What Is Keyword Research / Topic Research?

what is keyword research

Keyword research is a critical part of any SEO campaign. Finding the right keywords is key when you are running a content niche site in order to drive as much organic traffic to your site as possible. When you consider that more than 92% of keywords get between 0 and 10 search results per month, you can understand why keyword research might be essential.

In fact, more than 60% of all searches can be linked to only 0.16% of the most popular keywords.

If you’re starting a niche site with the hopes of turning a profit, keyword research is key. What is keyword research, exactly? And what is topic research for SEO?

Let’s take a look at what you need to know to make sure your site is as profitable as possible.

What Is Keyword Research?

If you’ve been thinking about starting a content site or marketing your business online, you’ve likely come across the term keyword research. When you do keyword research, it can help you uncover queries to target on your site, how popular these questions are, how hard it is to rank for them, and so much more.

Keyword research involves both finding and analyzing specific search terms that people type into search engines. The purpose of this is often for search engine optimization (SEO) or for general marketing purposes.

If you’re starting a site with the goal of building traffic, you simply can’t overlook keyword research. This provides valuable insight into what your target market is searching on Google and other search engines.

Your content strategy will be informed by the search terms you identify, and your larger marketing strategy will be too. However, it’s important to understand that keywords are only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to SEO, and keywords alone won’t get you where you’re trying to go.

The reason for this has to do with the evolution of SEO over time. It isn’t as important as it used to be to use keywords that match the exact terms that people are searching. What has become more important is the intent that is behind the keyword and whether or not the content on your site solves the search intent the user had.

However, you simply can’t throw keyword research out the window, either. This is still a valuable process because it helps you understand what topics people are interested in learning more about. It can also help you understand whether these topics are something that your specific audience cares about.

How to Research Keywords

You can organize your keyword research process in a number of different ways. Here we’ll outline one approach to keyword research to help ensure that you are appealing to your audience and ranking as high as possible in search results.

Make a List of Relevant Topics

The first step in the process is basic brainstorming. You’ll want to come up with about five to ten different topics that you think are important to your audience and your brand. You can then use these general categories to find specific keywords that are relevant.

If you run a business, these might be the topics that most frequently come up in your sales conversions. If you run a content niche site, these might be the topics that are most relevant to your audience in terms of high-quality content.

Identifying your target audience is key here. You’ll then want to put yourself in their shoes to determine which types of topics they would most likely be searching for.

You can then use SEO tools to help you find the monthly search volume for these more specific topics. THis helps you identify how important your audience finds these topics.

Identify Keywords for Each Topic

Now it’s time to identify keyword phrases that you believe will help you rank in SERPs. (Not sure what SERP means? Check out this article to learn everything you need to know.)

Brainstorm keyword phrases that you think your audience might be searching that would help them find your site. This isn’t your final list of keywords, but rather a brain dump of ideas that you will narrow down later.

(If you’re just starting out with your content niche site, you might be wondering how long it will take to rank for a new post. Take a look at our in-depth article on the topic here.)

Understand User Intent

One of the most pivotal factors in current SEO strategy is user intent. This means that it’s more important that your content addresses the issue that an individual intended to solve rather than simply having the keywords that reflect what the searcher typed in.

The same keyword phrases can actually have very different intents. Therefore, you should test out some of your keywords to see if they bring up the type of content you would expect.

As an example, let’s take a look at the keyword phrase “starting a blog.” This phrase actually might refer to starting a blog website or simply starting an individual blog post. You’ll want to look at the other results that come up to understand which interpretation of this phrase people are most commonly using.

When you search the keyword in Google, it’s important that the content you will be creating is closely related to what actually comes up in Google. Otherwise, you’re likely off base when it comes to relating user intent to specific keywords.

Look at Related Search Terms

If you’re having a hard time coming up with keywords, it’s time to look at related search terms. You can find these when you search for something on Google. They will suggest other options that might be related to your topic that reflect what people might be searching for.

