How to Pick the Best Keywords for Your Website

Marc Avila

It’s fair to say the consistent updates to the Google search algorithm keep digital marketers busy testing out new concepts to rank higher in search results. However, the role keyword research plays in digital marketing has consistently stayed the same. Knowing how to pick the best keywords for SEO is just as important now as it ever was. 

Of course, there’s a catch…

Just because keywords have continued to play a vital role in SEO, the methods we use to find the best keywords are different.

The Importance of Keyword Research

Have you ever spent time poring over Google Adwords, examing all the phrases and terms people use to search for things online? That’s what keyword research is—well, at least a portion of what keyword research all entails.

Marketers use keyword research for a number of things such as content ideas based on what people are looking for, optimizing SEO on their website, and so forth. Essentially, keyword research allows people to fine-tune their content strategies. 

And, truth be told, their marketing strategy on a much larger level.

You can see why keyword research is so important, but…

Is Keyword Research The End-All of Good SEO?

what makes up good seo
Picking the best keywords is crucial to good SEO. But don’t forget, keywords are not all that factors into your site’s SEO performance.

Yes and no. Unfortunately, the answer to that isn’t so clear cut. One side you hear people singing the praises of picking the best keywords and keyword research as a whole. On the other side, you hear some people are declaring that keywords aren’t what they were 10-years ago.

Well, they’re both right.

We’ve already said how important a role keyword research is, but the reality is, keywords aren’t all they were a decade ago. While picking the best keywords is vital to your SEO integrity, it’s not enough to just pick the best keywords and optimize your website based on that.

These days, it’s all about the intent of your content. 

RELATED POST: Go Beyond Keywords to Build a Local SEO Strategy That Works

Think of it this way:

You’re not trying to create content that ranks well based on how many times you’ve used your target keyword in an article or how well distributed it is in your content. 

You should be:

Creating content that’s based around your keyword research that also genuinely solves the problem or answers the questions of people who search your target keyword phrase.

wordpress blog post screen
Create content based on your keywords that your customers find useful.

For example, if your keyword research inspires you to create content on, oh, I don’t know, let’s say: how to pick the best keywords then your article should answer that question to the best of your ability. Otherwise, no one is going to waste their time reading it and Google is going to shy away from it.

So, on that note, let’s talk about how to pick the best keywords.

How to Pick The Best Keywords In Just Six Steps

Before we dig into each of the six steps, here’s a quick over of what we’re going to be covering today:

  1. Brainstorm and write down topics that are relevant and most important to your company
  2. Break down those topics into a list of keywords
  3. Break down those keywords and research more to hone in on the best keywords
  4. Add long-tail keywords to your list
  5. Research the competition
  6. Weed out the weak keywords with Google AdWords

See, that doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? Good news, it’s really not too difficult to pick the best keywords. Let’s take a closer look…

Step 1: Let The Keyword Topic Brainstorming Begin

First, grab a pen and paper. We’re going to be making an informal(ish) list with the goal to think of about 7-10 broad topics that are:

  • Highly relatable to your company
  • Highly important to your company

That’s it. Don’t worry too much about narrowing them down just yet. For now, you just need some good ideas from which you can draw from.

group of business people brainstorming keywords
Write a list of keywords that relate to your business.

As you’re brainstorming these big ideas, imagine yourself being one of your buyer personas. Think about what topics they would be searching for to find companies in your field or industry. You might also consider using phrases or topics that tend to come up frequently during conversations between your sales department and your audience.

For example, here at 3 Media Web, we focus on topics that are directly relatable to web development, design, and marketing since that is what we are experts at. We use keywords that people use when they are research topics and questions related to any of those things. 

For us, those keywords are things like:

They sound vague, right? That’s okay! Yours should be too at this stage. 

Once we have around 10 big topic ideas, it’s time to move on to the next step and start whittling down the big ideas into even more targeted keywords.

Step 2: Drill Down Your Big Keyword Topics

Now, in order to pick the best keywords, we need to take our big ideas and hone them a bit. We’ll do this a few times throughout our six steps, so don’t stress too much about getting them perfect right now. By the time we get to the end of our article, you will have a solid list of the best keywords you can use for your company.

Take your topics from Step 1 and, while still in “wearing the shoes” of your customer personas, consider what they might type into a Google search bar to learn more about those topics.

To give an idea, someone searching for web design most likely won’t just type in “web design” in Google. They’ll have a more specific query in mind. It’s more realistic to say they would use a phrase such as:

Remember, at this point, your list is still a bit of a brain dump—not your final pick of the best keywords.

Don’t Forget To Check What You Site Is Currently Ranking For

A quick aside… It’s good practice to be in the know when it comes to what keywords your website is already ranking for. You can use free tools like Ubersuggest.io to do a quick check of your website. 

screengrab of ubersuggest.io showing how to pick keywords
There are tools like Ubersuggest that provide important metrics when picking the best keywords.

By knowing what keywords you currently rank for, it will be easier for you to pick the best keywords to target moving forward. If you notice you do well with a particular keyword, you can figure out similar keywords to target and start picking that sweet, sweet low-hanging fruit. 

Additionally, it will prevent you from trying to rank for the same keywords over and over again. 

person looking for keywords on google adwords

Step 3: Determining Your Related Keywords

Remember how we just covered picking keywords that were similar to the keywords you’re already ranking for? Well, we’re back at it. Only this time, we’re not just focusing on the keyword phrases you’re already doing well with. 

