Keyword Research Tutorial: From Start to Finish

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In this keyword research tutorial, Sam Oh goes through a step-by-step process to research keywords and map them to the buyer's journey.

You'll learn both basic and advanced keyword research tips to attract customers in every stage of their buying journey. Best of all, it's broken down as a step-by-step process.

First, you'll learn the four types of keyword categories, what they are, and how they fit into the sales conversion cycle.

Then we'll get straight into generating keyword ideas.

The keyword research tool used in the tutorial is Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer. You'll learn how to generate millions of keyword ideas and narrow them down into focused groups that target buyers based on search intent.

The next step is to analyze the top 10 Google search results for your target keyword. This will give you information on things like content format, search intent, and context of a topic.

Using the top 10 search results, you can also analyze how hard it will be to rank on Google for your target keyword. Sam goes over analyzing 3 metrics and finding a balance between referring domains, Domain Rating, and topical relevance.

Finally, you'll learn an effective way to find topics that are driving organic traffic to your competitors' websites.

Using this data, you can find low-competition topics as well as high traffic opportunities.

Keyword research isn't about search volume. I'll even argue that it's not entirely about traffic either. It's about choosing topics that potential customers are searching for, serving their needs, and eventually converting them into customers. So in this keyword research tutorial, I'm going to show you how to do keyword research that will help you increase traffic and revenue. Stay tuned. [music] What's up SEOs? Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors and dominate your niche. Now, this keyword research tutorial is going to be a bit different than what you might be used to seeing. Rather than focusing on things like low competition topics, I want to show you how to find and map keywords that will actually drive revenue for your business. So whether you're creating a new website or you want to revamp your current keyword targeting, the processes I'll outline today will help. Alright, so let's say that I'm starting a new e-commerce store selling computers, parts, software, and accessories. I'll obviously need product and category pages. But I'll also want to use a blog to fuel my traffic.
Generate keyword ideas
The first step is to generate keyword ideas. And I'll be using Ahrefs Keywords Explorer for this. So I'll start by typing in a few broad keywords related to my online store like computer, computers, laptop, laptops, and pc. Next, I'll go to the Having same terms report which shows us all keyword ideas that contain the target keywords as a broad match. And there are well over 17 million keyword ideas. Now, the point of this exercise isn't to find as many random keywords as possible. It's to filter them down and group them by search intent. Search intent just means "the reason behind a searcher's query." Now, these can generally be categorized into four groups. First, are informational keywords. And these are queries where a searcher is looking to gain general knowledge on a topic. For example, "what is DDR4 ram?" Next, are navigational keywords. For these, the searcher usually knows the destination they want to reach. For example, something like "newegg DDR4 ram." Third, are commercial investigation queries. These generally show that someone is looking to get information on something that they want to eventually buy. So these will often be comparisons and include keyword modifiers like "best DDR4 ram." Finally, are transactional keywords, which show that someone is ready to make a purchase like "buy DDR4 ram." And if you're familiar with the sales conversion cycle, you'll see that each of these groups fit into one of the four stages. Now, you might be wondering, why not just go after transactional keywords since these are the ones that are going to drive direct revenue? Two things. First, you'll limit your reach. Generally speaking, search demand will be the lowest for transactional keywords. So if you're ignoring things like informational queries, you'll be missing out on opportunities to squeeze yourself into your target audience's conversion journey. Informational content can also help you build trust and authority, so that when someone actually comes to a point of commercial investigation, they may recognize your name. Or when they get to the transactional stage, having previous exposure can be the difference between choosing you over a competitor. The second distinct advantage you have is that you can accelerate people's buying journey through internal linking, retargeting, or whatever method to get your content in front of them. For example, if my store had a blog post on "what to do with an old laptop," and the post mentioned a buy-back program we do, it could lead to a conversion quickly. Now, how can you determine search intent for a keyword phrase?
Determine search intent for a keyword
With some of them, you can't from the keyword alone. But a good chunk of them can be found using keyword modifiers. A modifier is an add-on to a base keyword. For example, that could be best, top, or the current year. Here's a short list to get you started. Take a screenshot and let's keep going. Now I'm back in our Keyword ideas report and I want to filter for keywords by search intent category. So I'll grab our list of informational keywords, and paste them into the Include box here. Make sure to set the tab to "Any," which will show us all keyword ideas that contain any of these keywords. Alright. So the filtered results still show over three million keywords. So let's set another filter. If you're looking for low competition keyword targets, then you can set a maximum keyword difficulty score of something low like 10. Personally, I prefer to focus on search demand by setting the volume in tiers. So we'll set a filter to show only keywords that have a minimum search volume of 1,000 monthly searches. And we've narrowed our 17 million results down to around a thousand. Now you'll need to manually filter through these. Since we're focusing on keyword research that drives revenue, you'll have to focus on the business potential of a keyword. At Ahrefs, we assign a score between 1-3. The larger the number, the greater value the keyword has to our business. An easy way to determine the business value is to ask