Though the basic objective of a search engine optimization (SEO)-based inbound marketing strategy is to rank for specific search terms or keywords, there’s more to it than just that. In most cases, ranking for relevant keywords has become more difficult due to the fact that there are countless others trying, and countless more joining the fight with each day. There’s more at play than just finding and creating content for keywords, but in determining how difficult it is to rank for certain keywords, assessing yourself with competitors, and boosting your SEO weight through complementary methods, such as building backlinks.
However, you don’t have the time, energy and resources to do that keyword research manually where you’re looking through hundreds (or thousands) of related keywords, examining each of your competitors, and determining the difficulty of ranking for each keyword. This is where using a keyword research tool is critical. With a tool such as Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush, or others, you can automate each of those manual processes and gain valuable insights to use as part of your SEO strategy. So, which tool should you use? That will depend on your specific needs, but you must ensure your choice has these 3 key features or qualities.
The first key quality of your keyword research tool should be to – obviously – help you find the right keywords! However, there’s more at play here than just listing keywords for you to use. Rather, you want tools that will help you optimize your underlying content strategy and get a high search engine results page (SERP) ranking in short order.
First, the keyword research tool should give you visibility of every related keyword to the one you’re analyzing. You should be able to get the search volume for each keyword and insight about how people are using those terms and where to place it in your marketing funnel.
Second, the tool should also help you understand the parent topic of that specific keyword. Not only will you nail down the right search intent, but you’ll also get visibility of an entire branch of keywords you build related content around (and tie back to the main search term). You’ll also know where and how to use specific keywords; for example, some terms will deserve their own page or blog, while others should be incorporated as part of a blog/page.
Third, your tool should also offer visibility of how difficult it is to rank for that specific keyword. It will give you an idea of who you’re competing with for that term and, in turn, help you find easier terms to target so that you can rank earlier.
2. Search results analysis
The idea here is to understand what your competitors are doing and, in turn, reverse-engineer their efforts to your benefit. Your keyword research tool should provide visibility of how the top competitors are faring, especially in the following areas:
- Organic traffic
- Total backlinks (i.e., the number of websites linking to the competitor)
- The top keyword they’re ranking for
- The number of keywords they’re ranking for
- Their domain authority (DA), i.e., a relative benchmark of their trustworthiness
This information could influence your inbound marketing strategy. For example, if your competitors have high DAs, then in addition to creating content, you might engage in outreach efforts to collect backlinks and, in turn, strengthen your own DA. In other words, you should build insights that help you determine the right strategy, not waste your resources.
3. Content analysis
Finally, your tool should offer visibility into what kind of content works best for specific keywords. If a certain keyword typically does best in a news article, you should be able to see that in your tool (which will collect and analyze existing search engine data for that information).
For example, a managed IT service provider (MSP)’s digital marketing efforts would involve a mix of blogs, eBooks, and multimedia content. Each one of these is expensive, so to maximize your chances of organic traffic success, you want to create the right type of content for each of your target keywords.
Overall, these are the three essential features you need in your keyword research tool. Each of your options on the market will approach them differently, but they’re aiming at the same goal or outcome. The one you select will depend on specific preferences, such as the UI, or if you value specific services, such as an SEO writing assistant or some other feature.