How to Do Keyword Research in 2020 to Rank #1 on Google
Conducting proper keyword research is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, you want to make sure you’re optimizing your website for keywords that people are actually searching for. You could waste a lot of time, energy and effort if you rank at the top of Google for a keyword that isn’t used by anyone besides you (you can feel proud of that #1 ranking, but you’ll still wish you had more website visitors).
Secondly, keyword research is important because of something we call “search intent”. Google’s search algorithm has become more and more refined over the years in correctly determining the intent of the user based on the word(s) they use when searching and a slew of other factors.
For example, if someone types in “bats for sale”, there’s a good chance they’re a baseball player. But they also may be looking for the animal bat, as in, the flying rat bat. Google does their best to determine the intent of its users, but if you sell flying nocturnal rats on your website, you probably don’t want to optimize for the search term “bats for sale” if 99% of the people typing that in are looking for large wooden sticks.
Finally, doing proper keyword research will help you discover which keywords are the most profitable for you. The tools I’m about to discuss will contain a lot of data on each keyword you’re thinking of targeting. You’ll be able to determine which keywords your competitors are ranking for and use that information to see how they’ve done it.
Keyword Research Tools
Before I talk about the strategy, I want to introduce several keyword research tools to you and explain what they are and how they work. You probably wouldn’t use all of these tools during your research, but generally speaking, you should probably use 2 or 3 of them. Most of the tools below use different data sets so it’s important to use multiple tools to make sure you aren’t missing any lucrative keywords.
Google Search Suggest
This is a simple, but very effective, keyword research tool. All you do is head over to https://google.com and start typing a keyword that you want to rank for. Google will suggest search terms as you start typing.
For example, if you begin typing “lawyers who” you’ll see the following suggestions:
If any of the suggested keywords apply to you and your business, you should add them to your list of possible keywords to target. You can be fairly confident these are popular keywords since Google is suggesting them.
Taking it one step further, most Google results pages (SERPs) have a box that says People Also Ask with a list of questions about that topic that people commonly ask Google. The list of questions in the People Also Ask box are great titles and topics for blog posts. Write those down as possible topics for your next few blog posts and set that aside.
Scroll to the bottom of that SERP and you’ll get even more free golden nuggets from Google. At the bottom of the page is another section with the title “Searches related to [your search term]”. Use those suggestions as possible keywords to target.
TAKE ACTION – Gather all the keywords you just discovered and add them to a spreadsheet, labeling them “Possible Keywords to Target”. Add any other keywords to that spreadsheet that you think may be relevant or that you’d like to show up for.
Google Keyword Planner
This tool is located inside the Google Ads interface. If you don’t have an account already, sign up for Google Ads, it’s free to sign up. You don’t have to go through the process of actually creating a campaign. Once you’re signed up, go to the Keyword Planner page. There’s 2 different parts of this tool, so I’ll walk you through each part.
Click the Find New Keywords box and type in some keywords and/or your website address and/or your competitor’s website address. Click the blue Get Started button to see a list of keywords Google suggests you target.
Not all will be relevant, but the column to pay attention to is the Avg. monthly searches. Find keywords that have higher average monthly searches (usually more than +1,000) by sorting that column from highest to lowest. Add as many keywords as are relevant to your Possible Keywords spreadsheet.
Now go back to the Keyword Planner home screen and click on the Get Search Volume and Forecasts box. Paste in your keywords from your Possible Keywords spreadsheet and click the blue Get Started button. Click the Historical Metrics tab to see all the keywords and note the Avg. Monthly Searches column.
SpyFu is an online tool that helps you, among other things, spy on your competition by figuring out what keywords they rank for. Start by typing in your top competitor’s website address. On the domain overview tab, click the SEO Keywords box. Here, you’ll find a list of the top keywords they rank for.
Data columns include helpful info like avg monthly searches, ranking difficulty, cost/click, and current rank. Look over the data in that table and add any new keywords you find to your spreadsheet. The best keywords to add are ones that have a relatively high search volume and low ranking difficulty.
But don’t just add the highest volume keywords. Look through the list and add longtail keywords – keywords that contain lots of words, such as “replacement screens for windows for sale”. These longtail keywords will have lower search volume, but often have a higher buyer intent. In other words, longer tail keywords are typically used when someone is ready to buy, rather than just doing initial research.
A paid plan for SpyFu starts at $39/mo, but you can get some data for free.
