Hackernoon logoA Step-by-Step Guide to Growth-Minded Keyword Research by@semrush

A Step-by-Step Guide to Growth-Minded Keyword Research

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Keyword research is a big step towards developing a solid wider keyword strategy. But even during this process, you can, and have to, keep in mind the end goal of your entire SEO efforts - top rankings, performance, and eventually growth.

And as much as Google is encouraging SEOs to think topics over keywords, they are closely intertwined and you cannot really choose one approach over the other.

In this post, we will briefly outline the key steps you need to take to run thorough yet efficient keyword research that keeps your end goal intact.

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What is Keyword Research and Why It’s So Powerful

In a nutshell, keyword research is all about discovering and analyzing which search queries people enter into the search engines to get their answers. 

Out of this definition, we can already infer the key points of value of this process:

  • to uncover what your target audience is actually searching for and how;
  • to find resonating ideas for future content that would appeal both to your audience and the search engines; 
  • to create on-spot marketing campaigns that target the right queries; 
  • and if done correctly, to optimize your budget and resource allocation by helping you only focus on high-impact yet less competitive search terms. 

All the metrics around a keyword - search volume (the query’s popularity and search frequency), ranking difficulty (competition level within organic search), and more -  will help you create a data-driven and simply smart SEO and online marketing strategy. 

Growth-Minded Keyword Research

We promised to focus here on growth-minded keyword research, which essentially implies discovering keywords that have the perfect balance between search volume and competition level.  

While there are many tools out there that can facilitate your efforts - from a free Google Keyword Planner to paid solutions, we will be using our very own Semrush toolkit to walk you through the process. Why? Because Semrush holds over 20 billion keywords, which makes it the largest keywords database on the market, and has multiple tools that turn your keyword research job into a breeze. 

Step 1. Get a broad list of your target keywords

With any preliminary research you conduct, make sure to keep in mind the three main “keyword criteria”: 

  • Relevant: this applies to overall content relevance and meeting users’ search intent. 
  • Authoritative: the content you create around a target keyword should be the most authoritative source of relevant information. Here, you must really take into account your top competitors for the keyword you’re tackling - if you’re running a small business and need to compete with articles from high-authority sites like Forbes and the NYT, you may want to pick another keyword unless you’re certain you can add some unique angle to the story.
  • Popular: when picking keywords, you have to try to tackle search queries that have higher search volumes - after all, why would you supply something that has no demand?

Keeping these three points in mind, start making a broad list of target keywords. There are two key ways to go about it:

  1. Use your market and buyer persona insights and put down a set of broad (“seed”) search queries you need to tackle.
  2. Leverage the power of competitor research. In this approach, you have to take a glimpse at your key competitors’ keyword strategy. 

This is where Semrush’s Organic Research comes in. All you have to do is enter the competing domain, and the tool will gather a list of all keywords the site organically ranks for, along with the key metrics you need to consider. 

Then, simply cross-reference each keyword’s search volume with the keyword difficulty metric, and select the keywords that have both high monthly volume and low-ish competition rate. If you’re planning to run any PPC campaigns, you should also take into account the cost-per-click (CPC) estimates provided by the tool.

To get more keyword ideas from your rivals, hover on to Keyword Gap. Essentially, the tool allows you to enter up to 5 competitors and stacks their organic and PLA keyword profiles up against yours, revealing all the missed and untapped opportunities.

Pro tip: Make sure to use the tool’s filters to narrow down the research scope to keywords within a certain search volume range.

Step 2.  Maximize your keyword strategy efficiency with long-tail keywords 

While it’s a big win to rank for broad terms as they normally have higher search volumes, it may take a while to get the rankings. Thus, long-tail keywords (aka longer keyword phrases that tend to have 3+ words) selected right can get you quicker wins that are often even more preferable.

Long-tail keywords typically imply a more specific user intent - just think of a difference between “dress” and “affordable black sequin dress” searches, which user would you rather get to visit your e-fashion site?

This way, by targeting long-tail keywords, you are more likely to attract a more relevant audience without wasting your efforts (and money) on people who aren’t searching for your product or solution. 

Now how do you uncover those long-tails?

Guessing and intuition won’t really cut it at this point. Thus, we’ll run you through the process with the help of our powerful Keyword Magic tool - the key thing here is to understand the logic behind your research.

1. Enter your seed keyword (you should use keywords from the list you have built throughout step 1) and the tool will automatically gather semantically-related long-tails that are divided into various subtopics.

2. Pick subtopics that are most relevant to you and play around with filters: sort these groups by monthly search volume or keyword number, and hide the ones you don’t want to pay attention to (eye icon).

3. Select match modifiers to expand or narrow down the tool’s keyword selection.

4. Then, use advanced filters to only focus on keywords with a certain search volume range and keyword difficulty. Once again, if you’re thinking of running ads, also make sure to set up CPC and competitive density criteria.

5. Pay attention to the keyword trend - if the popularity of a given search term is going down, it might not be worthy of your attention.

Pro tip: Make sure to go through the Questions filter to tackle question-based queries, which are gaining traction thanks to voice search and featured snippets.

Step 3. Make your final keyword selection

Now, once you’ve made all the research - it’s time to actually laser-focus on a set of keywords you will be targeting first. 

Many SEOs are still managing this process in Excel - manually entering all the keywords and the key metrics (search volume, keyword difficulty, CPC, and more). Yet if you’re working with Semrush, you can instantly send each keyword that caught your attention to Keyword Manager. 

This tool keeps all your keyword lists in one place, allowing you to get a full picture of your selection, get an estimate of the click potential (based on SERP features), and instantly see all the keyword metrics, helping you to prioritize your efforts and focus on keywords that can really make an impact.

Over to You

Now, you’re armed with all the essentials - so, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start your growth-minded keyword research journey.

And if you don’t want to go all alone, we prepared a special FREE Semrush trial for Hacker Noon readers to try out the full power of our keyword capabilities that go way beyond what we mentioned in this post.

Start your 14-day FREE trial now!


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