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Doing keyword research for content marketing is one of the first and most crucial steps in inbound marketing. And as you may have found, keyword research really isn’t all that hard or technical. It does involve a time commitment and a decent amount of legwork (it isn’t called keyword research for nothin’!)—but if you put in the work using the sources below, you’ll learn a ton about what your ideal customers are searching for and how you can create content that appeals to them.
If you’ve been taking steps toward creating a comprehensive list of keywords, you’re going to want to use as many keyword sources as possible; so we’ve outlined seven sources with specific instructions on how to find keywords from each of them. Let’s get started!
How To Do Keyword Research For Inbound Marketing: 7 Great Keyword Sources
Keyword Source #1: Your current keywords.
As a marketing director (or if you’re in a similar role or position), you likely have a list of potential keywords in an Excel file, HubSpot, Moz, etc. That’s great! But now’s the time to reevaluate that list and cut out the keywords that aren’t going to attract your ideal customer (persona).
For example, the keyword “HR systems” may be a little too broad, since your persona could be searching for something else. By using various online tools like Keyword Tool (KTIO), SEMrush, or Moz, you can find related terms or synonyms for that phrase that’ll bring you closer to a good keyword opportunity. Instead of “HR systems” you may want to target “HR systems for small businesses.” (We use the Pro version of KTIO as our primary source for keyword research and data, which is why you’ll see it referenced multiple times—but you can use any tool you’d like for the job.)
Keyword Source #2: Brainstormed list.
Next, turn to people in, or interested in, your industry—peers from another similar organization, employees, or customers. Ask the following questions:
- “What is our product or service referred as?”
- “What kind of problems does our product or service solve?”
- “How would you personally describe our product or service?”
All the words, phrases, and terms you can get down from this process will act as starting points for potential keywords. To figure out which of those words, phrases, and terms are good keywords, follow this process:
- Take the full list of search phrases and enter them into KTIO’s “Check Search Volume” tool (or a similar tool of your choice).
- Export the list.
- One at a time, take the terms on that list with a high search volume and put them into KTIO’s “Find Keywords” tool. Shorten certain terms to open up your search. For example, turn “human resource management systems” into “hr management.”
- Record any keywords you find to your master list, and repeat step three until ideas are exhausted.
Keyword Source #3: Buyer questions.
Buyer questions help you get into the mind of your personas by understanding what problems your personas are trying to solve at every phase of the marketing funnel.
Once you’ve created your buyer questions, it’s time to translate them into search phrases. For example, one buyer question might be, “Is there a free, downloadable template to help me manage my employees’ time off?” People won’t search the entire phrase—but they may search “PTO tracking template.”
To generate keywords from buyer questions, take the list of keywords and phrases pulled from your buyer questions and follow the steps outlined in keyword source #2.
Keyword Sources #4 & #5: Competitor websites and your current website.
Your current website and your competitors’ websites are both great sources for keywords. Examining your current website for keywords is helpful if you don’t know what you’re ranking for. You may have gotten lucky with some keywords and ranked for them without doing any SEO—so find out what those are.
Examining your competitors’ sites for keywords is also a way to grab some keywords you may not have thought of.
Follow the steps below to get keywords from your competitors. If you’re examining your own website, the steps are the same as below—start with step two and only plug in your own URL instead of a competitor’s.
- Put together a complete list of your competitors’ websites.
- One by one, plug those URLs into KTIO’s “Analyze Competitors” tool (and Google’s Keyword Planner if you need more digging).
- Pick out relevant keywords.
- Use KTIO’s “Find Keywords” tool to go deeper on broad keywords that could be relevant.
Keyword Source #6: Multiplied lists.
Another way to give your keyword research process a boost is by combining general keyword terms and phrases. For example, you could have a list of terms that describe your industry (like HR, human resources, personnel management, etc.) and a list of terms that describe your product (like software, tool, solution, or system). By matching relevant terms on both lists you can pull out more good keywords to target, i.e. “human resources solution.” (Note that your second list of keywords shouldn’t only be sales-based, like “software”; you should also have some resource-based keywords, like “tips” or “template.")
Google’s Keyword Planner tool works great for this tactic. Here’s how to do it:
- Open Google’s Keyword Planner tool.
- Select “Multiply keyword lists to get new ideas.”
- Create two lists: one for industry words and overall keywords, and the other for verticals you sell into.
- Click “Get search volume” to see the results.
Keyword Source #7: LSI keywords.
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords are related to your primary keyword. It's a way for Google’s algorithm to clump topics that are connected to provide better search results. For example, if you search “HR software,” Google makes the connection that “HR software,” “human resources software,” and “HR software application” are all essentially the same thing.
There are a couple things that can help you find LSI keywords.
- Open LSIGraph.com and add a keyword to get a list of similar keywords according to Google’s algorithm.
- Use Google Suggest—the key words and phrases that populate the search bar when you start typing a search query in Google—and the phrases related to your keyword (found at the bottom of your search results). These two sources should provide you with some good ideas.
Voilà! You’ve got yourself a list of a few hundred keywords.
That wasn’t as bad as you were expecting, huh? You may never write about all of these keywords, but they are a great starting point.
While the above sources play an important role in how to do keyword research for content marketing, you can’t forget about what comes next—categorizing keywords by competition and sorting keywords by relevance and search volume. In other words, gathering this comprehensive list of keywords is just one part of the keyword research process. If you’re interested in getting details on the next steps of this process, tweet us @nectafy and let us know!
P.S. Want to read more about keyword research tools? This article highlights eight of our favorites and may give you a few more ideas.