What is Keyword Research: A Definition for Modern SEO

If you type "what is keyword research" into a search engine, you get a flood of results. Here are a few quotes:

"Keyword research is a practice search engine optimization (SEO) professionals use to find and research actual search terms that people enter into search engines." Wikipedia page on Keyword Research
"Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field" from the MOZ Guide to SEO

"keyword research tools can help you find the right keywords to optimize a website for search engine users." from Wordstream.com.

All of these are good quotes, but they only really scratch the surface. Keyword  research is much more than just finding the right keywords...

Keyword Research is Market Research

Your future customers use keywords to communicate with the world: when they go to a search engine and type in a query, they are looking for a solution to a problem. They're looking for something that may or may not already exist; if it exists you can sell it to them, if it doesn't, you can create it.

The combination of words is also important, because each word can carry both meaning and intent.

For example, consider the difference between the following:

  • "free eBooks about online investing"
  • "where to buy books about online investing"

The sales pitch for an online investing course will be very different, depending on which of those phrases delivered the visitor. Learning how to gauge intent is a valuable part of the keyword research process.

The proportion of "buyer intent" keywords versus "buyer research" ones will help to give you an idea about the size of the market as well as its needs.

Keyword Research is Product Research

From the above example, we can also surmise that people want both eBooks and real books. There are people willing to pay, and those who want to sample a free eBook first.

However, there will be a number of phrases that don't come loaded with any intent. These so-called "buyer research" phrases provide valuable insights into what products exist, and what skews might be considered.

By combining brand and product names with your keyword phrase, you can begin to work out the demand for various product skews, as well as look at those already on the market. Once you find a product that satisfies the market, there are also techniques that you can use to extract the keywords from the page to see what the maker is using to attract customers, as well as find out about the competition.

Keyword Research is Competition Research

Using a tool such as SEMRush can help with both the Market and Product Research, but is really good at finding out where the competition is, and what they are using to create opportunities.

Again, intent can be inferred from some of the keyword research, as words like "review", "problems" and "good" (or, indeed "bad") can help to create a picture of how the competition is viewed, and how it might be succeeding (or failing) to satisfy the market.

Keyword Research is also for SEO

Finally, the purpose of keyword research for many people is not to find a new market, or design new products, but to attract people willing to spend money.

The keywords you use in your web content are just another form of communication. You are communicating what your page is about to the search engines, as well as proving its value.

Picking the right keywords helps search engines match the intent of search users with your intent as a content producer. Get it wrong, and your site may never be viewed by a single potential customer; get it right and you may well tap into a market larger than you thought possible.

Learn more about keyword research in the Niche Blogger Content Blueprint; a guide not just for bloggers but anyone who wants to create an online presence.