How to do Keyword Research for SEO

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Want to know how to use keyword phrases to rank better in organic search and make more money?

Before you get started, you need to define your goals – what do you want to accomplish with search traffic?

Many businesses make the mistake of defining SEO success as simply ‘more website traffic’ but this should never be your goal, increasing sales and earnings should be your primary focus!

For example, if you are developing a keyword strategy for an ecommerce website, the first step is to define the sales problem the business wishes to solve.

The sales problem could be:
• Sales.
• Feeding different segments of the sales funnel.
• Ad clicks and ad impressions.
• Building awareness of your site, services, and products.

The most common goal when starting out is usually building awareness. Building awareness is extremely important because it will help you rank for competitive keywords and phrases, while also driving direct sales.

After you define the keyword goals, you can develop keyword categories to address those goals and begin categorising your keywords to build a digital marketing and a content strategy.


In the SEO industry, the sales category focuses “money phrases.” Money phrases are keyword phrases with commercial intent associated with a high level of sales and are important because they almost always result in a sale. As a result of the higher net return, advertising associated with money phrases usually have a higher cost per click.

The problem with money phrases is that they are highly competitive and difficult to rank for. Plus, a sizable portion of traffic for keyword money phrases is lost through the pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

There are a number of keyword phrases that indicate a user’s intent to purchase, known as long-tail keywords or “long-tail money phrases”.

Long-tail money phrases can typically be grouped into five categories, each representing a multiplicity of keyword phrases and variants:

  1.  Competitor comparison
  2. Discount price searches
  3. Product reviews and ratings
  4. Coupon code searches
  5. Searches for sale

But here’s the thing, many sites that the search engines are ranking today are not built with a site architecture that revolves exclusively around money phrases because Google and other search engines aren’t ranking webpages for their keyword relevance signals.

They are ranking webpages for their:
• Expertise.
• Authority.
• Trustworthiness.

The problem with money phrases is that they are highly competitive and difficult to rank for. Plus, a sizable portion of traffic for keyword money phrases is lost through the pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

Money phrases are so-called because visitors using those phrases tend to convert. Hence, money phrases are the most important keyword phrases for making immediate sales on a regular basis.

In saying that, often the barrier to entry for a competitive money phrase is too high so there is another keyword path to build traffic and online sales – and that’s with non-money phrases.

It may sound counter-intuitive to attract buyers with keywords that do not convert but it is a viable path toward eventually ranking for the money phrases. How?

Most money phrases are awarded to the most authoritative sites, so quantity and quality backlinks do play a role but comprehensive content is also a vital ingredient. A site that is comprehensive is authoritative and search engines prefer to rank authoritative sites. Google’s Search Quality Raters Guideline states in section 3.1:

“Page Quality Rating: Most Important Factors Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: This is an important quality characteristic.” Later on, in section 3.2 the guidelines states “The amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness… that a webpage/website has is very important.”

If the barrier to entry for money phrases is too high, you can focus on authority building long-tail phrases. While visitors may not convert directly via non-money search queries, the authority strategy does cultivate awareness, build goodwill and stimulate word of mouth referrals and links. This means that focusing on the depth of content, expertise, and authority will ultimately lead to money-phrase ranking and sales.
The top ranked sites rank are in the top ten because their web pages satisfy the most popular user intent for that keyword phrase. So, understanding the user intent of a keyword phrase is vital because it will guide the purpose of a page and help you rank highly in Search Engines. The Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are ordered to satisfy the user intent of most people. The search quality guidelines stats that every page is judged according to how it satisfies visitor goals while the quality guidelines states that the best pages “fully satisfy the user intent” of the search query.

Fully Meets is the highest score available for the Needs Met rating and is applied to situations where the user intent is unambiguous. Fully Meets is the ‘gold standard’ for satisfying a user query and becoming the number one ranked page for an unambiguous query.

So, how does Google define whether a site ‘Fully Meets’ a user’s needs?

  • The query and user need must be specific, clear, and unambiguous.
  • The result must be fully satisfying for mobile users, requiring minimal effort for users to immediately get or use what they are looking for.
  • All or almost all users would be completely satisfied by the result—users issuing that query would not need additional results to fully satisfy the user intent.

In other words, the Fully Meets rating should be reserved for results that are the ‘complete and perfect response or answer’ so that no other results are necessary for all or almost all users to be fully satisfied.

Understanding the user intent of a phrase is important because it will guide your content creation strategy. The top ranked sites are not ranked at the top because they have more links pointing to their pages or because they contain all the related keywords. They rank because their web pages satisfy the most popular user intent for that relevant keyword phrase.

If a keyword phrase has multiple meanings, it is important to make a list of all the different user intents. If there are three user intents for a search query, the most popular will be featured at the top of the SERPs, not the site with the most keyword anchor text. If the user intent is split between academic purposes and purchase purposes, Google will rank informational web pages higher than those that are transactional. No matter how many links you amass to your page, if the user intent of your page is unpopular then you will never crack the top five of any search engine.

Google Trends is a fantastic tool as it helps identify searcher’s intent and enables you to understand cyclical and regional patterns so that you know where and when to roll out certain content. Google Trends will help you see how search terms are trending up, trending down, trending in a cyclical pattern and enable you to identify regional patterns.

If you see a traffic decline when your rankings are unchanged, it can sometimes mean there is a change in consumer behaviour tied to the introduction of a new product or service.

Tip: When using the Google Trends tool, compare keyword phrases with keywords you are familiar with, even if the known keyword phrase is not closely related, as you will better understand the actual search volumes. This will make analysing the search trends for an unfamiliar keyword phrase easier because you have a baseline for comparison.

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Steph Salway
Steph Salway

Steph is an online marketing strategist, entrepreneur and content marketing expert who’s extremely passionate about helping small businesses stand out.
Bachelor of Business, Marketing and Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology.

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