How to choose keywords for SEO : using the buyers journey

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    Keywords are the foundation of your SEO strategy and without choosing the right keywords is a crucial planning step to ranking page content that can grow your search engine traffic.

    Google is the biggest buying research tool and search engine

    There’s around 7 billion searches per day on the world’s biggest buyer research tool; Google.

    There’s hundreds of keyword research tools available and yet 90% of web pages don’t earn traffic from search engines.

    That’s because you’re either doing keyword research wrong, choosing the wrong keywords or you’re not doing any research at all.

    This is a beginners guide to using the buyers journey to show you how to choose the right keywords for SEO.

    Step 1 : Before choosing keywords, have a goal

    A good starting point is to look at your organic search traffic per month inside Search Console or Analytics then think of an improvement.

    Alternatively if you are planning a brand new website, may I suggest earning your First 1000 Visits.

    Now you’re not choosing any keywords; you’re choosing keywords with a purpose.

    My keyword discovery process is called Click Forecasting

    The keyword strategy of discovering keywords that I created is called Click Forecasting.

    I’ve used every keyword tool; free and paid and the tool you want to use Ahrefs.

    For me and my clients, choosing keywords that result in clicks to their website is much more important than search volume.

    Using free tools like Ubersuggest and Google Keyword Planner don’t show the clicks the top pages earn.

    Step 2 : Create keyword list

    To build up a keyword list first identify a focus keyword or focus keyphrase.

    Write down a list of your services or products and the category of business you operate it.

    You can also find keywords with the highest search volume that your website ranks for with Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.

    Select the site explorer tool, organic keywords and sort search volume in descending order.

    Related or shoulder topics

    Another tactic to find keyword ideas that I like to use before starting any research is to put my target keyword or service into a tool called relatedwords.org

    You’ll see related terms to your focus keyword using this tool as per the image below.

    Google Search Console

    I’m not fond of using Keyword Planner or Google Trends to build up a list of keyword lists.

    For most websites Search Console will display the top 1000 search queries you currently rank for along with impressions (similar to search volume), position and CTR.

    My favourite methodology for established websites is improving older posts with better content which will give you quick wins; so Search Console is great for choosing already ranked keywords.

    Head Terms

    1 : Enter a head term (not the full keyword) from all the keywords you have into the Ahrefs keyword explorer search box.

    Eg: chair, furniture, accountant, accountancy, finance or business ideas

    Select phrase match from the left menu.

    Now, in the include any box enter these buyer modifier keywords to filter out irrelevant search queries.

    Problem stage modifiers (at the awareness stage)

    how, what, and, for, with, where, when, for, with, and, issue, fix, improve, increase, reduce, remove, lower, grow

    Information stage modifiers

    example, guide, learn, tutorial, video, calculator, best, top, bespoke, service, color, colour

    Evaluation of alternatives keyword modifiers

    review, compare, comparison, vs, versus, alternative, similar, or

    Purchase decision stage modifiers

    Buy, nearest, cheap, dimensions, size, shop, store, discount, coupon, deal, sale, ebay, amazon, offer

    how, what, and, for, with, where, when, for, with, and, issue, fix, improve, increase, reduce, remove, lower, grow, example, guide, learn, tutorial, video, calculator, best, top, bespoke, custom, service, color, colour, review, compare, comparison, vs, versus, alternative, similar, or, Buy, nearest, cheap, dimensions, size, shop, store, discount, coupon, deal, sale, ebay, amazon, offer

    Now set a filter for keywords with more than 50 clicks and with a fairly low keyword competition.

    I have chosen 20 as a keyword difficulty; don’t go higher unless you have a highly authoritative website.

    2 : Select relevant keywords and add to a keyword list

    Tick the box next to the keywords that are relevant for your business or project.

    Then select Add To – keyword list – New List.

    Then name the list and press create.

    You can continue down the list of keywords and onto page 2 and 3 etc until you’ve exhausted all relevant keywords.

    Your list will appear on the left side of the screen and look something like this.

    You can have about 150 keywords in your list and 3 keyword lists on the $99 a month Ahrefs plan and 10 keywords on the $179 a month plan.

    3 : Repeat with another focus keyword on your list

    If you get really stuck finding another focus keyword, this tactic works wonderfully well.

    Go to Google, enter the seed keyword and select the images tab.

    Look at how it displays related keywords.

    Bedroom, living room, kitchen, sofa, table, dining room, office

    Or let’s say you’re an accountant.

    You might have to vary the keyword; start with accountancy and you will find related a focus keyphrase such as tax, bookkeeping, finance, ledger.

    I clicked ledger and found words such as ledger accounting, general ledger, accounts payable, balance sheet, accounts receivable, cash accounting.

    Enter your next focus keyphrase into the keyword explorer search box.

    Now, in the include any box enter these buyer modifier keywords to filter out irrelevant search queries.

    Now set filters for keywords with more than 50 clicks and a fairly low keyword difficulty.

    I have chosen 20 as a keyword difficulty; don’t go higher.

    Now tick the box next to the keywords that are relevant for your business or project.

