Keyword research is one of the most talked about topics in SEO. It has such a major impact on what you’re trying to rank for that it may seem overwhelming at times.
This article won’t walk through the entire tedious process of keyword research. That is here.
What this article will show you is how to align your goals with your keyword research. The results are amazing.
The mindset shift is worth it. Your project and site will never be the same if you “get it.”
What Does Keyword Research Do?
Let’s face it. If you target the wrong keywords, you’re going to miss your audience completely. If you go with super long-tail keywords, you may miss out on traffic. If you target competitive keywords, you’re never going to rank.
Where and how do you put all this together for the best of the best? How do you align your keyword research with your revenue goals?
Keyword research should answer the question, “What does my audience want to know about?” That is the big key — getting in the mind of your audience.
Backlinko always publishes amazing guides on SEO. When you look through an in-depth guide, you always know there are small pieces that are missing — the mindset or pivotal pieces. That is what you will find in this process.
Step 1: Understand That There Are 3 Major Types of Keywords
It’s important to understand that there are three major types of keywords that belong to different stages of the funnel. The question or phrase of the keyword shows how far in your sales funnel the prospect should land.
Here are the three major types of keywords:
- Top-of-funnel keywords are informational (i.e. best way to, step by step, how to, guide to).
- Middle-of-funnel keywords are solution seeking (i.e. that actually works, how to stop, ways to avoid, ways to fix).
- Bottom-of-funnel keywords focus on high buyer intent (i.e. compare prices, affordable, best, order, where can I buy).
Top-of-funnel keywords are informational in nature while bottom-of-funnel keywords are transactional in nature. This is the biggest separation between your list of keywords.
Identify which keywords you’re targeting. Find your target keywords for top, middle, and bottom of funnel keywords. Make any on-page SEO changes needed to target these words. The number of keywords depends on the size of the site and budget.
Step 2: Decide What Type of Keywords to Focus On
Every business should do keyword research based on their goals.
Are you focusing on building a long-term connection with your audience? Or are you targeting an audience that’s ready to buy and simply comparing products?
If you’re planning a big project that is a long-term audience build, it would be best to target top-of-funnel and middle-of-funnel keywords. But if you’re building an SEO campaign for an e‑commerce site, it would be better to target bottom-of-funnel keywords.
Also, shoestring budget SEO will have a different path compared to larger sites. This is why there is so much talk around keywords. There is a difference in every project — their needs, goals, and who they need to target.
Create a mind map for your keywords, no matter what type of keywords you decide to focus on. This will allow you to follow your prospects’ trail through your site.
You want top-of-funnel keywords and pages to lead prospects to the next step of the funnel — middle-of-funnel pages. And after prospects land on this stage, you want your content to move them to the “buying stage” or the bottom of your funnel.
Map out the keywords and compare the content you have to the content you need. Look at the content that already ranks on page one of Google for each keyword.
Step 3: “Hack” the Process by Setting Goals
Doing keyword research involves spreadsheets and tons of data. This process bores me to no end, but it’s super important. So yeah, we can’t skip this part.
I like to “hack” this process for my clients. I prefer to set goals. I take the main goal of the project and cast a vision.
We want to rank. Why?
We want organic traffic. Again, why?
This all leads to an important piece of information. The site has a purpose. Duh, right? The goals are what we will dive into.
Goals define the content and why we’re even doing keyword research. But your site’s purpose clarifies what matters most about the site.
Let me share with you a great example of “hacking” the process by setting goals.
If you’re in SEO, you must know Neil Patel. He previously wrote about how he built a 7‑figure SEO agency. How exactly did he grow his SEO agency? Referrals? Not exactly. Blogging, speaking at conferences, and helping out bloggers draw customers in.
But how was he able to convince a lot of business owners that they need to hire him to work on their SEO?
He focused on their goals. He didn’t sell SEO, he sold the results they would get if they hire him.
He started out by saying that he could improve their SEO rankings for each keyword, which would drive x number of visitors a month to their site. Then, he talked about conversion rates. Finally, he emphasized how much more money he could make them every single month if they decide to hire him.
