So many research tools oh my!
A word of caution. Each SEO tool will show you different results, sometimes just a little different, other times dramatically different. Each tool has its way of calculating each metric and some companies have even come up with their proprietary metrics, like Ahrefsʼ Domain Ranking which shows the strength of a websiteʼs total backlink profile, in terms of its size and quality.
Keep in mind that no tool is 100% accurate or reflect 100% of the searches being made.
And no, not even Google’s own tools. Thereʼs life outside of Google, believe it or not.
So the key is to choose one tool and stick with it. Use it to the fullest and take action on the insights you get from using it. Donʼt get stuck trying to figure out how each tool is calculating each metric, or why youʼre seeing differences, or…
Keep it simple. Be smart. Evaluate the numbers you see with your common sense and if something doesnʼt look right, look further into it.
Finally, know that keyword research is not a one-time thing you do for your website. As you go on growing your website, youʼll want to keep an eye on the competition, on your own website and keep adding keywords and finding opportunities to bring more traffic to your site, so keyword research is a skill you should keep improving and using. Keyword research is one of the highest return SEO activities.
Best paid keyword research tools
Youʼll be able to get some data using free tools, but not only you will need to use a lot of tools to get the different data you need, which means
learning how to work with all of them, youʼll also ne ver get the really good
insights because the features that provide them are paid, or available only in paid tools. Feature development and data management involves big costs, so it makes sense that the more complete and advanced tools be paid tools right?
If you canʼt really afford to pay fully for a tool right now, make the most of the Trial Period.
The tool I recommend you use is, without a doubt, Ahrefs.
Ahrefs – https://ahrefs.com/
Ahrefs covers all your SEO needs, it can help you with:
- Keyword research
- Content research
- Backlink research
- Rank tracking
- Competitor research
- Site auditing
Just to mention one key feature, Ahrefsʼ Rank Tracker gives you data on these SERP Features, not just a snapshot but the results over time:
- Featured snippet
- Site links
- Top stories
- Image pack
- Adwords top
- Adwords bottom
- Shopping results
- Knowledge card
- Knowledge panel
- Tweets box
You can start a 7-day trial for $7 here
Other keyword research tools to take a look at.
Answer The Public – https://answerthepublic.com/
You can download the results as a CSV file to work the results to your liking, or in the format of an image, like in this example for a search using “bowling”:
Ubersuggest – https://neilpatel.com/ubersugg
Not only it provides content ideas for the keywords you search using it, but also you get to see what are the popular blog posts for that keyword and the number of social shares. Usually the more shares a blog post has, the more people loved it, so is a good indicator.
You also get great information related to Backlinks and Estimated Visits to help you with the promotion part of the content, which is as equally important as the part of creating the content.
With this tool, youʼll be on your way to create content that people will care to read and you will not waste your time and resources creating content that wonʼt get you any social shares, backlinks or rankings. Usually, Social Shares will result in more short-term traffic and search engines will bring you less traffic upfront, but consistent traffic over the long-haul, so try to find a balance between them when choosing content to create.
BuzzSumo – https://buzzsumo.com/
It has several features to help you research, including finding influencers and monitor your topic or brand, but a key feature is their Chrome extension, which allows you to check the real-time shares for any webpage you are
browsing, displaying the number of engagements on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit (sum of upvotes and comments).
You can also see in the extension an article’s Evergreen Score, which is an internal ranking system that BuzzSumo developed and it measures the number of social engagements and backlinks that article got 30 days after it was published. The higher the score, the higher the engagement it got. This is great information for you to use when planning Evergreen Content for your site.
Keyword Keg – https://keywordkeg.com/
Keyword Keg is a suite of three keyword research tools: the “Find Keywords” tool, the “Import Keywords” tool and finally, the “Merge Words” tool.
It includes proprietary SEO metrics like On-Page Difficulty, Off-Page Difficulty, SEO Difficulty & CTR Scope and also tells you which SERP Features exist for every keyword.
