You’ve heard about keyword research, but what does it really mean and how can you harness its power? Laurie’s got the answers.
First, a definition:
Keyword research is the process of determining which specific words and phrases people type into search engines in order to find websites related to your business.
When done well, keyword research returns keyword phrases with a confluence of high traffic , low competition , and high relevance to your business.
You compile these awesome words into a kind of “bible” of phrases for your business. The phrases are used across your website and all of your online publishing. And they are updated regularly to see how the market is changing. The idea is that this book of phrases ensures that the people looking for what you do are able to find you.
Simple, right? Well… it takes some work but doing comprehensive keyword research is something that every business should consider absolutely vital to their online presence. Here is our definitive guide to doing the research that will enable you to drive quality traffic to your site.
Step One: A well-rounded sense of the industry.
Much of the talk about keyword research focuses on generating piles of keywords and then sorting and selecting from them. But, before you start compiling words, let’s start with a brainstorming process.
Looking at your own business materials as well as the sites of direct and indirect competitors and begin to jot down the words that identify your business sector. If you’re having trouble identifying competitors, simply Google what you sell or the service you provide and see who comes up on page one. And look at similar industries as well. For instance, if you sell organic tomatoes, then you might look into other organic products as well.
In addition to Google, you might want to check these places as well:
- Social media – see what people are saying about your market on Twitter and Facebook.
- Marketplaces – if you sell products, see how marketplaces like Amazon and eBay market products like yours
- Industry organizations – if you’re in the service industry check service organizations and their publications
- Google’s search predictions – when you start typing “organic” into a search bar, what does Google predict you will type next?
Into the Rabbit Hole
People are getting more and more specific with their searches, and before turning to keyword generating tools, it’s useful to brainstorm, to act like a consumer, to fall into a few rabbit holes, to discover the most common intent behind a keyword phrase. It’s remarkable how far a little creative thought and a little word play can take you.
Step Two: Time to start making lists.
After having opened all those tabs and jotted down all the phrases and ideas that jump to mind first, we start our “”“seedword” lists. Seedwords are the most important general words and categories that describe a business’s offering. For instance, using the example above of an organic tomato farm, some categories might be: tomato, organic, produce, farms, local.
Pro tip: don’t create categories until you have done some real brainstorming first. You might begin to see how categories shift when the “real” market opens up in front of you.**
We usually organize our seedwords into 5-10 categories (organized by terminology, or products, or both). These initial lists are gathered from all that brainstorming: client information, existing content, social media, all those competitor websites and Google searches, and possibly even from a good old-fashioned look through the thesaurus. For each seedword category you should find between 20 and 100 words and phrases.
Step Three: Expanding your lists
The Adwords Keyword Tool remains a great, free resource for keyword generation. Sometimes we start with a single relevant keyword phrase looking for related ideas and discovering the words and phrases to avoid and exclude. Or, once we’ve created a more complete seedword list (often of 50-75 phrases) and are ready to move the research on to the next phase of data analysis, we’ll use Adwords to expand that list to several hundred keyword phrases.
We search for closely related terms at first. But if the results are very limited, or nothing new, we may take a few different approaches:
- Go back to the seedword lists, can we think of anything else?
- Go back to the business materials on hand (the current website or other published materials) to see if we’ve missed anything.
- Try another tool. Sometimes we’ll use relevant tools from SEMRush, keywordtool.io, Moz, or others to get new ideas, and expand our lists.
- Go over the keywords we have and weed out the overly general and least relevant phrases.
- If these options are exhausted, and we’re still not finding any ‘exciting’ new terms, we’ll then try Adwords searches without filtering out the unrelated search terms.
From here, we’ll export our new, expanded Adwords lists and start combing out more unrelated phrases.
Think about the audience, too.
This is a good time to explore parallel businesses, or trending topics that could help inform the language and tone of the website. For example, when researching for a new brand of pet supplies marketed to the under-35 crowd, you might explore phrases related to millennial culture and buying patterns.
After reducing our list to only completely relevant terms, we sort the list by search volume. At this point, we have developed a very interesting picture of what people are searching for in the field.
Step Four: Crunching the Numbers
The most useful and important statistic to gather from the Adwords Keyword Tool is Average Monthly Searches. By focusing on keyword phrase search volume, you can get a clearer idea about what people are searching. In this phase, we can see which keywords from our seedwords were on point and which ones were off (sometimes way off, you’d be surprised).
With a list of relevant keyword phrases organized by average monthly searches, you’ve got a pretty good picture of what people are looking for and how. With some sustained and intelligent marketing work, these keyword phrases could give you the traffic you are looking for. You can start categorizing and sorting them, and you can begin building a site map that utilizes what you’ve found.
This might be your stopping point…
Congratulations. Many businesses stop here and do fine. But depending on your business goals and the extent to which you rely on online traffic…
Step Five: Going Beyond Adwords with Market Samurai
Though useful, Adwords only gives you part of the picture. Their competition and search volume numbers are too general for an in-depth keyword phrase bible. So, equipped with the Adwords results and your seedword lists, take the data to our Market Samurai tool to gather more comprehensive information for these phrases.
Market Samurai is a free tool that takes Google’s numbers and processes them, allowing you to get a more accurate sense of how many other websites are competing for certain keywords.
In Market Samurai you can look at data for the number of sites that are currently using the exact phrases – in their content, in their tags, and in both – as well as monthly search volume numbers. Once you gathered this info, simply divide the number of searches by the number of sites optimized for that keyword and you’ll have a more accurate competition metric. This number can help guide your keyword selection, with high search-low competition phrases making the cut.
These keywords are the low hanging fruit of your industry, and can help bring more quality traffic and more business to your website.