If you’re new to blogging or digital marketing in general, then you’re probably wondering, “Why is keyword research important for SEO?”
The fact is that learning how to do keyword research is a fundamental SEO task that every blogger and digital marketer should know. By identifying popular words and phrases that people are actively looking for on search engines like Google, you can discover what they want to read and focus your content around those topics.
But understanding why keyword research is important is only half the battle. You also need to know to do keyword research well.
And that’s exactly why I wrote this post: to help you get a better grasp of the importance of keyword research and the steps necessary for selecting words and phrases that deliver positive results for your business.
Why Is Keyword Research Important for SEO?
Keyword research is important because it can reveal vital information to grow your business online. Keyword research can tell you what terms people are actively searching for, the competitiveness of those keywords, and help guide your content marketing plan to increase organic search visibility, rankings, and traffic.
Now that’s just the basic idea behind answering the question, “Why is keyword research important for SEO?”
Let’s now look at the finer details of what a keyword is, why keyword research is important, and how you can choose the right terms and phrases to target on your site.
What Is a Keyword?
A keyword is a term used in digital marketing to describe a word or a group of words that people type into a search engine to find information for. Keywords are important in SEO because it helps you narrow the focus of your content so it meets the needs of the searcher.
As Yoast explains it, “If you use the wrong keywords, you’ll never get the visitors you want or need, because your text doesn’t match what your potential audience is searching for. But if you do use the words people are searching for, your business can thrive. So if you see it like that, your keywords should reflect what your audience is searching for. With the wrong keywords, you’ll end up with the wrong audience, or none at all. That’s why having the right keywords is really important.”
What Is the Most Important Thing to Look For When Doing Keyword Research?
The most important thing to look for when doing keyword research is the monthly traffic volume and competitiveness for a target keyword. Not all keywords are worth optimizing for, so you should be looking for the important keywords that are easy to rank for your site.
What Are the Types of Keywords?
There are three types of keywords described by their length:
- Short tail keywords
- Middle tail keywords
- Long tail keywords
And according to SEOPressor, “Which type of keyword you want to use for your marketing is going to depend very much on the type of traffic that you want to drive to your site. As keywords get longer, search volume becomes lower. However, all other metrics such as conversion rates go in favor of long tail keywords.”
Below is an image by SEOPressor that sums up this quote visually:
Short Tail Keywords
Short tail keywords are between one to two words in length. These keywords have the highest search volume but also the largest competition. However, the conversion rate is the lowest because these keywords are not as targeted.
Short tail keywords are hard to rank for and it can take a lot of money and time to get to page one on Google for them. Therefore, it’s better to skip these types of keywords when doing your keyword research unless you’re doing search engine optimization for a large and well-established brand.
Middle Tail Keywords
Middle tail keywords are between three to four words in length. These keywords have moderate search volume and average competition. Conversion rates are modest too because these keywords are more targeted to the searcher.
Middle tail keywords are good to choose when doing keyword research because there are many untapped terms in the market. You can often find three to four-word terms that are easy to rank on the first page of Google for any business.
Long Tail Keywords
Long tail keywords contain five words or longer. These keywords have the lowest search volume but also the least competition. However, the conversion rate is the highest because these keywords are very focused on the searcher.
Long tail keywords are the best option to choose when doing keyword research for a new website or if you want more targeted sales. That’s because there are many hidden gems still available to optimize for.
Additionally, picking long tail keywords is a good way to improve your SEO fast to generate more traffic. Bigger brands often skip long tail keywords when doing keyword research because they don’t deem them to be important. Those companies would rather spend their time and money on the high search volume short tail, and medium tail keywords to an extent.
I also talk about this idea in my post on how can you improve your keyword search results.
So I always recommend that you target long tail keywords to get quick and easy wins for your site. I’m following my own advice on this page you’re reading right now for the term, “why is keyword research important for SEO”. That’s because I know it works.
How Do I Choose Keywords?
1. Think About Search Intent
The first step in choosing your keywords is to think about the search intent behind your visitors. And to do this, you need to consider the buyer’s journey.
As Hubspot explains it, the journey of a buyer consists of a three-step process:
- Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they have a problem.
- Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it.
- Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution.
A good website will have content that meets all three stages of the buyer’s journey. That way, you can capture people’s attention and traffic no matter what stage of the buying cycle they are in.
So spend some time thinking about ideas that meet the stage of the buyer’s journey you want to focus new content on. Then write down short tail and middle tail keyword ideas. In the next step, you’ll do keyword research to discover what the good options are for long tail keywords.
2. Do Keyword Research
The second step for how to choose keywords is to actually do the keyword research to narrow down your target terms. For this, you’ll need a keyword research tool to gather important data to make good decisions.
As I explain in my post on how to increase your SEO traffic in 30 days, there are many different options to choose from here; you can use a free tool or paid service.
