With today being Earth Day, I thought I would share with you an “evergreen” topic that is the foundation of all tactics and strategies of search engine marketing, keyword research. The only way to attract visitors to your website through search engines is to target the words that your customers use to find sources of information relative to their query. While you may think you have a handle on how people communicate in your vertical, you cannot possibly think of every single way every human being searches for answers. That is where using the right keyword tools and a bit of brain power can help your site become more visible in search engine results to qualified customers. find more info here @ http://www.globalmarketforce.com
No matter if you are building a pay-per-click campaign or trying to develop website content that is targeted and well optimized, the approach of keyword research is very much the same. While keyword tools have come and gone, the strategy for keyword research and development has remained true, even with all of the changes that the search engines have undergone over the years. I want to help you succeed by learning the right way to approach keyword research. The following 7 steps are how I have found great success with keyword research.
1. Brainstorm Keyword Ideas
As with any project, the first step to success is to allow your brain to flow freely without discretion. This is especially true when it comes to developing your keyword list. Take a few moments to start out by thinking about everything your business is about. Why would someone be searching for information in your industry and how can your business help them find a solution? No idea is stupid in this phase. Everything counts! For more SEO info go here @ SEO SA
If you are having trouble letting ideas flow freely, think about your website. If you currently have a limited number of pages with content, use those as a foundation for ideas. After all, when someone searches for a keyword or phrase on a search engine, there must be a page on your site where you can drive that traffic. If you are developing a list of terms to expand your content for new pages on your site, or to optimize your current pages, do not be afraid to think outside the box. This is often times where you will find the greatest success in search engine marketing. If you are trying to develop a keyword list as part of a paid search marketing campaign, again, think of where people will land if they come to your site. Each page should be relevant to the terms being searched; otherwise people will never click your advertisement.
It is strongly encouraged that you involve others in the keyword brainstorming process. If you have a staff, involve them. If you have customers, ask them. If you participate in online forums, or follow a few blogs or social media profiles, look at what they are saying for ideas. How will you know when you are done? When you feel exhausted, and you cannot possibly think of another word, you can now move on to step
2.2. Segment Keyword Ideas
Now that you have a working list that you have thoroughly brainstormed, it is now time to start putting those ideas into meaningful groups. Think of a group as a theme, where each word in the group is very closely related to all of the other words and phrases in that group. The purpose of grouping like terms together is to help you focus either your site content or your advertising to be relevant to what people are searching for online. For example, if I am creating a keyword list about shoes, my brainstorm would probably have led me to include the words Shoes, Men’s Shoes, Women’s Shoes, Athletic Shows, Basketball Sneakers, Loafers, High Heels, and on and on and on. Now, taking those terms and considering relationships between them, I would most likely put Basketball Shoes and Athletic Shoes together, Women’s Shoes and High Heels together, and even possibly Men’s Shoes and Loafers together.
Once you are done putting keyword ideas together into meaningful and relevant groups (there may be some outliers that cannot fit into any group and this is okay), think about where on your site you would send a visitor for each group. If you have a page dedicated to that theme, great! If you don’t, either consider creating a new page that focuses on that theme, or removing that theme altogether. After all, if you are in the shoe business, but only sell shoes for men, then having a group about women’s shoes does not make sense and can be removed at this stage.
3. Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner
Now it is time to start using some tools to dig into discovering terms that people actually use when searching for keywords relevant to your business. The Google AdWords Keyword Planner is the perfect tool to help you expand your ideas even further. It is considered by many to be the industry standard tool when developing keywords. Using this tool does require that you have a Google AdWords account first. If you do, then log in before beginning to use this tool. If you do not have an account, please go here first to get one. Don’t worry; it does not cost anything to sign up. You will only ever be charged if and when you use Google AdWords to serve ads in search results that are actually clicked. You will, however, need a credit card on file to complete the registration process.
Now that you have a Google AdWords account, navigate to the Google AdWords Keyword Planner here. Once logged in, you will find four options on the left hand side. The only one we are concerned with right now is the one that says “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.”