    Then select Add To – keyword list – and select your list (or create a new list)

    Step 3 : Remove similar and non parent topic keywords

    I’ve accumulated 89 keywords in this example and I’m fairly sure there are similar keywords.

    So read through your list and remove any similar or duplicate keywords.

    Here’s an example.

    Tick the box next to the keyword and click the remove button.

    Now remove any keywords that don’t closely match the parent topic.

    Here’s an example

    A “kids table and chair set” is a long tail keyword that’s part of the parent topic “ikea childrens table”.

    This will be a waste of your time trying to rank for  “kids table and chair set” because Google views it as part of the broader, parent topic “ikea childrens table”.

    And you or a client certainly aren’t going to be producing web content or products targeting “ikea childrens table”.

    Here’s another example.

    “Compact table and chairs” is the keyword that is part of the “space saving dining table”.

    This keyword is virtually the same as the parent topic so it can be kept on the list.

    If you feel as if you’ve missed any keywords, use another focus keyword and repeat the above process.

    I found a few more keywords I’d missed so added them to my list.

    Step 4 : Search Volume and Click Volume

    In your keyword list you’ve collected keywords and their associated search volume and clicks.

    The clicks number presents the total clicks to the top 10 pages for that keyword.

    So let’s say you managed to get your page into the top 10 results for “folding tables and chairs”

    You won’t get 4972 clicks as shown in the screenshot below; you’d get around 1/10th of that; 497.

    So look at your keyword list again.

    Count up the clicks in the clicks column; get your calculator out; I got 49908.

    And divide that number by 10; 4990.

    That’s the click potential if you get every one of those pages on the top search engine results pages.

    Which isn’t going to happen.

    You’re going to exclude some of these ideas from your website and some pages simply won’t rank on page 1.

    So divide your number by 10% again; eg: 499.

    If you’ve got a number below 1000, you want to keep adding to your keyword list.

    Find another focus keyword and repeat the process described in the previous steps until you reach the magic 1000 clicks figure.

    Ps: also ensure you have keywords on your list that fall into each stage of the buyers funnel.

    So include keywords that include :

    Problem stage modifiers

    how, what, and, for, with, where, when, for, with, and, issue, fix, improve, increase, reduce, remove, lower, grow

    Information stage modifiers

    example, guide, learn, tutorial, video, calculator, best, top, bespoke, service, color, colour

    Evaluation of alternatives keyword modifiers

    review, compare, comparison, vs, versus, alternative, similar

    Purchase decision stage modifiers

    Buy, nearest, cheap, dimensions, size, shop, store, discount, coupon, deal, sale, ebay, amazon, offer

    Step 5 : Populate Click Forecasting Template

    You can manually create a Click Forecasting Template but it requires spending hours and hours messing about with filters and sorting.

    That’s why I hired a developer to provide a level of keyword automation.

    I can just drop the data into this custom built Click Forecasting Template and get the following view of keywords as per the screenshot below.

    Simply create a spreadsheet with the columns you see in the screenshot.

    Export your keyword list

    So you’ve reached a minimum 1000 clicks, now go to your keyword list.

    Select Export

    Check the box next to Include SERPs.

    Ensure All is selected underneath the Number of rows.

    (Now there’s a limit to the number of rows you can export from  Ahrefs)

    If you have a keyword list of 100, you’ll expert between 1000 and and 1500 rows

    Your monthly plan limit is either  25k or 100k row exports so make sure your keyword list has over 1000 clicks and a blend of keywords at each stage of the buyers funnel before exporting.

    Press Export to download

    Import into a Google Sheet

    Open up Google Sheets and create a new sheet.

    Select File > Import > Upload

    Drag and drop or upload the downloaded CSV

    Choose the option “Replace Current Sheet” and press the Import data button.

    The data will now appear

    Now you need to manually enter the data to populate the Click Forecast.

    ps: my Click Forecasting Template is exclusive to members of First 1000 Visits.

    Review Average Traffic to top results pages

    You’ll see the data presented as per the screenshot below.

    Let me explain the columns:

    • Keyword – this is the keyword you exported from Ahrefs into this template
    • Avg Keywords – this is the average number of keywords that the top 10 pages rank for
    • Avg Traffic – this is the average traffic to these top 10 pages for the associated keyword
    • Bar charts – we display a bar chart for the average keyword and average traffic and this is sorted in descending order
    • I’ll discuss the use of the other columns in the next lesson

    So at the top of the list you can see the keywords that have the highest average traffic.

    So, for example, “furniture for the home” has an average traffic of 33,036 visits per month.

    Even the keyword at the foot of the screenshot, drink cabinet, has an average traffic of 1263 visits.

    If you look in the top row, you will see that the sum average traffic of 92 keywords in this report is 179,159 visits a month.

    Now you are never going to have 92 pages on your website targeting every keyword.

    Some keywords may not be suitable.

    Some keywords on your list may be more suitable for an e-commerce business and some suitable for a service business.

    This Click Forecasting process has identified 179,159 visits, plenty of traffic opportunities.

