The basis for any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaign is keyword research. You want your website to be built around the terms that people are searching for, provided of course that your website is a valuable destination for people searching for those terms. So what are people typing into Google that is relevant for your website?
The answer to this question is different for everyone, but the steps remain the same:
- Brainstorm keyword ideas.
- Check out the traffic associated with those keywords to determine their value.
- Refine your list based on your traffic research and implement your findings.
Brainstorming Keyword Ideas
How do you come up with your keyword ideas?
- Think like your target audience. Put yourself in the mind of someone you want to come to your website. What would that person be searching for?
- Check out your competition. Don’t assume that your competition is doing everything right, but if you see certain words or phrases constantly popping up on their site, it’s probably not by accident. Make sure you take note of these keywords for the next phase.
- Use Google auto-complete. Try searching for certain phrases relevant to your website and see how Google’s auto-complete finishes phrases. It’s predicting what you will say based off what many searchers have looked for before you, so these auto-complete phrases are pretty popular searches.
- Use Wikipedia. Look up some of your core keywords on Wikipedia and browse the article for related keywords. Depending on what type of a website you are running, usually these Wikipedia articles are chock full of keywords and phrases related to your website. Also, at the bottom of most, if not all, Wikipedia articles is a “See also” section that literally lays out related articles (keywords) in a nice list for you.
- Crack open a thesaurus. Just because you say something one way does not mean there aren’t 20 other ways to say it (or search it in this case). Write down variations of keywords and phrases to test out.
This is hardly a comprehensive list of things you can do to come up with keywords. There are online tools that generate keyword ideas for you, but these generally fall short of coming up with anything truly original. The more you can creatively come up with, the better off you will be.
Looking at Keyword Traffic
The next phase is to check out how many people are actually searching for your keywords. There’s no point to targeting keywords that no one is looking for, so how do you get these stats?
Google Keyword Planner
You will need to create an AdWords account to do this, but you don’t actually need to be running any ads, so it’s still free. After you are done setting up your account, hover over the Tools section on the top navigation bar and click on “Keyword Planner” as shown below.
The Keyword Planner consists of several tools. Some of them do more or less the same thing and all of them try to get you to add keywords and ad groups to your campaigns, but trust me, they are worth the trouble.
Multiply keyword lists to get new keyword ideas
- – This one actually appears last on the page, but it will come first in your process, so I moved on up. This tool could end up saving you an incredible amount of time. Let me demonstrate:
- Points Group LLC is a business headquartered in Morristown, NJ. We are not limited to doing business in Morristown, or even just in this country, but we would like to dominate organic results for certain keywords in our backyard. But instead of typing out every way we can think of that people would search for a business like ours in our area for each of our keywords, we can just create lists to combine with this tool. For example:
|Our Business Keywords
|X||Our Location Modifiers
Morristown New Jersey
Our output will be every possible combination, saving all the time it would take to type out each keyword with the location modifier manually. This tool also tells you what the traffic would be for these keywords. If you put all your keywords in through this tool, then you can just download your data right here and skip the rest of the Google Keyword Planner tools.
Search for new keyword and ad group ideas – Remember when I said that there are online tools that generate keyword ideas for you? Here’s one of them. By all means, try it out if you like, but like I said before, you probably won’t get anything very original. My suggestion: skip it.
Get search volume for a list of keywords or group them into ad groups – Depending on the data that you get here, this could be your last stop in the Keyword Traffic Phase. This tool allows you to plug in a massive list of keywords and Google will tell you how many people are searching for it on average per month. Download the results as a CSV file so that you can organize and filter them in Excel.
Get traffic estimates for a list of keywords – This is a valuable tool, but not for SEO. If you are planning on building out an AdWords pay-per-click (PPC) campaign sometime soon, you may want to remember this one.
Note: Part of the data that Google returns with the average search traffic is “Competition.” This competition statistic reflects how competitive a keyword is within Google AdWords, not within organic Google results and thus should not be taken into account in your research. It is not a stretch to say that if a keyword is competitive in AdWords, it’s probably also competitive organically, but without the actual data, you can’t make that assumption.
Sometimes, especially if you are really drilling down with your keywords, there just are not that many searches per month. Google will display zeros for your average monthly searches for these keywords, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t ever search for them. It might just mean that the sample size is too small to support concrete statistics. In cases like these, you can head over to Google Trends and study how popular certain keywords are on a larger scale. This data won’t be quite as helpful as what you get from the Keyword Planner, but it still could give you some valuable insights into the most popular ways to search certain things. For example, how do people generally search for marketing agencies specializing in marketing on the Internet?
Digital Marketing it is.
This method is free, so you must be getting something more than this if you are paying for it, right? Well, it depends who you are working with, but we definitely look into your keywords a little deeper. Without giving too many trade secrets away, here are some of the things you are missing out on:
Competition– Like I said before, you won’t get any concrete statistics on how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword. This is certainly something that we take into account in the keyword research process.
Rank Tracking – This method won’t give you good baseline stats on how you already rank for your keywords. It’s nice to know what you want to rank for, but knowing how you already rank and how your efforts are affecting your rank is crucial to a successful campaign.
Traffic Analysis – We do live in an era of (not provided), but there are still ways of understanding how traffic that has arrived on your site as a result of certain keywords is behaving. If all that traffic is bouncing, you will need to adjust accordingly.
Time Spend – If you’ve never done something like this before, there’s a learning curve. It’s going to take you a lot of time to get everything done satisfactorily, time that you could have spent doing much more exciting things than crunching numbers in Excel. Besides, that’s what we are here for!