Ahrefs screenshot - food and wine festival keyword research

Gavin Hirst - Tuesday 30th May 2017

Keyword Research in 2017 – A simple guide

Keyword research has certainly changed over the past four or five years. When we look back over our early blog post covering keyword research, it’s clear to see how far we have come and how much things have changed. Whilst the titles or our posts are still very relevant – ‘Keyword research – critical to any SEO strategy’ and ‘Keyword Research is changing – are you?’ – the methods covered in these two blogs are now very much out of date.

So exactly how should you be doing keyword research in 2017?

Learning from Ahrefs

We read a lot of articles about keyword research. It’s an essential part of our work here at Digital Hothouse from SEO to Content Marketing to AdWords. One of the posts that resonated the most with us of late was a great piece by Ahrefs (one of our favourite tools!) which took a deep dive into the state of keyword research in 2017, creating a super handy guide that’s easy to follow and covers all the essential bases for keyword research in 2017 and beyond. We definitely recommend that you head on over to Ahrefs and check out their guide.

If however you’ve got a bit of TL:DR syndrome, stick around and read our shortened guide below, picking out some of the best bits from Ahrefs and hopefully giving you some great ideas to take forward.

Seed Keywords are your foundation

If you work in a relatively niche sector, picking your seed keywords can be tricky. There are a couple of ways you can approach this:

Monetisation – Start by exploring available monetisation methods. Pick a product or an offer that you like. And then think of search queries that people might be using to find it in Google.

Niche Down – Start with a super broad keyword and work your way down until you find a keyword(s) that looks interesting. You can use Ahrefs to do this. In the example below, I have picked ‘food’ as my super broad keyword. You can see that in New Zealand alone, there are just over 42k keywords relating to food.

Ahrefs screenshot for 'food' search

In order to make this more of a niche down approach, try filtering those results by number of words and start with four.

Ahrefs screenshot - 'food' keyword filtered

We can see that there are some super interesting topics right here that fall under niche terms. A blog about ‘Food in a minute’ recipes or a nice video post could work really well. Or maybe you fancy writing up a post comparing all of New Zealand’s wine and food festivals – there are heaps so it would be good to do a review of them all.

Expanding your keyword list

Finding your seed keywords is just the tip of the iceberg. From here you need to dig down to find all the related and relevant keywords. This will give you a good idea of what people are searching for and help refine your content ideas.

Again, you can use Ahrefs to see the keywords you are already ranking for. In this example we have use the Food in a Minute website to help show which keywords they are already ranking for below:

Ahrefsscreenshot - Food in a Minute website

Cherry pick the best keywords from your competitors

After digging through your own site, take a pick at some low hanging fruit and see what your competitors are ranking for. Either use the competitors you are already tracking or run a few searches and see which sites are ranking for the terms you have already identified.

Ahrefs screenshot - Recipes.co.nz
Here we picked one of Food in a Minute’s competitors, recipes.co.nz

A single competitor can give you enough ideas to keep your content team (or you!) busy for the rest of the year but don’t stop there. You can keep going forever with this. As you find new keywords, you can plug these in and get more ideas and this technique may uncover keywords you had not previously considered but that might add a lot of value to your website.

Use a keyword research tool

You may well generate enough relevant keywords from your competitor research but if you are still thirsty for more, try one of the many keyword research tools out that are available (stick away from Google Keyword Planner as this is more useful for PPC keyword research). Again, keeping everything on one platform, Ahrefs has a great Keyword Explorer tool which can generate hundreds of ideas. Let’s take one of our seed terms ‘food and wine festival’ and we can see there are plenty of suggestions which can help drive the content. The great thing about Ahrefs is you can filter on a number of metrics including keyword difficulty, search volume, clicks, cost per click and more.

Ahrefs screenshot - food and wine festival keyword research

Grouping your keywords

Once you have your list of keywords, the best thing to do is look at how they can be grouped together to help to create ‘super content’ that optimises for a whole bunch of terms rather than the outdated method of creating one page per keyword.

We find that one of the best ways to group your keywords is by ‘parent topic’ – an overarching topic that covers a number of keywords. The Ahrefs article goes into a lot more detail about this but their example is a perfect one. The main keyword for this article is ‘keyword research’ – a good way to find a whole bunch of related queries that sit under this ‘parent’ is to find out which page is ranking number one for this term and see which other keywords that page ranks for. Check out the results below:

Ahrefs screenshot - Moz article

We can see that the page on the Moz site ranks for over 1,500 keywords, many of which do not even feature on the page. Google is getting smarter at keyword association and that’s how a single page can rank for so many keywords.

Prioritising your keyword optimisation

Once you have completed your research around a specific topic, then it will be important to prioritise how you will optimise for those keywords on your website. We often find the easiest way of doing this is to look at the following key metrics:

  • What is the potential traffic of each keyword (or group of keywords)?
  • What is the difficulty rating of each of those keywords – is there any low hanging fruit?
  • What is the ROI of that traffic? Does it only bring brand awareness or will it likely lead to conversions?

There is no fixed answer to this question, however just make sure that you prioritise based around your organisational goals (and hopefully your SEO Strategy). Brand awareness may be a specific goal of your strategy this year so it’s not always necessarily about conversions.

We hope this short guide will give you plenty of ideas when it comes to carrying out keyword research. Since investing in Ahrefs, we haven’t looked back and find it to be an extremely comprehensive tool for keyword research, backlink analysis and more. If you haven’t already, give it a go!

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