How to do Keyword Research with Ahrefs

Aug 16, 2023   |   Clock Icon 7 min read

They say you never forget your first love.

For me, it is and has always been Ahrefs. I first learned how to do keyword research using Ahrefs back in 2016. The product is still my go-to, my ride-or-die. Back then I was working as a content writer at a small digital marketing agency and had what felt like an endless list of questions for the SEO team as I wrote for our clients. How do I do keyword research? Should I write differently for SEO? What does organic mean?

In true SEO fashion, they hit me with a lot of “it depends,” but, also in true SEO fashion, they took me under their wing and taught me the glories of keyword research.

Enter Ahrefs.

I’ve created everything from meaty keyword research sheets with 18,000+ keywords to ad hoc research to see if a topic has ever been searched for. My tried-and-true process for on-the-spot keyword research starts relatively the same way each time and always gets me to where I need to go (hopefully high up on Google!). Let’s go through the process of using Ahrefs for your ad hoc keyword research and how Ahrefs can help inform the angle you take.

Why keyword research?

I’m guilty of often missing the forest for the trees so let’s start by rooting ourselves in what the purpose of keyword research is (did you like the pun?). Nearly every aspect of your advertising, and the content that supports it, succeeds based on getting the right words in your messaging. Keyword research is a fundamental step for figuring out what people are trying to find, what questions they want answered, and/or what problems they’re hoping to solve.

Think of keywords as the bridge that connects your content with your target audience. They are the terms people use when searching for information online. By understanding and using these keywords in your content, you can help ensure the content will resonate with the folks you’re trying to reach.

Keyword research can help you understand what your potential customers are looking for, allowing you to tailor your content to meet their needs. This can lead to increased organic traffic, improved search engine rankings, and ultimately, higher conversions (any actions that you want them to take).

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How we recommend you use Ahrefs for keyword research

Ahrefs is an effective SEO tool that offers extensive keyword research capabilities. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use it to help you conduct keyword research, land on an angle, and size up the competition.

1. Setting up your Ahrefs account

First things first, hop onto Ahrefs and set up your account. Choose a plan that aligns with your needs. Now, here's a pro tip: if you're unsure about which plan to go for, consider consulting a keyword research service. They often have insights into which features will benefit your specific needs the most, can walk you through initial setup, and show you how to make Ahrefs a valuable tool in your specific marketing strategy.

2. Dive into Keywords Explorer

Once you're in, head straight to the "Keywords Explorer" tool. Pop in your seed keyword (think broad and relevant to your niche). Now, if you're scratching your head wondering which keyword to start with, remember, a keyword research agency has got your back. They can help identify those golden terms that your audience is searching for.

3. Deciphering Keyword Metrics

Metrics can be a tad overwhelming, but they give us the information we need to make the smartest SEO decisions. Knowing how to decipher and apply the information that these metrics reveal can be the difference between successful content and content that falls flat.

Keyword Difficulty (KD)

Think of this as the 'toughness' level. A lower KD? That's your cue that content that includes these keywords has a better-than-average chance of showing up in search results sooner rather than later.

Search Volume

The number of times people are searching for your keyword. More searches? More potential traffic.

Clicks & CPS

These tell you if users are actually clicking on the results. A keyword research service can help interpret these numbers, ensuring you target terms with genuine intent.

4. Unearthing Keyword Gems

Ahrefs offers some very useful keyword suggestions that can help you create content that both shows up in search results and attract traffic that resembles audiences that have proven they are ready to purchase.

Phrase Match & Having Same Terms

These are your best buddies for finding closely related terms. Use this feature to find and expand on new topics that show search engines you have authority on the subject and that searchers will find your content useful and helpful.

Also Rank For & Search Suggestions

These give you a peek into what else your audience might be interested in. These tangential interests can be the key to unlocking new segments of audiences that already know and trust your brand.

Newly Discovered

Stay ahead of the curve by targeting trending keywords. Be careful not to chase terms that don’t intuitively map back to what you’re selling.

5. The SERP Overview and tracking your competitors

This is where you spy on the competition. Check out the top dogs, see what they're doing right, and then do it better. If analyzing competitors feels like decoding a foreign language, keyword research services can be your translator, guiding you through the nuances.

6. The benefits of Content Gap Analysis

Enter your domain in "Site Explorer", head to "Content Gap", and let Ahrefs show you what your competitors are up to. It's like having a secret window into their strategy. And guess what? A keyword research agency can help you act on these insights, crafting a strategy that leaves competitors in the dust.

7. Keeping an eye on your keywords

"Rank Tracker" is your personal watchdog. It keeps tabs on your rankings, sending you updates and ensuring you're always in the know. If tracking is adding too much time to your day or is outside of your area of expertise, some keyword research services offer extensive reports, saving you time and effort by highlighting the information that matters most, and giving you action items to put that knowledge to use.

8. Sharing is caring, so export your data

Whether you're presenting to a team or just love spreadsheets (we don't judge), Ahrefs lets you export data with ease. And if you're working with a digital marketing agency, sharing this data helps them craft more tailored strategies for you.

9. The learning never stops

The digital landscape is ever-evolving. Stay updated, revisit Ahrefs, refine your strategy, and when in doubt, consult an expert to keep your strategy and approach on course for the best possible returns on your marketing budget.

10. Seamless integration with marketing programs

Ahrefs isn't an island. It plays well with other tools, making your digital marketing journey smoother. If integrations sound techy and daunting, a keyword research agency can often assist in setting these up, as they are well-versed in dealing with the many different platforms and programs that comprise clients’ marketing technology stacks.

Start seeing keyword benefits from Ahrefs right now

If you like the idea of knowing the right keywords to attract and motivate audiences that will convert, start using Ahrefs for your keyword research today. You can build a more effective marketing strategy by using keywords that give your content an advantage, both in organic search and in your paid media. If you want to know exactly how to incorporate keyword research tools into your digital media, consulting with a keyword research agency can help identify the best fit for your needs. We’re happy to show you exactly how and where your website could benefit from keyword research!

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Leah Shapiro