Keyword Research Guide: Intent, Clustering, and Tools (2021)

Keyword research is probably one of the most important phases of the search engine optimization process. Not knowing how to pick the right keywords for your website can lead to months of work with no results. Sometimes people who do not recognize that this is the main reason that they do not rank start to doubt SEO in general.

Let me help you with my keyword research tips so you don’t end up in the same situation!

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process where you research and select the keywords that the users type in Google (or other search engines) and group them into clusters.

These clusters form keyword groups and these keyword groups form topics that you wish to cover.

Keywords from the same topic can have a different kind of result on your website. They have different intent (the purpose of each search in the engine).

The reason you need keyword research is to understand the market and to plan what you have to offer to each user. Providing the best experience and content match for your users will be the foundation of your high rankings.

Okay, so where do we start from?

Based on my years of experience in the field of Search Engine Optimization, I can say that there are two main methods of starting your keyword research.

  • Starting from the product/service;
  • Starting from the problem you want to solve;

It all depends on the phase and type of your business and business model. I know that this sounds a bit abstract but I let me put it into few examples. For the sake of making this easier, I will use an E-com website for example.

If you start from the product or service that you wish to offer you have a clear idea of what problem it solves. Let’s say that you have a store for souvenirs. You have the clear idea that your products solve the need for sentimental gifts and preparation for foreign events.

In other words, you provide people with the solution to their specific needs with a physical product.

Because of that, you are limited to keywords that are related to the topic of souvenirs. Otherwise, you risk making your website not relevant and that will decrease the chance of you ranking on top of Google.

If you start from the problem you want to solve and you don’t have a specific product that you are fixed on selling then you have the freedom to go broader with your keyword research.

If we take an example of an E-com website that is focused on the topic of curing sore throat then you can sell all kinds of products like:

  • medicine;
  • natural products;
  • teas;
  • books on how to solve the problem

In addition, you can build an informative blog section on the problem that you wish to solve and provide additional value to your users.

If I sum up this section: I would recommend that you pinpoint the problems you wish to solve and focus solely on them.

Ok, now you have an idea of where to start. What is next? You have to pick the right type of keywords.

Keyword intent

As we already mentioned in the intro, picking the right kinds and types of keywords can make or break your SEO. In this section, we are going to talk about keyword intent, what kinds of intent there are and how to define them.

What is keyword intent?

My personal understanding of keyword intent is the process of delivering the right type of content and page to the user’s query. When a user goes to the search engine they want something specific and they want to find it on the SERP.

What kinds of keyword intent is there?

Based on the user’s need we can define two groups of keyword intent.

Informational keywords

These types of keywords are the ones that provide answers to a specific question. In this keyword intent, the user is solely looking for detailed information about the query that they’ve added into the search. They don’t want to see products, they don’t want to see offers. They just want to find useful information that will suit their needs.

What are the main characteristics of informational keywords?

When these types of keywords are added to the search they bring back search engine result pages with blog posts, rich results with questions and answers, and youtube videos.

This is the main way you can check whether a keyword is informational or not. Just type it in the search engine and watch the results.

Example: Sore throat

You can clearly see that the keyword is bringing back articles on how to recognize the symptoms and causes of sore throat. It is not showing the results of category and product pages.

The intent of this keyword is informational.

Transactional keywords

Transactional keywords are the type of keywords that the user types when they are familiar with the problem and they want to find the solution that they can purchase. They don’t need information about their problem, they already have enough information for them to look for the solution.

Note: This does not mean that you shouldn’t provide information on your service or product page. Exactly the opposite. You need to provide information but the right type of information. Straight to the point without too much rambling about the topic. You want to share how your product will solve the problem.

What are the main characteristics of transactional keywords?

When a user types a transactional keyword in the search engine the SERP will be full with results that include products, product categories, reviews of products, and sometimes pages that compare multiple products.

Example: Products for sore throat

As you can see here are pages that provide specific products as solutions. Some of them are inside an article that compares the best options, the other provides store pages with a product category.

The intent of this keyword is transactional.

Keyword research tools

Let me say it before we continue down the path of the keyword research tips.

There is no keyword research without good SEO tools. It is better to have no information than the wrong information.

Note: If you want to know about a way you can trick Google Keyword planner to give you detailed information about the keyword volume, read my article on SEO Tools: Free and Paid here.

