What is Keyword Research? (And Why Is It Important?)

In spite of what heaps of articles online claim, keywords are still the cornerstone of SEO. It is true that keyword optimization has changed dramatically multiple times over the last decade or so. However, that does not diminish the importance of keywords for SEO or the need to research, update and improve them.

Keywords 101

To put it simply, SEO keywords are labels attached to each website or page on a website. They are just one portion of the metadata that each page carries but are immensely important because search engines use them to find, rank, and decide in which order to display results to their users.

Keywords can be individual words or word combinations, and may in some cases, contain symbols and special characters. Their main characteristic is that they are attached to a particular web page, and search engine bots can grab onto them and use them to judge whether your website is a viable result for the user’s search query.

With this in mind, it shouldn’t be difficult to see why keywords are essential to SEO. So why do we keep seeing bombastic, click-bait articles proclaiming their demise?

The History of Search Engines & Кeywords

Keyword data used to be freely available back in 2010. Then Google decided to change course, and pretty soon, every top keyword driver changed to be “(not provided).” 

Further changes to keywords usage were introduced when Google rebuilt its search algorithm in 2013, using Hummingbird to boost both the speed and precision of searches based on content.

2015 saw Google add RankBrain into its system, and the incorporation of this AI-driven software once more shifted the way keywords were used in relation to search queries.

The Google algorithm was further augmented in 2019 with the addition of Google’s neural network-based technique for natural language processing. The efficiency of the Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT for short, in performing a broad scope of linguistic calculations immediately made it an industry staple and – yes – once more changed how keywords worked.

Perceptive readers would have noticed a pattern here, and may well have already discerned its implications. Over less than a decade, search engines have gone through more than three monumental revolutionary moments. In addition, they undergo tweaks, fixes, and who knows how many evolutionary shifts every day as issues arise.

Various methods of using keywords have come and gone – which has created much confusion on the matter and often caused people to think that this aspect of SEO is not relevant in today’s day and age. 

Nothing can be further from the truth – just because one aspect of the system changed doesn’t mean that the whole game is over. It just means keywords-based SEO is an ongoing process that involves constant monitoring, learning, experimentation, and iteration to implement.

As a result of constant changes, it’s not something you set up at the start and then forget about – which is why adopting good practices when doing keyword research is crucial.

The Uses of Keywords in SEO

Assigning the right keywords in the right place helps your SEO efforts in multiple ways. 

First off, it enables you to reduce ambiguity when it comes to search queries. Well thought out and adequately assigned keywords help the search algorithm only show you as a result to a search when it is relevant. Sure, the added exposure you get when people looking for other things see your content may produce results occasionally.

However, this is, by and large, considered to be an ineffective way of doing online marketing. Making sure your keywords are as clear and unambiguous as possible is by far the better practice.

Assigning relevant and well thought out keywords is also a good way to increase the visibility of your content dramatically. Poorly managed or altogether neglected keywords will almost certainly result in your content being buried by the algorithm. At that point, it doesn’t matter that your content’s quality is second to none – it’s unlikely to do well. 

Well thought out keywords can also provide a measure of credibility to your content. Using industry-specific slang or subject-specific jargon means that you will attract the type of people who are deeply interested in the subject of their search query. In fact, if your content pops up in their search results when they type in some obscure term is a guarantee for a higher chance of engagement.

Page authority is another metric that Google bots use to decide where to put your content when they compile their results list in answer to a search query. Suffice to say that keywords could influence that as well – which makes them that much more crucial when it comes to SEO.

Finally, keywords can help you study your target audience to better cater to their needs. Studying keywords carefully and employing them efficiently will help you focus on creating content that’s more successful and far-reaching.

How to do Keyword Research – Step 1: Brainstorm & Gather Keywords

Keyword research can be a daunting task. Furthermore, as we’ve already established, it’s not something that you just do once and don’t bother with ever again. If you want to have a shot at success, you must be persistent in your SEO efforts on all fronts – including continually researching and revising your keywords.

The first and most obvious step in researching keywords is usually brainstorming what are known as “seed keywords.” Those are words closely related to the subject of your content that can be used in a tool to generate more relevant keywords. 

When you’re done with the most important seed keywords, use any brainstorming method you like to get a good number of additional keywords. Generate as many as you can – it doesn’t matter if they don’t all end up being useful.

Writing all the things you can think of in a list may be a good start, but it’s just that – a beginning. You need to go further to gather all the right keywords you can. You’re probably going to have to dig deeper and tap into all other sources at hand. Correspondence on the subject of your content is likely to give you ideas about words or phrases you can include. You can also look for inspiration in articles on similar subjects online, as those are likely to have unique lingo you can incorporate into your keywords. 

Browsing forums on the subject can also give you valuable insight as to what you can add to your keywords list. Pay close attention to sections with user questions. What people post in there is a direct indication of what people are interested in and the language they use in their queries. Take that into consideration when making up your keywords lists.

How to do Keyword Research – Step 2: Use AI Tools to Generate Keywords

Once you’ve done this type of due diligence, it’s time to get serious – and that means breaking out the more powerful tools in your arsenal and putting them to good use.

Use Keyword Generator to get access to hundreds of keyword ideas by inputting a single seed keyword. 

Keyword Difficulty Checker is another invaluable keyword research tool that can be used to check the ranking difficulty of a keyword. It can be invaluable in your keyword research efforts.

Google Search Console is a tool that can help you check the top one thousand keywords that you already rank for. Moreover, it can also tell you and how much traffic those keywords send in your direction.

Keyword Rank Checker is extremely useful when determining your regional rankings, based on the country and the keywords of your choice. 

Google Keyword Planner can help you generate unique keywords and calculate cost per click values, which can be a good way to keep an eye on your budget.

Google Trends is another useful tool for comparing and researching trends and their reach and penetration worldwide. 

All of the above are free tools that you can put to good use in your SEO efforts if you don’t want to break the bank. If your budget can take it, there are paid products with lots of convenient features that can also be very helpful when you’re trying to figure out what keywords to use.

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