I prefer KWFinder by Mangools (cheap and free to try with my affiliate link) and Semrush (also free to try with my affiliate link), but you can also use Ahrefs (paid), Keysearch (paid), Ubersuggest (free), or Google Keyword Planner (free).
After you pick a keyword tool to use, open it up and start searching for your short tail and middle tail keyword ideas. As you’re searching, long tail keyword ideas should start to pop up as well.
As I mentioned before, short tail keywords are too hard to target, so just use these terms as seed keywords in the tool to generate ideas for middle and long tail keywords.
Once you’re done searching for keywords, make a list of the terms and phrases that have a good amount of traffic. Aim for at least 10 searches per month for long tail keywords and 100 searches per month for middle tail keywords.
3. Analyze The Competition
When doing keyword research, it’s important to pay attention to the competition for your target keywords. If the competition is too high for a keyword, then you could be wasting your time trying to write and rank new content for it.
If you’re using a paid keyword research tool, then you can easily get the competition score for a term or phrase by looking at the appropriate field for this information.
For example, KWFinder has a column for KD (Keyword Difficulty) next to every keyword that ranges between 0-100. So you can instantly tell which terms or phrases are the easiest to target.
Now every keyword research tool is different in this respect, so I can’t give you exact advice here on which terms and phrases to choose based on the tool’s reported competition score. Instead, just look for the keywords that have the lowest scores for that field.
And remember, the longer the keyword phrase you choose, the less competition it tends to have.
4. Choose the Best Keywords
After you’ve done your keyword research and analyzed the competition, it’s time to choose the best keywords for you to focus on.
The previous two steps of the keyword research process are important so that you can easily pick the best ones to write new content for. So make your own choice here.
5. Map Keyword Clusters to One Page
Something you’ll notice when doing keyword research is that each tool will offer suggestions for related keywords.
This is important because some terms and phrases are so closely related that you don’t want to write a new piece of content for every variation.
For example, when I was doing keyword research for this page you’re reading right now, I discovered these three similar keywords:
- why keyword research is important
- why is keyword research important in SEO
- why is keyword research important for SEO
Now, it wouldn’t be smart for me to write three different articles that are focused only on those exact match phrases. That would result in duplicate content and keyword cannibalization, which is when more than one page on your site competes for the same set of keywords.
Instead, I clustered these three keywords together and used them on a single page.
You should also do the same thing during this stage of the keyword research process; cluster the closely related keywords to be used on one page.
Two to three keywords is a good general rule of thumb for how many keywords per page to focus on. For more tips on creating an entire cluster of pages for a particular topic, check out this pillar cluster content strategy guide.
6. Determine the Right Format for Your Keywords
Once you have your keyword clusters figured out, the final step in this process for how to choose keywords is to determine the right format for the content.
This can easily be done by searching for a few of your keywords in Google and taking note of the type of content that’s ranking on the first page of the search results. Your research will quickly tell you if the content will be best expressed with text, lists, graphs, tables, images, etc.
Google is literally giving you the answer here. So be sure to match the right format for your content to make it easier to rank for your target keywords. You’ll also want to take note of the content length. See this related article on the best word count for SEO so you know how long your content needs to be to rank on the search engine.
After you’ve done that, you’ll want to visit my guide on how to add keywords to a website for SEO rankings to get the most improvements from your content. Then you’ll want to read my post on how to check keyword position in Google so you can track your progress.
Do Keywords Still Matter for SEO?
Keywords do still matter for SEO. But today, it’s better to focus on good keyword placement over keyword frequency. For example, keywords still matter in the page title, URL, meta description, heading tags, page content, image descriptions, and filenames.
Moz explains how keywords matter in SEO like this, “Using your keywords in these areas is the most basic way to target your content to searches. It’s not going to immediately shoot you to the top of the results, but it is essential SEO; failing to take these basic steps can keep you from ranking by other means.”
I have to disagree with part of that statement because I have experienced instant keyword ranking boosts when optimizing a page for a specific set of keywords. Usually, this increase occurs the most with pages that are underoptimized for a target keyword but I have also had success with pages that are already ranking high for a certain term.
Doing the right on-page optimization can create a dramatic impact on the page’s organic search visibility, rankings, and traffic. If you’re new to the idea of on-page optimization, check out my post on on-page SEO vs off-page SEO which explains it all to you.
Summary for Why Keyword Research Is Important for SEO
I hope you enjoyed this guide on answering the question, “Why is keyword research important for SEO?”
As you discovered, the basic principle behind doing keyword research is to find out what people want to read about and focus your content around those topics. And depending on the stage of the buyer’s journey that a person is on, certain keywords are more appropriate to target.
You now know why keyword research is important in digital marketing and how it helps improve your SEO efforts. Hopefully, the information I gave you here has answered all of your questions about this subject and given you new ideas to streamline your keyword research process.