SERPWoo – https://www.serpwoo.com/
Besides the information you would expect from this tool, like tracking your domains and the competition, measure strength from URLs and Domains and help you find new opportunities to rank, it also allows you to do super useful things like get alerts for your brand and personal name with ORM tagging or be alerted when something significant happens.
Using SERPWoo, you’re able to track the top 100 ranked sites for each of the terms you want to track, every single day. This will give you the data on the entire landscape,not just how one site is ranking, and it will allow you for instance to track up and coming websites.
This was the first tool to allow you to see your mobile rankings, which you can do using the Rank Tracker; you can do this also now with Ahrefs, but you must have an Advanced or Agency plan to have that feature
available. I donʼt need to tell you how significant m obile traffic has become in recent years, right?…
You can also integrate it with Google Sheets so that it pulls in live data from SERPWoo from any of your projects – including Keyword SERP Data – which should make controlling your data much easier!
Similar Web – https://www.similarweb.com/
SEMrush – https://www.semrush.com/
Best free keyword research tools
Quora – https://www.quora.com/
Googleʼs Keyword Planner – https://ads.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/
The tool is free but to see exact monthly search volumes you need to at least create an Adwords account and set up an AdWords campaign.
Once inside your Adwords account, go to Tools and then choose Keyword Planner and youʼll see “Find New Keywords” (great to generate keyword ideas) and “Get metrics and forecasts for your keywords” (wonʼt generate keyword ideas but if you have a list of keywords you can find out their search volume).
Since this tool purpose is to help advertisers, there are lots of features that wonʼt be useful for your keyword research, but even without them, you should still be able to get good results.
Youʼll find more information on how to use this tool other post.
Google Trends – https://trends.google.com/trends/
Letʼs try searching for example for “christmas lights” and see if thereʼs any seasonality affecting this keyword?
Wayback Machine – https://archive.org/web/
- Start by entering a site’s URL into the WayBack Machine
- In the results page, follow the timeline back to the first archive of thatsite
- Click on the year and go through the calendar to open each snapshot ofthat website
- When selecting a specific date from the calendar take intoconsideration the resultʼs color as follows:
Blue means the web crawler captured a good, 2xx result
Green means the web crawler got a redirect, 3xx result
Orange means the web crawler got a client error, 4xx result
Red means the web crawler got a server error, 5xx result
You want to check always the blue results if possible.
This process allows you to see how that site growth has been, the changes that have been implemented…
Youʼll find often there are historical robots.txt files archived and when youʼre trying to troubleshoot website issues such as big shifts in traffic, reviewing them can help you check if there were a ny changes in the crawling permissions that may have caused the big shift in traffic.
There are lots of ways to leverage this tool for SEO, so is a good one to add to your toolkit.
BeamUsUp – http://beamusup.com/
This is an SEO crawler, spider, robot analysis tool that allows you to find out problems easily on your entire site that might affect your SEO results. Problems like missing titles or short descriptions can easily be found and then fixed. As well as Duplicated Content so you can sort this as wellbefore you get penalized because of it.
Screaming Frog – https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/
You can crawl your whole website by entering the URL into the Spider and then it will automatically crawl all pages that have an internal link. Alternatively you can crawl a list of URLs, if you’re for instance checking for broken links (404s) and in this case, change in the menu from Spider mode to List mode.
The free version gives you access to these features:
- Find Broken Links, Errors & Redirects
- Analyse Page Titles & Meta Data
- Review Meta Robots & Directives
- Audit hreflang Attributes
- Discover Duplicate Pages
- Generate XML Sitemaps
- Site Visualisations
The paid version has additional features, including the ability to integrate with your Google Analytics.
Also included is a Log File Analyser: https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/log-file-analyser/
- Find Broken Links, Errors & Redirects
- View Most & Least Crawled URLs & Sections
- View Bot Crawl Frequency
- View Bot IP Crawl Activity
- Identify Large & Slow URLs
- Find Uncrawled & Orphan URLs
- Combine & Compare Crawl Data
I hope this overview of the top tools available makes it easier for you to choose which ones to try out and also which ones to invest in.
