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Tutorial: Simple Keyword Research with SEMRush

One of the most important things you can do when writing new content is keyword research. Knowing what keywords and phrases your target audience is searching for is absolutely vital. Keyword research will help your content gain visibility and be discovered more easily by your audience. You could end up creating content that no one is searching for, which will ultimately result in low engagement and poor search engine rankings.


In this article, we will explore a simple process of keyword research using SEMRush and provide some practical tips on how to find the right keywords to help your content succeed. Whether you are a seasoned SEO expert or you're just getting started, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to conduct simple, yet effective keyword research and create content that resonates with your target audience.



Ranking Factors

To start, we should cover what some of the basic ranking factors are for a page, and a piece of content. Ranking factors are the criteria applied by Google (and other search engines) when evaluating websites to decide the best order of relevant results to return for a search query. A search query is a phrase or a keyword combination that a user would enter in search engines' search bar to find what they are looking for.


We're going to use the topic of 3D game development using Unreal Engine 5 as an example.



The Topic of Your Content: The Title Tag

What you name your article and how its presented in search engines is one of the most important factors, if not the most important. In terms of HTML, this is everything that falls between the <title></title> tags, it should also not exceed 60 Characters if you can help it.


The title should be the exact subject matter on what the topic is about. If its an educational article about getting started, based on our example above we'd want to make sure our title reflects that:


Example: Unreal Engine 5 Tutorial for Beginners: Make Your First Game


Maybe its not an educational article, but a news piece, we'd still want to be straight to the point on what the user would find if they were to open your article:


Example: What's New in Epic Games' Unreal Engine 5.1.1 Hotfix


Its also important to use easy words to the describe the content. You'll also want to avoid "click bait" titles, they may work in the short term, but they won't help you long-term because people ultimately want quality content over interesting headlines.


Your title tag should also include relevant keywords so that it can be picked up by search engine algorithms and appear higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). We'll need to think about this as we start our keyword research.



The Location of Your Content: The URL

The URL of where the article is placed on your site should be the exact subject matter on what the topic is about as well. This can often reflect the title of the article (most of the time this is true). The URL is also an important ranking factor, therefore, we need to make sure that it contains the keywords we want to rank for. Still going off the game developer example above, you might have your URL be something like:


Example: unrealgamedev.com/articles/unreal-engine-5-tutorial-for-beginners



Subtopics Within Content: The Headers (H1,H2,H3 Etc.)

Header tags are one of those elements in SEO that can significantly impact rankings when positioning a page, although they are not a main ranking factor. Header tags (also referred to as H tags or headings) are HTML elements used to introduce the titles of content on a web page and the subtopics. They look similar to title tags, for instance an H1 tag would look like this: <h1></h1>.


They have a hierarchy from H1 to H6 to define six levels of headings. The H1 is typically the articles main title as it shows on the webpage, from which all the others would start. The H6 would be the last one, but it is rarely necessary to go beyond the H4. Here is an example of how a pages headers might be set up:


  • Heading 1 (H1): Main Title

    • Heading 2 (H2): Subtopic 1

    • Heading 2 (H2): Subtopic 2

      • Heading 3: (H3): Finer point of Subtopic 2

    • Heading 2(H2): Subtopic 3


Keywords you want to rank for should be added to these header tags, specifically optimized for long–tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords or key phrases that are more specific and usually longer than a single keyword.


Using our game development tutorial example, maybe one of the H2 tags could be "How to Install Unreal Engine 5".



The Meat & Potatoes: Content is King

Content is King, as the famous saying goes. The content within your article or webpage needs to have expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, or EAT as Google calls it. The term originated from the Search Quality Rater Guidelines that human quality raters at Google use to assess search results.


You should make sure your content is current and up-to-date, double-check your facts, and only use credible sources when citing where your content originated from. Your content should always be topical, focused, highly-structured (see header tag section above), easy to understand, and of excellent quality.


