This article discusses the importance of keyword research as part of a search engine marketing plan and how to use SE Ranking to perform keyword research for your own website.
It is only an introductory guide to get you on the right track. There are lots of other techniques and tricks that can be used but this will get you started quickly. If there is demand, I will talk about more advanced keyword research in a future article.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying the search terms that potential visitors will type into a search engine (primarily Google) before discovering and using your products or services.
The goal of keyword research is target your content around what people are actually searching for rather than what you think they might be searching for. This can ensure that you do not waste time and money going after keywords that are not aligned to your business goals.
So, for example, if you are selling high-quality, non-toxic paint, you may assume that you should go after the keyword “non-toxic paint” or even “buy non-toxic paint”. But after doing your keyword research, you discover that a decent volume, less competitive keyword is “what paint should I use to paint my baby’s crib?”.
So, hopefully that makes sense! If not, drop me a message.
Keyword research case study
To make explanation easier I will be demonstrating keyword research using one of my own websites; DreadVR.com. This is an expired domain I picked up after buying an Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset and loving it so much that I wanted to do write game reviews for it.
This website is more of a passion than a robust business idea but I wanted to see how far I could take it and thought it would be useful for testing SEO ideas and showing real-world examples for articles like this one.
Types of keyword research
There are two main ways of doing keyword research. They are:
- Seed Keyword Research
- Competitor Keyword Research
Seed keyword research involves starting with a ‘seed’ keyword and trying to extrapolate similar or related keywords from it.
Competitor keyword research involves looking at which keywords your competitors are already ranking for.
Seed keyword research
As stated above, with seed keyword research, you start off with a ‘seed’ keyword that is related to your website’s subject.
This should not be too broad as to try and be everything to everyone – unless you are a massive authority in your industry, you need to niche down to areas where the competition is lower and target keywords that are likely to attract the visitors you want. Similarly, it should not be so narrow that it gets very few searches – if a keyword is only getting 1 search a month and you have 5% conversion rate, then you will only get one sale every 20 months!
The newer your website is, the more you want to be targeting long-tail, low volume, low competition keywords because you will have difficulty competing with the big guys until you start to establish yourself as an authority (in Google’s eyes).
A NOTE ABOUT METRICS
Please understand that the metrics given in ALL search engine optimisation tools (not just SE Ranking) are approximations and can be wildly inaccurate. As an example, I rank for several keywords that get over 100 searches per month, yet these tools report them having a search volume of zero! So, take these numbers for what they are – best guesses.
For DreadVR, I decided to begin with seed keywords related to some of the games I had already bought and played on my Oculus. I chose:
- Oculus Quest 2 review
- Myst VR review
- Superhot VR review
NOTE: the ‘VR’ is to distinguish the review from the original game on other consoles before it was ported to Oculus.
To research these keywords, I logged on to SE Ranking and clicked the keyword research link at the top.
From this point, you can either type a single keyword into the search box or use the ‘Bulk Keyword Analysis’ tool to research several keywords at once. I went for the latter. Unless I am targeting the citizens of a specific country, I will usually set the country locale to US.
I now had a snapshot of some of the metrics for each keyword.
The metrics shown are:
- Difficulty – how difficult SE Ranking estimates this keyword is to rank
- Search volume – how many searches SE Ranking estimates this keyword gets each month.
- CPC (cost per click) – how much a paid click is for this keyword in Google Ads
- Competition – the level of competition for this keyword in Google Ads
Looking at my results, I can see:
- ‘Oculus Quest 2 Review’ is quite competitive and gets about 200 searches per month – my brand new website is not quite ready to target this keyword yet but I will target it at a later date.
- ‘Myst VR Review’ – this is a lower volume, lower competition keyword and will be a good candidate for an article on the website.
- ‘Superhot vr review’ – SE Ranking have no data on this keyword either because it does not get searched or their database has not retrieved any data about it yet.
DATABASE EXPANSION FEATURE
One of the great things about SE Ranking is that if there is an area of their database that is incomplete then you can manually request that they update their database for your specific queries. This is an awesome feature for niches that are very specialised. You simply click the ‘Expand database with missing keywords‘ button (it takes about a month).
With ‘Myst VR Review’ looking like a good candidate for an article, it is time to drill-down and look at this keyword in more detail.
The main two things to look at here are related keywords and organic search results.
Related keywords give you ideas for keywords that may be better options than your original seed keyword as they have lower competition or a higher estimated search volume.
The organic search results provides a list of the websites that are currently already ranking for the seed keyword so that you can get an idea of who your competitors are and the type and standard of content that you will need to produce to compete successfully.
Looking at the related keywords for ‘Myst VR Review’, I can see that there are no keywords that relate to the same subject that have a higher search volume or lower competition. In fact many of the keywords relate to the same game but on different systems (such as Myst for Windows, Myst for Mac etc).
I did notice that there are a lot of searches for people looking for help with solving the puzzles in the game, so I may consider writing a walkthrough at a later date.
Looking at my top competitors, I can see that there are quite a few reviews already for the game by established tech-related blogs, so the competition is fairly high (higher than first indicated from the Google Ads data).
So, I don’t expect this to rank to straight away but as I continue with the keyword research (looking at other games to review, for example) I will hopefully find more lucrative keywords. However, I will be sticking with ‘Myst VR Review’ for the remainder of this article to keep things simple.
So, the next thing to do is take a note of the top competitors that are similar in subject to my own website. From the top 5, I will remove PC Mag and GameSpot as these are more generalised gaming sites that are not solely focused on VR. This leaves me with:
Competitor Keyword Research
The next type of keyword research is analysing the keywords that your competitors are already ranking for.
This can be performed easily in SE Ranking by clicking the Competitor Research button at the top and typing in the domain of your competitor.
You will then get lots of information about this particular competitor including their organic traffic over time, referring domains (backlinks), the keywords that they rank for and their organic competitors.
We can see that this website has a lot of backlinks and ranks for a lot of keywords, so it will be difficult to compete with them in the beginning. However, there may be some longtail keywords that they currently rank for that I could compete with.
You can filter keywords according to search volume and other metrics as well as searching within each competitors keyword list to narrow it down.
The next step is to trawl through the keywords to find something that may be easy to rank for. This is a time-consuming task of meticulously looking through keyword data, competitor data, serps data (typing the keyword into Google) and analysis of the sites that currently rank for these keywords.
You should set aside at least a day to do this for a new website. Not only will you identify keywords that you can target easily, you will also gain an in-depth understanding of the niche, your competitors and insights into the best way to structure your website including how to cluster certain related keywords.
The important thing is that you have a play around with the tools and learn to maximise your use of them. The best way to use the SE Ranking tool varies between niches and how authoratative your domain is within its niche, so it is important to learn how to use it to your best advantage.
Hopefully this has given you an idea of how to use SE Ranking for keyword research. I could write so much more – enough to fill a book – but I’ll leave it at this for the moment and perhaps return to it later with a bit more detail based on feedback from readers.
In the meantime, I’m going to spend the rest of the day doing keyword research for my new VR website…