This time, we’re going to drill-down all of the keywords we uncovered in Step 2 another time. 

Here’s how you do it:

Go ahead and start of the top of your keyword list from Step 2. Then, head over to Google and start typing it in. For our example, we’ll use “web design best practices”. As you start typing, you’ll see a drop-down below the search bar where Google attempts to autofill what you’re typing. As you’ll notice, they are highly related to what your typing.

list of google suggested keywords example
You should also pay attention to Google’s autocomplete search term suggestions.

You can also find more Google suggestions if you scroll to the bottom of the page. They’ll look like something like this:

screengrab of google suggested search terms keywords
Google search results pages feature additional keyword suggestions at the bottom of the search results page.

Take note of these suggestions as well as any additional keywords that were inspired by them.

RELATED POST: SEO for Humans

Step 4: Add Long Tail Keywords Into The Mix

Essentially, there are two types of keywords we’ll be using: head keywords as well as long-tail keywords. Both are important to include in your picks for the best keywords.

Head Keywords

Head keywords are sometimes referred to as head terms, and, if you’ve been working through the steps with us, you quite likely already have some on your list. Head keywords are broad and more far-reaching than long-tail keywords. Head keywords are much like the topic ideas you came up with in Step 1. 

Let’s say you have an online shoe store. A head keyword for a shoe store would be things like “shoes” or even “running shoes”. While both of these keywords literally get billions and billions of searches every month, it is incredibly difficult to rank for them. The competition is very high.

Google search results showing how to pick best keyword
Know the difference between head terms and long-tail keywords.

That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to include long-tail keywords into the mix. 

Long-tail Keywords

Much like the name implies, long-tail keywords are longer in length than a head keyword. They usually have three or more words in them and are also much more specific.

For example:

shoes” = head keyword

men’s brown leather dress shoes near me” = long-tail keyword

See the difference there?

Now that we’ve cleared up the difference between head and long-tail keywords, let’s talk about why you need both. So, we already know head keywords get more searches but are more difficult to rank for. Long-tail keywords get fewer monthly searches but are (usually, not always) easier to rank for. 

But here’s the real kicker…

The traffic you’ll get from long-tail keywords is much more likely to convert. 

Think about it:

Someone performing a search for a more general search phrase like “shoes” is less likely to be at a “ready to purchase” phase in the buyer’s journey than someone who searched a more specific term like “men’s brown leather dress shoes near me”.

So, go through the list of keywords you have at this point and start thinking about how you can make them even more specific. 

Ideally, you’ll have a solid list of head keywords as well as long-tail keywords. That is a major component when learning how to pick the best keywords.

RELATED POST: Four Signs It’s Time to Update Your Website Design ASAP

Step 5: Scope Out The Competition

2 people looking at a computer
Pay attention to the keywords your competition is ranking for to look for new opportunities.

This is another area where maintaining a balance plays a key role in picking the best keywords. That is, you want a good balance of words your competitors are ranking for in addition to keywords they don’t rank for. 

And, this is important:

Not all the keywords your competitors rank for will be useful for your business. You have to pick the best keywords from their list wisely. 

Use a tool such as SEMRush to see what keywords the competitions is ranking for. As you’re browsing through the results, take note of any that are highly relevant to your company. It’s okay if they include long-tail keywords or head terms. 

The main priority is to select some that you know you can rank for quickly as well as some that will take you a little work, but in which you can realistically rank for.

Step 6: Get Google AdWords Involved (If you haven’t already)

Don’t be fooled by the name, Google AdWords Keyword Planner is useful for things other than making ads. Especially when it comes to picking the best keywords for your SEO strategy. AdWords will provide you with certain measurable data. Data that will make it easier for you to determine the best keywords from your list.  

In this case, we’ll be using AdWords in combination with Google Trends. But that isn’t to say these are the only tools that can the job. There are additional platforms that can do the same thing, so if you already have an app or service you like, by all means, feel free to use it.

In Google’s Keyword Planner, enter in a keyword and look at the results. You’ll primarily be looking for the search volume metric in addition to Google’s traffic estimate for that keyword. 

Mark any keywords that don’t look competitive or are too competitive for your company to rank for. 

notepad with trending graph on it
Trends are important to check before you rule out any keywords.

Now, head over to Google Trends. Once there, we’ll check all the keywords, including those marked for competitiveness (or lack thereof). In some cases, the keywords you marked as not worth it just a moment ago in Keyword Planner may actually be good keywords.

Check to make sure they aren’t expecting an upward trend in the future. If so, it may be a great opportunity to get in while the getting is easy. You can start investing in content based on those keywords now while there is low competition. Just remember to monitor them as time passes to stay on top of any new trends.

RELATED POST: 3 Media Web Garners TWO 2019 W3 Silver Awards

Congrats! You Just Learned How To Pick The Best Keywords For SEO

Now that you’ve got an impressive list of keywords to target for your website, you are ready to start rocking out some content. Use your list to plan out your content strategy and work your way up the Google rankings. 

You’ve got this!

Just one last bit of advice before we send you out there, remember that it’s good practice to readdress your list on a quarterly basis. Things can change quickly in the world of Google and reevaluating your keywords is a good way to ensure you make it to the top and stay there.

Lastly, if you need help optimizing your website and its content, reach out to 3 Media Web to learn how we help companies from all types of industries create and maintain websites with powerful SEO. We’re here to help.

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