Keyword research is both a task and a process. It is the task of understanding how people use online searches to find information. It is a process of applying that understanding to improve search engine optimization (SEO). Keyword research is the foundation that SEO is built on.
Internet users make use of search engines to find websites and individual pages. Site owners make use of those same search engines to drive traffic to their sites. It is almost a symbiotic relationship. Making it all work, from an SEO perspective, requires understanding how people search the web. That’s where keyword research comes in.
Have you ever heard of inductive reasoning? It is a process of attempting to understand a topic by assessing five key things: how, what, when, where, and why. Though not identical, keyword research is based on the same premise.
Keyword research helps us understand:
Understanding these five things makes it easier for us to choose keywords and phrases we can embed within online content to help a given page or website perform well on search engine result pages (SERPs).
Conducting keyword research is fairly simple in principle. In practice though, it is quite nuanced. Doing it effectively requires asking some fundamental questions about the topic at hand. For example, we might ask ourselves what keywords or phrases we would use if searching the exact same topic. Those keywords and phrases give us a starting point for research.
We utilize a variety of keyword research tools that keep track of every online search. We can use the tool to look at the words based on a variety of factors including frequency, monthly search volume, similar keywords, and so forth.
Keyword research is important for the simple fact that keywords are still the number one factor by which the major search engines rank websites. Although Google and its competitors now rank hundreds of different factors, keywords remain number one. Without adequate research, you run the risk of choosing to emphasize keywords that will not help SERP performance.
As a side note, the search engines do not rank websites per se. They rank individual pages. This makes keyword research even more important. Why? Because there may be hundreds of thousands of pages across the internet discussing the same topic. In order to get your page near the top, it has to be optimized better than any other pages with which it is competing. That starts with keywords.
Keyword research is to SEO what inductive reasoning is to problem solving. We put a great deal of time and effort into it, knowing that a lack of keyword research equates to guesswork. Guessing is no way to win the internet.