We are always being told that keywords are important to your website’s SEO success. It is true, and they can help you be found online, as well as boosting your organic ranking. It’s time to dive in and research your own. Roll up your sleeves and learn all about how to conduct keyword research to find the best keywords for your business.
What is a keyword?
A keyword is a word, short phrase or question that people type into a search engine, such as Google when they are looking for something online.
What is the secret to keyword research?
Don’t hate me for this, but there isn’t one. There is no one set way. Everyone will do their keyword research differently. There are fantastic free tools and ones you can pay for. Ultimately, time will need to be spent doing keyword research – and updating your keywords. This guide is how I do my research, for my blog as well as my professional career as a Marketing Manager.
Back to basics
To get started, grab a pen and paper – or open a new Word Document. It’s time to make a list! This may take some time – sorry! Each page on your website may have a different topic, and even though some keywords can be used on all of them, you may have different terms and phrases associated with what you do. The process also works for individual blog posts and news stories – whatever you put online; you should include keywords.
Don’t think about how you describe your business, product, blog etc; instead, consider what your potential clients or readers would be looking for as they Google away on their computer or phone. For example, while you might describe yourself as a “garden designer,” your potential clients are far more likely to be looking for a “landscaper.” Even if you don’t think of yourself in this way – your clients do. And with keywords, that’s all that matters.
It helps to be specific. Write down short phrases that describe what you do and the services or products you sell. If you run a local business, add words that describe your location. This will help you attract customers in your area and increase the chances that search engines will display your site to people in your geographic location. In other words, “second-hand bikes in Cardiff” is a better bet than “bikes.”
You should have at least one branded keyword on your list. This is a keyword that has the name of your business in it and it will be relatively easy to rank for. It’s important for capturing customers performing “go” searches, those people who have heard of your business and want to get straight to your site. A branded keyword could be “Business Name X” or “Business Name X + About” or “Business Name X + Reviews.”
Look up Terms on Google
Not sure if you’re on the right track? Google some of the terms on your list and see if your competitors appear in the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). If they do, you’re probably on to something. As you type the different search terms on your list, notice the autocomplete suggestions that Google offers. These may give you some ideas for keywords you hadn’t considered. Add them to your list!
Another place to get ideas is from the list of related terms at the bottom of every SERP on Google. When you type in a query and then scroll to the bottom of Google’s search results, you’ll find a list of suggestions for searches relevant to your original query. Look through these suggestions and add any relevant terms to your list.
Spy on your competitors
As you try to decide whether or not you’ve found a good keyword, take note of the websites who already rank for the term. If they are your direct competitors, then the keyword is probably a good one, but ask yourself honestly if you think you can compete. If many of the websites that show up for those keywords are big-time businesses with pockets far deeper than yours, you want to find a more specific niche where it will be easier to compete.
Based on what you see in Google results, you should be able to start crossing ideas off your list. If a certain term seems too competitive, remove it from the list. If another term looks just right, circle it as a strong prospect.
When you Google your potential keywords, check to see if your competitors are showing up as paid results on the SERP. If there are a lot of ads for a certain term, you know that this term is more competitive. You can also discover who among your competitors is investing in PPC. If you’re a smaller business or have a limited budget, you may want to steer clear of keywords that are packed with paid ads from your competitors.
The next step in keyword research is to spend some time spying on your closest competitors. When looking up search phrases on Google, don’t just notice whose websites are showing up on the results page. Read what is written about each business and you can often figure out which keywords your competitors are targeting. The phrases that appear in their titles and descriptions can give you enormous insight into the market they are trying to capture online.
Use Keyword Tools
Once you have created an initial list of keywords, it’s time to narrow down your list with some more quantitative data. I love to use Answer the Public. You get three free search terms a day, or you can pay for a subscription. On here you get a great list of questions and phrases that you can use as headings, helping you split your page up and making it Google friendly. You also get a great list of keywords, and you’ll often find some obscure ones that you didn’t think of or find in your initial research.
Google Analytics is free to subscribe too and is a great tool to see how well your keywords are performing. Including which ones you can increase the use of. There is coding you will need to add to your website to be able to do this. If you are a bit techy, you may be able to follow the instructions on how to do this or ask your website provider to do this. If you have a Google account, you will also be able to access the Google Keyword Planner, which also gives lets you know how many people are searching for specific terms each month and what websites are ranking for those terms. They also recommend related terms and can tell you if a keyword is very competitive — the more businesses using a keyword, the harder it is to rank for that keyword.
Narrowing Down Your Keyword List
By this point in your keyword research, you’ve probably created a long list of potential keywords. It can be hard to know which keywords to focus on since many of the terms on your list will be highly relevant to your business. The data you gathered in using one of the Keyword Tools above should be used to help you narrow down your list of keywords to the ones that are most relevant.
How Many Keywords Should I Have?
There is a couple of answers to this question. Some people like to use 3 to 5 keywords, using them heavily throughout the content. Others like to use dozens, which each page of the website dedicated to promoting a different group of keywords. A shorter list will make it easier to successfully optimise your website. Using too many, that are too varied, may dilute your efforts.
It is always important to keep in mind your average customer. Remember, this is your actual customer, not your ideal customer. What do they want from you? Coupled with what they are searching for, should help you narrow down your target keyword list.
If you still have a long list of words, consider grouping them into families of related terms. Are some of the keywords very similar? Are they synonyms, abbreviations, or single and plural forms of the same words? If so, you can put these words together in one keyword family. When you start optimizing your website for these keywords, you can focus on a different family on each page of your site.
What will I do with all of these keywords?
When you start building your website, you want to include your keywords wherever you can — in your content and page titles, in your domain name, as image alternative text, in your page descriptions, and more. I prefer to write the copy, then see where I can adapt this adding the keywords.
Your content should always sound natural and be written for human readers, but the more you use your keywords on your website, the easier it will be for search engines to understand what your website is about. And when they know what your website is about, they know when to display it on SERPs for people looking for businesses like yours.
Smart keyword research
Want to learn more? There’s a couple of books that I have read that may help. Keyword Research: what is it and how to do it? Always be on Top! Or The little book on digital marketing. Both are free if you have Kindle Unlimited.