You don’t even have to stop here, though. Once you have found the related search terms, you can then enter those related search terms into Google to find out which terms are related to them. You could, theoretically, use this an infinite number of times as a part of your keyword planning, though don’t be surprised if you get further and further away from your pillar topics.

Use Tools to Help You

There are countless SEO tools you can use online to help you come up with more ideas. SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Ubersuggest are some of the most popular, but there are many more options out there.

How to Choose Keywords

Now that you have a general sense of the keywords you want to rank on search engines for, it’s time to narrow down the list. Here’s how to pick the best keywords for your particular strategy.

Understand What Makes Keywords “Good”

There are three main factors that determine how good a keyword is. These are relevance, authority, and volume.

Google now ranks its search results based on how relevant they are. This has to do with the user’s search intent. You will need to meet the needs of the searcher if you are trying to rank for a specific keyword.

This means that keyword stuffing is no longer a viable option for ranking. In fact, Google actually penalizes people when they appear to be stuffing keywords unnaturally into a piece of content.

The next fact is authority. Google will give priority to sites that it believes are more authoritative than others. This means that your goal should be to produce a site that is authoritative in your niche, which you can do by high-quality content creation and promoting them in order to receive backlinks and social signals.

There is an acronym in the world of SEO of E-A-T that stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. You can learn more about this metric here.

Lastly, volume is the third factor. Ranking for a keyword will only result in traffic for your site if people are actually searching for it. Monthly search volume (MSV) is the metric used here, which indicates how many times a keyword is searched for across all audiences each month.

Make Sure You Have Head Terms and Long-Tail Keywords for Each Topic

Let’s take a quick look at the difference between head terms and long-tail keywords. Head terms are shorter and more generic keyword phrases. These might only be one to three words long.

On the other hand, long-tail keywords are keyword phrases that contain three or more words.

You will want to have a mix of both head terms and long-tail terms. This is the recipe for a well-balanced keyword strategy that can afford you both short-term wins and long-term goals.

Head terms are typically more frequently searched for, which means that it can be harder to rank for these. Take a look at your list of keywords and make sure you have some of both.

Look at Your Competition

Next, it’s time to look at your competitors and how they are ranking for these keywords. Keywords that are important to your competition aren’t necessarily important to you. However, you will want to understand which keywords they are trying to rank for so you can look at your keyword list from another angle.

If you notice that your competition is ranking for keywords that have made it onto your list, you’ll want to work to improve your ranking for those terms. At the same time, though, you’ll want to take note of which keywords your competition doesn’t seem to be working to rank for. You might find that this is an opportunity for you to fill a void that has been left by your competition.

There are a few different ways you can find out which keywords your competition is ranking for. The first is simply to open an incognito browser and look at where your competitors rank in search results. The second is to use a tool like Ahrefs in order to find the top keywords for websites that you enter.

Cut Down Your Keyword List

It’s finally time to refine your keyword list using more quantitative data. There are a lot of tools you can use to do this, but we will offer one route you can take.

By using Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Trends, you can narrow down your keyword lists for your strategy.

Google’s Keyword Planner will show you the traffic estimates and search volume for the keywords that you are thinking about using. Then you can use this information to head over to Google Trends.

With the Keyword Planner, note down which terms have either way too much search volume or way too little. However, don’t erase these terms until you’ll look at the Google Trends history and projection for these terms. You might find that a keyword that has low volume for now might actually have potential in the future, offering you an opportunity to invest now.

Google Trends can also help you figure out which way your keyword terms are trending. This can help you focus more if you find that your keyword list is all over the place.

What Is Blog Topic Research?

While keyword research is valuable, you can’t simply find keywords and use them as your blog topics. At the same time, some companies and sites find topics for their content in random ways that don’t help them reach their goals. Topic research has to do with identifying topics that will attract and engage a big chunk of your target audience.

How to Do Topic Research

If you’re looking for organic visibility for your business or starting a content niche site, topic research is essential. The tasks of keyword research and blog topic research are intimately connected, but they are separate processes. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about researching blog topics.

Outline Your Strategy

Before you do anything else, you’ll want to make sure you have a strategy outlined. The first step to do this is to determine the purpose of your blog.

