How to take a layered approach to keyword research
The layered approach to keyword research breaks down into 4 phases:
- Objective setting: define what you want to achieve and why you’re doing the keyword research.
- Keyword research: researching keywords that will help meet your objectives.
- Intent analysis: analyse keyword intent and priorities them by importance to your objectives.
- Content research: research the content that already ranks well for your target keywords.
Let’s dive deep into each step.
1. Setting your keyword research objectives
Outline your objectives for your keyword research and what you want to achieve. Always use the SMART goals framework when writing your objectives.
Here’s the example that I’ll use for this guide:
- Drive 1,000 high-intent monthly visitors to my SEO consulting page each month by June 2019.
If you have measurable targets for your keyword research, it will keep you on track.
2. Conducting the Keyword Research
Now it’s time to find the keywords that can meet your objectives. I’ll take you through step-by-step of my process-driven keyword research.
2.1 Brainstorm keyword ideas
First up, I’ll brainstorm 5-10 keyword ideas that will help meet my objectives.
My keyword ideas
- SEO consultant
- SEO consultant Sydney
- SEO consultant Australia
- SEO consultant Melbourne
- Freelance SEO consultant
2.2 Expand my list and collect data with Google Keyword Planner
Now I have a seed keyword list to start with; I’ll use Google Keyword Planner to expand my list and collect data.
This data looks promising. My seed keywords sum up to 2280 monthly searches, so I’m on the way to meet my objective.
Next, I download all keywords into Excel. With that CSV file, I can quickly do a text filter for keywords contain “SEO consultant.” After the filter, I have a list of 30 prospect keywords with an estimated 3070 searches a month.
2.3 Expand with a paid SEO tool
Now I’ll dig deeper into the keyword and gather more data to combine with my keywords list. In the example, I’m using Moz Keyword Explorer.
In the below image, I’ll click on Keyword Suggestions and export that to Excel. Then again I can filter to find the relevant terms.
After removing duplicates, Moz took my keyword list from 30 to over 150. So, you can see the value on collecting data from a second source.
2.4 Review Google Search Console
To expand my list even further I filter the queries in Google Search Console by “SEO consultant.” In the last 28 days alone, I’ve had over 2,000 impressions.
I’ll export this list into Excel again and remove duplicates.
2.5 Review Google Search Suggestions
Then I search several keywords in Google and scrap the search suggestions for keywords that are relevant.
Again put them into Excel and remove duplicates. My keyword list is now over 200.
2.5 Use a long tail SEO tool
The final step is using Answer The Public to collect long-tail keywords to add to my list. Put in your head keyword, in my case ‘SEO consultant’ and then download to CSV.
After removing the duplicates in Excel, I now have 405 keyword ideas.
3. Intent analysis
Intent analysis prevents wasting time trying to rank keywords that won’t meet objectives.
In this step, we need ask two questions of our target keywords:
- What search category does the keyword belong to?
- Will the keyword help meet the objective?
I find looking at content Google is already ranking on the first page the easiest way to do this.
Google “SEO consultant,” and you’ll see every result is a business website. The results tell me that people searching have high-intent and are looking for services.
The keyword could fall into two categories:
- A ‘Do Query’ as people are looking to contact a provider
- A ‘Know Query’ people are looking for information. Both will achieve my objective, so we are ready to proceed.
To give you an example of where intent might not meet my objective, Google “SEO Specialist”:
On the surface, this keyword sounds excellent. But if you look at the results of this query, it is not high-intent. There is a mix of results from blog posts about ‘what is an SEO specialist’ and even SEO specialist jobs. We can assume, there is a lot of different intents for this search.
4. Content research
Once the keyword list is complete and intent confirmed to be relevant, we move on to content research.
When creating content, it’s rare that you want to reinvent the wheel. Content that works, works for a reason. So, again analyse the top 10 results on the first page, look for common themes and topics in each result.
Make a list of everything that’s on the page and what appears the most. With this information, you’re well placed to create a page that’s ten times better than the other results.