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How to Choose Keywords for SEO

Selecting the right keywords is crucial for a successful SEO strategy. A relevant primary keyword and supporting secondary keywords help create content that attracts your target audience, resulting in valuable and qualified organic traffic. About 51% of shoppers use Google to research a product before purchasing, so choosing the wrong keywords can prevent your content from reaching the intended audience.

Keywords are like clues on a treasure map. Each keyword is a step closer to your desired outcome: to help your potential audience find your products, information or the solution they seek.

It's essential to understand how to choose SEO keywords for your website. This involves researching and identifying relevant and high-traffic keywords, analysing the competition, and optimising your website content. By doing so, you can improve your website’s search engine ranking and attract more qualified traffic from search queries.

So, how do you choose the right keywords for SEO, and what do you do once you find them?

Read on to understand how to choose SEO keywords for your website.

What are Keywords and why are They Important?

Keywords are words or phrases people use to find specific information online. They also help search engines understand the purpose and relevance of your content.

You should incorporate keywords that align with the user intent to make your website discoverable in the search engine results to attract qualified traffic.

Using well-researched primary and secondary keywords in your content helps you answer your audience's queries, leading to more engagement and authority within your niche, and better search rankings.

Whether looking for organic ranking, paid advertising or content re-optimisation, an effective keyword research strategy is the key to your success. It will shape how users find, interact, and engage with your content.

Metrics to Consider When Doing Keyword Research

Which are the best keywords to target? How do you determine valuable keywords? The answers to these questions lie in how you understand keyword metrics.

You need to look at different metrics to know whether a keyword is relevant enough to help you beat your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) competitors.

To choose the best keywords, here are metrics that should be at your fingertips:

Search Volume

This metric will help you know how often a target keyword is searched for on search engines within a specific time. Keywords with high search volume show high user interest, meaning more competition, making them hard to rank for. On the other hand, keywords with low search volume indicate low user interest and, therefore, less competition. This makes it easier to rank for these keywords.

Keyword Difficulty

This metric helps gauge how hard it is to rank for a particular keyword. Keywords with a high keyword difficulty take a lot of work to rank for. These can be seen in keywords with high competition.

Analyzing Keyword Difficulty in Keyword Research
Understanding Keyword Metrics for Successful Research

Click-through rate (CTR)

CTR is the percentage of users who click on your URL after seeing it on the SERPs. If a keyword is relevant to the user intent, it has a high CTR. On the other hand, a keyword with a low CTR doesn't satisfy user intent.

Cost Per Click (CPC)

Cost per click metric shows how much advertisers are willing to pay per click for a keyword when running an ad. This metric provides the commercial intent of a keyword. Keywords with a high CPC indicate that advertisers are willing to invest significantly to display their ads when users search for that keyword. These keywords are believed to have a high monetary value, and advertisers believe they have a high return on investment, thus justifying their high cost per click.

Keyword Relevance

This metric shows how a keyword aligns with your content, products or services. Choosing a relevant keyword means your website will be visible to the right audience.

How to Choose SEO Keywords for Your Website

Keyword research is essential for guiding content strategy and reaching the intended audience effectively, similar to how a horse leads a cart in the right direction.

Here are steps to use to do a thorough and effective keyword research:

1. Understand your Audience

For your SEO strategy to work, you must understand your target audience, what they are looking for and how to solve their problems. Knowing your audience should be the cornerstone of your SEO content marketing strategy and should help you choose relevant keywords.

2. Brainstorm Topics Relevant to Your Business

You should brainstorm topics that are directly relevant to your business. These topics are the foundation on which your keywords strategy will be built.

Develop topics that align with your industry, products and services to lay the groundwork for a keyword strategy that resonates with your target audience.

When you identify the core themes that define your business, you can write content that answers your target audience's questions and cover your content completely without overlooking anything.

Now that you have the main topics in mind use a keyword research tool like Moz, Ahrefs and SEMrush to generate new keyword ideas and develop the list of keywords.

For example, if your main topic is “quality pet food”, here are some generated keywords.

Using a keyword tool to generate keywords for SEO
Generate keywords with a keyword research tool

Repeat this process with all the topics ideas you come up with. This will help you come up with a consolidated list of keywords that are related to your business and have the potential to attract qualified traffic.

If you have a direct or an aspirational competitor, you can also use a keyword research tool to do a competitor analysis. Enter your competitor's website into the tool, and you will quickly see what terms they are ranking for (and maybe even find some that you can target to beat them in search rankings!).

3. Identify Keywords that Have the Potential to Drive Website Traffic

After identifying your potential keywords, choose terms that have the potential to help you reach your target audience by analysing their search volume and keyword difficulty.

There are a few types of keywords you can consider. First, choose a primary keyword (or main keyword) that you'd like each web page to rank for. This will usually be a keyword with a high search volume. After choosing a primary keyword, choose a couple of secondary keywords that support the primary keyword. Secondary keywords expand the primary keyword into subtopics and can target different sales funnel stages. For example, if you have a website about champagne, your primary keyword might be "champagne." Your secondary keywords could be something like "types of champagne", "best champagne for cheese", or "types of champagne grapes."

