Keyword research is the cornerstone of SEO – and there are a lot of things that you can get wrong. Probably the biggest problem is people not doing their due diligence before getting started with their SEO keyword planning.
This article will talk about the 5 things you need to know before you start thinking about your SEO strategy, followed by 10 tips on keyword research.
5 Things You Need to Research Before You Start Keyword Research:
Know Your Business
Before your start to think about the keywords and keyphrases that you are going to use, you need to know what your business is. On a practical level, that means you need to list all the services and products that you have available, and to prioritise which of the areas you want to rank highest for.
That will give you a focus for your keyword planning, and also let you know which things you want to prioritise for search engine optimisation. If most of your business is generated through one or two products or services, then those are likely to be the things that you will target.
However, that may not be what you want to do. You may want to prioritise other areas of your business which are underperforming – which means there’s something else you need to know:
Know Your Mission
To get the most out of search engine optimisation, you need to know what your ultimate goal is. As mentioned above, that could be to promote certain areas of your business – but it could also be something else.
If you want to be known as a specialist in your field, then you have to determine exactly what your area of expertise is – and what your speciality is.
It could be that you offer a range of services or products, but if your focus is too broad, it will be harder for your voice to be heard in the marketplace. If you can work out your specific niche, that will have a big influence on your keyword research.
Know Your USPs
You need to know what makes you unique in the marketplace. You need to know what it is that you do that your rivals can’t do as well as you. If you identify your Unique Selling Points, then you can pick out keywords that show those talents.
This means that people who find your business want a specific solution, and you are the company that can offer it to them. By knowing what makes you unique as a firm, you can research keywords that will drive people looking for that unique solution right to your business.
Know Your Rivals
You need to know where you fit into the market. You may think that you have a unique selling point – but there may be competitors out there who are also in your niche. That doesn’t mean you have to rebrand your business, but you do need to rethink your approach.
If, for example, you are a financial advice firm that specialises in the building sector, then you need to look at other people in that area and carve out your own identity. Maybe you will target smaller firms if larger firms are already overrepresented, or you could appeal to a younger over an older audience.
You can even specialise your keywords within your field. Although you can provide all services, it may make sense to research keywords linked to renovation and extensions rather than new builds.
You are more likely to have effective search engine optimisation and convert new customers if you are not in direct competition with other similar businesses over keywords.
Know Your Audience
Once you are sure what your business has to offer, what your objectives are from digital marketing and SEO, how you stand out in the marketplace and what space your rivals occupy, you will need to think about who is actually looking for your business online.
If they are a younger demographic, for example, they are more likely to search through speech than older customers. The keywords, especially long-tail keyphrases, which they use to try and find your business can also vary wildly.
Of course, you want to get business from as many people as possible – so choosing keywords that favour a certain demographic over others can seem to be counter-intuitive.
However, if you are operating on a global scale then you have to have something that makes you stand out. If you are a local business, then you are selecting an audience – you’re just selecting based on geography rather than specialisation by industry.
Knowing what your audience wants, where (and how) they are most likely to search and the language they use is the last and arguably most important piece of research you need to do before you start trying to figure out keywords.
10 Key Tips for Keyword Research:
If you have analysed your audience, rivals, USPs, mission and business, then you should have a clear idea of what keyword research you need to carry out – and which categories you need to prioritise to help your SEO. Here are 10 things you need to do when choosing your keywords to research:
#1 Avoid Head (Generic) Keywords
If your website is for a plumbing business, then it would seem to make sense that you should research keywords like plumbing. The problem with that is every plumbing firm on the Internet is trying to rank for that keyword, which means that you could put all your effort in raising your SEO rank with that word.
Due to the time already spent by other companies, and the resources available to them, no matter what you are trying to do it’s unlikely that you will crack the top 10 pages for a ‘head’ keyword.
For the plumbing firm, it’s an easy fix. If you can only cover a certain area, then ‘plumbing in [your area]’ is the key phrase that you need to rank for, because that’s what your customers will actually be searching for. Being the #1 rank in the world won’t help your business if you can only cover a small geographical area.
If it’s not a geographical area, then your business probably covers a niche that you should target in your keywords. Ranking for that niche not only means you get more customers, but they are more likely to get what they want because they have found experts to solve their specific problem.
#2 Use Relevant Keywords
Relevant keywords are details from your industry that are very specific. For example, if you run an eCommerce store, and you are one of the few suppliers of a new type of television, you may want to rank for that television by putting up its full name, and even its manufacturing code.
For a service sector, it could even be a specific term, or individual forms that people have difficulty filling out. When they search online for a specialist you will be there for them with the answer.
Relevant keyword research needs to be constantly updated so that when people are searching for a new product or the answer to a problem they haven’t encountered before, your website is one of the first to offer a genuine answer.
#3 Use Long-Tail Keyphrases
As well as using specific keywords, you also need to go in the other direction to maximise your SEO. You need to think about what people will type into a search engine if they have a problem.
If you are a plumber in Southend-on-Sea, for example, they may type ‘plumbers in Southend’, ‘plumbing in Southend-on-Sea’ or ‘broken toilet Southend-on-Sea’. If they are searching through voice, they may say ‘recommend a plumber in Southend’ or ‘find the best plumber near [my location].”
Anticipating the phrases that people use and having them as part of your search engine optimisation is a way to drive people with specific problems to your website. If they have a problem and you have the solution, then they are more likely to use your business.
