How to Choose Keywords for SEO: A Beginner’s Guide to Keyword Research

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Want to know how to choose keywords for SEO? 

Keyword research is important to search engine optimization because it is the way to understand what potential visitors want. Before you start creating content, you need a strategy that is developed based on what will bring organic traffic

Failure to understand what users care about will not bring the results you want.

Do it wrongly, and your website will not rank or will rank for keywords that don’t matter to your business. 

In this guide, you will learn one crucial that will bring more traffic to your website.

Let’s begin.

What’s Keyword Research 

Keyword research is an aspect of Search Engine Optimization that focuses on knowing what terms your prospective buyers are using in their search queries. It involves the development of an SEO content strategy out of the search data collected from search engines. 

These are the key steps in Keyword research

  • Understanding the terms people use in their queries (exact keywords/ queries)
  • Knowing what queries are difficult to rank for (ranking difficulty)
  • Knowing the queries that are easy to rank for (Long-tail keywords)
  • Developing a strategy that works for your business

Why Keyword Research Is Important 

In SEO (and marketing generally), you need to know your target audience. 

They are the price, after all, and one of the ways to understand them is to know

  • What they want to see
  • The problems they’re trying to solve 
  • Their search patterns 

This information will let you make better decisions and enhance your SEO plan.

Tools for Keywords Research 

I have talked about blogging tools in a previous blog post, but for this article, these are the tools we will be referring to: 

  1. Ahref
  2. Ubersuggest 
  3. Moz 
  4. SEMrush 
  5. Google keyword planner
  6. Keyword.io 
  7. Google search console
  8. Google search pages 
  9. Keywords Everywhere 
  10. KWfinder 

SEO Terms for beginners

Let’s understand some of the terms so that you have a smooth reading experience. You don’t look around confused anytime these terms pop up.

Search intent 

Search intent is the reason behind a search query. It answers the question, “why is this person searching for this term.” For example, someone who searches for “best restaurant in Lagos” is likely looking for names and reviews of restaurants.

Short-tail keywords 

Short-tail keywords contain about one to three words. Examples include “blogging,” “crypto key phrase,” or “best cakes.” It will be hard for a website that doesn’t have authority to rank for these keywords. Moreover, their search intents can be difficult to determine.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords often contain more than three words. Examples are “importance and benefits of good skincare” or “where can I buy Iphones in Lagos?” The most important thing to know about Long-tail keywords is that they are specific and have a clearer search intent.

Keyword volume 

It is the number of times people search for a term per month.

Keyword difficulty 

It is the calculated difficulty for a website to rank for a particular keyword. It is measured between 1 and 100: the higher the KD, the more difficult it is to rank in search results.

Topic cluster

A topic cluster is a broad topic that is related to many other topics. For instance, if you write about the “history of Greece,” this topic can expand to specific topics such as the “Byzantine period,” “Roman period,” or “The greatest Greek philosophers.” Of course, you don’t want to cover all these other topics on one page. Instead, use a new page and link the current one to them.

Pillar page

The main page of the topic cluster. 

You might want to read SEO demystified in 5 minutes to understand the concept of Search Engine Optimization. I covered what you need to know about Google Algorithm and how Google collects and organizes data about websites.

Now, let’s get to today’s business.

How to Choose Keywords for SEO:

The best keywords for SEO are those that deliver the result you want at the end of the day.

If you’re going to build a website that gains 10,000 visitors per month, develop a strategy that achieves that. If you achieve your goal, it doesn’t matter what people say. 

First, you really need to be clear about what you want to achieve. Attracting the right audience is more important than the number of visitors. 100 people interested in your product or service is a greater goal than inviting 10,000 people who won’t buy your product or services.

The Importance of Choosing Relevant Keywords

So, you need to focus on the relevance of the keywords to the product you are selling. 

The keyword “how to solve labor shortage problem” is more relevant to a brand that offers recruitment services. This same firm won’t help their business if they focus on terms such as “how to bake a cake.”  

In that regard, I have divided this process into three phases:

  • Collecting relevant keywords
  • Selecting keywords with low or medium difficulty
  • Grouping topics into the stages of marketing/Developing a topic cluster

PART 1: Collecting relevant keywords

In this section, we will look at your product or service and try to understand it. 

People are searching for questions and queries about what you are selling. Your job here is to find these people and understand the things they want to know. This is how to choose keywords for SEO.

Step 1: Know where you stand. 

The first thing you need to know about choosing the best keyword is knowing where you stand.