There are a couple of ways to use this section of the tool. You can either enter in your full list of keyword ideas that you have from your brainstorming and grouping exercises, or you can enter your landing page URL and let Google decide what terms are most relevant for you. You can also opt to select a category, but this is not necessary. Under the targeting section, for the purpose of this exercise, you can leave the default settings alone. However, for more advanced users, you can change your location targeting if you are trying to target a specific geography, change your language preference, where information is gathered from, and decide if you do not want to include any results that use specific words (called negative keywords). I also encourage you, at this point, to leave the default settings for filters and options alone. Go ahead and select the “get ideas” button.
What you will see now are a list of results, broken out into two tabs, “Ad group ideas” and “Keyword ideas.” While the ad group ideas tab may be beneficial to see if Google groups terms the same way you did when you segmented your brainstorm list, ultimately, you are trying to discover new keywords and phrases that you did not include in your original keyword research. That is why the “Keyword ideas” tab is so useful. Typically speaking, on this tab, you will first see the terms you entered, if you chose to fill in the tool with the list of keywords you brainstormed. If you chose to only enter in a landing page URL, you will only see new keyword ideas.
In the next section, you will see a list of new terms that Google thinks are relevant to the words you entered, or the landing page you suggested. I strongly recommend that you download this full list into an Excel report, as it is easier to work with, but it is up to you and how you work best. Make sure you save your downloaded files for later use, too. While not every word that Google provides is going to be useful to you, you are sure to find some terms that you did not think of in your original brainstorming session. Your goal here should be to expand your keyword research into a nice long list of relevant terms that you can, again, group together into meaningful themes.
Please note that the Google AdWords Keyword Tool is only capable of showing 800 results at a time. If you want to dig deep into a fully expanded keyword list, I recommend using the tool by only putting in one word, or one thematic group, at a time. That way, you are sure to see more suggestions than if you start with a list of 100 words and can only see 800 relevant terms.
How will you know when you are done? When you no longer see any new keywords in the results of using the tool, is when you know you have exhausted your keyword list. Do not be surprised that when you are done, your final list will be thousands upon thousands of keywords long. That is okay. We will focus on narrowing down your list in future steps.
Let’s catch our breath for a few moments and take inventory of everything we have done up to this point. You have brainstormed any and all ideas relevant to your business. You have grouped those results into meaningful and relevant thematic groups. You have taken your list to the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool and expanded your ideas to include additional keywords and phrases that Google suggests are relevant. You have regrouped your larger list, again into thematic groupings. Congratulate yourself. You are now starting to think like a keyword marketer.
4. Analyze the Competition
Now, it is time to consider the competition. In this step, you will want to go to Google, or your preferred search engine, and see what results currently show for each of your keywords. If your goal is to show up on the first page of Google’s organic results, see what pages are currently there. Are they big brands with strong marketing teams and agencies determined to keep them on the top of search results? If you are trying to compete in paid search, who shows in those results? Are they local competitors, national brands, information sites or small businesses like yours? No matter where you intend on competing, understanding your competitors and the environment you wish to compete is critical to your success. The sad reality is that you will never rank #1 on Google for a common term where big national brands currently show. They simply have too much money, have too many other sites promoting their authority, have been around too long, have dedicated teams focused only on preserving their top rankings, and they most definitely do not want to give up their spot.
I encourage you to use SpyFu to gain valuable insights into what your competitors are doing, where their weaknesses are, and where you can capitalize to dominate search results on specific terms. SpyFu exposes the search marketing secret formula of your most successful competitors. Search for any domain and see every place they’ve shown up on Google: every keyword they’ve bought on AdWords, every organic rank, and every ad variation in the last 6 years. Basically, it is like going to war knowing your opponents flaws. It will save you a ton of time and costly mistakes.
Once you learn what terms your competitors rank well for, be sure to include them in your list, if they are not already there. You should place special emphasis on these terms in particular, knowing they work well for your competitors. Figure out why they do well for them and then do it better than they do. In just a matter of time, you can knock them down off of their pedestal and capture some of that valuable traffic to your website.
5. Determine Keyword Difficulty
In order to know which keywords to target, it’s essential to not only understand the demand for a given term or phrase, but also the work required to achieve those rankings. If big brands take the top 10 results and you’re just starting out on the web, the uphill battle for rankings can take years of effort. This is why it’s essential to understand keyword difficulty.