If youʼre feeling overwhelmed, I recommend you start with Ahrefs and only venture into other tools when you feel comfortable using it.
You can start a 7-day trial for $7 here.
Niche & Keyword Analysis (New & Existing Sites)
If youʼre starting a new website, you can read through it or jump right into the section afterward, where I cover doing Keyword Research for new websites.
Keyword Research for New Websites vs Existing Websites
The big difference is existing websites provide the opportunity to analyze existing directional data and new websites require a lot more front-load of competitor research.
Starting keyword research for an existing website
You’ll want to leverage the intelligence that your website can provide using these data sources:
- Analytics data
- Ranking data
- Contextual data
Let’s take a look first at your Analytics Data. First, you’ll want to look back over the previous 12 months in Google Analytics and identify the source of:
- The highest volume of traffic (Acquisition→ All Traffic→ Source/Medium)
- In the Source/Medium section, you can see all your main sources of traffic.
- The most valuable traffic (meaning the visits that created conversions)
These are your most valuable traffic sources that youʼd ideally want to further capitalize on. It also gives you a fair idea of where your audience comes from.
Next, let’s look at Ranking Data of your site and identify what keywords you’ve both:
- Historically ranked for.
- Are currently ranking for.
To do that, go to your Ahrefs account, enter your domain then choose Organic Search from the left menu.
Looking at these keywords can provide you insights to any immediate opportunities.
For example, if youʼve lost rankings for a high traffic keyword that you previously dominated, you can find the reasons why it happened.
May be a competitor came up with a more useful piece of content, acquired better backlinks, targeted the topic in a more holistic manner and optimized their page better than you.
This would help you identify action points for your own strategy.
Similarly, if you find keywords where your content is ranking below the first 3 or 4 results or top of the 2nd page, you can study the top results on the first page and find possible improvement areas in your content that can elevate your rankings.
Finally, let’s look at Contextual Data.
You can go see how Google currently contextualizes your website.
This is quickly and easily done using the Keyword Plannerʼs URL functionality in your Google Ads Account.
As compared to a new website owner, youʼre not lost and already have a reference point to give you an idea of the keywords you have to target.
Starting keyword research for a new website.
With a new website, you don’t have your own sources of intelligence, so you are on the hunt for a webpage that you can use to steal intelligence.
Choose what you believe to be your best root/seed keyword for your new website and enter it in Google.
For example, if your site is in the weight loss niche, you could search for “weight loss tips”.
Your goal is to find a contextually relevant root keyword to use as your start point of a brainstorming path, so you have in itial directional data.
If you don’t see any results that would work, keep running additional variations and pay close attention to competitor title tags.Make sure to pay attention also to paid results as they can provide insights into good conversion-focused keywords.
Evaluating a niche.
So now that you have a few niches selected and jotted down, as covered in the previous lessons, it’s time to examine them one by one.
What weʼre going to do is measure the potential size of each niche.
Meaning… weʼre going to be digging through each one to see what keywords are available, and how big they are.
Note: To do this youʼll need an SEO tool. My tool of keyword research is Ahrefs and thatʼs what Iʼll be showing in the screenshots and examples.
You can find a list of tools in the previous lesson and learn why I prefer this one over the others.
This is the area where a lot of people get stuck.
Where do you even start? is the problem most people face.
Entering in seed keywords is the way I start digging into any niche.
What are seed keywords?
Theyʼre just a bunch of different keywords (broad topics) in that niche that you input into your keyword tool. Iʼll get to examples of some of my favorites in just a little bit.
For example, you can use Keywords Explorer tool in Ahrefs and enter a few see keywords that broadly related to your niche.
These are things like tips, instruction, tutorials, how-toʼs, data, etc.
And you should be doing the same thing.
Why? Most sites out there are informational, and there is a big market for information.
For instance, Sports Illustrated, WikiHow, eHow, Business Insider, Forbes,Instructables, Martha Stewart, WebMD, Search Engine Journal…. I could go on and on.
