Fundamentally, keyword research describes the process of discovering words, terms and phrases that users are entering into search engines when they are looking for a particular piece of information. Keyword research also involves analysing those keywords to determine which words, terms and phrases should be targeted in order to obtain a strong ranking position within a relevant search engine result page (SERP), thereby increasing relevant search traffic to that a website.
Keyword research can also be used to understand how popular a particular search query currently is, how difficult it is to rank for that keyword, and lots more.
The process of keyword research delivers a wealth of data and insights that can be used to inform overall SEO strategy, identifying content that needs to be created or optimised in order to target that page at a given keyword or keyword group.
Keyword research can also be used to optimise existing content in a variety of ways and inform future content calendars and strategies. Often, this type of keyword research is called keyword mapping, which involves identifying the keywords existing pages on a website rank for, where the gaps are and where pages are competing for multiple keywords and need to be split out or lost altogether.
With the advent of latent semantic indexing, Google Hummingbird and other advances in Google’s ability to understand language, so too has keyword research evolved, becoming less about strict adherence to a single keyword and more about identifying topics, synonyms and themes. The focus has also markedly shifted away from keyword usage to content value and other factors like trust and authority.