What is Keyword Research, and Why is it Important?
Keyword research is the process of identifying and analyzing search terms and phrases that people use to find online information.
Keyword research helps you understand your audience by providing insights into their interests, needs, and pain points. By identifying the keywords your target audience is using, you can create content tailored to their needs and interests.
Good keyword research helps you identify untapped opportunities and gaps in the market. By analyzing the keywords your competitors are targeting, you can identify new opportunities they may have overlooked, giving you a competitive advantage in your industry.
In this post, we’ll guide you on effectively doing keyword research. First, we provide a Google Sheet template. Once you get the hang of it, a complete keyword research will only take 5 minutes.
The Tools You Need for Keyword Research
Ahrefs (Our Tool of Choice):
Ahrefs is a powerful keyword research tool that provides excellent data on search volume, difficulty, domain rating, and other SEO metrics.
It offers keyword analysis features, including suggestions, related keywords, and competitor analysis, which can save time and effort.
Note that Ahrefs is one of the most expensive options. In addition, its recent pricing structure change means that Ahrefs now charges based on the number of rows returned, which could result in a significantly higher bill for users.
Therefore, users should be cautious while using Ahrefs to avoid overspending and opt for more cost-effective alternatives.
SEMRush (Excellent Alternative):
SEMRush is an excellent alternative to Ahrefs for keyword research or other SEO tasks. Its extensive database has various features similar to those offered by Ahrefs.
SEMRush’s pricing is also much more predictable and affordable, making it an excellent option for businesses.
UberSuggest (Least Expensive, but Lack of Features):
Ubersuggest is the least expensive option. While its database may not be as extensive as those tools, Ubersuggest provides valuable insights into keyword data and trends.
Ubersuggest’s key advantage is its affordability, with a lifetime deal available for a one-time payment (200$ for a Business Plan). This makes it a great option for businesses with limited budgets or those just starting with SEO.
Understand the Metrics Used in the Keyword Research Process:
Refers to the number of times a keyword is searched for within a specific period.
Estimates the difficulty of ranking for a keyword in SERPs. It ranges from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating greater competition. It helps decide which keywords to target based on their level of difficulty.
Domain Rating (DR):
Measures the overall strength and authority of a website’s backlink profile on a scale from 0 to 100. It helps in determining a website’s relative strength and identifying link-building opportunities.
- Keep in mind that the three tools mentioned above use metrics that are estimates and not exact measurements. Therefore, these metrics should be reference points rather than absolute values.
- Each keyword tool (Ahrefs, SEMRush, Ubersuggest) has similar-name metrics with different methods of estimating them.
How to Do Keyword Research in Only 5 Minutes?
We develop a free Google Sheet with all the formulas ready to speed up your keyword research process. Copy it and follow along:
- The template has 2 parts:
- Competitor Research is from Column G to Column I.
- Keyword Research is from Columns A to E
- The columns with a light brown color are automatically generated via formula. Therefore, please do not fill anything in those columns, as it will result in errors.
1. Brainstorm Subtopics of Your Niche, and Assign Seed Keywords
Amazon is an excellent way to research the subtopics for your niche:
- First, go to Amazon’s website, and type your main niche keyword into the search bar.
- Look for the main category that Amazon has assigned to your niche. This category can be found on the left-hand side of the page under the “Department” heading.
- Click on the main category to see the subcategories into which Amazon has divided your niche.
- Take note of these subcategories, as they are your seed keywords for further research and targeting.
Search for the seed keywords “gardening.” At the Department section on the left-hand side, you can see how Amazon categorizes the niche.
When you click on “Gardening & Lawn Care,” you can find many more subtopics:
Outcome of this step:
- 4-5 seed keywords representing subtopics of your niche
2. Start Finding Your Competitors:
Once you get the seed keywords, let’s find competitors in your niche. I use Ahrefs for this step:
- Go to Ahrefs, click on the “Keywords Explorer” tool
- Enter one of the sub-niches you found from the previous step as your seed keyword in the search bar.
- In the “Country” dropdown menu, select your target country or region. Click the “Search” button.
- You will see a list of keywords related to your seed keyword and various metrics such as search volume, keyword difficulty, and CPC.
- To find weaker competitors, look for long-tail keywords with lower search volumes and keyword difficulties.
- You could even set the filter “Lowest DR” to 30, in the top 10 (screenshot). This filter will result in a keyword list with at least one domain in the top 10 with a DR lower than 30.
Click on the “SERP” button to see each keyword’s top 10 search results.
