Beginner content developers often forget about how important keyword research is. They’d decide on a topic at a whim, or at best, from what they think is currently trending based on what they’ve observed on social media.
While this strategy can work well at times, it’s often best to research keywords that people are actually typing in search engine queries. Keyword research invites you to take a look at user intent – into the minds of your potential customers – and know what will satisfy their search queries ahead of time.
Doing Keyword Research
Some keywords provide opportunities for brand awareness, product offerings, competitor reviews, and other keywords, for conversions such as subscription and purchase. Depending on your marketing goal, you can target specific keywords by including them in your content to increase your webpage’s chance of ranking high on a search engine results page (SERP) when a user searches with those particular keywords.
So how do we conduct one? Let’s use a specific example – let’s say you just started a new specialty coffee business. Your goal is to create brand awareness as you are one of two specialty coffee cafe and roastery in your town.
Short-tail or long-tail keywords?
Short-tail keywords are keywords that typically have larger search volumes. These aren’t very specific keywords so you get all sorts of information on a SERP which satisfies various user intent, and show global businesses and their offers.
Here’s an illustration, taken from Google’s SERP on 8/11/2019:
- coffee: 4.9 billion results, Wikipedia page about coffee, map and ads showing nearest cafes, featured snippets, medical sites, Starbucks’ site, and recipes.
- specialty coffee: 265 million results, map pack showing nearest cafes, featured snippets, official Specialty Coffee Association’s site, online editorial about specialty coffee.
- specialty coffee roastery: 1.7 million results, map pack showing nearest roastery, well-established Indonesian roasters (Google cleverly figured out my geo-location), how-to videos.
Notice that the longer the keyword, the fewer the search results as user intent becomes more specific. But being in the top ten SERP out of 1.7 million positions is still very competitive. How did existing cafe and roastery even get on the top 30 ranks? The answer is reputation. They’ve been doing SEO longer than you, so long that they could target short-tail keywords.
Does that mean you can’t target short-tail keywords? Of course you can. This is your long-term goal. As you build a real-life business reputation, you slowly move up the ranks with shorter keywords. But in the meantime, target specific long-tail keywords. Some i-100-deas in this case include:
specialty coffee cafe and roastery [specific location], best place to enjoy specialty coffee in [specific location] [current year], specialty coffee trends [specific location], how to roast [Balinese/Sumatra/Java] coffee beans, where to buy Kintamani coffee in [specific location]
Long-tail keywords for conversions
Long-tail keywords tend to lead to conversions since only a handful of people, who know what they really want, would type anything specific on the search query.
Searching “where to buy Kintamani coffee in ubud” on Google gives you 2 million results. While it is a long-tail keyword, it gets a decent search volume since it satisfies the transactional user intent where the user intends to buy a specific product at a specific place. As usual, Google shows its Google My Business results in a map pack and featured snippets. But here are some interesting observations.
The SERP is dominated by various travel blogs that recommend cafes in list form. This is typical of blogs, as they target many readers who think about “getting a coffee in Bali”, showing their huge distribution of short and long-tail keywords. However, among them you can spot one specific specialty coffee cafe and roastery business in Ubud.
This presents an opportunity for people who really want to buy Balinese locally-sourced coffee beans in Ubud area to check out this website, as it is highly relevant to the search query.
Apart from keyword length, there are many other factors such as search volume, competition (keyword difficulty), cost-per-click rates, and trends, that should be taken into consideration when deciding which keyword to target. These advanced techniques will be discussed in future blogs.
But the overarching principle of SEO is that keyword research should be the FIRST thing you do before planning content. Keyword research is market research in the digital world.