SEM Rush is similar to SpyFu in that it gives you a plethora of data for any website, whether it be yours or your competitor’s. Start by typing in one of your competitor’s websites and then sign up for a free account.
Once inside, click the Keyword Overview option on the left side menu. Here, you’ll find a list of keywords, arranged in a data table. The strategy here is the same as I’ve described above under SpyFu.
SpyFu and SEM Rush are very similar tools so it probably doesn’t make sense to use both. I’ve found that using SpyFu for most SEO projects is sufficient.
AHREFS is a paid keyword research tool that is similar to SEM Rush, but it’s arguably the best SEO tool out there. I don’t believe they have a free option, but you can sign up for a 7-day trial for only $7. My opinion – it’s well worth the $7!
If you want to use AHREFS for keyword research, watch this video to learn how.
Now let’s jump in to the exact strategy I use when doing keyword research.
Keyword Research Strategy
Since the goal of our research is to find the best keywords to target, let’s define what best means. The best keywords to target are:
- Keywords you’re already ranking for, but are not yet on page 1
- Keywords that will convert into leads or sales
- Keywords that aren’t too competitive
The first thing I do is create a blank spreadsheet using Excel, Google Sheets, etc. Go to Google and use the Google Search Suggest method I describe above. Paste your keywords into your spreadsheet.
Name that tab “Keywords” then create another tab called “Content Ideas”. Scan the Google search results page and look for the People Also Ask box. Copy the questions from that box into your spreadsheet on the Content Ideas tab.
Now go through Google Keyword Planner, SpyFu, SEM Rush and/or AHREFS as I described above, and add all possible keywords to your spreadsheet. Include the columns Competition and Search Volume so you know how popular each keyword is.
After doing all that, you should have anywhere from 10-100’s of keywords, depending on the niche and geographic area you are targeting.
Now take the top 5 keywords (with the most search volume) and enter each keyword into Google, one at a time. Look for the People Also Ask box and copy any new questions into your Content Ideas tab. Do this for each of your top 5 or 10 most searched (ie highest volume) keywords.
At the end of this process, you’ll have a listing of the top keywords you should be targeting in your SEO efforts. We’ll use these keywords when we get into the On-Page Optimization and Content Creation phases of our SEO project.
Quick Wins Method
You should know by now that getting ranked on Google is more of a marathon than a sprint. When we talk about progress being made in SEO, we usually speak in terms of months or even years.
But what if there was a way to get quicker results? It turns out that there is! And I call it a “Quick Win” method.
To get quick wins in your SEO efforts, use SpyFu or SEM Rush to do a keyword audit on your own site. Just type in your website address into either of those tools and you should see a list of keywords that your site is already ranking for (assuming your website is not brand spankin’ new).
Look for keywords that are ranked on pages 2 and 3 (positions 11-30). Since Google is already ranking your website for these keywords relatively highly, it won’t take a ton of extra effort to boost them up to page 1. If you can get your website on page 1 of Google, you’ll be able to get a ton more traffic than you’re getting now.
Once you’ve identified one or more quick win keywords, use SpyFu or SEM Rush to determine which page on your website Google is ranking for each keyword (it may not be the home page).
From there, it’s a 3-step process to try and boost that page to page 1 of Google:
STEP 1: So, in order to boost the ranking for each keyword, do an SEO audit on the page that Google is ranking. Let’s say it’s your Services page. Audit your Services page, then fix all the technical SEO issues you can fix for that page. For specific info on technical (or on-page) SEO, please see the next chapter (Chapter 3) of this guide.
STEP 2: Then look through the content on that page and “beef it up”. Add more clarification and description where needed. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and write as much content on that page as you can (but make sure it’s not fluff or filler content). Add supporting images, photos, charts, videos and links to other industry sites (not your competitor’s). This will help make you an authority on the topic, which Google loves to rank on page 1.
STEP 3: Build links to that page, using a mix of keyword anchor text. Check out the Link Building chapter below for more info on how to build links to certain pages of your site. To properly mix anchor text, you want the clickable text that links to your page to be a healthy mix of optimized keyword text (ie wedding favors) and other generic text (ie this website, yourwebsiteaddress.com, check it out, here, etc).
If you take all 3 steps that I described above, there’s a good chance Google will boost your page from page 2 or 3 to page 1, and it may just take a few months instead of a few years!