5 Ways to Conduct Keyword Research in 2024

Despite the evolving Organic search landscape and the search engines’ shift to be more focused on user intent, keyword research remains a fundamental aspect of SEO strategies in 2024 and heavily guides on-page optimization. 

We’ll explore 5 ways you can hone in on target keywords and how you can identify relevancy and keyword intent for pages and content across your site.

1. Primary and Secondary Keyword Research

When identifying primary and secondary keywords for use in optimizations or new page creation, there are a variety of factors to consider that will ultimately impact how your content ranks, the type of traffic you drive, and the quantity of traffic you receive.

It is always best to generate a large list of potential keywords for each page and slowly slim that list down to 1-3 primary keywords you want to target within core page elements (Title, Headers, Content, etc.)

Using Keyword Research Tools

To begin identifying your primary keywords, start by making a list of all the core pages on your site. These should be transactional pages, like including your home page, service pages, product pages, and any other pillar pages that currently (or have the potential to) to drive leads or sales. You should conduct this practice for all content pages, but the initial priority should be core pages.

  1. Start by looking at each page in Google Search Console and note the top traffic-driving keywords for each page. These should strictly be non-brand terms that you feel are relevant to that page’s content and its offerings.
  2. Think holistically about how you would search for the content and offerings on each of your core pages. Do these ideas align with what you are seeing in Google Search Console? If so, you are on the right track. If not, reconsider how your site is currently optimized and whether the data you have in Search Console is relevant.
  3. Now that you have an idea of your seed keywords (how you would search for your products or services and how users are already finding your pages), it’s time to utilize a keyword research tool. A few options are, (no matter which route you go, the process will be the same):
    1. Google’s Keyword Planner – Free
    2. Moz.com – Paid
    3. SEMRush.com – Paid
    4. AHrefs – Paid
  4. Enter your seed keyword into your keyword research tool and start identifying the top keywords that are most relevant to your page. Be mindful of these metrics:
    1. Competition – these levels are typically classified as High, Medium, and Low or given a numerical score.
      1. Look for keywords with medium to low competition
    2. Search Volume – this is recorded based on average monthly searches
      1. You can filter by search volume to get an idea of the high and low ends of the spectrum and help identify where your margins are
  5. Try to identify keywords that are medium to low competition and have Search Volume that falls on the higher end of the spectrum. However, you should ultimately be identifying keywords that match your page’s offering.
    1. It is better to optimize for a keyword that has a lower volume but is more relevant to your page than trying(and ultimately failing) to optimize for a non-relevant keyword with a high volume.
  6. Record your identified keywords and prioritize them based on which terms are most relevant and have the greatest search volume.

Competitive Research

Utilizing websites that are already ranking in your space and analyzing the keyword choices of your top competitors is a great way to uncover new opportunities and help you align your content and optimizations with other businesses and sites that are already seeing strong performance.

  1. To start, identify your main competitors within your industry or niche. Tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or even just a Google search for some of your core offerings can assist in this process by providing you with a list of the top digital competitors in your space.
    1. Keep in mind that just because you have a major competitor in your area, it this does not mean they are a digital competitor. We want to be sure to look at competitors that are ranking highly for our target terms, as they will provide the most useful data for you to carry over to your own site.
  2. Uncover their primary keywords effectively by analyzing their target pages and extracting primary and secondary keywords in the meta titles, headings, and content. You can do this manually by analyzing these elements of their page or throwing the URL into a tool like SEMRush to see a full list of keywords that the page is ranking for.
    1. Pay attention to the long-tail variations and semantic keywords they incorporate naturally, as these are great additional opportunities to include on your page if you are already well-optimized for your primary terms.
    2. Use your keyword research tool of choice to identify the keywords with high search volumes and prioritize those that align closely with your page’s offering.
  3. Dive deeper into competitor content strategies by examining blog posts, articles, and other landing pages.
    1. Identify the topics they cover, the depth of content, and the keyword density (how often they use those primary keywords throughout the content and headers).
    2. Make note of these for use within your current content optimization or as potential gaps that you can fill with new content and pages.

2. Semantic Keyword Research

Recently, search engines have become increasingly sophisticated in understanding the context and semantics of user queries. Semantic keyword research involves creating a comprehensive map of related terms and concepts surrounding your primary keywords.

Using SEMRush

To identify semantic keyword opportunities, start with your core keywords and identify related terms using tools like SEMRush’s related keywords report to find semantically relevant terms to your seed keywords.

