Finding keywords is an important first step in defining your SEO strategy. Keyword research is made much easier when you have access to dedicated tools and unfortunately the best ones cost money. In a 2020 survey ran by Aleyda Solis, she detected that most SEO’s have 2 to 4 different paid tools and that 26% of professionals paid over $13.000 per year for their collection of tools.
Imagine that you are Rich (Richard), an SEO consultant working at a digital marketing agency. As well as overseeing SEO campaigns for the agency’s clients, Rich will be regularly asked to audit the sites of new clients and propose SEO strategies including finding the most relevant keywords to target in relation to the client’s product, target audience and objectives.
When the client’s website is built on WordPress, Rich will systematically ask that SEOPress Free, SEOPress PRO and SEOPress Insights are installed. The cost of these tools (the SEOPress PRO + Insights bundle is just $118 / year) hardly makes a dent in his $1000 / month SEO tool budget.
SEOPress Insights will be set up with a list of target keywords so that the client and the agency’s marketing managers can follow the progress of SEO efforts by tracking the site’s position in Google keyword-per-keyword. It is an essential tool for SEO projects. See how it works below.
However, before configuring SEOPress Insights with up to 50 keywords, Rich must first find the most relevant keywords to target. He will often spend 1 to 2 whole days doing keyword research for a client. His method to find keywords is pretty much the one that we outlined in our article Finding SEO Keywords for Your Blog, but thanks to his access to paid tools, Rich can draw a lot of information from competitor keyword research.
A new client: Bermudian real estate broker
Imagine that Rich has a new client, a real estate broker in Bermuda who wants to launch a website targeting a US audience. He wants the site to be optimized for searches in Google.com.
As with other clients, Rich will ask the broker who his competitors are and if they have a website.
The best type of competitor to analyze will be direct competitors who do exactly the same thing as his client. The broker may cite propertyskipper.com or sothebysrealty.com as competitors, but these sites offer properties in many countries not just in Bermuda. Most of their keywords will not be relevant for this project.
Explaining the problem to the client, he eventually gets a list of 4 real estate websites in Bermuda that he can analyze.
A competitor’s best keywords
For competitor keyword research, Rich often uses SEMRush. This is a suite of SEO tools that include keyword research, position tracking and link building features. Users can set up projects or simply surf the information provided by SEMRush on domains, keywords and backlinks.
One of the most basic features in competitor keyword research is simply check sites one at a time. For example, Rich can just type in “coldwellbankerbermuda.com” to the Domain Overview search bar and get an overview of the domain.
The overview gives some important insights into the website on this domain. SEMRush estimates that the site gets 794 visitors per month from search engines in the USA for 404 different keywords. Further down, a table gives the estimated traffic per country. 62% of estimated traffic comes from the US, 10% from Canada, 8% from the UK, etc.
Historic data shows that this site has only recently started getting traffic from search engines and both traffic and the number of keywords for which the site is visible are increasing rapidly.
Scrolling down beyond this first screen, there is a short list of keywords, and it is possible to click on the View detailsbutton to see the full list of 404 keywords in the Organic Research report.
This shows a list of all the keywords the site has been visible for in the first 100 search results. For each keyword, SEMRush show details of the site’s best current position compared to a month ago (Pos), the estimated volume of monthly searches for that keyword (Volume) and the Cost per click quoted by Google Ads (CPC). The percent of estimated traffic (Traffic%) is calculated from the site’s position and the search volume. Ordering the list of keywords by Traffic% is a good way of identifying, at the top of the list, the site’s most important keywords.
In the case of coldwellbankerbermuda.com, we can see “Bermuda real estate”, “Bermuda homes for sale”, “Real estate Bermuda”, “Houses for sale in Bermuda”, etc.
All 404 results for this domain can be exported to Excel or CSV format. Rich will often export data to Excel for further analysis.
Data for these reports comes from SEMRush’s database of keyword search results. They claim to have information for 17 billion keywords and 580 million domains. Rich may use other tools to get similar information. Examples of tools that provide similar keyword data are SERanking (screen shot below), SpyFu, and Ahrefs.
A very useful feature in SEMRush is called the Keyword Gap report. To get this report, Rich has to enter the root domain of his client and can then up to 4 competitor domains from which keywords will be drawn.
The fact that Rich’s client doesn’t yet have a website is not a problem, he can make up a domain name (one that doesn’t exist) to get results from this report. He enters bermudabrokersite.com as the first domain and then enters the 4 competitor domains the client gave him and clicks on “Compare”.
The Keyword Gap report gives an overview of results before going into a list of keywords. Important information from the overview are the keywords shown in the Top Opportunities table. These are “Bermuda real estate”, “Bermuda homes for sale”, “House for sale Bermuda”, “Bermuda Houses” and “Bermuda real estate for sale”.
A Venn diagram then shows the Keyword Overlap between the different domains. The size of the circle is linked to the number of keywords for which the site is found in search engines. The big orange circle shows that regosothebysrealty.com was found in searches for 4,171 different keywords (4.1K). There is a total of over 4,600 keywords for all the domains analyzed.
The list of keywords under “All keyword details for” allows users to filter the keywords. By default, the filter is “Missing”. This filter shows the keywords for which all the competitor domains are ranking for but which the client domain isn’t. Each website is featured as a column and the site’s best position in search results is displayed for each keyword. 0 means that the site was not found in the top 100 search results for that keyword. The site that has the best ranking of all those analyzed is highlighted in green. The data per keyword is completed by the search volume (Volume), cost-per-click with Google Ads (CPC), competition in Google Ads (Com.) and the number of search results for the keyword (Results).
In this report, all the competitors are ranking for 42 different keywords between the 1st and 100th position.
To remove the filter and see all the keywords for the 4 competitor sites, Rich click on Untapped or All keywords.
Again, Rich will export this list to Excel where he will work on analyzing the best keywords.
His final list of keywords will help suggest the structure of the website and give ideas for blog posts. He will recommend to the client that the site should have distinct listing pages for Condos and Houses and that these pages should be accessible from the main menu. There is also a good argument to have a dedicated page for beachfront properties (preferring the term beachfront to waterfront because there is a higher search volume) – a beachfront filter will also be an interesting feature for website’s search engine. Although most searches are with the Bermuda place name there are some keywords with parish names, such as “homes for sale in hamilton bermuda”. There are only nine parishes in Bermuda so it would make sense having at least one keyword per parish and therefore a page per parish listing homes for sale, but also featuring titles and text optimized for the keyword.
Keywords that would be good ideas for blog posts include “Can you buy property in Bermuda if you are not Bermudian”, “How to work in Bermuda” “Bermudian Real Estate Laws” and “Buying property to rent in Bermuda”.
The full list of keywords will be injected into SEOPress Insights when the site is launched. Rich and the client will then be able to track the site’s ranking over time to see if their SEO strategy is working. See How to Track Keyword Rankings for more details.
Today Rich is rich enough to spend $1000 per month on SEO tools. Maybe one day he will be rich enough to buy a home on Bermuda Island.