In your keyword research strategy, you also need to balance long-tail and short-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords are four words or more, are low volume, more specific and the best to target. Short-tail keywords are two words or less, have a broad focus, and are competitive and challenging to rank for.

For example, “dry food for big dogs” is a long-tail keyword and “dog food” is a short-tail keyword.

When using these terms in your content, avoid keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is when content writers unnaturally and excessively insert target words and phrases into blog posts and other web copy to trick search engines into ranking the page's content. This can result in a penalty and is annoying to your website visitors.

Check how often your keywords are used in relation to the other words in your blog post. Semrush calculates keyword density by dividing the number of uses of the target keyword by the total word count. Times that by 100 to get a percentage, called keyword density.

As a guide, try to use only one to two keywords for every 100 words of copy, making the ideal keyword density around 1 or 2 percent based on the Semrush formula. There are also many keyword density checker tools online that you can use to calculate keyword frequency for you.

4. Understand the Search Intent

Understanding the user intent is like encoding your audience's desires. Doing keyword research is not just using SEO tools to search for keywords to use on your content but finding keywords that delve behind the motives of your audience.

What is the motive behind your audience's query on Google? Are they looking for information, seeking solutions or ready to purchase? By understanding the intent, you can search for keywords that speak to your audience.

With this in mind, you can relate keyword intent to casting a wide net for any fish and a finely woven net for specific fish. For example, if a user searches for “Nike running shoes”, they are in the buying phase, while if they type “how to tie running shoes”, they are in the learning phase.

Your goal should be aligning your keyword research with the buyer's journey and giving them sufficient information regardless of where they are in the sales funnel.

Here are the four types of User Intent:

Informational Intent

Here, users seek answers or general information about a particular topic. They are not looking to make a purchase but are seeking valuable information that addresses their queries and enhances their understanding. The screenshot below shows a keyword with an informational intent, "how to tie a shoe lace." If you have content that is informational, you may want to model the structure of your content similar to how it appears at the top of search result pages for the keyword you've targeted and related results.

Keyword research for informational SEO intent
Image showing a Keyword with Informational intent

Navigational Intent

This search intent occurs when users search for specific content types and want to access a particular website or page directly. In the screenshot below you can see a keyword with navigational intent. The user in this example is looking for a specific project management tool.

Keyword research for navigational SEO intent
Image showing a keyword with a navigational intent

Commercial Intent

This is a type of search intent where users want to make a purchase or transaction. For example, a user might be searching for “best phone deals” or “buy mobile phone 13 online.”

The screenshot below shows what a commercial intent looks like on the SERPs. The user has already made a decision to buy and is now shopping around for the best deal.

Keyword research for commercial SEO intent
An image showing keyword with a commercial intent

Transactional Intent

This type of search intent occurs when users want to complete a specific task or an online transaction. They may be looking to make a reservation, sign up for a service, subscribe to a newsletter or download a file. Here is how a transactional search intent looks like on the SERPs. Note the phrasing of the search "book a hotel in [location]" shows that the person is ready to buy.

Keyword research for transactional SEO intent
Image showing a keyword with a trasactional intent

5. Consider Google Suggestions

You can also use Google’s suggestions directly on the SERPs to find relevant keywords for your content.

Here are three Google features you can use to find new keyword ideas:

Google autocomplete

When searching for a query, you may have noticed that Google tries to suggest related searches directly on the search bar. These results are based on searches made by other people and are an excellent inspiration for interesting and relevant keywords.

The screenshot below shows keyword suggestions for the keyword “email marketing.”

Using Google autocomplete for keyword research
Image showing how to use Google autocomplete for keyword research

People Also Ask

People Also Ask is a feature on Google that highlights questions users ask when making a query and is accompanied by a concise answer extracted from websites answering that question. These questions can serve as long-tail keywords in your content.

Illustration of keyword idea generation through Google's 'People Also Asked' section
Image showing how to generate keyword ideas using Google's People Also Asked section

Related searches

This feature appears at the bottom of the results page and can give great keyword suggestions for your keyword research strategy.

Generating SEO keywords using Google's 'Searched related to' feature
Image showing how to generate SEO keywords using Google's "Searched related to"

Wrap Up

Now that you have a strong understanding of keyword research and the work it takes to do it well, you have hopefully learned that it's more than just randomly picking and using words on your website. Keywords are more of a speaking language on the internet that helps users and search engines find your content online for different search queries.

When you understand what people are looking for and use keyword optimisation - without keyword stuffing - you will guide potential customers to your content, bringing valuable organic search traffic to your site.

Grab our free downloadable keyword mapping template to help you in your keyword research process.

Download The SEO WTF keyword research checklist under the image below or or visit our blog for more resources.

Keyword research checklist
Image showing a checlist for keyword research

SEO WTF - SEO Keyword Research Checklist
Download PDF • 27KB


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