Keyword Magic Tool

By entering your primary keyword into the “Keyword Magic Tool” and navigating to “related Keywords” you can browse and filter your list based on intent and, included (or excluded) keywords. Look for long-tail variations and keywords that are similar to your topic.

SemRush’s SEO Content Template

The SEO Content Template will also provide a list of semantic keywords. Enter your target keyword(s) for a page into an SEO Content Template. The tool will analyze the top 10 Google results to provide a list of semantically related keywords (along with other recommendations).

Using Google Search

Conduct a search for your primary keyword and navigate to the “Related searches” section to see other related keywords and searches users have conducted. These can often include longer-tail variations of your primary keyword or other relevant queries that are semantically similar.

Alternatively, Google Autofill can be a great repository for semantic keywords. By typing in your primary term and analyzing the autofill results Google provides, you can identify additional semantic variations to be used in your content production

Google-supplied opportunities like this can be a great way to uncover additional keywords that some keyword research tools don’t display due to limited data or low search volume.

3. User Intent Keyword Research

Understanding user behavior is crucial in 2024, and intent-based keyword analysis takes a user-centric approach to keyword research. Instead of solely focusing on the keywords themselves, this strategy delves into the behavioral patterns of your target audience. The SERP and results served based on a user’s search are heavily geared toward the search engines’ perceived intent of the keyword versus just the keyword itself. This is why it is important to not only look for relevant keywords with good search volume and low difficulty but also to look for keyword intent that matches that of your page and its content.

When creating new content and building new pages based on keyword opportunities, it is important to mimic the intent of those keywords within your copy. 

  • Keywords with Transactional/Commercial intent should be used on pages with sales-focused language highlighting USPs and other information a low-funnel user would be looking for.
  • Keywords with Informational intent should be reserved for longer-form content that provides key information, data points, and other content that serves to educate users and help them make decisions based on the information provided.

It is a great practice to analyze the top 5-10 results for a potential keyword to understand what Google perceives as the intent for that term. 

  • If the initial results are pillar/service/product pages, you can assume that most users are low-funnel and looking for a solution. 
  • If the top results are heavily informational and data-driven, you can assume that the intent for those terms is higher funnel and these users are in the research phase and looking to collect information to aid their decision-making,

4. Google Trends Research

When you explore a subject in Google Trends, you can find related topics and search terms. It should be noted that Google Trends should be used in conjunction with other keyword research tools. Google Trends is excellent for content ideation related to blogs, whitepapers, infographics, and other content/media types, but it is less ideal for low-funnel keyword research.

Interest Over Time

By ending a seed keyword(s) into Google Trends, you can uncover trend growth over a specified time period to see how much of an opportunity that topic poses. This is also helpful for uncovering seasonal trends that can provide guidance into the ideal times to publish content on a particular subject.

Related Topics & Queries

The Related Topics & Queries section is the most beneficial forat identifying new opportunities and potential topic ideas. With your seed keyword added, you can easily see a list of the top queries and topics as well as what associated queries and topics are trending. This provides opportunities to use other keyword research tools to identify how your prospective audience and users are actually searching and what competitive opportunities you have.

5. Social Media Trend Research

Social Media apps regularly post trend reports that highlight key trends and topics based on surveys and 1st party data from those platforms.

Analyzing these trend reports for topics and themes relevant to your business will provide you with potential topic ideas and keyword opportunities to use within your site and content ideation.

Our favorite Social Media trend report has to be the PinterestPredicts report. This is the most inclusive and in-depth report that contains quality takeaways and opportunities for SEOs to leverage. It is a great jumping-off point, but just like with other trend analyses, you should be utilizing other keyword research tools to see search volume and competitive difficulty.

  • SERP analysis should also be utilized to gather an understanding of what content is ranking and what the perceived intent of a given topic is.

Put Them All Into Practice

Keyword research obviously takes many forms, and while this is not a definitive list, these are some of the strategies that have garnered us success. Depending on your business and industry, a different approach will be needed. Additionally, your strategies will need to differ depending on the type of content you are doing research. 

Blog content and other media types will be more reliant on identifying and analyzing trends first and following up with more SEO-driven keyword research after to validate your findings and potential opportunities.

Pillar pages will often require more competitive analysis and research using specific keyword research tools. Following this up with user intent research will provide you with an even more robust list of terms to target within your content.

Whatever method you choose, remember to continually conduct your research and regularly make iterations to your pages and the keywords you are targeting, or even better, identify new pages that can be created to expand your overall footprint and increase your traffic.

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