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Keyword research: A complete guide for beginners

It’s essential for any search strategy, no question. We explain how keyword research works, why it matters, and which tools to use.

Search engine optimization (SEO) today goes far beyond keywords, and copy/pasting them into your webpage. However, driving highly-relevant search traffic still requires excellent content that's targeted to the right keywords. So in this guide, we'll explain what matters when doing keyword research. Let's go.


What are keywords?

Keywords are the words (or strings of words) that are entered into a search engine, to find something on the Internet.

Let's say you have a hair salon in London. So if someone is looking for a hairdresser in this area and searches for "hairdressers London", the chances are good that he will (eventually) find you with this search query.

The search engine then begins to find suitable results on the Internet using its search algorithms, comparing the search query and the index with each other.

Fig. 1: Google search results for the keyword "hairdressers london"

Shortly after the user has started the search by pressing the 'Enter' key, the results are displayed. Only a few split seconds pass between pressing the 'Enter' key, the search engine algorithm processing the query, and delivery of the search engine results page (SERP).

Keywords therefore primarily serve to establish a connection between searchers and the web content they are looking for. In order for website operators to rank top with their content in Google search results, they need to use the appropriate terms on their website (there is more to it than just that, however).

In the past, it was sufficient to integrate the selected keywords in sufficient quantity into websites or texts. Today, search algorithms from Google and the rest are much smarter – keywords should therefore be placed as naturally as possible and fit into the content in such a way that user-friendly, helpful content is created.

This makes researching highly relevant keywords for your website all the more important.

What does keyword research mean?

Keyword research (also known as keyword analysis) refers to the search for keywords that can be used to optimize your website. The goal is to rank better in the search results and therefore achieve more relevant traffic or sales.

So it's not just about collecting as many keyword ideas as possible. As a website owner, SEO manager or content creator, you should first and foremost understand the search intent behind each keyword in order to select the appropriate terms for your content.

While the example "hairdresser London" described above is already quite clear, it's more complex with other keywords. For example, if you enter the term "cat" in the search field, it can mean many things. It might mean:

  • You are simply interested in cats

  • You want to buy a cat and are looking for information

  • You are interested in seeing the musical, ‘Cats’

  • You are interested in books about cats

Fig. 2: Different Google search suggestions for the keyword "cats"

In order to be found not only as often as possible, but also by the right users (who are actually interested in your offers), you should always evaluate keyword ideas with regard to the search intent behind them.

In the example above, it makes sense to use specific keywords on your pages, depending on whether your pet shop offers cats for sale, or whether you want to present the ultimate tips on cat keeping on your pet blog. Or sell tickets to Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals.

Why is keyword research important?

Finding keywords is of great importance for businesses who wish to make their website content as relevant as possible for their target audience.

Let's say you sell inflatable boats. To be found, you need to adapt your SEO and website content to your offer. The following questions may occur:

  • What kind of inflatable boats do you sell (with or without a motor, for kids, ocean-going, etc.)?

  • What are users looking for when they search for inflatable boats that match your offer?

  • Who are the other sellers that are displayed when certain keywords are entered?

  • How exactly can these keywords be used? (See more info on “longtail keywords” below).

You also need to know what it is exactly that your target audience is looking for. Are they looking for "buy inflatable boat", "rent inflatable boat", "inflatable boat cheap" or maybe "inflatable boat for kids"?

Related search terms also play a role. Are users perhaps interested in "repair inflatable boat", searching for "sell inflatable boat" or for "inflatable boat with motor"? And if so, are these terms relevant to your website and your offer?

How does keyword research work?

A keyword research can be divided into three important steps, which we'll now take a look at together:

  1. Situation analysis: Check existing keywords

  2. Keyword gathering: Research new ideas

  3. Keyword selection: Understand and classify them by search intent

Let’s look at each of these steps in turn.

  1. Situation analysis: Check existing keywords

Before you start searching for new terms and topics for your website, you should check for which keywords your pages are already found in organic search, and whether you can further optimize your content for these and similar terms.

