Chapter 1. Where do you start?

Keyword research is definitely one of my favourite parts of SEO. Although can take a long time and hard work, the strategy that you can develop is fantastic. It’s one of the most powerful market research tools we have available to us in any discipline.

The main thing I want to get across is to categorise your keywords. Run your keyword research process through a number of steps to make sure the keyword ideas are something you can deliver on. The aim is to fulfil what the search is trying to achieve. This is where great things happen with your content.

The first step is knowing what you’re doing research for. Your aim has a big bearing on what you’re going to do. The tips will help expand your horizons to find more ideas, group keywords into topics, find common themes, and map intent. This should help you know what content is going to rank and what to build.

Build on What is Already Working

My first tip is to build on what’s already working by using Google Search Console data. You can find a huge amount of information here.

If your site has any history, old articles or lots of commercial pages, there will be plenty of queries in Search Console. You can use these queries to develop new ideas and expand your current content.

Go to the Performance report, look for relevant keywords which you aren’t addressing directly, then work out, how you can expand these pages, or if you need to create something new. As always with good research, find the common themes that you can build content around. 

You can also use the Google Search Console API to help you find more ideas. You can use an add-on for Google Sheets – Search Analytics for Sheets – or build a table in Data Studio, so you can start querying your pages. See all the keywords the pages have appeared for, and start finding keywords that you can develop new content for.

Answer Your Public

Build content around questions, not topics. There’s a small demand for questions, and often questions have the same intent, which added together equals a lot of demand. 

The best part of using questions is it makes it forces you to answer the question, rather than just writing about the keyword. Unless you Wikipedia or a dictionary website, the aim of your content isn’t to just write about your keyword. You want to fill the users need when they type that keyword in, and questions are a great way of doing that. You can also use questions as sub-headings throughout your articles, posts and e-commerce or product pages. There are loads of great angles with questions.

To get ideas, you can use many of the most famous keyword tools. You can also scrape the People Also Ask questions directly from the SERPs to start getting some ideas. You can also try the AlsoAsked tool. It’s free you put your seed term in and creates a lovely visual which can help get buy-in from people higher up the chain. Its a nice way to start building more keyword ideas.

There are also plenty of free keyword tools that you can use, for example keywordtool.io. Make sure you don’t just use questions like who, what, when, why, how. Expand your questions to include prepositions, comparison terms and other modifiers you see in your niche. This is a great way of finding question-style topics to build your content around.

Charlie Williams

A search veteran who’s worked just about every kind of role over more than a dozen years in the industry, Charlie runs Chopped Digital, an SEO & content strategy consultancy dedicated to helping create better sites and smarter SEOs.
Passionate about helping sites take control of their SEO, he helps run local digital marketing events and has created a number of training courses.
A regular industry speaker, Charlie loves to share ideas on his specialities of content strategy for SEO, technical SEO & creative user experiences. He also thinks keyword research is *amazing* for finding the content your audience wants from you.

Watch our Tea Time SEO session here:

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Use those who know your audience

Most of the time, as SEOs, we’re not the experts on the business itself, so make sure you speak to those who are the experts.

A great way to start a new project is to have a set of questions which you can ask the experts so you can learn from them. For example, common customer queries, pain points they face and barriers to purchase. Your secret weapon is to sit down with them, buy them a drink and to talk to them. It’s a great way to get real answers and you will have better information than by sending an email. Speak to the experts, whether you’re in-house or agency side.

Find the Topics and Keyword Exemplars

My fourth tip is grouping the keywords you’ve found into topics to build better content experiences. Find all the angles of your topics. We’re looking to find and group keywords with the same intents, where you can build one page and target all the keywords that have the same user end-goal. Find keywords where there’s not just one page but where you can build but a whole range of potential articles around a topic.

By doing research and studying different subtopics in one area you can create a hub so Google thinks you’re not just an expert on one keyword, but on a whole series. The idea of a cluster is that it builds authority in that topic through a series of articles that interlink with each other.

This used to be called the hub and spoke model in SEO. The idea is we build hubs of information. There is a great article about this by Samuel Schmitt, it’s an example of how he used topic clusters to build traffic by turning an article into a pillar page and a series of subpages.

SEO tools can help you find these topics. Ahrefs has a parent topic mechanism, where they put keywords under a parent topic, because if you rank for that keyword, you tend to rank for the similar ones as well. It’s built on the idea of building a topic out, so make sure its a part of your keyword research strategy. Another tool that does this well is Moz, where you can group keyword by lexical similarity to show topics.

Authoritas has a similar product to help you find the keyword clusters and groups which your competitors are ranking for. If you’re interested in furthering your content strategy, then have a look at the Market Share tool.

Map Out Your Keywords By Intent

Last but not least, mapping content and keywords by intent. Intent has become a really big thing in SEO, but people still aren’t using it enough. We want to know what the intent of a search is, or at least what Google thinks the intent of that search is. 

Back in 2007, Rand Fishkin, named four kinds of search intent: Navigational, Informational, Commercial Investigation, and Transactional. Lots of work since then has expanded this idea. Content Harmony, wrote an article where Kane Jamison developed this idea to about nine different intents. The idea is to build the potential intents out and there are some tools that will give you this intent. SISTRIX use the intents that are listed in the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines as a way of breaking user intent down. Authoritas has built their own User Intent model which you can read about on their blog.

Know the intent of your keywords before you start producing content or even think about targeting it. If you don’t, how do you know whether you’re actually in a position to address that intent and actually start ranking? 

In the example below you can see that there’s actually a mixed intent, there are some articles and some tools which have come up for my search query. Can you produce the right kind of page that’s going to rank for this this keyword? At least know if your keyword is informational or commercial in intent. Then you can break things down to help you map your keyword to your content a bit easier.

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By grouping keywords by topic and by intent, you can end up with massive keyword spreadsheets. I like to group all my keywords by topic, see how much search volume there is by topic, and whether it’ll be worth investing in or not. We also can tell how many of those searches are commercial and how many are informational. You can then weigh up the content type and whether it’s worth investing in producing that content or not. 

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