How to Choose the Right Keywords for SEO

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Successful Search Engine Optimization is essential to driving traffic to your website. Knowing how to choose the right keywords for SEO plays a big part in ensuring the right visitors find your content. 


Thankfully, finding keywords that resonate with your target audience and drive traffic is far more science than art. In this article, we’ll take you through how to choose the right keywords for SEO in five steps.

Step One: Understand Your Buyer

The first step for how to choose the right keywords for SEO is understanding the audience you’re targeting. The author Kurt Vonnegut once advised aspiring to write for just one person. Why? Because focusing on engaging everyone will resonate with no one. Content marketing is impactful because it feels personal and helps the individual. 


So ask yourself – who is your product appealing to and why? Building a Buyer Persona – a semi-fictional characterization of your ideal customer – is a great starting point. Your buyer personas (and a lot of businesses have more than one) are formed from research, data on the demographics your customers come from, and some educated guesses. Your company may have a vision of who it can help and how they will use your product, but you’re not marketing to yourself. To attract more leads, it’s crucial to align that vision with the reality of how customers view and use your product. 


Getting specific with a detailed buyer persona helps you focus your marketing ad SEO efforts for the greatest impact.

Step Two: Know Your Competition

When it comes to knowing how to choose the right keywords for SEO, your competition’s marketing efforts can give you a useful survey of the landscape. 


Perform competitor analysis. Identify your top three competitors and study their websites (if you’re stuck, SEMrush has a market explorer tool that can help suggest relevant companies). How do they position themselves? What keywords are they using to rank? Do you notice any topic gaps in their blog? Use this information to broaden your list of ideas and keywords. 


When paired with your buyer personas, your competitor analysis can give you a powerful insight into your target audience.

How to Choose the Right Keywords for SEO

Step Three: Understanding Keywords: Volume and Difficulty

Volume: With an obscure enough keyword, you can easily rank on the first page of SERPs. The problem? If no one’s searching for that keyword, it still won’t translate into much traffic. Volume refers to the number of searches being performed for your chosen keyword, typically measured as Monthly Search Volume (MSV). So if your keyword has an MSV of 100, that means 100 people are searching for it each month. 


Difficulty: Keyword difficulty refers to how difficult a keyword is to rank for.  It acts as a counterbalance to volume.  A keyword’s difficulty is based on several factors, including page and site authority of the current ranking sites and quality of content. Keyword difficulty is measured on a scale of 0-100, with higher meaning harder to rank for. A keyword with a difficulty between 30% – 70% is considered to be a medium difficulty. 


Know how to choose the right keywords for SEO based on keyword types as well. There are also many sub-variations in terms of keyword types, but three key ones are: 


A head keyword (sometimes called a short-tail keyword) is a short (typically 1-2 words) keyword that’s highly relevant to your industry. For example, as a content marketing agency, a head keyword for Nituno might be ‘content marketing’ This will get lots of searches (aka volume) but, for that reason, will also be very competitive. These keywords also make it hard to judge search intent – for example, is this search for ‘content marketing’ because someone wants to hire a service? Or study marketing? Or learn more about how to do it themselves? 


A longtail keyword is a keyword that consists of more than three words. While it will get less volume than a head keyword, it’s typically far more specific, making it easier to understand search intent, and then target content accordingly. 

A body keyword lives between these two. They are typically 2-3 words long, with a bit more insight into search intent.

Step Four: Do Your Keyword Research

Time to get down to keyword research. Keyword research describes the process of finding and analyzing what phrases your potential buyers are searching for. It’s at the heart of understanding how to choose the right keywords for SEO. 


  • Before beginning the technical process, take some time to brainstorm topic buckets, which you’ll use later on to inform your specific keywords. 


  • Knowing your buyer personas, ask yourself – what matters to them? What are they likely searching for in order to benefit from your product offering? Make a list of important topics based on what you know about your customer base. 


  • Now from those seed words, generate 5-10 topic buckets you think are relevant to your business. These should be broad and thematic. Note each topic bucket’s MSV. 


  • Sketch out plenty of keyword ideas to fill these buckets. The objective here isn’t to determine your final keywords, but rather to establish a base you’ll later refine and optimize. 


  • Much like you performed a competitor analysis earlier to see what keywords they were having success with, now reverse engineer it – who are keyword competitors? They might be selling completely unrelated products – or nothing at all. But if they are ranking highly in your space, what can you learn from them on how to choose the right keywords for SEO to emulate and surpass their success? Take notes. 


  • Using an analytics tool like Hubspot’s or Google’s, determine what you’re already ranking for. What keywords are people already using to arrive organically at your site? There might be similar alternatives that you can also rank for, or you can learn more about your customer’s search journey.


  • Research-related search terms – Google’s autocompleting function is your friend here, but there are also great websites like the autocomplete tool Answer The Public that takes the guesswork and elbow grease out of this. 


  • Use a keyword research tool like the ones by SEMrush or Ahrefs to gain further ideas, insights, and data. Sort these by volume and difficulty to understand the viability.


  • Take all your gathered data from your keywords and form them into content ideas, adapting accordingly. For example, a head keyword might have too high a difficulty, but if you adapt it into a longtail keyword, you may find a winning blog post.
How to Choose the Right Keywords for SEO

Step Five: Analyze Your Results and Optimize Accordingly

Ultimately, SEO takes time – expect at least four months before you start seeing results. 

You may find it most effective to combine it with paid advertising and outbound marketing. It’s also worth bearing in mind that your keyword research and the quality content you build from it can be used to turbocharge these strategies. 


But it’s one thing to know how to choose the right keywords for SEO for now, it’s another to assume that they will continue to be relevant forever. 


Core Google updates come along and disrupt your perfectly curated SEO. Customers’ needs and values change. Your product continues to evolve. All of this means your SEM strategy needs to stay agile, too. 

Guide to SEO Marketing for B2B Tech Companies

To help you with choosing the right keywords for SEO, we've compiled a guide to the best SEO marketing tips.
Free Guide

At Nituno, we’re a digital marketing agency that uses a combination of inbound, outbound, paid, and video marketing to ensure we meet our clients’ current needs. Need great content marketing to resonate with your audience? Our SEO-certified team can help. Get in touch today.

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