“Keyword research is one of the highest return SEO activities that are essential for your marketing success.”
- Tim Soulo (Ahrefs)
Keywords are the driving factor behind rankings. Without identifying target word combinations -- a.k.a. “keyword phrases” -- we are left to chance to rank organically for relevant terms. Keyword research is incredibly valuable for organizing and optimizing content. These keywords are especially useful in Page Titles, but also serve optimization value for a site's content structure methodology.
Keyword structure is as much of an art as it is a science. Brands can use tools and competitive analysis to find the volume, variations, difficulty, and opportunity -- but ultimately, there are tradeoffs between targeting high volume, general keywords vs. low volume, but highly relevant keywords.
Machine learning is pushing website optimizers towards increasing the signal of main keywords by using variations throughout the content, and in referring links. What does this mean? Rather than using the same keyword phrase in the page title, header tags and in product descriptions (an old SEO tactic called “keyword stuffing”), brands should use supplemental variations of the main keyword phrase throughout their page and in referring links. Write for humans that humans want information, especially when buying a product online.
The first step is identifying which main keyword phrases describe the product accurately, while at the same time have search volume and enough niche keywords to be found easily (high ranking). This can be achieved by using a combination of words mainly in the page title, but also throughout the page content. A particular keyword combination might have a better chance to rank higher when put in a different order, or when using a word variation without losing the meaning (“pants” vs. “denim”).
Keyword Research Tools
Best Practices for Conducting Keyword Research
- Start with a list of words for the page you're optimizing, add variations of those words, then run that list in a tool like Moz Keyword Explorer for ideas of volume and opportunity.
- Think of each page/product should be different than all others on your website -- How would you describe what make it unique?
- Each page should have a primary keyword phrase and a secondary keyword phrase. Often this is, "product - category."
- Don't stuff your page with the same keywords, over and over.
- The more niche or exhaustive, the better the signal will be for those keywords.
- Think in keyword phrases of 2-5 words.
- Find keyword combinations that have an excellent opportunity for volume without a lot of competition (ads, featured snippets in SERPs) -- Moz is excellent for this. E.g., Ranking for "iPhone" is difficult, but ranking for “iPhone 7 Leather Folio Wallet in Rustic Brown” is a lot easier.
- Don’t underestimate doing some organic searches yourself to test keyword phrases.
- As of now, keyword phrases are most handy when implemented into Page Titles, but again, they also have value for dressing up your on-page content (header tags, product descriptions, image alt tags).