In this section, I am not going to talk about Google Keyword planner. As in the note that I mentioned I have covered that in another article, so if you are interested go and read that one.

Here we are going to talk about the paid tools – SerpStat and aHrefs.

But before diving into the process of working with those two. I have to say that you need to create your very own Google Sheets Keyword Research document.

This is the keyword research document after grouping the keywords and mapping them to specific URLs.

You will need a place where you can export keywords and group them by color.

Keyword research using SerpStat

When you register your account and buy the subscription suitable for your needs you will start from the home page of the tool.

SerpStat’s home page

After you have picked the problem you would wish to solve you can go and type the most generic keyword that you can think of about the problem.

Let’s use “sore throat” as an example since we have already used it several times.

After you type the word you will end up on an overview screen section where you have a lot of information about the topic. You have data for:

  • Volume
  • Competition
  • CPC
  • KW. difficulty
  • All organic keywords
  • All paid keywords
  • Keywords trend
  • Competitors in organic search
  • Competitors graph
  • Competitors in ads
  • Ads examples

As you can see a lot of information that you might want to look around and analyze. But the thing you are interested in for keyword research is “Organic keywords”.

After you click on “show all” in the section “Organic keywords” you will reach the end destination for your needs.

SerpStat results for keyword

From here on now you have a lot of ways that you can work with the tool.

If you like can export everything and work in Google Sheets or Excel or you can filter in the tool and export everything after you have grouped what you like.

It is up to you.

But the hard work starts now! You can spend hours on hours adding grouped keywords to your Google sheets. It is completely normal to have a checklist of the topics that you want to cover and to mark them when you are done.

Keyword research using Ahrefs

When you register your account and buy the subscription suitable for your needs you will want to start from the keyword explorer section of the tool.

Keywords Explorer by Ahrefs

The difference between SerpStat and Ahrefs is that you can choose the specific search engine you want to get information from. It’s not just Google and Yandex. You can have information about YouTube, Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, and more! So if your focus is not just Google and Yandex, I suggest that you use Ahrefs.

Okay, now we type again “sore throat” in order to get information and we end up on the overview page.

Ahrefs overview of keyword research

Here you can see tons of information like:

  • Keyword difficulty;
  • Volume month by month;
  • Clicks
  • Global volume
  • Keyword ideas and much more

In order to proceed and to see all keywords like Serpstat, you have to click “View all” under the section you want to choose. I always choose the “view all” button under “having the same terms”.

When you click that you end up on the keyword result page and you might be pleased to see an interesting feature that SerpStat did not have.

You have information about global search volume for each keyword. And the second most amazing thing about these tools is that you receive a left sidebar with grouped keywords by terms and by topic.

In other words, the tool does the job for you, you have to export and map out the keywords for your website.

Ahrefs have clearly stepped up their game!

Keyword research tips

This guide won’t be completed without sharing a few of my tips and tricks on keyword research.

Tip #1: Don’t do multiple topics at once

It is extremely important to not lose focus on the topic that you have decided to do the research for. If you try to do multiple topics at once you will spend hours and hours on working for this task. If you just stick to the topic that you are researching and you continue down the rabbit hole and get all the keyword ideas that you can for the topic. Then you are doing the right thing.

Tip #2: Think about how you are going to interlink the groups (clustering)

Even if you are going hard in the keyword research, always try to remember the bigger picture. If you are creating a group of keywords just because they are kinda related to your topic and product, then you might want to reconsider. Cover the topics that are strictly related to what you have to offer. At the end of the keyword research, you will have to build those pages and they will have to be interlinked. You don’t want to spend resources on pages that are not important and they hardly link to the rest of the pages in the topic that you have created.

Tip #3: Double and triple check the keyword intents with a manual search after each core algorithm update

Sometimes the main reason that you are losing traffic after a core algorithm update is that you no longer provide the right page to the users on the SERP. If you don’t match the intent of the user (based on Google’s understanding of “right intent”) you will lose rankings. The best thing to do is to manually check what is ranking and if you see a drastic change in the type of pages that rank, then you have to create the right type of page to match the new keyword intent.

Conclusion

The process of keyword research is always going to be my favorite. It forces you to understand the user and to step out of the role of a marketing specialist or a business owner. I will never get tired of repeating that this step of your SEO can either make or break your website in the long run.

No wonder they call them “keywords”, they do have the “key” to the success of your SEO strategy.

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