If you’ve looked into online marketing, SEO, or online advertising for at least thirty seconds, you’ve probably heard of “keywords.” Keywords essentially act as the building blocks of any online marketing campaign and are the starting point to SEO efforts. They tell search engines what web content is about and connects relevant information to web searchers based on their search queries.
For example, if someone types in the keywords “outdoor furniture,” the pages and items that show up in the search are going to be relevant to outdoor furniture in some way. It might be a website that sells outdoor furniture or it might be informational pages about the topic of outdoor furniture. The more specific the keywords in a search, the more relevant and helpful the search results.
Initiating Keyword Research
Knowing this, you can see why it’s essential to put some thought into your keywords. You want to think about a few things:
1) What is your company about?
2) Do you provide services or goods for sale?
3) Who are your customers? What are their demographics?
4) Do you service the local area or do you wish to be found nationwide/worldwide?
5) Does your product or service solve problems for a niche audience?
Taking the time to answer these questions is going to greatly influence the keywords you will aim for and how you will use them.
Keyword Research Tools
The fortunate thing is that by now there are a variety of powerful keyword research tools available for free. These tools help to take the guesswork out of the keyword research process. Let’s take Google Keyword Planner, for example. If you sign up for a Google Adwords account (don’t worry, it is free and you don’t have to go through with creating an ad campaign to use it), you can use their Google Keyword Planner tool. Let’s use the outdoor furniture example from earlier.
Our first keyword should be the basic word or words that describe your company. From there, Google Keyword Planner tool will suggest other keywords that are similar in nature. This is important for two reasons:
- The phrase “outdoor furniture” is broad and could mean a lot of things. Remember the more specific you can get the better. Also using keyphrases and long-tail keywords will allow your website copy to match with a potential customers search query. Use synonyms for your obvious keywords and a more descriptive language are a must. For example, “cheap outdoor furniture High Point NC” or “teak wood outdoor sofa” will give you more specific web traffic than a more generic keyword.
- The keywords that the keyword tool suggests to you should give you a better idea of how your audience is searching for your products. Don’t be afraid to use industry-specific jargon and terms, you never know how educated your audience may be on your products. However, it is never a bad idea to include content that explains this jargon, for those who don’t speak your industry’s language.
Search Volume and Competition
Just about any keyword tool you decide to use will show you specific metrics surrounding the keywords that are listed. The most important ones to pay attention to search volume and keyword competitiveness.
Search volumes are going to show you how often a specific keyword is searched, typically shown as a monthly average. For example, in the outdoor furniture scenario, Google Keyword planner shows “outdoor furniture” being searched 100,000 to 1,000,000 times a month. It also shows “outdoor dining” and “Adirondack chairs” as having similar search volumes. This means that they are some of the more popular related keywords.
However, if you look at the competition or competitiveness levels, these popular searches are labeled as “high.”
This is important to consider because while it is a popular keyword that many people search, it also means most of your competition is trying to rank for that specific keyword. This would make it harder in general to rank for those keywords. You will want to find a balance between search volumes and competition levels when doing keyword research.
At this point in the keyword research process, click around and see what slight variations bring up. You might be surprised to learn that ranking for “garden furniture” is easier than ranking for “outdoor furniture.” Again, this is all based on how web surfers are looking things up; their knowledge and word choices will likely differ a little bit from what you’re used to. This is an excellent time to get into the heads of your audience and think about how they would attempt to look you up and find your brand online.
Semantics-Related Google Updates
Google and other search engines are always coming out with updates to make searching more accurate and more fulfilling for end users. One of the keyword related updates Google rolled out has to do with semantics. It has recognized that synonyms and the plural version of words can be treated as virtually the same.
Why is this important?
First, it makes it easier for your copywriter’s content to rank well. In the past, content creators would have to match up keywords precisely, and it could make the content sound awkward and robotic. It became apparent to the reader that the keywords were there to please the search engines and not the potential buyer. Now, content can be thought of as needing to align to a particular topic level of relevance, instead of needing to match up keywords painstakingly.
Secondly, this also means that closely-related searches can help increase web traffic. Now instead of the searcher needing to type “outdoor wicker chair,” they can also search “wicker chair,” “outdoor wicker chairs,” or “cheap outdoor wicker chairs” and still land on your website. As long as you are clear about your intent and purpose of the content, Google will rank you higher in the search results.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into keyword research. These keywords will be the basis of your content marketing and SEO strategy. It will help define who you are in the eyes of search engines, which helps to connect you with searchers who are trying to find businesses like yours.