Careful keyword research is the cornerstone of search engine optimization – whether in B2B or B2C. But how does good keyword research work? These 7 steps lead to success:
For B2B or niche topics, keyword research is often a bit more complex, because B2B search queries have lower search volumes, are more specific, and are not that easy to find. Nevertheless: the effort is worth it! We will tell you how to create a comprehensive B2B keyword research and how to use it to create relevant subject areas and the right content formats for the phases of your customer journey.
Keyword research Step 1: Understand the principle
Before you dive into the world of keywords, it’s important to understand the principle – it’s about the search intent (user intent), not the keyword. This is particularly important when doing keyword research for Google because the search engine giant only ranks results that fulfill the search intent.
Why? Behind every search query, there is a specific intention: the searcher wants to find out more, solve a problem or get an answer to his question. You may now be wondering why this fact needs to be described in such detail. The search intention is so important because it determines content and format. Conversely, this means that it is not sufficient to simply include as many relevant keywords as possible in a text. Rather, it is important to structure and thematically prepare the content in such a way that it does justice to the intention of the person searching.
An example of the search intention: If the user wants to visit a steakhouse in Munich, for example, and his search results only contain preparations, recipes, and instructions, his search intention is not fulfilled. The same applies if a user is looking for an SEO agency and receives basic knowledge of search engine optimization.
If you determine for your keyword that the search intention is purely informational, i.e. information-driven, it makes no sense to advertise your own products and try to achieve good rankings with the product page – and vice versa: Does the user already have a concrete interest in buying or wants to visit a certain place (as in the example above) he no longer needs explanatory content.
Instead, you can consider satisfying the information-driven search query with a blog post, for example, and/or defining a new keyword for your product pages. This has the advantage that you capture your target group in the right phase of the customer journey: anyone who wants to find out more i.e. is in the awareness phase, will get to your explanatory content. On the other hand, if you already know what you want and intend to buy (consideration/decision phase), you will receive precise information on your product page.
This is how you determine the search intent
The best and easiest way to determine search intent is to look at the top results on the search results page (SERP). Search engines also strive to provide their users with the best results and to keep them satisfied so that they continue to use them. So you can rely on the top rankings to show you what the searcher wants to know about the keyword. Search intentions can be divided into different categories:
- Informational: The user wants to know something in order to satisfy his need for information.
- Navigational: The user is looking for something they know already exists.
- Commercial Investigation: The user knows the solution to his problem, but not yet the right product or provider.
- Transactional: The user wants to buy something.
Google itself categorizes search intent into Know, Do, Website, Visit-in-Person, and Multiple User Intent searches. These can be read in the guidelines.
Keyword Research Step 2: The Roadmap
To deliver the right content at the right time, you not only need to know what the potential customer needs on their journey, you also need to know who they actually are. It is, therefore, necessary to outline the persona and to roughly consider in which phase of the customer journey they need which information. The goal is to provide your prospect with compelling and relevant information at every stage.
The Buyer’s Journey is suitable for this:
- Awareness: The interested party recognizes a challenge or opportunity for his business.
- Consideration: The prospect decides to master the challenge or seize the opportunity.
- Decision: The interested party has already decided on a solution, the product or provider may still be open.
The categories of the search intentions can be assigned to the phases.
- Informational >> Awareness
- Navigational >> Consideration
- Commercial investigation, transactional >> Decision
You might be wondering what all this has to do with keyword research in B2B? Once you have created your keyword list, you can assign the keywords or topics to the individual phases based on the search intent. Then you derive how you should prepare the content thematically and which content format is best suited. There are certain content formats that are most likely to serve search intent:
- Informational: (guides, definitions, basic articles, infographics)
- Commercial investigation: (comparisons, customer testimonials, user reports, references)
- Transactional: (product pages with contact options, product overview)
Keyword Research Step 3: The Keyword Collection
For the actual keyword research, you need Excel, Google, (free) keyword tools, your competitors, and your persona. You start with some seed keywords. To find these, consider:
- how the product or service is called internally,
- how your customers (would) call the product or service,
- what problems and challenges your customers have,
- What keywords your competition is ranking for.
And off you go: Enter the start keywords in the keyword research tool and also directly into the search engine. With the help of the suggestions (Google Suggest) at the bottom of the SERP or directly under the search bar, you can find new keywords. You are also welcome to click through the top rankings and search for additional keywords there. You collect all the terms in your Excel list. At this stage, the more the better. This way you can be sure to exploit your full potential and not overlook any chance of good rankings.
Tip: Free keyword research tools to help you:
1. Google search: Top Rankings, Other Users Also Asked, Suggestions when typing in the search bar. You should either search in incognito mode or use a filtered search engine such as www.startpage.de. This is the only way to get the most neutral and meaningful search results possible that do not correspond to your individual search behavior and preferences.
2. Answer the Public: Gives you popular and frequently Googled questions for your keyword.
3. Hypersuggest: A free keyword tool that gives you related searches, search volume, and competition.
4. Keyword Shitter: A bit ordinary, but effective if you want to find related search queries quickly and easily – the tool is based on the Google auto-complete function.
5. Wordtracker: This free tool is particularly useful for creating topic clusters and finding out which secondary keywords you need to include in your text in order to rank for your focus keyword.
