Search Optimization

10 SEO Experts Reveal Their Keyword Research Techniques

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Keyword research is an SEO practice that lets you craft your content basis the common phrases searched by your audience. It is more about understanding your audience than mindlessly write about keywords.

Marketers and bloggers put hours finding the right keyword or topic for their audience. We use tools and planners to conduct keyword research. We even go on Google and look for keyword optimization tips.

While hustling through all this, we think about the experts who continue to ace their keyword game. How do these SEO experts conduct their research? How do they keep getting ideas and create great content, over and over again?

Well, if you are having such questions, then we have answers. We reached out to SEO experts and asked them about the strategies they use to find the right keyword. Here are their thoughts:

1. Mordy Oberstein

Mordy Oberstein is the CMO at Rank Ranger, a leading SEO software platform. When not marketing Rank Ranger, Mordy can be found writing original SEO insights & analysis. A Search Engine Land author, industry speaker, & host of The In Search SEO Podcast, Mordy is a ‘search marketing educator’

I’ve been on a soapbox about how to think about keyword research for a while now. We always hear about SEO being dead, but SEO is alive… keyword research dead. In fact, keywords are dead. The idea of targeting a keyword or even thinking about users utilizing keywords as isolated searches is obsolete.

Due to the way Google now relates to search, and how users themselves relate to search, it’s far more important to think about keywords as topics. That does mean doing “keyword” research. But it really means analyzing the questions people are searching for, the related terms people are searching for, etc. Most importantly, it means abstracting out from there. What topical themes are reflected in the questions users are asking or on the related search terms Google is showing? What does that say about the topic you’re looking to write up?

Topical research!

2. Lars Lofgren

Lars Lofgren is the CEO of Quick Sprout. Previously, he was the Director of Growth at I Will Teach You to Be Rich and KISSmetrics.

The biggest barrier to bloggers and publishers doing keyword research is psychological. I know it feels like tedious work. When I’ve struggled to grow traffic on blogs, it was always because I wasn’t doing keyword research myself. And when I do it, traffic goes up like clockwork. Use any keyword research tool and start building your editorial calendar around keywords that your blog doesn’t cover yet. Before long, it’ll feel like second nature and your blog will start growing faster than you ever expected.

3. Jon Morrow

Jon Morrow is the Founder and CEO of Smart Blogger, a writing site with more than 3 million readers, all learning how to improve their writing craft and earn a living with their words.

Keyword research is about two things:
1) Understanding what keywords are driving traffic in your space and
2) understanding what you can currently rank for, given the authority of your website.

Keyword research tools can help you accomplish #1, giving you a list of the keywords your competitors are ranking for and how much traffic they are driving, but the real “art” of keyword research is #2.

In the beginning, you probably can’t rank for the top, most competitive keywords, because your site probably doesn’t have enough links. The best thing to do is look for other sites with similar domain authority and target the keywords THEY are ranking for, but create better content than them. Over time, your domain authority will slowly go up, and you’ll be able to use this strategy to rank for more and more keywords.

4. Jasja ter Horst

Jasja ter Horst is the Founder of SEO Review Tools. On a monthly basis, more than 190K visitors use these SEO tools to improve their website. Multiple tools have caught the attention of industry leaders like Brian Dean and Cyrus Shepard. You can find out more about Jasja on LinkedIn.

– Know the strength of the forces working against you, Google (video, maps, booking modules…), advertising and your competitors.

– Know your own strengths. Use the statistics from GA and especially Google Search Console to see for what keyword types you’re able to make an impact.

– Don’t become blinded by search volumes, they are just really poor estimates.

– Be confident and make choices based on your own insights and subject knowledge.

– And finally, evaluate! Analyze how your newly published content is performing over time, learn from these statistics and adjust if needed

5. John Rampton

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

The most effective way I’ve found to get results from my keyword research is to use a tool like SEMRush. This is a cost-effective tool that delivers a significant return by providing me with insights into what the competition is doing in terms of keywords and how those results are working for them. There are numerous ways to conduct the keyword research outside of the competition’s efforts to optimize SEO for all my content across multiple channels. The suggested lists of keywords across sub-categories also shape my content management strategy for better engagement.

