How To Do Keyword Research
Identifying Keyword Opportunities
Why Keywords Are Your Foundation
Search Engines have altered the way individuals shop. People use search engines to help them find products or services they are looking for by typing keywords into sites like Google, YouTube or Bing. The engines then rank sites related to these keywords based on relevance and authority.
Most often the difference between getting found in Google is based on choosing the “right” keyword. This makes keyword research arguably the most important step in online marketing.
There are multiple components that impact keyword selection. These components can be divided into two groups – primary selection components and prioritization components.
Primary Selection of Keywords
It is important to understand what aspects of keywords make them important to your business. The different components or characteristics of a keyword help determine whether the keywords are worth consideration in your SEO strategy. You should only choose keywords if they meet your criteria. Some examples are:
- Making sure the terms/phrases have enough search volume
- Making sure the keywords are relevant
- Assessing how strong the competition is
If a keyword does not meet the criteria of enough search volume, then it is eliminated from the list. Also if it does not meet the relevancy criteria it should also be eliminated.
Prioritization of Keywords
Two things to think about when prioritizing keywords are:
- What competitive advantage do your products/services offer?
- What’s the monetary value of the products/services associate with those keywords?
Generating Your Initial Keyword List
The first part of creating your initial Keyword List involves thinking up as many keyword ideas as possible.
- Listing root brands and product/service names (e.g. lawyer)
- Brainstorming variations of product and brand related keywords
- Talking to clients to determine what terms they use in search
- Studying competitors’ sites
- Adding geographic variations (e.g. Miami lawyers, Dade county lawyers)
- Adding descriptive variations (e.g. personal injury lawyers, slip and fall lawyers)
- Taking all the variations and entering them into the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, which will suggest numerous other variations.
With this list in hand, now the keyword list can be analyzed.
Choosing Relevant Keyword Terms/Phrases
Once all the keyword choices with enough search volume are picked, keywords must then be judged for relevancy. You don’t just want random traffic; you want high quality traffic that will convert into customers which in turn makes for a higher conversion rate.
Here’s an example of the importance of relevant traffic. If a small Doctor’s office in Dallas, Texas where able to achieve rankings for the general term “doctors” their office would be answering phone calls from irrelevant locations like people calling from California, Florida, New York City and others. Conservatively less than 1% of the searches for the term “doctors” would be potential clients in the Dallas area, meaning:
- It would be a tremendous distraction for the staff taking these calls or filtering out the bad leads
- It would eat up the time and resources you need to nurture your more valuable leads in the Dallas area
Assessing Keyword Competitiveness
Most companies and individual site owners focus on search traffic over relevance. It’s important to make sure there is enough volume but not too much because often high search volume is an indicator of high competition.
Let’s go back to the Dallas doctor’s office. Let’s say they want to rank for the term ‘doctor.’ This puts them up against almost all practicing medical doctors in the English-speaking world, including larger and more powerful ones. As I’m writing this, there are 112 million Google results for ‘doctor.’ Only 10 are on the first page of Google.
When picking keywords to target, you clearly need to choose your battles wisely. So how do you do that?
What You Need to Beat the Competition
After picking your area you want to rank for, you need to figure out how to beat the competition in that area. The way to do this is for your site to gain authority and relevance for those terms.
Authority is assessed by understanding the link profile of your site versus those other sites ranking for the keywords you are targeting. External links from other sites are the single most powerful ranking tool amongst the major search engines of today. The three most important elements of these linking factors are:
- Number of links to a website (more is better)
- Number of links to the specific page one hopes will rank for the term in question (again, more is typically better than less)
- The anchor text of links to the specific page (see the upcoming link building chapter for more on this)
Links are the biggest factor in gaining authority and search engine rankings. Ewing Enterprise’s software allows companies to compare their own link profiles to those of their competitors. As a rule of thumb, one’s site could compete for rankings (in the short term) with other sites with similar link profiles. Tackling sites with more powerful link profiles requires time and dedication. The bigger the gap, the more time, effort and budget is needed. When a large gap exists between two competing sites in the number of inbound links, it is very difficult for the site with less compete.
On the flip side of the coin is relevance. On-page relevancy can be quickly assessed by looking at simple elements.
- Keyword match in the title of a page
- Keyword match in a site’s internal navigation
- Keyword match in the domain name
By considering both authority and relevancy, it’s a simple process to determine opportunities. If rankings for a given keyword term are dominated by much more powerful sites obviously targeting the term with their on-page factors, then it’s likely best to look for another keyword opportunity. If, on the other hand, those same sites are powerful yet aren’t specifically targeting the terms (or visa versa), then potential does exist.
At the end of this process, you should have a list of keywords that have been vetted. Now, it becomes a process of prioritizing all the remaining keywords. While the same primary assessment variables can still be utilized to determine priorities, secondary assessment variables now can also be considered.