Theyʼre all websites that produce informational content.
The market for information is ginormous, and as a result, there are a LOT of high search volume keywords for information in almost EVERY niche imaginable.
Itʼs no wonder that even sites whose primary goal is to sell their products
— SAAS websites, businesses, websites for profes sional services, and even e-commerce sites — are turning to information-related content to attract customers through search (usually in the form of a blog).
Itʼs just a huge market and there is always room in any niche for someone like you and me to come along and build a high-traffic blog around it.
Types of keywords you should avoid.
Before we go any further, I want to go over a rule I have about targeting keywords:
I avoid e-commerce / product-related keywords because they act in kind of a different way than normal search results.
You have to understand the meaning behind the search — search intent of the searcher.
For instance, let’s say one of the niches you’re analyzing is bowling.
An e-commerce/product-related keyword might be something like: “bowling shoes”.
It gets a good amount of searches per month (around 60,500 to be precise)
Why? Because of the MEANING behind the search.
Google knows that the majority of people who search for “bowling shoes” are looking to buy.
If you did a search, there’s nothing but e-commerce sites on those listings.
Keyword Search Intent.
Search intent is Googleʼs understanding of what the searcher is looking for. Based on this understanding, it gives priority to different pages in its search results for different keywords.
Itʼs only going to get better and better, as Google continues to improve the quality of their search results.
There are still some searches out there today that clearly mean one thing, but Google shows another thing. Theyʼre not perfect yet, but theyʼre improving.
As a result, itʼs very important to understand search intent while youʼre doing your keyword research.
An informational piece of content could very well have ranked for the term, “bowling shoes” a couple of years ago.
But as Googleʼs understanding of search intent gets better, theyʼre now nowhere to be seen for that keyword.
Links have nothing to do with it. Even if a page describing what bowling shoes are and how theyʼre made had hundreds of backlinks from the biggest websites in the world, they still wouldnʼt appear on the first page for that search result.
Google wants a page that sells bowling shoes because that’s what they’ve discovered their users are looking for. If your page doesnʼt sell any, it simply wonʼt show up there.
Thatʼs search intent and thatʼs why you NEED to pay attention to it.
To do keyword research properly, you need to fully understand your potential visitor’s intent.
Search intent is perhaps the most important “ranking factor” in 2019.
Analyzing Keyword Intent.
Understanding search intent is fundamental for driving visitors through your conversion funnel and knowing how and when to ask for the sale.
The four types (or levels) of search intent.
- Commercial Investigation
Hereʼs an image that describes these types pretty well.
Informational search covers the largest type of keywords and is generally representative of users looking for a quick answer.
Examples: “who is greta thunberg”, “wordpress”.
Navigational search is when a searcher is looking for a pre-determined destination.
Examples: “facebook”, “beginners guide to ahrefs”.
Investigation queries where the searcher is looking for information to help inform a buying decision, even if they do not convert; this is the gathering of information that has the potential to later lead to a sale.
Examples: “ahrefs review”, “best multivitamin supplements”.
The searcher is looking to make a purchase, find a place to make a purchase, or complete a task. These can range from queries looking to make a purchase online, to looking up the address of a store, to signing up for a service.
Examples: ”namecheap coupon”, “buy D5 Nikon battery”
Google itself describes these search behaviors as micro-moments. In fact, hereʼs one of Googleʼs own infographics that describes these searcher-intent types in plain and simple words.
The AIDA sales conversion funnel
Maybe you heard about AIDA before, it stands for:
- A – Awareness
- I – Interest
- D – Desire
- A – Action
Your target customer moves across each of these levels of the funnel, as they move in their customer journey.
At the top of the funnel, you have the Awareness Level, where their search is informational, the customer is completely unaware and most likely not in the buying mood, so your goal is to attract their attention.
Use specialized articles, images, videos, infographics, and other media to educate, entertain, inform, and inspire them.
Next comes the Interest Level where their search is navigational, when you target these keywords you’ll be telling people the facts or the features of the offer and your goal is to get the interest of your target customer.