The best way to do this is to use Google Search Console or a keyword tool that uses real Google data, like Ryte Search Engine Optimization.

Fig. 3: Existing keyword rankings can be displayed in Google Search Console

Looking at your existing keyword rankings, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your focus keywords?

  • Do the keywords listed match the products/services/content you offer?

  • How relevant are the existing keywords for your offer and your USP?

  • Do you rank for important keywords with the matching pages of your website?

  • Are searchers likely to find the solution to their search query for the keywords on your website?

  • Are there important terms for which you do not yet ran, or for which you would like to improve your ranking?

  • Based on the keywords listed, are there similar terms that you would also like to rank for?

Let's look at the analysis of existing keywords based on the inflatable boat we just mentioned. We'll pay attention to the following existing keywords:

buy inflatable boat, inflatable boat with motor, inflatable boat test, inflatable boat 6 people, fishing inflatable boats, air pump inflatable boat

There are a number of other keywords that match the inflatable boat and for which your hypothetical inflatable boat website could rank. However, let's limit ourselves to a few in order to clarify the principle.

First of all, you have to check which of these keywords are important for you. Do you offer inflatable boats with motor? Do you also sell fishing inflatables? If so, will the right page of your website be displayed for these search terms, or a less suitable content?

Tip: You can easily monitor your ranking pages and keywords with Ryte Search Engine Optimization. In the "Page Performance" report, you can see how many impressions (i.e. servings in the Google search results) and clicks you have achieved so far for individual pages, and you can expand the whole thing for each page to the keyword level:

Fig. 4: The Ryte "Page Performance" report shows the search performance on page and keyword level

Based on this, you can search for similar keywords with which you can supplement your content:

You can find related keywords, for example, with Google Suggest, Google's autocomplete function, the principle of which you surely know. When you enter a keyword in the search field, Google suggests further combinations. These are based on previous searches by users and therefore already tell you quite a lot. This way you can derive keywords that are related to the main keyword.

Another way to find similar keywords is to use the Ryte Content Editor. Based on your main keyword for a page, it provides you with recommendations for terms that you can incorporate into your existing text to rank better in Google search.

Fig. 5: Ryte's Content Editor provides suggestions for related keywords based on WDF*IDF and top ranking websites

2. Keyword gathering: Research new ideas

The next step is to gather new ideas for keywords. For this, there are plenty of keyword tools that are just treasure troves of new keyword ideas and variations of existing or known terms. You can find a list of helpful keyword tools further down in this post.

Additionally, your colleagues in the sales or customer support team, or as already mentioned, Google's Auto Suggest function are all useful sources to collect new topics and relevant keywords for your website. If available, be sure to check out the comments on your own website (users are often excellent tipsters) and research marketplaces, discussion forums or advice sites.

Also, don't neglect to look at your competition. Using direct competitors or the websites ranking in the SERPs, you can certainly find content and keywords that are also relevant for your website.

Fig. 6: A look at the SERPs and the already ranking websites provides you with inspiration for your content

But be careful – simply adopting the competitors' approach does not make sense. Despite possible parallels, your goal should be to stand out from your competitors and make your USP clear with your content.

Generally speaking, even when researching new keyword ideas, the identification of the keywords that are relevant to your product is paramount. In the inflatable boat example, keyword tools or other sources may suggest "inflatable boats for kids" as a related keyword, but if you don't offer them on your website and don't have any other relevant information on this topic, the term obviously makes no sense.

If, on the other hand, you have great inflatable boats with motors on offer, do some research to find out which terms might specifically fit, for example: "inflatable boat with powerful motor" or "motor inflatable boat offer".

3. Keyword selection: Understand and classify by search intent

The third step is to better understand the terms on your keyword list based on their characteristics and to classify them accordingly. Different keyword types and the underlying search intent as well as aspects such as search volume and conversion probability are crucial.

