Search engine optimization (SEO) means tweaking your website to make Google and other search engines show it in the search results more often. The result is more visitors and that means more business.
To get started with SEO you do keyword research: you find out what your potential customers search in Google and what they hope to find. You can use that knowledge to make the right tweaks and changes to your website.
Beginners guide to keyword research
This guide is meant for SEO beginners. If you have already taken your first steps, you can use it to sharpen your knowledge and get practical tips for better keyword research.
This is our task list for keyword research:
- Collect keyword suggestions
- Select keywords people actually search
- Pick relevant keywords for your company
- Sort keywords into topics
- Turn topics into pages
- Include keywords in your content
- Ask Google to have a look
- Check the results
Why is keyword research so important?
Keyword research is crucial to optimize your website, but it has bigger benefits. Google search can you show what problems your customers are facing, what they find important in a solution and what questions they want answers to before they feel confident about buying a product.
Keyword research can help you:
- choose what to write on your website
- fine tune your company’s offer
- understand which sales arguments to use
In this article we will only look at the role of keywords in your SEO, but you can use keyword research as a free way of doing market research.
What are keywords exactly?
Describe your company in three words.
For example: beginner yoga classes
Do you think customers might search that in Google to find a company like yours? If they would, you have just found your first keyword.
What are keywords?
Keywords are search terms your customers might use in Google to find a company like yours. They can be single words or phrases.
There are many possible keywords for every website. In the next step we will collect as many as possible, so we can pick the best ones to use on your website.
Collect keyword suggestions
How would your customers describe a company like yours? And what words do they use for the product or service they can buy from you?
Start with a brain storm
Start by listing 10 to 20 keywords you think customers might use.
Let Google help out
Google sees certain searches as closely connected. That information helps you find more potential keywords.
- Search each of your 10 to 20 keywords in Google
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the section “Searches related to” or “People also ask”
- Copy any of those ‘related keyword’ and add them to your list
Listen to your target audience
Let’s add a few human voices before we process all the suggestions. After all, you are marketing to humans, not to Google.
Find places online where your target audience talks to each other. Pay attention to the topics they discuss and which exact words they use. The topics help you understand what information they are looking for. The words they use to describe that information are potential keywords for your website.
Look at places like:
- Facebook pages
- LinkedIn groups
- Twitter hashtags
- Reddit threads
You can even go one step further and make notes during network event or conversations with your existing customers.
Generate hundreds of keyword suggestion
Then use those keyword ideas in one of these tools to generate hundreds of keyword suggestions:
Your keyword suggestion list looks something like this:
Got a website already? Jump ahead to the section about Google Search Console. You see which keywords are already bringing visitors to your website. Use those to find new keyword ideas.
Select keywords people actually search
Phrases that are searched often can bring many visitors to your site. In SEO we speak about ‘search volume’: the average number of times people Google a certain phrase every month.
We separate keywords in short-, medium-, and long-tail keywords.
- Short-tail keywords have higher search volumes, but they are very difficult to rank well for (especially for new websites). They are generally 1-2 words in length.
Ex. “yoga poses”
- Medium-tail keywords have moderate search volumes, but they are also fairly hard to rank for—though not quite as tough as short-tail keywords. These are generally 2-3 words in length.
Ex. “yoga poses names”
- Long-tail keywords have lower search volumes, and they aren’t nearly as competitive to rank well for. These queries are usually 4+ words in length.
Ex. “yoga poses for lower back pain”
When you’re starting a new website, it’s good to focus on medium- and long-tail keywords. This will give you the best chance of getting visitors via search engines. As your website grows and if you begin to rank well for all of your medium- and long-tail keywords, you can always adjust your keyword strategy to include a few short-tail keywords.
Compare search volumes with a keyword tool
Google’s Keyword Planner has traditionally been the gold standard for keyword research. You can still use it for free, but it’s gotten a little more complicated. You need to have a Google Ads account, and you need to set up a campaign, even if you don’t actually run it.
Tip: If you ever used one of Google’s many coupons for free advertising, you may still have an inactive Google Ads account, and you could use this to get to the Keyword Planner. Otherwise, you’ll have to create the account to use the tool.
Regardless of the tool you use, your goal here is to get the search volumes for your different keyword ideas. Search volume is the number of times per month people search for this term on Google.
If you have an account at Google Ads, you can find out the search volume for your keywords with these steps:
- Log in at Google Ads. (You don’t have to start paying money for ads to use the tool.)
- In the top bar choose Tools & Settings.
- Under Planning choose Keyword Planner.
- Select the option Get search volume and forecasts.
- Paste your list of keyword suggestions and click Get started.
- In the top bar of the results set the right Locations and Language.
- Then click Historical Metrics.
You will now see a list of average monthly search volume for each keyword in that language and country.
Download your keyword list
Click the download button in the top right and select Plan historical metrics to download your keyword list as a .CSV file.
Pick the best keywords for your company
So far we only sorted keywords by search volume. Now let’s see which keywords are relevant for your website. If your site says nothing about yoga pants, and you don’t sell yoga pants, then don’t bother using it as a keyword. You only want to use keywords that really match the information on your site. Otherwise you’ll be attracting the wrong visitors—in this case people shopping for yoga pants instead of looking for yoga classes.
So go through your list and remove all keywords that don’t fit your website. That might be other cities or regions, other products or just topics you don’t cover on your website.