6. Seobility: A free tool that finds similar keywords, questions, or search queries. There is no limit to the number of keyword ideas displayed.
However, all of these free keyword tools are limited in their functionality. In the long run, you should invest in a paid keyword research tool like ahrefs or semrush if you really want to do good search engine optimization. However, it is important to always use a combination of several tools in order to research as broadly as possible. Also, make sure to ALWAYS use Google search itself — it’s your most important factor in keyword research.
Keyword Research Step 4: Clean Up
Now that you’re probably sitting in front of a long Excel list and wondering how on earth you’re supposed to produce content based on it, we give the all-clear: Now it’s time to clean up! In the first step, sort out keywords that do not match your products or services. You can also remove keywords that do not appear in the customer journey from step 2. Now cluster your keywords by topic, search intent and phase of the customer journey in an Excel column. The easiest way to find the topic clusters is to take a look at the search intention, i.e. at the content of the top 3 rankings.
For example, in our Excel list with the keyword research on the topic “content marketing” you can see that the searcher with the keyword ” content marketing blog” wants to know how to implement content marketing with the help of a blog. We have therefore combined all search queries for which the target group wants to know which channels can be used to approach content marketing strategies in the “Content Marketing – How To – Strategy” topic cluster. If the user searches with the keyword “content marketing SEO”, he wants to know how the terms can be separated and how good content should be created. This keyword is assigned to the topic “Content Marketing – How To – Content”.
In our Excel list, we killed two birds with one stone and did the preparatory work for our ads campaigns. All transactional keywords have been marked in red because they are often searched for in the decision phase. The user is already looking for products and suppliers here. Since our performance pages were relatively new and have not yet been able to build any rankings, we have booked these transactional keywords in Google Ads campaigns. In this way, traffic can be generated for the service pages, even without organic rankings. At the same time, only users who are ready to buy are directed to our products. In this way, wastage can be avoided and the phases within the customer journey can be clearly separated: users who are ready to buy are guided to the product page via ads. user,
Strategic SEO is a prerequisite for this approach to work well. You need to be clear about which pages and formats should rank for which keywords and how you want to steer your target group along the customer journey.
You should also keep an eye on your focus keywords. They are characterized by the fact that they have a high search volume and, as expected, either bring many interested parties to the website or convert them. The search intention is therefore clear and mostly informational or transactional.
Keyword Research Step 5: Create or edit content
Based on the topic clusters, you can now plan specific content. Also, take a look at keywords that can be grouped together. For example, you can write a blog post on a topic that covers multiple keywords with the same search intent. You may now find that you have already published content on a topic, but it does not meet the search intent or important information is missing. Use your keyword research to update and revise existing content.
When it comes to content creation, the content format is also very important. You can already get a first impression of suitable content formats by assigning the keyword to the respective phase of the customer journey (see step 2). An interested party at the beginning of their journey would first like to find out more about the topic in general, so an overview of products makes little sense at this point. However, he may need a guide or basic knowledge with a definition and many explanations.
To decide on the right format, enter the keyword into the search engine and look at the top 3 results or SERP features (e.g. the knowledge graph or the featured snippet). If the top rankings include images or videos, consider including those in your content as well. If the top results provide advice, tips, or a checklist with bullet points, that’s what the user wants to see. So choose this content format for your content.
Keyword research Step 6: Adjust page structure
Have you ever heard of “siloing”? Siloing is a way of structuring your own website and thus also defining focal points. This is important for SEO on the one hand to give the user orientation and on the other hand to make indexing easier for the search engine crawlers.
The silo structure is preferred by search engines because it maps key topics that are important for semantic search. The cleaned list of your keyword research gives you hints on how you should structure your website in terms of content. This also results in a structure for your URLs, which should be meaningful, clear, and optimized for the keywords.
Keyword research step 7: Be patient and optimize if necessary
SEO takes time. Getting top rankings quickly is next to impossible. Search engine optimization is about building trust and authority and proving your competence with the right content. It just takes time for this – because it can take a while for a post or an article to rank. With this understanding and with the certainty that SEO ensures long-term sales and a positive perception of one’s own brand, it is much easier to have the necessary patience.
However, if absolutely nothing moves in your rankings, then in all probability you need to optimize your content again. Check the top 3 to 5 Google results for your keyword again. Perhaps your information is too thin or your text too short? Or maybe you’re using the wrong content format? Remember, your content needs to be among the best on the web to rank high in Google search results.
Expand your content and prove your statements. Research again for related keywords. If nothing happens then, your page may just be too difficult to rank for the keyword at the moment. Because there are some domains on the web (e.g. Wikipedia) that have enormous authority, overtaking them in the rankings is almost impossible. If so, then you should first focus on a keyword with less search volume and try to rank for it.
Summary of keyword research
At least now it is clear: A comprehensive B2B keyword research is a lot of work. Nevertheless, the effort is worth it, because it is the cornerstone of strategic content marketing. You will not only find out which keywords you should publish content for. You will learn which topics are important for your target group, which phases of the customer journey they are in and how you can support them in terms of content.
The Excel list should be updated regularly. Ideally, you generate an overview of the URL structure and keywords that should rank for it. If more pages are added or changes are made, you can keep track of things and “redistribute” keywords or content.