They are “problem” focused rather than “solution” focused, so the page
where they land should show how the problem can be solved and present solutions for the problem.
Next is the Desire Level where their search is commercial and you should focus on the benefits (which is different than the features) of the product since your goal is to convince your target customers that they want and desire the product/service and it will satisfy their needs.
They know what they want, just not which one is best for their needs. Emotion comes into play at this level and they will start imagining themselves with the product/service, how they will use it in their daily lives
Some ways to provide the information they’re after is through surveys, polls, subscription newsletters (it should be easy to capture their email at this stage) and white papers.
At the bottom of the funnel is the Action Level where their search is transactional – this customer is hot and most likely have their credit card nearby ready to be used – and your goal is to lead them towards taking action and/or purchasing the product/service.
Itʼs the perfect time to show them clear benefits of the product and provide a simple and easy way to convert (purchase, buy, or download) showing what the next step is with clear and easy instructions.
Using the AIDA model to your advantage
The key to creating effective content is to make sure you’re using AIDA as a funnel and target the right level. Knowing the user intent allows you to create content around the different levels each type of visitor will be at.
The ideal scenario would be to have the Awareness pages linking to the
Interest content, then having the Interest content moving them along to the Desire level, which then takes them into the Action mode.
The key is to understand at what level the customer is in AIDA and then answer the potential problems theyʼre having there and so provide the solution.
For any website selling products (e-commerce), the most profitable keywords are going to be at the Action level – since these customers have already made the decision to use their credit card.
As an affiliate, you should focus on creating content at the levels of Interest and Desire to move your audience to the next level and get them to convert. You want to have visitors click to the e-commerce sites for your CPA offer (ex. Amazon affiliate program or Google Adsense).
Otherwise, if you’re targeting only the Action level, you’ll need to provide some Value because they already know they want Product X, they are not looking for more info or reviews, they’re ready to buy and don’t welcome a “delay”.
Of course, if you ever start selling products yourself, then you would be targeting also for Action, to convert those visitors ready to use their card.
I’m going to reference here an old (but still relevant) article by Rand Fishkin which has some interesting views on where opportunities are:
Opportunities – Brand searchers with a positive impression of your site, information, company, etc; Attract inbound links; Receive attention from journalists/researchers; Potentially convert to sign-up or purchase
Opportunities – Brand searchers with a positive impression of your site, information, company, etc; Attract inbound links; Receive attention from journalists/researchers; Potentially convert to sign-up or purchase
Average Value – Middling
Opportunities – Convert to member/sign-up; Sway purchase decision;
Collect email; Get user feedback/participation
Average Monetary Value – High
Opportunities – Achieve transaction (financial or other)
Average Monetary Value – Very HighSource: https://moz.com/blog/segmenting-search-intent Intent
In English grammar, a modifier is a term that clarifies or describes something. When modifiers are added to search keywords, they help Google understand what the searcher actually wants.
By targeting keywords that include modifiers, you can target users whose intent matches with your offer/content.
Here are some of the most common modifiers, in different types of keywords, to look for when tagging your keywords for search intent.
The key characteristic of an informational query is that it is noncommercial in nature, and the searcherʼs goal is just to gain information, not make a purchase or provide any of their information.
Keywords searched usually contain terms like: info, more information, information, details, latest features, benefits, definition, location,
directions, name, how, what, who, where, learn why, guide, tutorial,
resource, ideas, tips, learn, examples, voted the most, simple steps, more efficient, expert review, the facts about.
Indicators of familiarity with you, your company, or your product(s) or service(s). These searchers are simply using search engines because they find it easier/ quicker to find a website and use brand names or names of a product or a service.
Commercial Investigation Modifiers
The searcher is relatively familiar with the product he/she wants, and is now just trying to gain the final bits of intelligence to help with his/her decision.
Common keywords that indicate commercial investigation; small, medium, large, kids (sizes); men, women; black, blue, gray, orange, pink, red, green, purple (colors); versus, vs, best; price, pricing, reviews, review, deals, accessories, top, review, comparison, in-depth comparison, how it compares, compare, rated, features.