Make sure to always include an author bi-line, or to link to an author profile page within the content as well, this will help with your overall EAT. The authors bio needs to contain information on why they have the authority to write on the subject matter.


It doesn’t matter if you’re selling something or trying to get new viewers for your instructional series (yes, videos also need SEO) your content needs to be helpful, informative, and useful.


If you use images within your content, be sure to keep them to a reasonable size (under 400kb), jpeg format if you can, and to also include image alt text. Google Uses image alt text to understand the context of of the image. If you use the image as a link, the alt text will be used as supplemental anchor text for that link.


Speaking of links, internal links (which are links that point to other areas or content within your own site) are a powerful ranking factor, but not quite as powerful for your SEO as high-quality backlinks (incoming links from other domains to your website, this is a subject for another article).


Keep the number of links per page reasonable. You don't want to stuff a page to the point that everything is linked. Utilize keywords in your anchor text, linking to other areas of your site with words like "here" won't be helpful. Above all, anchor text of each link should be descriptive of the linked content.



Supplemental Tools

We're almost to the part where we go over how to do the keyword research, but before we start I wanted to list some of the other tools besides SEMRush that we can utilize for effective keyword research.

  • AnswerthePublic - This tool can help us with content ideation

  • Google search page one results / “people also ask” - This isn't really a tool, but we'll utilize SERPs to check for competition and ideation

  • Google Sheets - We'll use this to export the keywords and upload them here.



SEMRush Overview

New to SEMRush or don't know which tools to use for keyword research? Below is a list of some of the more useful ones that you can use on your keyword research journey.


keyword tools within SEMRush to use

  • Domain / keyword search bar

    • This is a quick an easy tool to get information on a specific query or domain.

  • Keyword overview / Keyword magic tool

    • Both of these tools can be useful for top-level keyword research - is it relevant? Does anyone look for this? What content can be found on the page for that keyword?

  • Keyword manager / Position Tracking

    • These two sections of the tool can be useful for tracking specific keywords of interest (I think up to 1k) - not per article, but for the domain.

  • Organic research

    • Explore competitor keyword rankings on desktop and mobile.

    • View their landing pages displayed in the SERPs for a given keyword.

    • See how much traffic a search term is bringing organically.

  • Keyword GAP

    • Allows us to compare our website against other competing websites.

    • Specify up to 5 any domains, subdomains, folders or exact URLs. Get a list containing all common and unique keywords they rank for.

  • SEO Writing Assistant

    • Top level help to make sure you cover potential content factors that Google looks for in SEO.

  • Topic Research Tool

    • This can help ideation of topics



Keyword Research Metrics

Before we begin our keyword research, we need to understand what we’re looking for in a keyword. When we search for a keyword using the Domain / keyword search bar, It gives us a complex report with a ton of information and metrics around that keyword. Lets break down what some of these mean.


keyword research metric provided by SEMRush


Search Volume

Search volume is the average number of monthly searches to a given keyword over the last 12 months. Higher is not always better, as this could mean high competition level.



Keyword Difficulty (KD%) Metric

This metric index is a percentage (1–100%). The higher it is, the harder it would be to outrank your competitors in organic search results, according to SEMRush.

  • How SEMRush Views KD%

    • Above 69%: The most difficult keywords. You’ll have to invest a lot of SEO and link-building efforts, as well as time before you’ll be able to enter the Google top 20. If you have a new site, focusing on highly competitive keywords might not be a reasonable idea.

    • From 50-69%: Keywords with average difficulty. Entering the Google top 20 with these keywords won't be easy either. However, with high-quality content and relevant backlinks, you might be able to seize your competitors’ positions in time.

    • From 30-49%: Keywords that are possible to rank for when you’re starting out.

    • Below 30%: Keywords that are the very easiest to rank for, likely with low search volume or highly specific search intent.



