-Keyword-Research-Trends

7) Use Local Search

One of the best ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors is by using location in your keyword string. Data from Google states that over 50% of searches outside the home are local and over ½ of all local searches end with a purchase. Now this won’t work for every type of page you are doing research for but if you can take advantage of local search make sure it’s a priority.

8) Engage in Competitive Analysis

Finding out what your competitors are doing in terms of search engine optimization is another crucial part of keyword research. By learning what keywords your competitors are focusing on, you can find missed opportunities on their end that you can take advantage of. Neil Patel’s in-depth look at keyword competitive analysis is an invaluable tool to help you build an SEO strategy that works not just in isolation, but in the midst of your competitive environment as well.

Of course, competitive analysis can be even more simple. Just type in the keyword for which you’re trying to rank into Google, and examine the links that pop up on the first result page. If you’re going up against outlets like The New York Times or TechCrunch, you probably won’t succeed easily. Less competition always means quicker success.

9)Verify the Success of Your Efforts

Finally, no good keyword strategy (and no good marketing strategy, for that matter) can be successful without comprehensive and regular analyses of your success. Looking at search engine referrals and the keywords that led to visits within your website analytics can help you gain a better understanding about just how your audience found you and help you find tune your efforts to better reach your goals.

10) Be Patient

If you take all of the above steps, and don’t immediately see results, don’t despair. Experts estimate that successful search engine optimization takes between 4 and 6 months to take hold. Be patient, and watch your keyword-based visits improve over time.

If the results begin to occur within this timeframe, you know that your keyword research has paid off. A strategic approach, using the above tips and tricks, can turn the process from a headache into a reliable traffic generator for your online presence. The result is a successful search engine optimization strategy that will help your website and business grow reliably over time.

Bonus List – Save these Keyword tools

Here is a list with links of some of our favorite tools out as of this time. Please leave any of your favorites in the comments below.

improve-keyword-research-google-trends.pngGoogle Trends -Search Engine Database
The latest trends, data and visualizations from Google.

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Google Keyword Planner -Research Tool
Keyword Planner is a Google AdWords tool that helps you build Search Network campaigns by finding keyword ideas and estimating how they may perform.

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Google Auto-Complete -Google Search Suggestions
Find information faster by looking at search predictions. Search predictions are possible search terms you can use that are related to the terms you’re typing and what other people are searching for.

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Bing Trends -Bings Search Database
Trends and Top searches from Bing

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Bing Keyword Research -Research Tool
Use the Bing Keyword Research tool to get keyword ideas and suggestions for your content.

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Keyword Tool – Research Tool
Keyword Tool Helps You Find The Keywords That People Are Typing Into Google Search Box

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SEO Book Keyword Desity Analyzer – Find the most common words and phrases on a page
Free tool to help you find the most common words and phrases on a page.

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Ubersuggest – Research Tool
Get tons of keyword ideas for free with Übersuggest: suggest on steroids!

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SEM Rush – Complete online marketing tool
SEMrush is a powerful and versatile competitive intelligence suite for online marketing, from SEO and PPC to social media and video advertising research.

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Term Explorer -Relevant keywords & competitive data
Find Profitable Keywords. TermExplorer delivers a high volume of relevant keywords & most actionable competitive data available.

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KW- Finder -Find long tail keywords with low SEO competition
Find hundreds of hidden keywords with low SEO difficulty in seconds. KW Finder is your premier keyword research tool, try it out for free!

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Spy Fu – Download Competitors keywords
Download Your Competitors’ Most Profitable Keywords and Ads For Paid and Organic Search.

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Keyword Spy – Download Competitors keywords
FREE SEO & PPC Keyword Research software tool, that unveil your competitors’ most profitable Ad copies & keywords. Learn from time-tested Ad campaigns.