That, my friends, is why it’s important to set goals. While I don’t do everything the same way Neil does, I do love his idea about casting a vision and relating it to revenue. It all boils down to how much money you can make by simply ranking higher or increasing organic traffic.
Set and know your traffic, conversion, and revenue goals. Focus on them. This will give you a clearer vision of what you’re supposed to do.
Set goals based on the revenue and traffic count you are currently at. Then set a pace at which you plan to improve.
Step 4: Find the Competition
Whenever I start working with a new client, I always find their competition. Within just a few minutes, I can find companies in Google that are way ahead of where we currently are. I set them as competitors and goals. I want to become like them in x number of years or months.
I find the five-year goal. I then find sites that are two years ahead of our site. I find sites all the way back to six months ahead of us.
My normal goal pattern looks something like this:
- Five Years Ahead: 2 million Search Traffic
- Two Years Ahead: 500,000 Search Traffic
- One Year Ahead: 100,000 Search Traffic
- Six Months Ahead: 40,000 Search Traffic
It depends on where you’re starting. If you’re starting from scratch, you may have to find smaller sites to target first. There are a ton of great tools for doing this research.
Find sites in your market and make a list. Go through that list using tools like SEMrush. Find the websites’ traffic and note it. Put the list in sequential traffic order.
Step 5: Reverse Engineer an SEO Strategy
Now that you’ve identified your “goal” sites and know who they are as competitors, it’s time to dive into their links. It’s amazing how much in-depth research you can do and this will help you identify what’s working.
Here’s how you can growth hack your SEO:
Discover How Increases in Traffic Related to Their Site Changes
I do this by
- Taking apart their URL structures.
- Looking in the Wayback Machine.
- Looking at their traffic patterns.
- Finding a correlation with increases in traffic and site changes.
This is a great way to not make the same mistakes that your competition made early on.
Find the Keywords That Are Giving Them the Biggest Spikes in Traffic
How are the links to pages being done? I find out by:
- Looking through their link and anchor text profiles.
- Finding the keywords that are giving them the biggest spikes in traffic.
- Looking at the type of content driving that traffic.
Keywords and backlinks are fruit from the same tree. Links help drive your keyword rankings. It only makes sense that your competition has anchor text that will help you discern which keywords matter the most to them.
Track Influencers They’ve Used in the Past
I take apart their press releases and major media. How did they get that feature? Who was the author? I add all of this to a list of people to start influencer outreach. This pays off later.
Once I am done “profiling” the competitors, I now have an obvious plan in front of me. Take the number of links, content, and structure of the competition’s site and model it.
Take all of this data and form a plan.
Take the numbers your competitors have now and the rate at which they are gaining links. Create a profile of where they will be in six months to one year, break down a strategy to pass them, and add 10 percent in case you missed something.
This is also a great strategy to get the most effective keywords in your industry. You’ll also come up with a plan to use along with these keywords. If you pull this off correctly, you can outrank any site out there. You just have to plan and have great content.
Step 6: Putting It All Together for Ranking Magic
Now that you have your first competitor in your crosshair, it’s time to do some SEO.
Set up the URL structure to match or beat your first competitor. You can start writing content with your chosen keywords (and maybe do some link acquisition) to best them.
I know most large sites produce content really fast (and accumulate links just as fast!) but it isn’t impossible to beat them. With basic math, you can see what it will take to beat them in six months.
Now put your plan into action and break it down into content and projects. Have enough content and link acquisition happening that you are on goal.
Sit down monthly and make sure you’re progressing towards the end goals. Realign any lost initiatives and look for strategies to pass your competition faster.
Why Does This Process Work?
This process works better than just doing keyword research and coming up with content every single day. The coolest part of the whole process is that my clients trust me because of this process. They can see why we’re going to hit their goals. I can offer revenue share as a down-the-road option for services.
Hopefully you found this post informational. And hopefully this process will help you rank higher and even beat your high-ranking competitors.