It doesn’t matter if you are marketing for a large national brand, a small local business, or a privately owned blog that’s just looking to gain a little bit of traction. One of the first things you need to do before starting any sort of campaign – paid or organic – is keyword research.
While we’d all like to think we’re naturals when it comes to marketing, keyword knowledge really does require research. The information you find will help you to better utilize the keywords that are actually relevant, as opposed to terms we thought or hoped were relevant but really aren’t helpful at all.
To help you wrap your head around this complex topic, I’m going to go over the basics and then touch on a few more advanced strategies. I think you’ll really get a lot of use out of this!
Understand What Keyword Research Is (and Isn’t)
Keyword research is basically the work you do to determine what words people are commonly using in the search engines to find content like yours. A well-developed keyword strategy will have a set series of keywords for each of the relevant topics for a business website. While these keywords are used in both paid and organic campaigns, they may also be used to help you name product features and generally optimize your website as well.
Keyword research is not simply sitting down and brainstorming a list of terms that relate to your content, product, or service. You’re an expert in your field, so you are already familiar with common terms that relate to what you have to offer. Those common terms are usually not what the average person types into Google.
Plan Your Keyword Research
When you start your keyword research, your goal is to identify what words you are already ranking well for so that you can understand their position. You also need to identify which words you’d like to rank for in the future, but aren’t succeeding with right now.
The keywords you end up with need to be sorted into three main categories. The first is organic terms that help with search engine visibility. The second is the low-hanging fruit you want to improve upon. And last, but not least, are the keywords you’d like to use in PPC campaigns because they aren’t getting the search engine visibility you’d like yet.
Choose Your Tools
There are dozens of keyword research tools on the market today, but sometimes the best ones are the free ones offered right at the source. The Google Keyword Planner is offered within the AdWords dashboard and is considered one of the best places to get started. You can use it to create keyword lists, groups, traffic forecasts, and plenty of new keyword ideas. This is a great tool to use if you plan on incorporating both PPC and organic SEO at the same time.
Moz’s Keyword Explorer, Market Samurai, SEMrush, and Keyword Tool are also useful tools for keyword research. Some can be used in conjunction with Google’s Keyword Planner. This is especially useful if you need to find more long-tail keywords to incorporate into your campaign.
Utilize Google Suggest
Not sure where to start with your keyword research? Simply start typing a keyword into the search engine and see what comes up in the dropdown box of suggestions from Google. These are real options based on things that already exist on the web, so they’re worth paying attention to. You can use these terms to jumpstart your keyword research and to create new content ideas for your website pages.
Don’t just rely on exact phrases or phrases that start with the phrase you are typing. For example, I could type “best Philadelphia” and get results like best Philadelphia restaurants, best Philadelphia cheesesteak, best Philadelphia suburbs, best Philadelphia museums, and so much more. You need to drill down further to get at the real meat.
If you want to expand on those options, try typing “best _ in Philadelphia.” You’ll likely get some similar results, but you’ll also see different options as well, like best pizza in Philadelphia, best brunch in Philadelphia, and best breakfast in Philadelphia. You can insert the underscore in different spots in long-tail phrases for a wide variety of results.
Look at Your Competitors
You really need to understand what your competitors are doing in order to rise above them. Try using Keyword Planner to spy on what those in your niche are doing – especially those that always seem to be doing well. Just swap in your competitor’s URL instead of your own to get ideas from the keyword tab. You can also use the group ideas tab to get a better idea of what topic themes you should be building upon.
Focus on the Seasons
The term “seasonality” generally refers to the time of year your business does best. In terms of keyword research, it involves finding ways to make common terms that are incredibly competitive a little more viable for your business. For example, let’s say you are marketing coffee beverages.
What type of coffee beverage can you market during the cool winter months as opposed to the hot summer months? What recipes work best for each season? Different seasonings and flavors are more popular at different times of the year, but not just the meteorological seasons or the holidays. What groups of people focus on coffee consumption throughout the year (think freelancers, office workers, etc). What long-tail keywords would help you to focus your coffee product towards specific groups or seasonal events?
Explore Branded Keywords
Believe it or not, branded keywords do pretty well on Google. You don’t necessarily need to be a major brand to take advantage of this type of keyword creation. For example, if you sell running shoes you might search for keywords based on specific brands, like “Saucony running shoes” or “Hoka running shoes.” When you search for those terms you’d hope the big brands rank on the first pages, but you may just find a lot of smaller stores who carry their products are ranking very high as well.
Keyword research takes time, but if you do it right, it will help you to create a wealth of usable, searchable, popular content for your website, PPC campaigns, and organic marketing strategies. Never be afraid to experiment with or change up your keyword choices. While some keywords are standard go-to phrases, others may change month-to-month or season-to-season. Stay on top of your research, and don’t be afraid to reach out when you need a little help.