What is Keyword Research?

Keyword Research is discovering what terms and phrases (keywords) people enter into the search engines when conducting a search. It is a part of Search Engine Optimization and it’s aim is to achieve a better ranking in search engines like Google.

How does it work?

To understand Keyword  Research we must first understand The Long Tail.  This concept was popularized by Chris Anderson in late 2004 and explains the rapid successes of internet companies like Amazon and Ebay.  Before the internet retailers would generally profit most from selling a few “hit” products to many people. What Amazon showed us with books is that online there can be more profit in selling many (books) to the few.  The Internet changed the traditional distribution model.  It allows us to reach niche markets where the competition is lower.

The New Marketplace

Long tail

In terms of Keywords we use the long tail concept to find where the number of searches are high, but the competition is low. The competition in this case being the top ten websites that appear in Google search results for any given keyword phrase.

The Science of Keyword Research is finding the volume of searches for a phrase and comparing this with other metrics that tell us about the strength of competition for the top results.

98% of searchers  click on Google’s first page results
40% of searchers click on the first result.

The Art of Keyword Research is putting ourselves in the shoes of potential customers and imagining what words they may use to find our offerings.

The Implementation of Keyword Research is adding the right keyword phrases to our pages correctly so search engines know they are relevant to a users search.

Where does the research data come from?

Commonly Google’s Keyword Planner tool is used to find search volumes and related Keyword ideas. It is there as part of their Adword service for paid ad campaigns, but it is free to use.

To work out the competition for those keywords there are various services, but Moz is one of the most popular.  By installing the free Moz toolbar extension for Chrome we can see Moz’s Domain Authority score for the top ten results for any search.

This is a big subject, but simply put sites get their authority from the number and quality of links to them along other indicator of their value.  If a search on your chosen Keywords brings up 10 sites all with scores all over 50  and you are a new site with a score of 0 – the competition is likely to be too high.

If the results are under 30 and many of the titles are not matching the search phrase you entered you may have found good keyword phrase.  This is assuming the number of search for the term is high enough.

Another source of data valuable is Google trends. This allows us to check we are not picking a term that are in decline or ones that has suddenly appeared do to some other influence like a popular TV show or music artist.

Is Keyword research worth it?

I would argue there is some value in it for everyone.  A local hairdresser serving only customers in a small town may not even find enough exact search phrases a month to get any valuable statistics.  However s/he might learn that none of her competitors are using synonyms like “hair stylists” on their sites. Or that more locals use an abbreviated version of her/his town name when looking for services. S/he may learn more people search for the plural “hairdressers” than the singular “hairdresser”

It doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive, but making it easier for your potential clients find you is going to be worth it.  The amount of research needed should naturally adjust to potential gains and return on investment.

The key thing is many businesses have not spent time considering the words their customers use. They tend to be wrapped up in broadcasting (traditional marketing style) the words and jargon they want to use. They fail to recognise that online their success depends on understanding the customers use of language. Knowing this can offer a massive competitive advantage.

It’s a win-win.  Users want to find results that match their searches, Google and Bing want to serve those users…and you want the business.


I build websites at WP Corner Shop and travel. I also co-host a weekly WordPress podcast called WP Builds and make YouTube videos.


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