Keyword research is one of the most important parts of building an effective SEO campaign. It is also usually given the least amount of attention. Proportional to the many other activities that go into an organic search campaign, keyword research usually has a very small time investment.
It’s critical to select the right keyword phrases for your organic search efforts to ensure that you not only generate traffic to your website, but also that the traffic is relevant and gives the conversion response you need. By selecting relevant and targeted keywords, you’ll have a much better shot at reaching your conversion and business goals.
There are several tools available to help you generate your initial keyword list. Each has pros and cons but all are helpful in getting the job done.
• Google (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal) – Free keyword research tool which gives keyword search volume estimates along with keyword suggestions.
• WordTracker (http://www.wordtracker.com) – Paid keyword research tool which gives keyword search volume estimates, competition estimates and keyword suggestions.
• Keyword Discovery (http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/) – Another paid tool
similar to WordTracker.
No matter which tool you use, there are three things you need to know to identify the right keyword phrases.
1. Search Terms: Don’t guess, KNOW what searchers are looking for.
The first step in identifying good keywords is to create a list of search terms related to your website. There’s no sense is optimizing for broad keyword phrases or keyword phrases that don’t quite match your topic. This is the brainstorming stage of keyword research. Try to come up with as many different targeted phrases as you can. Since keywords logical to you may not be the ones your potential customers use, it’s important to use tools that help you think outside of the box. You can use:
• Thesaurus – An online thesaurus can help you identify several different terms with similar meanings. When searching for synonyms of the term car, here’s what I found:
• Keyword research tools – Any of the above tools will also provide a list of keyword suggestions. Here are some suggestions I got from Google’s free tool:
Don’t be afraid to build a fairly long list in this stage. We’ll shorten the list in the next couple of steps.
2. Search Volume: How often do searchers use each keyword?
The search volume on a particular keyword phrase will determine how much traffic you can potentially generate by optimizing your website for that keyword phrase. Take your preliminary list of keyword ideas and use one of
the keyword research tools above to estimate the search volume of each term
in your list. Since these tools will most likely provide different estimates, consider the number of daily searches to be a relative number used to
compare keywords in terms of which is searched the most and which the least. Eliminate any phrases without any search volume. Since no one searches these terms, ranking high for them won’t likely generate any traffic for you.
3. Search Competition: How much competition is there for each term?
Keyword competition is the measure of how many other websites use and/or optimize for the same phrase. This number usually indicates the probability
that you’ll be able to eventually achieve a high ranking for a given keyword
phrase. For example, a keyword phrase that is used on millions of websites will be much harder to rank for than a more-unique phrase that is rarely used. In general, the longer a keyword phrase is, the less competition there
will be for it. So, the term sports car will likely be much more competitive that the term 1982 sports car.
Most paid search tools will provide you with a competition estimate. If you’re not using a paid tool, you can figure out competition on your own by searching for the given keyword phrase with quotation marks. For example, if I wanted to compare the competition level of the term sports car with the term 1982 sports car, I would perform the following searches:
For 1982 sports car:
From the example above, sports car has about 13,600,000 competing websites and
1982 sports car has about 1,200.
It’s important to note that competition is a relative measurement. Just because a competition search shows that given term has 13,600,000 results doesn’t me that there are 13,600,000 other websites that are optimizing for the term. It only means that 13,600,000 websites in the Google index use the term. From the example above, I can assume that ranking high for sports car would be much more difficult than ranking high for 1982 sports car. This is not a surprise since targeted terms are not only better for your conversion rates but are also usually less-competitive.
Finding the right keyword phrase is done by finding a balance between the search volume and competition for the phrase. Let’s face it; we all want to rank on top for keyword phrases with the highest search volume so we can get the most traffic. On the other hand, we all can’t rank high for these high-volume phrases because there’s only so much room at the top.
Well established websites have more clout and, with good optimization, can compete for the highly-competitive terms. Smaller websites and websites new to SEO should consider keywords with lower competition.
Why keyword selection is like trading stocks.
Selecting the right keyword phrase is like managing your portfolio. The risk of going after the most competitive phrase is that you may never rank high enough to see any traffic from it. On the other hand, if you get a top ranking, the reward is greatest. Less competitive terms are less risky and, as expected, the reward is usually less as well. As with portfolio management, good SEO is knowing when you can go after the big prize and when you should settle for a smaller reward.
Test before you implement.
For the most part, the keywords you target shouldn’t frequently change. As it can take several months to get a website to rank for a given set of terms, there’s a
heavy time investment into getting high rankings. Before optimizing your website for a given set of keyword phrases, test the keywords you’re considering on the pay per click network. The goal of this type of test is to replicate the same search experience that searchers would have if you ranked organically for the same search terms.
Use the following guidelines when setting up your pay per click campaigns:
• Exact match your keyword phrases to make sure that your ad only appears when searchers type the exact phrase you will optimize for.
• Use the same landing pages that you will optimize for organic search.
• Make your ad title and description match as closely as you can to what you’d use for you website title tag and meta description. Keep in mind there are space limitations that apply to pay per click campaigns.
Once you’ve created a similar search and user experience to what you’d have if you ranked organically, run the test and watch the results. Do searchers who click- through your pay per click ads convert the way you’d like them to? Do they buy something, signup for your newsletter, or complete any other goal you’d like? Or, do they bounce right off your website? If the former is true, then you’ve probably identified some relevant keyword phrases and created a good search experience. If the latter is true, you may want to try a different set of keywords.
Keep in mind that other factors like your landing page may affect this test so keep your landing page the same when testing different keyword phrases against each other. Keep testing until you find something that meetings your needs.
Investing a little extra time into keyword research at the beginning of an organic search campaign can not only improve your results, but can also save you time in the long run. The last thing you want is to spend months optimizing your website and building links only to find out that the traffic you’re generating does not convert anyways.
Reference: THAT Agency, Keyword Research