Other Metrics & Information

Besides difficulty and search volume, this report shows the number of URLs in organic results, SERP features, keyword variations, related keywords and the volume/KD% of related and variation terms. It will also show questions that utilize the keywords in question. You can also see the SERP’s snapshot and the trends of a keyword’s popularity over the previous 12 months among other things. This is a very handy tool.


With this knowledge, you can locate the best low-competition keywords you can realistically target in organic search. From here we want to filter for high-volume keywords with less competition. These will be the keywords we want to use in the content we’re working on.


High search volume, low competitive density (KD%) / competition.



Doing The Research

Get a quick analysis, build a keyword master list, and find your competitive edge. For this we’ll be starting with the Keyword Magic tool. This tool will tell us the basic intent behind each keyword that's listed, the volume, the trend in volume, KD%, CPC cost, what SERP features are shown for the keyword, the number of results and more. When creating your master list, remember to compile a list of high-volume keywords with lower or less competition.


A general rule of thumb (but not an exact science, there are caveats to this) is if a competitor ranks for the term you want to target and your company or project has a similar digital footprint, then the ability for you to rank for that term is more than likely possible. You might be able to determine a KD% that is right for you to target by using this method.


This doesn't mean that you can't rank for highly competitive terms, it just means it would be easier for you to outrank your competitors for a KD% that's more easily attainable. If you're content is unique, provides a user with exactly what they need, is high quality, and exudes high EAT, then ranking for those high search volume, high competition terms is possible.



Step 1: Keyword Ideation

Open the Keyword Magic tool and enter the keyword of focus you’d like to start with, then hit search.


Example keyword: Unreal Engine 5 Blueprints


keyword magic tool for ideation


Step 2: Explore Keywords

Explore the suggested groups and subgroups of related topics to find niche long-tails and ideas. Pay attention to the Match Modifiers (broad match, phrase match, etc.), allowing you to broaden or narrow down the keyword selection to your liking.


filters to explore within the keyword magic tool

Make use of the Questions Filter; this neat feature will sort out question-based keywords.

AnswerthePublic is also a good place to start for figuring out headers and potential titles.


AnswerthePublic front page
AnswerthePublic topic suggestions

The “Topic Research Tool” (under the "Content Marketing" tab) in SEMRush would be similar to this as well, but with different information - also a good place to start.


topic research tool


Step 3: Download and Analyze

Once we’ve determined which keywords we want to use, we can either download the list that SEMRush provides us, or make our own in Google Sheets. We can then reference these keywords as we’re writing our article, and mark them off as they’ve been added.


SEMrush export options

It's recommended that you add the keywords you've chosen to the Keyword Manager tool to track how your domain ranks for their keywords and the progress in improving rankings.



Competitor Keywords

The Keyword Gap tool can also be used here to determine keywords that your competitor(s) might rank for. You can compare up to 5 websites to determine who ranks for what, and you can throw your own domain into the mix to determine how you stack up against the competition.


keyword gap tool


Competition - Factors to Consider

KD% isn’t perfect science, we always want to double check search result pages for the query or long tail keyword we’re looking to rank for to check for competition level.

  • Are there extremely authoritative sites that cover page one, reducing our chances of ranking?

  • How many ads are on page? This could indicate that the keyword is highly targeted

  • What other SERP features are there?

  • Does the content subject that you want to write about match the subjects that are showing up on page one for the given keyword phrase? (similar in theme, etc)

Always check to see if you already rank for your targeted term or article. Google does not like to see us write about the exact same subject twice - and would rather us update the older article with new information or improved SEO.


Conclusion

There are many ways to do keyword research and many tools, SEMRush just happens to be RankRealms' tool of choice. This article was written to get you started in the entire process. Keyword analysis itself can take a lot of effort and is a learning process in its self. Its important, but it’s definitely more of an art than an exact science. The process shouldn’t take so much time that it stops you from actually writing and publishing content.


If you have any questions about keyword research or need assistance, please reach out! RankRealm is here to help.

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