A first categorization of your keywords results from their length:

  • Head and short-tail keywords: These keywords have a high search volume, but are rather general (like in the example “cats” above), and they lead to a rather low conversion rate.

  • Midtail keywords: Here we find a medium search volume, which is more specific and leads to an average conversion rate.

  • Longtail keywords: The search volume is low and very specific, the conversion rate is high.

To estimate the importance of the keywords, the following questions are also important:

  • Search volume: How often is the term used in search queries?

  • Competition: Is there already strong content from other providers for this search term?

  • Click potential: How is the potential of clicks in organic results influenced by SERP features, for example Google Featured Snippets?

  • User intent: What benefit do users want to achieve through their search?

  • Conversion potential: How many users arrive on the page via a specific keyword and subsequently become paying customers?

  • Customer journey: When does the user enter the actual buying process?

Google's Keyword Planner is a great help here. There you can find information about the frequency of search queries (search volume), the competition factor and the changes over the last months/years. You'll need to sign up for an ad account, but you don't need to spend a penny to use it.

Finding your focus keywords

As already mentioned, search intent plays an important role in keyword research. It decides whether a user is searching the Internet with the intention of making a purchase or for other reasons, for example because he merely wants to find out more about a topic. However, the boundaries are fluid, because a pure need for information can subsequently lead to a purchase.

When researching keywords and creating content, you should always be aware of the goal you want to achieve on your pages and check what the appropriate content and keywords are for this.

For this, it is worth taking a look at the AIDA model, which describes the different stages of the sales process. Although it originated in advertising, it can easily be transferred to search engine optimization and keywords. AIDA is an abbreviation and stands for:

  • Attention: The first thing to do here is to generate attention.

  • Interest: The next step is to create a concrete interest.

  • Desire: The (potential) customer is convinced that the product has a benefit for him that is so great that he wants it.

  • Action: In order for the customer to act (i.e., to buy), he needs instructions that make the process seem as easy as possible to implement.

Fig. 7: The AIDA funnel

Accordingly, keywords can be differentiated as follows:

Informational keywords

With these keywords, users are either still far away from a purchase or do not pursue this intention at all. They want to learn more about a topic or find out more about the search term used, which is often indicated by question words such as "what is", "why", and so on.

While informational keywords rarely lead directly to a purchase, this may well change at a later date when your website is again thought of in connection with a purchase intention.

Navigational keywords

In this case, users search specifically for a brand, product, or company whose website they want to visit. Examples of this are searches for "Nike shop" or "Ryte website".

This search behavior indicates a fairly high level of interest and possibly a willingness to buy.

Commercial keywords

Users using these keywords are clearly in a buying mood. They already know that they want something and also what they want to have. They are only undecided about who to buy it from. You can see this above all in additional search terms such as size, color, price, ratings, etc.

It is clear to the user that a need is to be satisfied, so in their mind they already see themselves with the selected product. These users are looking for specific information and to this end go to the relevant sites, read through product comparisons, testimonials and look for positive reviews for the product of their choice.

If they come across your website during their wanderings through the web, you can influence the purchase decision and possibly win the visitor as a customer.

Transactional keywords

The user is now "out of the loop", they have made their decision to buy and are eager to get the deal done as quickly, as easily or as cheaply as possible. Transactional search queries can be recognized by keywords like "buy", "order online" "cheap" etc.

If you are really good at this, the chances for sales are excellent. However, there is still a risk: if your website lacks user-friendliness, the visitor will quickly buy somewhere else. In addition to the clarity of your site, the user's purchase intention must be satisfied quickly and easily.

Cumbersome processes or unclear communication, lack of clarity or even limited functionalities will turn a guaranteed customer into a "bounce", where they quickly leave, never to return.

Further classification of keywords

Keywords can be further classified beyond search intent. Three categories are particularly interesting for your keyword research:

Money keywords: These are not always associated with an intention to buy, but are primarily characterized by a high search volume or demand, and thus usually by high competition. In the case of commercial sites, these are, for example, search queries such as "buy pants" or "car lease offers". In the case of non-commercial sites, "Hiking Black Forest" could be a money keyword.

