Keyword Research: The Tools You Need for Popular & Long Tail Keywords

In this our SEO training series, we are going to teach you how to find profitable keywords for your business or client projects.  This is also common question for when we are asked how to do an enterprise SEO audit.

Proper Keyword research can take your website to the next level. Don’t you think so? Here is one of our early English language client projects:

This site was stuck and had very little traffic. We built it up with one thing, keywords that were carefully selected for success. 

What is Keyword Research?

Okay, so you are not sure what a keyword is. Let’s start with the basics, just to be clear, any phrase you type into Google or similar search is considered a keyword:

Keyword Research Tools – Which Should You Use?

There are quite a few that work in Chinese and there are a lot of tools on the market. 

Here are a few you can try:

  • Ahrefs – Paid, but worth every sent. Currently our preferred choice. 
  • SEMRush – Paid Popular tool we sometimes use.
  • Moz – Paid Popular tool we have yet to use in Chinese, but the work we have done is English was pretty okay. 
  • Google Keyword Planner –  Free but its made more for paid ads, so it doesn’t help you evaluate the current ranking results. 

We are Ahrefs superfans, so we are going to focus on that one for the sake of this article. 

However the concepts can be applied to any tool. It’s more about your ability to evaluate the search results than any single SEO tool.

Keyword Analysis – Overall Difficulty of the Keywords

Most tools have some kind of metric to help you review keywords. For example Ahrefs has the metric “KD” for “Keyword Difficulty.” Although Ahrefs is great for keyword research, we find this metric to be pretty unreliable.  

This metric is great if you are looking at a spreadsheet and need to quickly review 100’s keywords, but if you are looking for early wins or want to know how difficult a keyword truly is, you’ll have to learn how to analyze it. 

For example, let’s look at these two keywords side by side:

Let’s pretend you can only write about one of these two keywords. On the surface the keyword to your left might not look very attractive. After all, it has a lower search volume.  You always want to write about keywords that only have high search volume? 

Wrong! Let’s look at the sites that are actually ranking for “coffee machine”

If we look at the DR the “Domain Rating” we can see that all these sites are actually quite powerful. Meaning the over domain has a lot of authority from link building.   

If you think about it, when your site starts out or is only a few years old, your DR is going to be pretty low, perhaps around DR 0-15. 

It’s very unlikely that your brand new site that is around DR 10’ish is going to be able to outrank 10 sites that are DR 70-80. 

They are just more powerful than the site you are trying to rank. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it would be a long term goal, not something you should plan to rank for in the short term. 

Making these keywords possibly very difficult compared to other keywords. 

Picking long tail keywords that are kinda easy

Long Tail Keywords are exactly what they sound like. Keywords that are a long phrase. Normally, they tend to be easier. 

If we keep going with our example. We’ll see the other keyword we found is quite a bit easier. 

Let’s use Ahrefs to see what sites are currently ranking in the top 10 results:

And there ya go. We just found a keyword that is much easier to rank for. 

If your Site is around DR 0-10 and you see a bunch of other weak sites, then you know you are probably in the right place. 

It’s much more likely that your weaker site will rank among other weaker sites. Learning how to “read” the results page is a very important skill to learn. 

Should You Only Target Easy Keywords and Skip Popular Ones?

Absolutely not. You should target both easy & hard keywords. 

The general idea is well… the easy keywords are easier to rank. In the short term you’ll see results. Meaning, if you research properly they will start to rank within a few short months. 

Allowing you to “build up” to the harder keywords. Meaning you’ll get traffic and make sales until you finally rank for the more juicy keyword that might take a year or two to rank for. 

How should you plan keywords

We suggest organizing them into topics or clusters. Similar to how we suggest in our OnPage SEO Guide. 

Here is a very easy plan you can follow for how you structure your articles:

The main advantage here is that you can really paint a picture for Google and other search engines. You can show them that you are thoroughly covering the topic in an organized way. 

In addition to that you kind of build a support system. All the keywords and articles help out one another.

Your goal should always be to make it easy for both people and search engines to understand what’s going on. 

Why is Google Keyword Planner ‘just okay’ for SEO?

It’s not terrible, it just doesn’t give you the full picture. 

It’s good for ideas or if you are on a budget, for example it will give you a general idea of the search volume. However the paid alternatives just give you a lot better information.  

People who are truly high level at keyword research have the ability to analyze the competition. That said if you are just starting out it’s okay to have it on your SEO keyword research tool belt.

Final Thoughts

The tool you use doesn’t really matter. The tool for keyword research is more of a preference thing. What matters is your ability to analyze the top 10 results. 

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