Keyword Research: The Most Important Step to SEO - Warm Thoughts Communications
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Keyword Research: The Most Important Step to SEO

Posted on November 6, 2019 - By Melissa Bellas

If you have any familiarity with search engine optimization (SEO), you know it’s all about getting your business’ website and content to rank high in Google’s search results pages. And it’s understandable why – 91.5% of total search traffic goes to sites that rank on page 1!1.

So how do you land your business a spot on that coveted first page? It starts with understanding what exactly it is that your target audience and best potential prospects are searching for, and how it relates to the products and services your business offers. That’s where keyword research comes into play.

Keywords, also known as “search queries” are the words and phrases that people type into search engines. And choosing the right keyword phrases and using them correctly for SEO is one of the most effective ways to get more site visits.

By researching which industry-specific terms and phrases generate the most search traffic, you gain key insight into your target market and how they are searching for your content, products, and service offerings.

With this in mind, it’s no wonder why a recent survey of marketing professionals found that nearly half of respondents rated keyword research as one of the most effective SEO tactics2.

Getting Started

With a clear understanding of basic SEO techniques and rules, start by answering key questions, such as “Who is my target audience?” “What is the online behavior of my target customers?” and “What themes are relevant to my business?”

From there, you can take a deeper dive into the most important aspects of keyword research. Consider these tips to get started.

Know Your Audience

Keyword research starts with creating a list of keywords you wish to target. And perhaps the best place to begin is by thinking like a customer. Consider what comes into mind when a customer thinks of your business. For example, you may refer to one of your offerings as “burner service,” but your customers are likely searching, “repair my boiler” or “boiler repair service.”

Start by writing down the main categories of your business (for example, propane, heating oil, HVAC, etc.), followed by the terms and phrases that might fall under each of these categories.

The best way to learn about your customers is from your customers, so be sure to include the terms and phrases your customers would use to describe and search for your products and services.

Start with Seed Keywords

At the foundation of your research, seed keywords are the starting point for defining your business’ niche. It’s all about describing your service offerings and products in your own words and brainstorming how others may search for them online.

For instance, if you’re a local propane company, the Google searches (keywords) that first come to mind might be, “propane service”, “propane delivery”, or “propane refill.” These are no-brainers – but what happens when you take a deeper dive into more specific keywords? Known as the “niche down” approach, you can start with a broad catch-all keyword and niche down until you see an interesting keyword opportunity.

To truly see this in action, we typed the seed keyword “propane” into Ahref’s Keyword Explorer, a database tool that measures the estimated number of clicks for each keyword. Right off the bat, this returned nearly half a million keywords – 566,960 to be exact!

But in order to effectively niche down, we then needed to focus on longer, more specific keywords and phrases containing the word “propane.” This returned in more detailed keywords, such as “propane tank sizes”, “propane tankless water heater”, and “propane vs natural gas”. Think of all this potential traffic!

Generate Keyword Ideas

So now that you’ve identified your seed keywords, the next step is to generate an expansive list of relevant keyword ideas. And there are 3 key ways to help you accomplish this:

  1. Determine the keywords you’re already ranking for
    If your business has a website (and it should!) you’re likely already ranking for several keywords. And understanding what keywords are currently driving traffic to your site is a perfect way to kick-start your research. Consider using a keyword research tool (like Ahrefs or SEMRush) to plug in your domain URL. These will show you the exact keywords you’re currently ranking for.
  2. Check out your competitors
    As a local retail energy company, chances are you have several competitors. And like you, your competitors are also vying for better keywords and search engine rankings. Use this to your advantage! In all likeliness, at least one of your competitors has already performed all the tedious keyword research – see what they’re ranking for and pick the best ones that may also be of benefit to your business.
  3. Leverage keyword research tools
    Beyond stealing some key words from your competitors (and its totally okay to do so), you should also be looking for new, unique keywords that nobody else has targeted yet. So how do you find these? Keyword research tools are proving to be an excellent option. And in today’s digital obsessed world, there certainly is no shortage of great tools on the market – from free tools such as Google Trends, Soovle, Ubersuggest, Answer the Public, and Wordtracker, to paid tools such as KWFinder and SEMrush. No matter which tool you choose to leverage, the workflows are all similar with a common goal – filter through reports to find great keywords.

Tracking Keyword Search Volume in Your Area

Now that you’ve gathered a list of potential keywords, you need to ask yourself how many times people around the world (or a certain country or geographic location) are searching for these given keywords on Google? Keyword search volume tracks exactly that.

One of the most popular metrics in SEO, search volume estimates site traffic potential for keyword optimization. After all, you can’t target he most profitable keywords without first knowing how many people (if any) are looking for specific key search queries.

Understand Keyword Difficulty

…And now for the difficult part (literally). Keyword difficulty is all about determining what it’ll take to rank for your selected keywords and then using that information to prioritize and guide your SEO strategy.

Extremely helpful in the keyword research process, this metric identifies which of your targeted keywords are realistic to pursue and which ones might ultimately be too difficult, thus wasting your time and resource. And while each keyword research tool has their own methods of calculating a difficulty score, most SEO experts judge “ranking difficulty” by analyzing current pages that already rank for those keywords in Google.

Pro Tip: Don’t immediately give up on a keyword with high competition.
While high competition presents a higher challenge or keyword difficulty, it is not always a reason to give up on a keyword.

For instance, some keywords may be really easy to rank for, but won’t bring qualified traffic to your site. And if there is little chance of these visitors ever becoming customers, it doesn’t make sense to waste your efforts here.

Consequently, if you work hard and manage to rank for a much more competitive keyword, you’ll in turn see much more qualified traffic. Well worth the time and investment, these keywords could be the best things to ever happen to your business. It’s all about balancing the ranking difficulty and perceived business value of each keyword.

Put Your Keyword Research into Action

Now that you know how to effectively conduct keyword research, it’s time to put it into action. After checking your current rankings, taking a look at competitors, and leveraging keyword research tools, you should be ready to create content pages that rank.

For example, write a blog on the topic of one of your keywords. If one of your keyword phrases is “propane tankless water heater,” you could create a piece on the benefits of buying a propane tankless water heater, or what to look for when purchasing one. Landing pages that target your products and services are also a great way to incorporate keywords, attracting more potential leads and driving more traffic to your website.

Need help getting started? Look no further. Each month, the SEO experts at Warm Thoughts review hundreds of search engine algorithms and how search is conducted.

As a result, propane, heating oil, and HVAC websites built by Warm Thoughts consistently appear on the first page of Google and other major search engines for various keywords. In fact, we consistently manage to increase clients’ rankings by as much as 30-215% in the first 12 months of taking over a website.

Contact us today to see how our SEO plans can help drive more traffic to your site and capture more leads.


1. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-101/seo-statistics/
2. https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics


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