Do you own a new website? You can simply skip to the next step in this article. 

If you have a website that has been here for some time, you need to know where you stand. 

You probably have been creating content for some time, and all you need is an improvement.

Where are you, where do you want to go, and what do you need to do? 

In SEO, this is called a site audit, and it involves the following substeps: 

  • Understand your site’s technical strength. Is your site optimized for both mobile and desktop users? Use tools like Google search console, Ahref, and Google analytics. You can use this video from Google or this one from Ahref to understand what to do.
  • Check the topic you have covered. What do you need to improve? Use tools like Ahref, SEMrush, Moz, and Ubersuggest. Any of these tools will suggest what you need to improve. 
  • Learn from your competitor. Again, use SEO tools to learn what your competitors are doing well. What’s bringing them results? With the data you get, you should have a fair idea of things to put in mind. 

Step 2: Understand your product

As a service provider, what’s your job about? 

I am an SEO content writer. 

What about you? Ask yourself, what do I do every day? What problems do I solve for people? Then, pick a pen and paper and start writing. 

Again, as an SEO content writer, I help businesses create written content that brings more traffic to their websites. But that’s too broad. So let’s be more specific here. 

As an SEO content writer, I help with

  • SEO writing 
  • Content creation 
  • Growing traffic 
  • Content tone
  • Search intent 
  • Developing content strategy
  • topic cluster 

What do you do?

Let’s say you sell toys. Then, when you pick your pen and paper, you write things you do for people. 

  • Sell baby toys
  • Help people choose the best toys
  • Teach kids how to use toys

If you are unsure of how to perform this exercise, think about a typical day. What activities are involved in your office or the workplace? Write those down.

If you have products, follow the same steps. What does your product do for people? Then, start writing (short-tail keywords) around that.

Step 3: Who is your audience? 

This step might sound confusing because one of the aims of reading how to choose keywords for SEO is to “know your audience.” 

It is the reason why you are here. So it can be confusing a bit, but let me explain. 

Use another approach to understand your audience by answering these questions:

Who are your typical buyers? What do they look like? What kind of job do they do?

Let’s use my services again. As an SEO content writer, my ideal audience is people who own an online business. These include business managers, startup founders, marketing executes, website owners, and bloggers.

If you manage a Fintech company, you help people manage their finances better. Your audience is salary earners, investors, and business owners. I apologize for my choice of words here — your company probably helps people who suck at managing their income.

If you are a veterinary doctor, your audience is pet owners.

Go where you can find these people

Where do they hang out? 

Social media.

Next question: 

What do they complain about?

What problems are they facing? 

Find The Problem Your Buyer Are Facing

You can find answers using all of the methods below. Write your answers down. 

  • Ask them directly. If you sell toys, you can ask your customers what problems they face when they want to buy toys. What do they wish to happen differently? If you manage a Fintech company, ask your ideal audience what they want to learn. 
  • Dive into research journals to find science-backed discoveries about your audience. You can subscribe to marketing newsletters like Hubspot.com. They usually provide insights into marketing trends.

Check Forums

  • Go to Reddit and Quora and visit communities related to your company. For instance, if you own a startup and your ideal buyers are marketers. Visit communities like r/marketers. What are the questions people are asking? 
  • Note: be careful when checking communities. Focus more on communities where your buyers visit, more than communities where your competitors hang out. If you sell children’s toys, a community titled “retail” looks like a perfect place to be. Sadly, it is filled with your competitors. The best place to be are communities related to “mothers,” “pregnant women,” “new mums,” and “children.” 
  • Search for the problems online. Think of a problem your buyer has and search for it. Check the headlines that come up. Write all of them down.
  • Scroll down and see the related questions. Write those down or type them into a spreadsheet.

These are likely keywords to choose for SEO, but we have to know where you stand.

Step 3: competitor Analysis

This step is the most straightforward way to find keywords without stress. If you’re starting out your SEO plan for the first time and have the tool, you can skip all other steps and focus on this one. 

Competitor analysis: 

  • Find websites that offer similar services to yours. Write down their links.
  • Pay for premium tools like Moz, Semrush, Ahref, Ubersuggest
  • Input the website link of your competitors.
  • Check what keywords this website is ranking for. 
  • You will find keywords they’re ranking for generally. What pages bring them the most visitors? What keywords do those pages rank for? 
  • Collect those keywords 
  • Type them into the tools again. It will bring a list of other long-tail keywords. 
  • Notice the difficulty and the volume
  • The best keywords have difficulty of less than 50 and a volume of above 100 or 200 per month. These aren’t standard. Don’t worry too much about the volume if you think the keyword will bring you the right visitors. Remember, 10 people interested in your product are better than 1000 who aren’t.
  • choose keywords for SEO by consciously considering your products, competitors, and business goals among other factors.
  • Finding your competitors: Maybe you are not sure whom you are competing with. Go to Google and search for the terms you have collected in Steps 2 and 3 above. Input the keywords related to problems you are trying to solve. Then, look at the websites that come up. They are your likeliest competitors.