#4 Don’t Be Too Specific (Traffic)
So far, it seems that you can get a lot of business from just using relevant keywords and long-tail keyphrases for your SEO and keyword research. You need to make sure that you are not just focusing on generating clicks that have a higher chance of converting.
But why? Isn’t the whole point to drive conversions?
It is. While relevant keyword research with long-tail keyphrases can help to do that, they don’t help with the overall traffic of your website. Driving traffic to your website has an effect on your SEO ranking – but it also means more people will see your website.
Although people searching for generic terms will be less likely to convert, there are likely to be more of them – so they represent another just as valuable (if not more so) stream of customers waiting to be converted.
You still want to avoid head words, but you want to compete as well as you can for the specific keywords and phrases that represent your USPs and business objectives.
The best thing is to have a mix of specific SEO keywords and phrases to directly answer customer needs and generic keywords to drive people with general inquiries to your website so you can educate them before giving them the answers they need.
#5 Put Keywords in Context
The days of putting lists of keywords and keyphrases and dumping them on a website is over. Here’s why.
Imagine you are on a search engine, and you type in a question like ‘Who sells the best hats in Derby?’ Two results come up, one is just a list of words and phrases like ‘Best hats in Derbyshire’ ‘Good hats in Derby,’ ‘Quality hats in Long Eaton’.
The other is an article that talks about the company that sells the hats, and what makes their hats so good, and why the long history of the shop means that it can be trusted.
Out of the two websites, which one are you more likely to buy a hat from?
Of course, it’s the website that puts the keywords in context. Rather than tricking a customer to their website, they are actually answering their question. This is something that Google knows. It also knows that people who feel tricked will migrate to another search engine if they give less ‘spammy’ results.
That means the traditional SEO tactic of listing words and copying content into different domains is coming to an end. Google can now tell if you are doing this. As a result, these kinds of pages won’t help your SEO; they are now actually starting to damage it.
#6 Use Multiple Keywords in Posts
People have shied away from writing blogs and articles with backlinks because it seems like an awful lot of effort to go to to prioritise just one SEO keyword.
If you are writing a piece of long form content, there is a chance to put in more than just one keyword. If you are the eCommerce seller with an exclusive TV, then of course you will want to put up a product description or a review, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cover your other keywords.
If you have done good keyword research, then you know what the key phrases are that you are using to maximise your SEO. They are also words and phrases that represent your business. If one of your USPs is that you offer a no hassle guarantee, then that can be mentioned in your content, as can a number of other benefits.
You don’t want it to be formulaic – you want it to be something of use to the customer first, and boost your SEO second. That means what you write should have genuine value to the customer, rather than being a ‘join the dots’ between one SEO keyword and another.
#7 Look at Exact Match, Not Broad
Before you commit to focusing on a keyword, you need to find out how valuable the word will be. You may know what your keywords should be, but you need to know if they’re worth using – whether they are likely to reach a large enough audience.
If you are trying to rank for ‘leaky toilets Southend,’ there’s no point in putting massive resources behind it if it’s only likely to reach a small amount of people.
You should use Google’s keyword tool to see how many people your keyword is likely to reach. If you use the tool, make sure to search for an exact rather than a broad match to get the best idea of how relevant a keyword will be to your target audience.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use relevant keywords, but looking at the exact match on them can help you determine how much effort should go into promoting each keyword.
#8 Think About Search Grammar (plurals)
You also need to think about grammar – and when you should ignore it. You may be a plumbing firm, just a single plumber or call yourself a group of plumbers. Looking at effect on your SEO ranking it’s clear that of the three terms, plumbing ranks much higher than the other two categories.
This means that you might want to focus on plumbing in your SEO, or even to focus on the less searched terms of plumber and plumbers because there will be less competition (and combined, the queries for those two terms start to approach plumbing).
The tool also comes up with related queries, which can give you ideas for other search engine optimisation keywords you may want to focus on. Seeing what people are actually searching for can give you a better idea of how you can meet their needs.
#9 Conversion vs. Traffic
Google Trends and Google Keywords are all about reaching the greatest number of people – and that’s about driving traffic to your website. Traffic is good, but conversions are more important. You need to look at where you are investing your SEO resources, and which is getting the best return on investment.
That means you need to look at the keywords that are actually getting results for you. Set up goal tracking as soon as you can with Google Analytics so that you can find out which keywords are generating the most traffic and which are generating the most conversions.
That way you can spend more time promoting the keywords that are working for your business and your audience, and also learn what kind of things are working – so you can apply them to new keywords that you will add.
#10 Audit Your Keywords
Good SEO is never done. Keyword research is very important in setting up or refreshing a website, but it’s important that your SEO keywords are constantly being audited. The marketplace and customer behaviours are constantly changing – and if you don’t change with them you will be left behind.
You need to look through your keywords to see which ones aren’t working, but you also have to be aware of new keywords and long-tail keyphrases that are coming into use. In terms of specific relevant keywords, that means you have to keep up with your products and the latest trends in your industry.
On a larger scale, you need to look at the way people are searching. People use different language and syntax when they search on computer, on mobile and through voice. More people now look at websites through multiple devices – which means that your SEO keyword research has to anticipate all of them.
Lucas is the Managing Director and the Head of SEO Strategy at SEO Shark. He has over 15 years of experience in achieving SEO results for small and medium businesses as well as multinational and ASX-listed brands. He is also an author of multiple publications about digital marketing.