If you still have your downloaded lists from the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool, there are valuable statistics that will show you just how much competition exists, especially in relation to advertisers on Google. In the column marked “Competition” in the tool itself, those terms marked Low, or even Medium, present a much easier path to success than those that show High. If you are looking at this information in Excel, the closer to 100, the more difficult the battle will be. Your ability to compete will definitely lie with long-tail keyword phrases (phrases that are typically 3 or more words in a phrase) and newly trending terms. Using our shoe store example again, trying to rank for the word Shoe is next to impossible. However, you may find it relatively easy to rank for the keyword phrase men’s brown leather dress shoe. There are far fewer people competing on the long-tail phrase than the much more common one word term.
When you conducted your keyword research to look at results for each of the terms in your list, if you saw nothing but big national brands, then you probably should focus your energy on those terms that resulted in sites that look like yours. While it is easier to compete with national brands in paid search, SEO rankings are greatly influenced by many more external factors than how much you are willing to bid on a term and how relevant your landing page is to that keyword. But, that is a lesson for another time.
6. Determine Keyword Value
How much is a keyword worth to your website? The keywords that visitors type into search engines are available to you based on the steps presented thus far. However, tools cannot possible determine how those terms will perform in bringing you qualified traffic that actually does what you want them to. This may include actions such as filling out a form, buying something, following you on social media, or some other action you find valuable. To fully understand the value of a keyword, you must understand your own website; make some educated guesses, test, and repeat – the classic web marketing formula.
As discussed in Moz’s “Beginner’s Guide to SEO“, Chapter 5 tells us that there is a basic process for assessing a keyword’s value. Ask yourself…is the keyword relevant to your website’s content? Will searchers find what they are looking for on your site when they search using these keywords? Will they be happy with what they find? Will this traffic result in financial rewards or other organizational goals? If the answer to all of these questions is a clear “Yes!”, then proceed…
As explained in step 4, “Analyze Your Competition,” you will want to search for the term/phrase in the major engines. Understanding which websites already rank for your keyword gives you valuable insight into the competition, and also how hard it will be to rank for the given term. Are search advertisements running along the top and right-hand side of the organic results? Typically, many search ads means a high value keyword, and multiple search ads above the organic results often means a highly lucrative and directly conversion-prone keyword.
One word of advice that took me many years to come to terms with is do not become married to your keyword list! While you think a term is going to be a rock star, the truth is always revealed in the data. Never hold onto a term that does not produce exactly what you expect it to produce. Be absolutely critical when considering value, but make sure you have enough significant data to make educated decisions. Continuously optimize your keyword list until you feel you have a comprehensive one that accomplishes your goals, whatever they may be.
7. Narrow Your Keyword List
While most of us want to be able to target every single keyword and bring in as much traffic as possible, this is not always the best strategy. Quality over quantity is definitely the best course of action when it comes to keyword research and list development.
Is the juice worth the squeeze? This popular saying, made famous by the movie “The Girl Next Door”, has truly become part of every project I ever do. Bringing in traffic on a keyword that costs you hundreds of dollars in paid search funding, takes over a week to develop a new landing page that is well optimized to the term, only to drive only a handful of sales at most, is definitely not worth the time and effort involved.
As a small business owner, you are almost certainly faced with limiting factors that will influence your final list of keywords that you target. These may include your budget, your website hosting plan, the competitive landscape of that term in both organic and paid listings, your time and resources for content development, the time it takes to conduct quality research and optimization, and your ability to handle more customers. Too many keywords in play may drive more visitors, but are you truly capable of handling hundreds, if not thousands of new daily visitors?
Your main goal should be to provide your website visitors with the best user experience possible. This will help them to convert into customers at better rates. When they become your customers, you want them to have the best customer experience too. That way they share their feelings about their experience with your company with their friends and family and social circles online.
Having a solid list of qualified keywords that have been well researched, are relevant to your business, can be well supported given your business resources, have great value and are not too competitive will be the difference between simply bringing in more traffic and bringing in customers.