Picking SEO Keywords: An Expert’s Guide

Without SEO, publishing content online is like sending a rocket to space without a destination.

If you don’t tell that rocket which direction to head (the moon or Mars?), you’re stuck crossing your fingers and hoping things work out. That’s not good marketing. Good marketing comes with predictability, data, and then some crossed fingers.

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And that’s the perfect way to describe search engine optimization, SEO, in 2022.

SEO is part of the search engine algorithm:

Input = Keywords

Output = Content

For every keyword, there are thousands of pages of search results and plenty of content to choose from (outputs). But, page 1,000 isn’t nearly as useful as page 1. Even page 2 of search results can feel like no man’s land.

That’s why marketers care about SEO. Because all search engine pages are not equal. The power of ranking top 3 on page 1 of a search engine beats out ranking first on page 2 by 100x (honestly, maybe even 1,000x).

How do you land a coveted spot on page 1 of the search results?

By picking the right SEO keywords through these three steps.

3 Steps SEO Experts Use to Pick Keywords

SEO has been around long enough that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

#1: Ideate Keywords

There are two types of advertising: interruption-based and intent-based. Interruption-based advertising is an ad on your social media newsfeed. It’s the ads between paragraphs on the news article you’re trying to read. It’s a search engine ad strategically placed before the organic results. This isn’t your focus in organic SEO marketing, but this IS your focus in paid SEO advertising.

In SEO marketing, you’re focused on intent-based advertising. When somebody chooses to search for an answer to their question—that’s intent-based advertising. A search for “olive green cotton blanket” is an example of intent-based advertising.

And the search engine results are a mix of interruption (paid ads) and intent-based advertising (organic results).

When you’re ideating keywords for your products and brand, you’re looking at intent-based words. These are the words somebody needs to use to find your products or brand. For DigitalMarketer, these are words like:

These keywords correlate directly to our products. They teach people how to be great digital marketers, either for their own company, their full-time marketing role, marketing consultancy, or their agency clients.

#2: Research the Best Keywords

With your list of keywords and keyword phrases (which should be looooooooong by now), you’re set up to figure out which keywords to put your focus on. Unlike your pets, you’re allowed to play favorites here. You don’t want to choose keywords that are highly saturated and difficult to rank for. You also want to avoid the keywords that will only capture a minuscule part of your audience (at least, at first).

Time to bring in more help from our robot friends. Research the best keywords with tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush, Ahrefs, and seriously, there are so many other awesome SEO tools out there.

Here’s what keyword research for “running shoes” looks like in SEMRush:

A few things to take note of to compare your keywords/phrases and see which are the best option:

  • Volume is key to understanding if this keyword is worth creating content on or if it’s better to choose something with a higher search volume.
  • The keyword difficulty score shows you how hard it will be to organically rank for that keyword (good luck on getting on page 1 for running shoes!).
  • Use Keyword Variations to figure out if there are other keywords you can try to rank for that are similar but less competitive.

This data can tell you what time is the best to push interruption-based search paid ads—and if there’s specific content you can create around the seasons or months where you see these spikes.

#3: Check Bid Estimates (For Paid Advertising)

If you’re not putting money behind your SEO strategy and aiming to get organic traffic through high-ranking content, skip to the next section. If you’re looking to put your ad budget towards SEO, keep reading.

It’s based on 3 factors:

  1. Your Bid: This is your maximum budget for an ad click.
  2. Ad Quality: Google won’t show your ad to everybody searching for your keyword—they’ll show it to the people most likely to click based on past behavior and data they have on the user.
  3. Extensions and Ad Formats: Google likes when you use extensions, like phone number and other links, as well as the other ad formats you’ve chosen and can boost you in the auction for a lower price.

Understanding how the auction works is necessary to figuring out how much you can afford to spend on ads and what your expected ROI should be. For example, in the SEMRush example for the search “running shoes” the cost-per-click is estimated to be $0.84. This tells you that if you want 10 clicks on your ad per day, you need a minimum $8.40 budget. Of course these numbers are a lot smaller than what you’ll really be working with, but this gives you an idea of how to figure out your SEO budget.

What Do You Do After Picking SEO Keywords?

After you’ve chosen your SEO keywords, it’s time to create the content and ads. There are 3 types of content and ads to create:

  1. Top-of-funnel content
  2. Middle-of-funnel content
  3. Bottom-of-funnel content

Top-of-Funnel Content and Ads

When your customer avatar is first introduced to your brand, show them top-of-funnel content (TOFU). Think of this content as the getting to know you phase relationships (professional, family, friends, or even with your pets!). Every relationship goes through a stage of learning more about someone’s goals, values, and challenges. Your customer avatar wants to know who your brand is, what your goals are, and if your values align with theirs. They’re also looking to see if you understand their challenges.

Here’s an example of TOFU at DigitalMarketer: What is Digital Marketing? In this article, we’re introducing the reader to digital marketing which means we’re not trying to turn them into a customer just yet. It’s not the right time.

 

Middle-of-Funnel Content and Ads

The productivity apps above had to talk about their product in their TOFU content (they didn’t have another choice), but there’s a difference between their TOFU content and their MOFU content.

At the MOFU level, they’re flaunting their features Iran Phone Number and actively talking about why the competition isn’t the best option. An example of our MOFU content is this Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing. This guide is LONG, and anybody reading it clearly trusts us as their teacher.

You’re Ready to Pick Your SEO Keywords

  1. Ideate Keywords
  2. Research the Best Keywords
  3. Check Bid Estimates (For Paid Advertising)

And you know what to do after you’ve chosen them (create TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content and ads). The only thing left to do is put what you’ve learned into practice. Remember that every SEO marketer started where you were, unsure how to use the Google ads platform and scared they’ll run through their marketing budget without an ROI.

Just like we’re not telling you to put your entire life savings into Gamestop stock, putting your entire ad budget into your first SEO strategy is the wrong move. Take a percentage of that budget and start testing out ads, seeing their CTR, and how much each keyword or keyword phrase costs.

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