These searchers are ready to buy and just looking for where they can purchase. These are often longer, and much more specific queries such as: buy, purchase, order, sale, coupon, cheap, price, low price, lowest price, pricing, promo code, discount, online, free shipping, fast shipping, refund policy, trusted, great customer service, hassle-free, safe ordering, sale ends soon, readers’ choice, sweet deals.
Tagging For Searcher Intent
While doing keyword research in Ahrefs, you can use the modifiers listed before to filter for keywords with specific intent.
- Enter a few seed keywords into Ahrefs Keywords Explorer and hit search (like I demonstrated earlier)
- Choose one of the reports from the left-hand menu to see some keyword ideas. A good starting point is the Having same terms report.
- Copy-paste the modifier words into the “Include” box and switch the toggle to “Any word”.
- informational content for informational keywords category pages
- for commercial investigation keywords product detail (or conversion focused pages)
- for transactional keywords.
A Word of Caution About Modifiers
A caution note here, modifiers are not foolproof since not all keywords contain modifiers. So donʼt rely solely on modifier words to analyze search intent or youʼll end up missing out on a lot of good keyword ideas. Also see how Google tends to show certain SERP features more or less frequently, depending on the intent of the search.
The “featured snippets” for instance tend to show up mostly for informational queries.
Iʼll cover how to rank for Featured Snippets and also how to use Product Comparison Tables in the next module.
All it takes is some common sense, and awareness during your keyword research. Ask yourself
- What does this keyword mean?
- What is the searcher looking for when they type in this keyword?
- Are they looking for information?
- Are they looking to buy?
Take a look at the results and check to see what type of results are shown.
Does it show nothing but e-commerce sites?
Thatʼs all you need to know, and youʼll be fine.
Just remember to always keep search intent in mind as you do your keyword research.
So if “bowling shoes” is an e-commerce keyword, what would be an example of an informational keyword?
A better, information-related search would be something like: “bowling tips”.
So… letʼs go back to our keyword research process.
We had a list of niches, and the next step was to analyze their keywords and search volume by entering in some seed keywords for each niche.
For this, Iʼm going to be using Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.
This is the main tool I use for all my keyword research, and it’s what I’ll be using throughout this example.
What we’re looking for here are BIG keywords. Are there good keywords within this niche with a big enough search volume that will make pursuing this profitable?
Donʼt worry about things like CPC and competition analysis yet.
Inside Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, enter in your seed keywords:
If youʼre using a different keyword research tool, just follow along there.
I’ve chosen “potty training” as my example niche, along with some seed keywords that I thought of.
What exactly are we looking for here?
This is important: Where is our cut-off point? What is considered a high search volume keyword?
My criteria for keywords at this stage is: 10,000+ searches.
10,000 is the minimum number that I would need to see to target it as one of my MAIN keywords.
In this stage of the game, weʼre going to ignore all the smaller keywords for now. Weʼre using this criteria to measure the size of the niche, and the potential traffic we can drive to our site by measuring the biggest ones.
Why 10,000 search to main keywords?
Think 10,000 is a lot? Itʼs not.
My criteria used to be 50,000. But that really narrowed down the potential niches you can go after.
But with recent conditions, 10,000 seems to be the better target number. Instead of creating massive pieces of content that are over 5000 words long, itʼs better to reduce our target metric and instead create more content targeting more keywords.
IMPORTANT: I donʼt mean 50,000 searches for a single individual keyword.
This might sound a little confusing right now, but Iʼll explain everything in the unit after the next one.
Iʼm going to show you one of the MAIN STRATEGIES that I use that allows me to build more traffic to my sites than any of my competitors.
Apart from link building, I give credit to this strategy for the reason why I was able to cross $10,000/month.
And I canʼt wait to show you how you can use it for your own sites.
Link exchange is nothing except it is just placing the other
person’s weblog link on your page at suitable place and
other person will also do same for you.