Keywords & Keyword Research

What Are Keywords & How to Do Keyword Research for SEO | 2022

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder at Pedestal Search

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder

March 8, 2016 | 5 Min Read

Article updated on March 27, 2022

An Introduction to Keywords in 2022

Keywords have always been the support beams of successful SEO strategies since SEO became popular over a decade ago.

Essentially, keywords (also called “search queries” or “queries”) are the exact words, phrases, or questions users type into Google to help navigate the web.

From an SEO perspective, digital content is written with the intent to answer keywords and search queries.

Search engines like Google and Bing reward websites that create high-quality content that answers relevant search queries and contributes to the online conversation.

Specifically, Google will reward high-quality content that answers search queries by ranking it higher up in its search engine results pages (SERPs). In most instances, a higher ranking site will generate more visibility, clicks, and in theory, conversions.

How Do SERPs Generate Results for Search Queries?

In 2022, search engine algorithms have evolved into extremely complex formulas that weigh thousands of on-site, off-site, and technical variables.

In the early days of SEO, a user would simply type a search query like ‘red mens tennis shoes’ into the navigation bar. Google would then review all of the websites it has indexed and look for the most relevant content containing the search query. It would then serve the web pages with the most uses of the exact keyword.

Jump forward to 2022 and Google’s algorithm has significantly evolved. Relevance is no longer the primary variable being weighted.

Today, Google’s algorithm heavily considers a website’s quality experience, authority, & trustworthiness (E-A-T) as well as its core web vitals. Mobile performance has become increasingly important in 2022. In fact, most SEO specialists would say quality and technical performance now outweigh relevance.

Websites need to write high-quality content that thoughtfully contributes to the online conversation. Websites also need to provide a good user experience in order to rank—Google uses ‘core web vitals’  to measure a site’s user experience.

None of this is to dismay digital marketers from conducting keyword research and writing relevant content. Quite the contrary, actually.

Keyword research will help website owners understand how real users are searching for the products, services, and topics that are related to their business. Good keyword research should provide a roadmap to content marketing.

To summarize, keyword research provides insight into the exact search queries users are performing that are relevant to a business. But ranking for these keywords in 2022 is more complex than simply writing ‘relevant’ topics.

What Types of Keywords Are There?

Advanced SEO theory breaks up keywords into several different categories, depending on the type of research being conducted.

One of the most popular methods of organizing different types of keywords is by length. Short-, medium-, and long-tail keywords tell marketers a lot about a keyword and help them organize their content accordingly.

Let’s review these three types of keywords in detail:

What are short-tail keywords?

Short-tail keywords are usually search queries containing only a single word. Maximum two words.  For example, “shoes” is a short-tail keyword.

Short-tail keywords tend to have extremely high search volumes (yay!) but also extremely high keyword difficulty scores (boo!).

Most websites would have a difficult time ranking well for a short-tail keyword like “shoes”. In fact, many SEO specialists would say it would be impossible.

That’s not to say you should ignore all short-tail keywords. Over time, your website should build authority on specific topics and keywords. The more authority a site has, the easier it is to compete for top placements on those search queries.

In time and with enough attention to detail, your hard work will pay off. You’ll begin reaping the benefits of ranking in the top spots for the most voluminous short-tail keywords.

It’s also worth noting that short-tail keywords tend to be broad and result in low conversion rates.

Circling back to our “shoes” example, this keyword is so broad we can’t decipher what the user is actually looking for.

Is the user’s intent to learn how shoes are made? Are they looking to purchase shoes? If so, what kind of shoes are they looking to purchase? Men’s, women’s, or children’s? What style of shoe: running shoes, dress shoes, etc?

As you can see, short-tail keywords can generate more questions than answers. Also, ranking for short-tail keywords may provide visibility and traffic but depending on the conversion you’re after, they may convert well.

In order to rank well for keywords and generate better conversion rates, most SEO specialists tend to focus on medium- and long-tail keywords.

What are medium- and long-tail keywords?

Medium- and long-tail keywords are word combinations or phrases that are three to seven words in length.

These lengthier search queries have a number of impressive benefits to SEO and content marketers.

First, medium- and long-tail keywords tend to have lower keyword difficulty scores. Meaning, they are easier to rank well for. This is especially important to new websites with low domain authority scores.

Second, these lengthier search queries are more explicit about the topic or category being researched. Because they’re more explicit, SEO specialists can leverage the knowledge to deliver targeted content that answers the query,

Third, long-tail keywords are more likely to be bottom-of-funnel keywords. Meaning, the user is more likely to convert.

‘Halal butcher shop Toronto’ is an excellent example of a long-tail keyword.

The keyword is four words in length and gives us a lot of information about the user’s intent.

First, it’s clear the user has commercial intent. In other words, they’re looking to weigh different brands and brand offerings before making a purchase. We know this because they haven’t identified a single brand in their search query.

Second, the user is looking to purchase meat. But not just any meat. They’re specifically looking to purchase halal meat products.

Third, the user has identified a geographic region it’s interested in shopping in: Toronto.