yourself this question: Can I plug my products or services into these posts naturally? Or ask yourself, would someone searching for this query be interested in purchasing my products or services? If the answer is no, then you should probably move on. A quick way to sort through this list is to sort the table by parent topic. Since a single page can rank for hundreds or thousands of keywords, you can use the parent topic to see if you can rank for your target keyword while targeting a more general topic on your page instead. For example, you'll see high volume keywords that all have the same parent topic of "xbox one controller driver." Rather than creating numerous dedicated articles on these queries about connecting an xbox controller to a PC, just choose the one with the most search volume as long as it provides value to your business. For example, this keyword on "what is a computer worm," could be a good one for our computer shop since we provide anti-virus software. So while it is an informational topic, we could easily link to the different software products in our store. So I'll add a checkmark to it. Then select the rest of the keywords in your filtered list by scanning the parent topic groups. Now, before we switch to the next page, scroll to the top and click on "Add to" and create a list with the keyword category as the name. So these would be informational keywords. If you find that your keyword list is too short, then just change the volume filter. Since we've already gone through searches with greater than 1,000 monthly searches, I'll set the next one to searches that have 500-999 monthly searches and do the exact same thing until I have a large enough pool. Now, do the same thing for your other keyword categories, and you should have a nice list of topics to target in every stage of their buying journey. But there's still some work to do. The next step is to analyze Google's top 10 search results.
Analyze Google's Top 10 search results
Now, this is a super important step to keyword research. The top 10 ranking pages are going to give you information on things like content format and it'll help you understand how hard it's going to be to rank on Google for your target keyword. For example, if we click on the SERP dropdown beside this keyword, you'll see the top 10 ranking pages. Now, the first thing you want to analyze are the titles of the ranking pages. You can immediately tell that all of the pages are blog posts. You'll also see that the titles talk about what computer worms are and how they work. Rather than completely reinventing the wheel and trying to rank this with a product page, you'll want to stick with the content format. So for my site, I might create a post called, "What is a Computer Worm? How to Fix it When You've Been Infected." Now, just to show you how SERPs can differ, if we look at the top 10 rankings for "4k monitors," you'll see that the SERP is dominated by product and category pages, which to me shows more transactional intent. You can also do this step by running a search in Google for a keyword you want to rank for. The next part is to assess how hard it will be to rank on Google for this keyword.
Measure ranking difficulty
Now, there are a few things that I'll look at here. First, will be the number of unique websites linking to these pages. We call that referring domains. In this example, it doesn't look like the top ranking pages have that many unique links outside of Wikipedia. In fact, some of the pages in the bottom half of the SERP have 0 unique links pointing at them. Now as I'm looking through the referring domains, I'll also look at the Domain Rating, which represents the overall strength of a website's backlink profile. In this case, you can see that the ranking pages all come from pretty powerful domains. So if your website has a DR of, let's say 15, you have to account for the fact that you'll be competing against pretty powerful sites. In general, you want to play in the same Domain Rating ballpark region, or be prepared to build more links than the top ranking pages.
Analyze topical relevance
The final step that I'll look at is topical relevance. Since a computer worm is in the "antivirus" category, you'll see that a lot of the top pages are antivirus companies. So this may also tell us that it'll be a bit harder to penetrate, but not impossible. So with all of these things considered, I would put an estimated number of unique links I think we'll need to rank for this topic. From there, I'll decide whether it's worth putting my time and resources into ranking. Now, it's just a matter of doing this for all keywords that you're interested in targeting. And I highly recommend creating a spreadsheet of some sort so that you can track of your keyword targeting plan. Alright, so by this point, we've gone through most of the cookie-cutter keywords where search intent is easy to identify using keyword modifiers. But not all of the keywords are going to include our seed keywords like "computer," "laptop," or "pc." A great way you can get more keyword ideas is to reverse engineer the topics that are driving
Reverse-engineer competitors' traffic generating pages
traffic to your competitors' websites. You can do this by going to Ahrefs Site Explorer. Just enter a competitor's domain and then go to the Top pages report. Now, if I were looking for product pages that I want to rank, I would search for a site like that has a lot of product page rankings. Or if I were looking for blog posts, I could look at the Top pages report for a site like Tom's hardware. Now, it's just a matter of skimming the Traffic and Top keyword columns. And if you want to find lower competition topics, then just look at the Referring Domains column to get a basic understanding of ranking difficulty. Once you find a topic that you want to target, then go through the same process of categorizing by search intent, assigning a business value, and analyzing ranking difficulty. Getting traffic from keyword research is great and all, but as you go through this process, you want to make sure that the keywords you're targeting are serving your potential customers. And that's why it's so important to map keywords to problems they face. You have the opportunity to showcase how your products and services will make their life easier, and guide them towards your end goal. A conversion. Now, if you enjoyed this video, then make sure to like, share, and subscribe, and if you have any questions on keyword research, leave a comment below and I'd be happy to help. So keep grinding away, and I'll see you in the next tutorial.

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