You might find that the purpose of your blog is to generate leads, attract quality traffic, educate users about yourcompany, drive conversions, or get people to follow affiliate links.

Understanding your purpose will help you figure out which topics are best for your blog.

Next, it’s time to set up your goals for your blog. Maybe your goal is to increase organic traffic by a certain percent, increase affiliate revenue, or sell information products. (If you’re wondering what organic traffic is in Google Analytics, take a look at this guide.)

Defining your target audience is the next step. It’s important to understand your target audience inside and out in order to have the most success with your content site. You’ll want to create a detailed portrait of each of your different buyer personas, including their age, interests, gender, income, education, and job title.

Then you’ll need to choose the content that you’re going to be pushing. Creating a mission statement can help you outline the unique vision you have for content creation.

Content strategies can be divided into publications and libraries. Publications cover trending topics and the latest industry news, often distributed by social media and emails to subscribers.

Libraries, on the other hand, primarily focus on evergreen content. These might be guides, how-tos, and best practices. This content is primarily distributed organically through search engines.

You can learn more about evergreen content here.

Many sites choose to do a little of both when it comes to publications and libraries. You will, however, want to have a plan when it comes to the percentage distribution of each type of content.

Identify the Primary, Core Blog Topics

Now it’s time to identify your core blog topics. This can help you zoom out to see the map of your content site from a birds-eye view.

One strategy here is known as the topic cluster model. Here you choose five to ten different core topics and then expand on them in a variety of ways.

Next, you will want to determine your pillar topics. You will want to think about how your content topic ideas relate to your goals and purposes as well as your audience. Consider what challenges your audience has that you are attempting to solve to help you determine your pillar topics.

You will want 5-10 pillar topics. This can help your blog have a clear and focused purpose. It’s important to make sure that your pillar topics have the necessary search volume to reach your audience.

Expand Your List

Now that you have your core topics identified, it’s time to find some more content ideas. You can do this through brainstorming, researching your competition, using keyword research tools, and using search and social media trends.

Group and Filter

Now that you have your list of keywords and topics, it’s time to find the ones that will bring the results you are looking for when it comes to your content site. Through this process, you’ll learn how to clean your topic list up based on the competitiveness and popularity of your keywords.

For this step, you can use a keyword research tool that allows you to track the search volume for keywords. You will want to look for keywords that have the lowest keyword difficulty as well as the highest volume.

Once you have found the perfect keywords to focus on, it’s time to organize them into your core topic categories. You will take your pillar topics and fit each of your keywords to one of these topics.

Identify Headlines

Writing high-quality headlines is important to help you earn and keep high organic positions. You will need to meet the search intent of your audience if you are hoping to rank high and stay high.

The types of queries people make through search engines frequently fall into one of four categories.

The first is informational queries. This is when an individual is searching for specific information about a topic. The second is navigational queries, where a person is looking for a specific site or webpage.

The third is commercial queries, where a person is investigating their options when it comes to a purchasing decision. The last is transactional queries, where an individual wants to purchase something and is searching in order to fulfill that goal.

It’s finally time to start thinking about the type of content posts you want to make as well as potential headlines. It’s important to always keep the searcher’s intent in mind here. Having a truly creative headline won’t do you any good if Google doesn’t analyze it as serving the user’s search intent.

From your topic list, you can begin to determine which headlines will work best for your content. For informational topics, you might have “ultimate guide” content or “how-to” articles. For commercial topics, you might include “cheapest,” “best,” or “reviews” in your headline.

Your headlines should clearly and completely indicate what will be found inside the content.

Is It Time for You to Increase Profits for Your Content Site?

When you first get the idea to create a niche website, there are a ton of questions you have to answer. You likely find yourself googling “what is keyword research?” and “how to pick blog topics.” Now that you have a better understanding of both keyword and topic research, you’re ready to press go when it comes to content creation.

However, there are other tools at your disposal to help ensure that your site is profitable. At Title Console, we offer analytics to help you boost your profits. Check out our pricing here to learn more.

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