Think like a customer when you do this: would someone who Googles this keyword expect to find a website like yours?
Sort keywords into topics
Have a look at your list of keywords. Can you guess what people expect to find if they Google these things?
Let’s sort them into categories. That process is called ‘clustering’: you create clusters of keywords. Each cluster includes only keywords that describe the same topic or show the same search intent.
Add these columns to your sheet:
- broad keywords — general topics, like ‘yoga’
- local keywords — mention a city, country or region, like ‘yoga boston’
- information keywords — look for information on a product or topic, like ‘is yoga sweaty’
- buying keywords — show an intention to buy, like ‘yoga course prices’
- branded keywords — mention your name, like ‘yoga courses at Boston Flexible’
One keyword might fit several categories, like ‘yoga for back pain south boston’. In those cases, mark several columns.
Turn topics into pages
You can now use these topics as the basic structure for your website:
- broad keywords — use these on your home page
- information keywords — sort these into subcategories and give each topic its own page
- buying keywords — use these for your pricing page
- branded keywords — use these for your About page
Local keywords only get their own page if you have valuable content for such a page. If not, you can use these keywords regularly in the content for your whole website.
Pick a main keyword for every page. It’s good to have the other keywords mentioned on that page, but your main keyword takes center stage in the titles and optimization.
More is not better. Better is better.
Remember that every page needs good, useful content to rank in Google. It’s generally not a good idea to give each keyword a page of its own: usually there is not enough to say that is interesting for visitors. Your customers get more value from a smaller, highly-useful website than a site with too many pages and too much information.
Check your competition
Before you start writing your content, see who you are up against. If the first three places for a keyword are taken up by big companies, it might be more difficult to compete.
- Google each of your main keywords.
- See which pages are on the first three search results.
- Look at the words your competitors used and decide if you want to use those on your own website as well.
Also keep an eye out for any featured snippets in the results. Those special mentions stand out and are a great way to get more attention. You might be able to grab that featured snippet for your website.
Search results are always personalized. Google shows different results if you are logged in and can use your location to personalize search results. To get non-personalized results, you can use SEO tools like the free MOZ-Bar browser extension.
If you see very strong competition, you can choose other keywords that give you a better chance to rank. You can also try to compete by making an even better page for that keyword. The SEO term for that is ‘10X content’: you need a page that is ten times as good to push someone away from first place.
Include keywords in your content
Now those keywords need to show up on your website, so Google can recognize that you have good content for searchers.
Review your existing content first. Google pays more attention to some parts of your content like titles and headings. Put your keywords there, so Google can see them standing out.
Pro Tip: When it comes to keyword phrases, search engines do not pay attention to “stop words.” These are extremely common words such as the, is, at, which, and on. You may see keyword phrase suggestions such as “yoga poses back pain.” On your website it’s fine to write it as “yoga poses for back pain”.
Adding your keywords to your SEO settings
Jimdo Dolphin can do some of the heavy SEO lifting for you. Add your keywords to the SEO settings and the Assistant helps you to add them in the right places.
Use keywords in your content
- Use your main keyword in the address of the page
- Use your main keyword in the first heading on the page
- Use keywords in any subheadings on the page
- Use keywords naturally in the paragraphs of your text
- Use keywords in image alt tags if the keywords describe what the image shows
Google is getting smarter all the time. The search engine usually knows which words are synonyms and understands that the plural and singular versions of a word describe the same general topic. That’s nice, because you don’t have to use the exact same words over and over again.
Add your keywords in Jimdo Dolphin
- Click the three dots (⋮) in the top right of your website and pick SEO
- Add your 5 most important keywords at Keywords for your website
- Use broad keywords in the titles for your homepage and your website
Add your keywords in Jimdo Creator
- Use keywords in your page title via Menu > SEO > SEO
When Google just started it was easy to rank for a keyword. All you had to do was use that keyword as often as you could. Google’s algorithm got much smarter since then. That technique, called ‘keyword stuffing’, is now outdated and will actually hurt your SEO.
So when you optimize text, use keywords in your text naturally. You can always ask someone to read your text without telling them which keywords you optimized for. If your keywords appear naturally your reader won’t be able to point them out.
Ask Google to have a look
Google’s crawlers visit every site periodically to see if things have changed since their last visit. If you don’t want to wait for that to happen automatically, you can use Google Search Console to invite one of those crawlers over.
- Log into Google Search Console
- Open the URL Inspection menu
- Type the address (URL) of a page you edited
- Click Request indexing
You can repeat this for each page you edited. Those pages are added to a list of pages that Google’s crawlers will visit.
Check the results
Once Google processes your changes, your updated pages should show up a bit higher for the keywords you added.
How to see the rankings for a page?
There are many SEO tools out there that track any changes in your rankings for you. You can use Google Search Console to get some free data.
- Log into Google Search Console
- Open the Performance menu
- Type the address (URL) of a page you edited
- Tick the box Average position
Below the graph you will see the list of search terms the page ranks for and which position it had in the search results. You can click a search term to see how the ranking for that search term changed over time.
Build your SEO on the right keywords
When you choose your keywords, you choose your goals. Every keyword you include represents a goal to rank as number 1 for that keyword. Whenever you edit your website, you aim to get a better Google ranking for some of your keywords.
Your keyword research gives you the core of your SEO: your keywords. If you want to start using those straight away, try the tips and advice from our Beginner’s Guide to SEO.