Keyword research is the most important part of SEO. If you choose the wrong keywords, you can literally do everything else right and still fail. With the right keywords, ranking becomes easier. The visitors who come to your site are more motivated. They buy more, and you make more money.

So getting keyword research right is really important. Most people do it wrong. Today, I’m going to show you how to do SEO keyword research the right way.

Avoid the keyword suggestion tool

The biggest mistake is to start by typing words into the Adwords Keyword Planning tool. It’s the same with any keyword software. These are useful tools when you do keyword research. But if you rely on them at the beginning of the process, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

The problem with this approach is that computers can’t think (yet). So when you type a keyword into one of these tools, all it can do is pull a list of closely related phrases from a database. For instance, if you type: “web developer training” you’ll get a long list of phrases like:

“web development training”

“web development courses”

“web developer courses”

“web development training courses”

All of these keywords are very closely related. But when people look for information, they can use very different keywords. There are lots of different ways to express the same idea. Here are some examples:

“web developer boot camp”

“HTML course” “CSS training”

“web design certification”

“javascript course”

“how to make web sites”

None of these searches will show in any keyword research tool. The reason why is simple. It takes human intelligence to realize that these are all related searches.

Did you know that most of your competitors are making the same mistake? Marketers who follow the same old “search engine optimization tips” are all in the same boat. They quickly find themselves fighting over the same keywords. The result is too much competition for little reward.

The Google keyword tool also does not give the full breadth of keywords that are relevant to your market. In other words, it is not good at identifying keywords in niche markets. These are very profitable but low competition keywords, which are guaranteed to generate high quality traffic.

To beat your competitors, you must find great keywords that boost your web traffic by intimately targeting the true needs and desires of your market. This is achieved by focusing on smaller segments of the market, rather than on broad categories.

So, when you start keyword research, don’t start with the keyword research tool. It’s much better to start with a piece of paper. Sit down and work out the different search phrases people will use to find your content.

Just applying this one concept puts you ahead of the competition. But there’s more to learn. I want to show you how to do SEO keyword research the right way!

Niche keyword research

Before you look for keywords, you should target a specific niche. A niche is a very small, specific market segment focused on a particular topic.

I’m going to give you an example so you know what I mean. IT training is a very broad market. It covers everything from building computers to programming them, and customer service too. If you were selling video training, it would be a mistake to target such a huge market.

Web development is a smaller section of the market, but it’s still too broad. There are so many different technologies and tools that you would never be able to cover them all. You need to break off a smaller piece of the “web development” market and focus on that.

For instance, you might decide to make courses for WordPress developers. If you didn’t know, WordPress is a very flexible blog platform that you can use to make websites. It’s extremely popular, so a lot of people want to learn how to make WordPress themes and plugins.

When you think you’ve found a good niche, you need to verify it. You should check that there are enough people looking for this information. Pick an obvious keyword for the niche, and plug it into the Adwords tool. For instance, if you plug “WordPress course” into the keyword planner, you’ll see the following results:

“WordPress tutorial” – 49,500

“learn WordPress” – 5,400

“WordPress course” – 1,300

As you can see, lots of people are searching for this type of content.

Niche search trends

Search volume only tells part of the story. You also need to consider the search trend. SEO takes a lot of time. If people are losing interest in a topic, then you’ve wasted your time.

Google Trends is a great tool to visualize which niches are growing and which ones are shrinking. Just type your niche keyword (WordPress course) and you’ll see a graph.

The best time to get involved in a niche is when it is growing. In a growing niche, you can get more traffic each month without extra effort.

A niche that is stable is worth your effort but beware. Nothing stays stable for long. A long period of stability can eventually lead to a decline.

You should be very cautious about entering a shrinking niche. As you can see from the screenshot, fewer people searched for WordPress training in 2015. There was a big boom in 2014 – that would have been a great time to sell WordPress courses!

Even though the traffic is down from the original boom, the general trend is still increasing. When you do SEO keyword research, you should always consider search trends. The raw search volume only tells you what is happening right now. In search marketing, you have to plan for the future, too.

Who is your actual audience?

When you choose keywords and create content, who should you write for? There are really 2 common answers to this question. Most “old-school” marketers will tell you to write for the search engines. The “quality first” crowd will tell you to write for your target audience. Both of them miss the point.

The people you should write for are the influencers in your niche. Who are influencers? They’re the people who build the links that power the web. Influencers are bloggers, journalists, content curators and webmasters. When they create content for their sites, they link out to other valuable resources.

To expand your audience and promote your content, you have to write with these people in mind. And they have specific interests that are different from the majority of your audience. Most people in a niche aren’t experts. Many of them are new to the topic. They usually search for basic and introductory content.

Influencers are usually experts (or at least very experienced). Basic content doesn’t interest them much. Their interests have moved on. Experts tend to be interested in new developments within the niche. They’re also interested in the deep nuances of a subject that aren’t immediately obvious.

If you write content that covers the basic aspects of a niche, it’s unlikely that the influencers would be interested. It doesn’t matter how good the content is – it’s not something they read or link to.

So an important part of your niche research is to identify the most important influencers and work out what they are interested in. You will need to focus on these subjects to build link-worthy content.

At the same time, you can’t afford to ignore the needs of your audience. Most people may have a hard time following your content if it’s too advanced. There are 2 answers to this:

1. Learn to discuss advanced topics in a way that almost anyone can understand.

2. Create additional content that covers the basics, and link to it from your advanced content.

Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little when we talk about content creation. Right now, you just need to focus on identifying the topics in your niche. You have to know which topics are the most linkable, and which topics appeal to the masses.

Improve your niche research skills

I hope I’ve made the point for niche research – it really is the key to great keyword research! When you choose the right niche, you can focus your SEO efforts on ranking the right keywords. When your keywords are laser focused, it becomes easier to convert visitors. More conversions lead to more income, and it all starts with effective niche research.

So far, I’ve told you what a niche is. And I’ve shown you how you can test if it’s big enough to support your business. But how do you find niches in the first place? You can probably think of one or two off the top of your head. But if you want to really win at search engine optimization, you need to learn to uncover the hidden gold.

The best niches are the ones that are hard to find. They’re the ones with little real competition. To really understand the niche research process, it helps to see an actual example from beginning to end. That’s why our growth hacking education program include a video that covers the whole process. We'll start with a big marketplace, and dig down to a specific niche.

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