From an SEO marketing perspective, we’d want to create content that mirrors all of the aspects of the search query. For example, we could create a blog post titled ‘Best Halal Butcher Shops in Toronto’. The article could list all of the best halal butcher shops in the city.

Medium- and long-tail keyword searches comprise 70% of all search traffic.

Typically, as users become more familiar with the topic they’re Googling, they’ll begin to ask more detailed questions. Generally, the more detailed the question, the further down the customer journey they are and the more likely they are to convert. Hence why long-tail keywords are often the focus of many SEO strategies.

Search Traffic keywords

Other types of keywords.

The length of a keyword is only one way to categorize keywords.

Another method of categorizing keywords is by branded versus unbranded keywords.

Branded keywords are any search query containing the business’s brand name. Unbranded would be any search query the business is ranking for that does not contain their brand name.

Another popular way of sorting keywords is connecting them to the stages of the conversion funnel. For example, we previously mentioned long-tail keywords are often bottom-of-funnel keywords.

This method of sorting different types of keywords can really help you generate content best suited for each stage. Top-of-funnel keywords should have corresponding blog content, for example. Meanwhile, bottom-of-funnel keywords should have corresponding product or service pages that are set-up to convert.

One more way to organize keywords is by search intent. SEMRush specifically provides search intent in its keyword research. For example, the tool can tell you if the keyword is Informational, Navigational, Commercial, or Transactional.

How to Do Keyword Research for SEO in 2022

Keyword research is the process of compiling data-driven keywords that reflect the business, its products, services, and objectives.

These keywords can then be embedded into an SEO, SEM, or content strategy.

While not always the case, web pages that mirror search queries tend to have higher click-through rates (CTR) and drive more traffic.

Good keyword research is fundamental for any business or website that wants to drive search engine traffic—organic, paid, or otherwise.

 A business or website needs to implement a keyword strategy in order to increase its visibility online.

Search engines use keywords to find websites relevant to a user’s search. The keywords will then be incorporated into the website’s content strategy.

Detailed SEO and SEM strategies will improve the likelihood of a user finding the website. Therefore, keywords, in conjunction with SEO and SEM will increase web traffic.

How to Do SEO Keyword Research

It is a practical idea to create a Google Adwords account and utilize the free Keyword Planner.

This tool will suggest keyword options, variants and alternatives, and will estimate a probable search volume for each keyword.

Additionally, this free service will forecast the potential cost of using these keywords in an SEM marketing strategy. Refer back to this tool throughout the entire keyword research process for idea generation and reference.

The next step of conducting SEO keyword research is to review engagement data to develop a better understanding of the target audience. Consider demographics and interests. Identify problems that they have and how they can be solved by the information, content, services or products the business offers.

This process will provide insight into what the target consumer thinks, wants, and is likely to search for at different stages of their engagement cycle. It will also help identify new KPIs, discover new revenue funnels, and refine content.

Keywords can be leveraged to identify the market categories of the products and services offered by the business.

Simultaneously, keyword research helps to align consumer needs and business objectives.

To sum it up, keyword research helps a business think like a consumer. The insights gathered from the data will let a business know what keywords potential visitors or customers are searching. So keyword strategies align with specific products, services, or information.

Illustrated below is the evolution of a keyword as it evolves to engage different searchers at different stages of the engagement funnel:

  • Local SEO.

  • Local SEO for small business.

  • Local SEO service for small business.

  • Local SEO service for small business in Toronto.

  • The best local SEO service for small business in Toronto.

  • Hire the best local SEO service for small business in Toronto.

  • Hire the best local SEO service for small business in Downtown Toronto.

  • Hire the best local SEO service professional for small business in Downtown Toronto.

When a list is compiled, consider searching each keyword in Google.

Below the results on the SERPs, there will be a listing of related searches. These can inspire additional keywords.

It is important that the list has a combination of both short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords.

It is also useful to check if competitors are leveraging similar keywords, and how those keywords are ranking for them.

Try to find ways to augment and differentiate from the keywords they’ve implemented in their strategy.

Evaluate all of this information to build the optimal keyword list to work into website content as well as SEO and SEM strategies.

Conduct SEO Keyword Research to Rank Better

Keyword research is the foundation of any good SEO strategy.

Conducting thorough keyword research will give you insight into user search behavior and intent. Only when you’ve conducted this research can you implement an SEO-driven content strategy that makes sense for your business.

If you’d like to learn more about SEO marketing, visit our blog where we post regular content on advanced SEO strategies and tactics.

If you’re looking to implement an SEO strategy for your business but don’t know where to start, contact us today. We’re happy to provide a free SEO website audit and build a customized strategy that makes sense for your business.

Happy Googling!

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder at Pedestal Search

Aaron Levenstadt

CEO & Founder

Aaron Levenstadt completed his degree in Statistical & Data Science at Stanford University. That focus has given him an unparalleled data-driven approach to search engine digital marketing. Prior to founding Pedestal Search, Aaron worked at Google at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View California. At Google he worked on the Organic Search, Paid Search and Google Analytics products, which equipped him with extensive knowledge of the mechanisms driving Google’s algorithm and other internet search engines.