    Step 6 : Understand the keywords and select user intent

    One of the mistakes I used to make with keyword research was to just find a good keyword with good clicks and low difficulty.

    I created the content but it never seemed to do well.

    The core of my keyword strategy is to now fully understand user intent.

    Let’s say the keyword you are targeting is “drink cabinet”.

    The search intent is obvious; the user looking for a drink cabinet.

    User intent is understanding the type of content on your page the user wants.

    Do they want to buy, are they looking for a custom drink cabinet, are they looking for a list of drink cabinet ideas ?

    Knowledge of user intent will not only ensure you choose the right keywords from your Click Forecasting Template but understand what the target customer wants, the correct content format and what written content to produce.

    Step 1 : Search the keyword

    Copy and paste the first keyword on your list into your search browser.

    Eg: furniture for the home

    Now it turns out the query “furniture for the home” is a brand name.

    So I’ll exclude this keyword from the website plan because there’s no chance you’ll rank well for a brand name.

    Go to the Add to Website Plan and select No from the dropdown menu

    Copy and paste the 2nd keyword on your list.

    You want to look at the organic results, not the ads or the images.

    What kind of pages do you see ranking ?

    If you’re not sure, click on a few of the top results.

    I see ecommerce category pages

    Step 2 : Select the User Intent

    So in your Click Forecasting Template, go to the row of your keyword, scroll along to the Select User Intent column and choose the Ecommerce Category Page option from the dropdown.

    Now work through your list repeating these steps.

    Types of user intent

    In the the user intent dropdown there’s a range of options

    • How to article
    • List article
    • Guide
    • Service category cage
    • Service page
    • E-commerce category page
    • E-commerce product page
    • Review article
    • Comparison or Alternative article
    • Mixed
    • Calculator

    Here’s an example of a keyword from the list where the user intent is a how to article.

    Google the keyword and you can see “how to” appears in most of the page titles

    If you are in doubt about the user intent, click on one of the top pages and look at the content of the page.

    The page content will typically contain “steps”.

    You can see in the page content that a “how to” article will typically contain “steps” in the sub headings.

    Now select “how to article” in the select user intent dropdown box for this keyword.

    Example of Evaluation of Alternative search query

    I’ve had nearly 1000 visits in the past 12 weeks for a page that compares 2 keyword research tools.

    Here’s some top alternative searches in the UK with over 1000 clicks for the keyword alone.

    Look at these evaluation of alternative searches containing “comparison”.

    And some evaluation of alternative searches containing “vs”

    Examples of List Posts that typically include “best” or “top” in the query.

    “Best Gaming Headsets Under 100” search term

    List post containing “top”

    Guide Posts – this is obvious

    Guide queries frequently occur in travel and tourism industry

    Other Guide search queries

    Step 7 : Select content format

    One of my friends is a chartered accountant and when I researched opportunities for his website, I simply gave him a click forecast of important keywords and asked him to choose yes or no.

    No messing about; a simple yes or no answer then onto producing the content.

    Step 1 : Add to Website Plan

    Your job is to scroll down the list of keywords and choose Yes or No from the Add to Website Plan for each keyword.

    If you are doing this work for a client, then give them editor access to this Click Forecasting Template and the instructions to select Yes or No in the Add to Website Plan column.

    To share Click Forecasting Template.

    • Click Share in the top of Google Sheets
    • Click Change underneath Get Link 
    • Click the arrow next to Viewer and change to Editor
    • Click Copy Link and Done
    • Then email the link to the client

    Now if you recall earlier I was using “chairs” as a case study for this article.

    There was an opportunity for  a page about bespoke services and a page about products.

    If a client is only offering services, then he would probably select No from the Add to Website Plan where the User Intent answers were Ecommerce category or ecommerce product pages.

    He may just look to have How to articles and Service type pages.

    Or he may offer a blend of ecommerce pages, service pages and how-to articles.

    As a side note, you can see from doing this Click Forecasting may even make you or a business owner re-evaluate the business model.

    If you have a large list of ecommerce category or product pages in the Select User Intent column then perhaps an element of their website that’s going to be built needs to offer products on ecommerce pages.

    Why?

    Because if you are not selling products, you are not going to create this type of page and no matter how hard he tries to rank a page about “folding tables and chairs” it will never rank because the user wants to see a range of these types of products

    Step 2 : Write out page titles

    After you’ve added the keyword to the website plan you can write out a page title.

    It’s not essential at this stage but helps a client understand the page better.

    Step 3 : Finalise your list of keywords

    You should now have a list of keywords with the Yes option selected in your Add to Website Plan.

    Count the Average Traffic for those keywords.

    Ideally that numbers should be 10 times greater than the 1000 clicks ie: 10,000.

    Step 8 : Choose pages for target audience / potential customers

    Once you’ve chosen pages for your potential customers now you can write page titles, description tags and content outline for each page.

    Give the brief to your writer so you can provide written content to match the user queries.

    Yes, this is hard work. 

    When faced with a large number of keywords this process enable you to choose keywords if you want ranked and traffic from search results.