Check each website’s Domain Rating (DR) score to identify the strength of your competitors. My rule of thumb:
- Weak competitors: DR < 30
- Medium competitors: 31 < DR < 70
- Strong competitors: DR > 70
For example, you could quickly identify one competitor with a DR of 13, ranking in the top 10 for the keyword “gardening hat” (screenshot below):
Record all the weak domains in column G of the Sheet I gave you above. Then, the formula will strip down the root domain and the Top Page URL (for the next step).
Outcome of this step:
- 15 – 20 competitors in your niche. The more, the better
3. Record the Top Keywords that Your Competitors Are Ranking For
- Click on the link for each competitor to access their Top Pages report and view all the top keywords they are ranking for.
- To ensure you focus on valuable keywords, adjust the settings to show keywords with a search volume of over 100 and a keyword position in the top 20.
- Repeat this process for all your competitors and record their top keywords in the Google Sheet (columns A and C). The SERP Link column will be auto-generated (formula):
- For each keyword you found, check the top 10 SERP to find more competing domains. Then repeat step 3 all over again to find more keywords.
Outcome of this step:
- 300 – 400 keywords from reverse-engineering your competitors
4. Find More Keywords From Other Sources:
You can use services like Answer The Public to find more long-tail keywords and questions related to your niche.
Google Search suggestions are also a valuable resource for finding related keywords.
To use these resources:
- Take note of the seed keyword you found in step 1.
- Use Answer The Public to generate a list of questions and long-tail keywords related to your niche using your seed keyword.
Example of the result from AnswerThePublic.com
- Plug your seed keyword and related keywords into Google search and take note of the Google Search suggestions at the bottom of the search results page.
- Record the keywords and questions you find in the Google Sheet alongside the other keywords you have gathered from the Ahrefs Top Pages report.
Research Reddit for your topics.
Reddit is a valuable resource to learn more about your niche and understand what people in your target audience are interested in.
To use Reddit for research:
- First, go to Reddit and search for your seed keywords.
- Then, note the subreddits relevant to your niche and have the most active communities.
- Sort the threads within each subreddit by “Most Popular” to see what topics and discussions interest people in your niche.
- Read through the threads and note any insights or trends you can use to inform your content and marketing strategies.
- Record any relevant subreddits, threads, and insights in your Google Sheet for future reference.
A deeper understanding of your target audience and their interests help you create more targeted and effective content marketing and SEO strategies.
These insights can be precious because they are based on the actual discussions and interests of real people rather than just search volume data.
Outcome of this step:
- 100 – 200 additional long-tail keywords from other sources.
- A thorough understanding of the pain points and interests of the audience in your niche
5. Analyze Your Keywords List
A. De-duplicate the list
- In Google Sheets, select the entire column containing your keywords.
- Go to the “Data” menu and select “Remove duplicates.”
- Ensure that the box next to “Data has header row” is checked in the pop-up window.
- Select the column containing your keywords as the column to remove duplicates from.
- Click “Remove duplicates” and wait for Google Sheets to process your data.
B. Filter by Keyword Intent:
Search for keywords with certain words that are indicative of intent. For example:
- Keywords containing words like “buy,” “order,” “purchase,” “best,” “review,” “vs.,” and “compare” are likely to be commercial-intent keywords,
- Keywords containing words like “how to,” “tips,” “guide,” “what,” and “where” are likely to be informational-intent keywords.
To categorize your keywords by intent:
- Create a new column in your Google Sheet for keyword intent.
- Then, use the “Search” function in your Google Sheets to search for keywords containing words that are indicative of intent.
- Once you have identified a group of keywords with similar intent, enter the corresponding intent category (such as “commercial” or “informational”) into the new column for each keyword in that group.
- Repeat this process for all of your keywords
C. Group the Keywords to the Subtopics:
This step will help you identify common themes and topics within your keyword data.
One quick way to group your keywords into subtopics is:
- First, upload all of your keywords so far into Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.
- Ahrefs will analyze your keywords and return the results of all your keywords, along with a “Parent Topic” column that identifies the main topic or theme for each keyword.
- Download your keyword data again with the “Parent Topic” column.
- Group the keywords with the same or similar parent topic together.
Note: Use your niche knowledge to analyze and group other keywords that may not fit neatly into the categories identified by Ahrefs.
Outcome of this step:
- Keywords are de-duplicated
- Keywords are categorized by search intent
- Keywords are grouped into subtopics
Keyword research is an essential step of any successful content strategy.
You can gain an edge in the competition by using keyword tools such as Ahrefs to identify the best keywords for your niche and analyze your audience’s interests and problems.
- Start with a clear understanding of your niche and target audience.
- Use various resources such as Amazon, Ahrefs, Google, and Reddit to uncover seed keywords and related long-tail keywords and questions.
- Categorize keywords by keyword intent to better understand your audience’s search behavior.
- Group keywords into subtopics to identify common themes and topics within your keyword data
Good luck with your keyword research. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us.