Brand keywords: As the name suggests, Brand Keywords are those that relate to a brand. They include brands such as "Microsoft" or "Nike".

Compound keywords: These are keywords with a combination of two user intentions. In addition to the interest in buying, for example, a certain brand is favored. Keywords in this category can be, for example, "buy Nike shoes" or "Windows 10 cheap".

Leveraging long-tail keywords

As already indicated above, there is another keyword distinction: long-tail keywords and short-tail keywords.

  • Short-tail keywords: This refers to short and concise keyword phrases, such as “buy a car” or “sugar-free lemonade”. These types of keywords usually have a very high monthly search volume.

  • Long-tail keywords: These are much more complex search queries such as “store jam properly” or “hats from Cuba and Mexico”. The monthly search volume is significantly lower for these keywords.

Naturally, competition for short-tail keywords is very high, and even if you can generate traffic with them, sales rarely follow, due to this high competition and the low specificity of the search.

It's nice for the ego if you get good traffic with the keyword "cats". But it doesn't necessarily generate sales. Moreover, assuming you sell a special food tailored to cats with digestive difficulties, you won't achieve much with the search term "cats" alone.

So your long-tail keyword is "food for cats with digestive problems" or "cat food for cats with digestive problems". This keyword has a rather low number of queries, but when they come, you're the one to go for.

Tools for keyword research

As you have seen, searching for the right keywords is a complex matter. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools available to help you, some of which are even free of charge. Here is an overview of useful keyword tools:

Tool Function Cost
Answerthepublic Multi-word combinations, create matching questions and long-tail combinations. Free of charge for up to three uses per day.
Google Search Console Check rankings and clicks of existing pages. Free.
Google Ads Keyword Planer Review search volume, look at competition and determine cost of GoogleAds. Free.
Ryte Content Editor Matching short and long-tail keyword recommendations for your chosen main keyword, based on WDF*IDF and top ranking websites. Free of charge in the 360° Ryte Trial; afterwards depending on the package.
Keywordtool.io Allows suggestions for secondary keywords, term combinations and W-questions according to Google’s autocomplete function. Additional query of search volume on Amazon, YouTube and the App Store. Partially free, full functionality in paid Premiere package.
Keywordmixer Helps combine keywords with longer search queries (long-tails). Free.
Google Trends For analyzing differences and trends between search clusters. Also suitable for YouTube analyses. No indication of absolute search volumes. Free.
BuzzsumoDisplays information about such social media content that has been successfully shared in recent months. Helpful for social media work to create suitable stories with appropriate keywords. Basic functions are free of charge, additional functions are only available in the paid version.
Similarweb Keyword Research Market intelligence solution for identifying benchmark values of websites. Comparing your own website with the competition and showing who can be found where on Google. Basic functions are free of charge, additional functions are only available in the paid version.
Searchintent Visualizes search paths to shed light on topics in detail and shows what else people are searching for related to a main content. Free.
W-Fragen-Tool Provides the ability to find out users’ W-questions (“where”, “what”, “when” etc). Free.
AlsoaskedComparable to the W-Questions tool, but international in scope and with language selection available. Free.

Conclusion: Keyword research pays off

We hope this guide will help you find the right keywords for your website and create great content for your target audience based on them.

Of course, this is not an easy task and it will take some time. For a comprehensive keyword research you should allow two to four working days. As discussed, start by analyzing your already ranking keywords, then gather new keyword ideas and categorize or refine your keyword list according to your goals and the search engine users' intent.

And don't forget: The world of SEO is constantly evolving and the interests and needs of your visitors can change over time. So you should always keep yourself informed and update your keyword research regularly so that you can incorporate current developments into your work.

It's worth the effort, we promise – if everything goes well, you'll be rewarded for your efforts with unique content and excellent SEO performance.

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Published on Mar 25, 2022 by Editorial Team