6. Maros Kortis

Maros is responsible for leading the marketing team and its activities at Mangools, a company behind super user-friendly SEO tools. In his spare time, he likes to explore the beautiful nature of Slovakia and to play gigs with his band.

My first advice? Do keyword research the same way you do your business. It’s not just part of SEO, it determines the future state of your business in Google and other search engines. You have to know your niche and that’s not only what people search for. It includes knowing their search intent. Therefore, SERP analysis should be part of every keyword research you plan to do. It helps you better evaluate the keyword difficulty by seeing the website authority of your competitors and you’ll discover whether the results are relevant to your content. Make sure to read one of many great keyword research guides to boost your skills.

7. Nathan Gotch

Nathan Gotch is the founder of Gotch SEO and Gotch SEO Academy. His work has been featured on Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch, and Ahrefs. You can follow him on Twitter @nathangotch or read his blog at gotchseo.com.

My go-to method for finding keywords is to extract them from successful competitors. The best tool to accomplish this goal is Ahrefs, but you can also use SEMRush or Moz. If you’re using Ahrefs, just paste your competitor’s domain into the Site Explorer and click on “Organic Keywords”. This is the easy part. The next stage of the process is to qualify these keywords. It’s critical that you understand this part of the process or you’ll end up targeting keywords your website isn’t capable of ranking for. Within Ahrefs itself, you can filter keywords by Keyword Difficulty (KD). This is a great preliminary qualification process. I typically look for keywords with  < 50 KD. From there, you need to manually analyze the competitors for any keyword that interests you.

The ultimate goal is to find a keyword opportunity that isn’t dominated by incredible SEO content assets. That’s because your goal should be to create the absolute best content asset around your target keyword. It needs to be different AND better than what currently exists. Another important nuance to keep in mind is that not all keywords are equal. Some are more valuable than others. Use PPC data to estimate the value of keywords.

8. Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CEO of DK New Media and Founder of Martech Zone. He is a marketing and technology consultant, speaker, blogger, and podcaster who has serviced the world’s largest brands on their organic content and inbound marketing strategies.

The most successful strategy I’ve deployed for clients when it comes to keyword strategy is to identify pages that already show some relevant ranking, and then improving the content on that page so that it’s more robust, informative, organized, and better designed from competing pages. I review competing pages as well as social share information to see the content that is most impactful. As soon as the page is updated, we publish it as new and promote… and watch its rank skyrocket!

9. Matt Diggity

Matt Diggity is the CEO and founder of Diggity Marketing, LeadSpring, The Search Initiative, Authority Builders and The Chiang Mai SEO Conference

These days, it’s really in your best interest to leverage software to assist in the keyword research task.

I prefer Ahrefs for this. The main features you want to use are “Content Gap” and “Also Ranks For”.

Between these two features, you can perform solid keyword research in minutes, compared to the hours it used to take a few years ago.

10. Harris Schachter

Harris Schachter is Director of Marketing at Home Care Delivered and founder of OptimizePrime, LLC. He is a certified product manager and digital marketing consultant.

The best way for publishers and bloggers to do keyword research is to do audience research. Who is reading your site? What do they care about? What keeps them up at night? You want to make sure your site has some type of topical relevance. Unless you’re the New York Times, you can’t just write about everything. Study your niche and area of focus, and then use all the keyword research tools available to develop a topic backlog. Your first step should simply be to use Google and the People Also Ask box. You can’t go wrong!

So… Which idea are you thinking to implement first?

1 Comment

  1. Definitely agree with #10, you have to pretend to be a customer and try to imaging how a layman would search for your service. Obviously things don’t get too complex most of the time, but if you have a pretty niche industry that sells to non-experts, chances are you use different descriptive words than your potential customers. It always pays to accommodate every way of describing your service (all the different search terms) in your content.

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