Keyword research is, and always has been a big part of SEO; after all, it’s keywords that you want to actually rank for isn’t it? If you don’t know what your customers are searching for then how can you properly tailor your efforts to serving those needs?
Doing keyword research for SEO is the online equivalent to finding out where your potential customers hang out before deciding where to hand your adverts. If your product is aimed at young, trendy people then you will want to put a poster in a trendy club rather than an old men’s pub. Obvious really.
Unfortunately, keyword research isn’t always obvious; there are numerous ways to research your keywords and you can have metrics coming out of your ears without really learning anything helpful. Fortunately, as usual, we are here to help. If keyword research has you flummoxed, take a look at our simple approach:
Step 1: Brainstorming
Right, the first thing you need to do is come up with some ideas. This bit should be fairly obvious, just think laterally about what sorts of things your customers might be searching for. You want to find some seed keywords which we can use for our research, so go for breadth and not depth.
Try to come up with a list of 5 or more broad keywords. If you sell a lot of different products or focus on many areas you will probably have a much bigger list. If so, consider categorizing your keyword ideas and repeat this process for each category.
Step 2: Ask Google
There are numerous keyword generating products available, but Google provide their own and it is free. It really isn’t worth using anything else, since this does everything you need anyway. Go here to find it, learn how it works and plug in each of your seed keywords.
Don’t worry about the website or category box. Just plug in each seed keyword (1 at a time) and for each one, download the results as CSV (for Excel). The column we are interested in is local traffic (or global if you have a worldwide audience).
Step 3: Filtering The Data
This bit can be a bit boring, but it is critical. You will have to combine all of your CSV files and open them in Excel, hopefully you will then have one big list. Filter out any duplicates, remove all columns other than keyword and search volume (there will probably be a lot) and then sort by search volume.
You can remove any keywords where the volume is very low (what consistutes very low depends a lot on what you are selling. If you are selling luxury yatchs then 50 searches a month might be plenty, but if you are selling gloves you are going to need more volume to make any money).
Finally, remove any phrases that are not totally relevant to what you do. Don’t make the mistake of trying to rank for semi-relevant phrases because even if you get to page one, that traffic isn’t going to convert well and you will have wasted your efforts.
Step 4: Competition Analysis
This topic could be in a blog post of its own. There are plenty of tools online which will give you some sort of score regarding how competitive a term is, but most of them cost money and they are not always a great indicator anyway. So let’s take a more holistic approach:
Take your first keyword, now Google it. Look at each of the results on the first page. These 10 results are the pages which are ranking right where you want to rank; your goal is to ‘beat’ them.
For each result you should look at their SEO and also the actual page and domain. You should be looking for their strengths and weaknesses. Specifically consider how helpful these pages would be for the potential customer who has searched for this particular key phrase.
Step 4 can take a long time, but it is worth doing properly, picking the right keywords is critical.
Step 5: Selecting Your Keywords
As you do your competition analysis for each keyword you should be asking yourself “Does my web page deserve to rank for this phrase” and “Is it relevant?” Consider whether the current ranking sites have any short comings that could be improved upon. Also consider how authoritative each site is.
A small website can certainly outrank a big one, but to do it your web page needs to be more relevant and more helpful. If all of the top results do a good job of solving the customers problem and are optimized effectively then you are going to have a hard time pushing them off the first page.
Obviously, the keywords you choose will depend on your ambitions to some extent; but in general you should look for keywords where you think you can offer something better than the currently ranking websites.
So There You Have It
Once you have your shortlist, you can start mapping the selected keywords to appropriate pages on your website. Then you will need to create or re-work each of those pages – making it as relevant as possible. Make sure that each page you optimize actually deserves to rank for the relevant phrase.
Pay It Forward!
There are a lot of ways to approach keyword research, our aim here though is to give you a simple framework that doesn’t rely on expensive tools. If you found this post helpful, please leave a comment and let us know.
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