I follow the steps above, inputting Neilpatel.com into Ubbersuggests.

The statistics about his website:

The articles or pages that bring the most traffic:

The keywords the website rank for:

PART 2: Picking keywords with less difficulty 

I’ve explained parts of this process in the section above. But here’s the recap. The point of this section is to pick “long-tail keywords” which your website can likely rank. The “short tail keywords” are more competitive and are favorable to websites with high authority and backlinks. 

You can know the difficulty of each keyword by using tools for keyword research.

Using Keyword tools of your choice 

  • Type in the keywords you have collected to this point. Do it one after another. 
  • Notice the long-tail keywords, their difficulty, and their volume. Choose a low difficulty and high volume. If the difficulty is more than 60, it won’t be easy to rank for that keyword.
  • Import these keywords into a spreadsheet
  • Collect as many of the long-tail and low-difficulty keywords as you can.

Using Google Keyword Planner

Sign up for Google Keyword planner. 

You can take your time to explore how it works, but let’s go straight to how to use it for keyword research. 

  • When you sign in, you will find two options: Discover new keywords or Get search volume and forecast. Choose the first.
  • Enter some of the keywords you have gathered in step one. You can include as many you want at a time. After typing a keyword, press ENTER and type the next. 
  • Select “Get result”.
  • You are now on a page showing all the keywords suggestions relating to your entry. 
  • You can download the data. 

Next, it is time to work with the data you have developed. 

Part 3: Grouping the topic into the three stages of marketing

According to Hubspot, there are three stages of a buyer’s journey. They are: 

Awareness stage: at this stage, the buyers don’t know much about their problem. So if you sell a product that solves skin issues, in your awareness stage of marketing, you create content about what skin issues are and the signs that you have skin issues. Educate the buyers on what they need to know.

Consideration stage: the buyers have understood the different problems. They have narrowed their queries down this time. In our example of a product that solves skin issues, here the buyers will search for terms like “how to treat acne.”

Decision stage: this is the buying stage. The buyer chooses a product for their use. In our example, this is the stage where the person goes online and searches for the “best acne treatment cream.”

The point of understanding how to choose keywords for SEO is that you focus on your buyers at all times.

So, let’s do it.

Group your keywords according to the buyer’s journey

Now that you understand the stages, follow the steps:

  • Open the spreadsheet you opened earlier.
  • Create a new file
  • Create new titles on the columns. Name them the Awareness stage, Consideration stage, and Decision stage.
  • Look at each of the keywords you have generated and move to the appropriate place.
  • Find the search intent first if you are unsure what category to put a keyword in. Then, type the keyword into search engines. Check the first link that shows up. What is it all about? You should know where to put that keyword in the appropriate buyer’s journey.

Develop Topic Cluster 

A topic cluster is creating pages or arranging content on your website to make it easy for search crawlers and users/buyers to navigate your website easily. 

One page leads to many other topics. It will be easy for a user to move from here to the next topic or something that interests me. 

Still confused about the topic cluster? 

Think of a keyword that will take you weeks or that will need 5 or more articles to cover in full. This topic can serve as your pillar page. Every other topic will be linked to this page. 

Finally, You Are Set

Now, you know how to choose keywords for SEO, and you have grouped them into categories. The next step is to start creating content around those keywords. 

Or course, this isn’t the end. When you start creating content, you will have to monitor your growth. Don’t hesitate to make changes based on things you notice. 

Use tools to check your website. You will find suggestions, tips, and data that would help you achieve your goal. 

Further Readings

Before you write a single piece of content, take your time to read 17 best practices for SEO content writing. For instance, you create blog posts or website content following the buyer’s journey. Start with “Awareness” and move down. The tips would helpful too when it’s time to choose keywords for SEO.

Do you want to write great content that covers readers to buyers? Then, you should read one blog post per day from 10 Phenomenal blog posts that will teach you how to become a better writer.

If you need help with any of the things in this post, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I can help you develop SEO strategies, create content, or manage your website. Send a message here