Just in case you missed out, last week we covered off what keyword research actually is, why keyword research is vitally important, and what affect the Hummingbird algorithm changes have had on keyword research.
Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s jump straight into the essential steps involved in undertaking keyword research. There are five key steps in keyword research. The majority of these steps will involve a good deal of brainstorming and extensive use of your grey matter. Time to put your thinking cap on!
Keyword Research Step One: Make a list of important topics based on your products and services, and business needs and objectives.
The best way to kick-start this process is to brainstorm broad topics (we’ll get specific later) related to your business or website. For instance, for my business, my broad topic areas include copywriting, content marketing, marketing, communications and public relations. These would be my five top broad topic areas.
If you’re having trouble coming up with these broad topics, think logically about your business. Think about what products and services you most regularly sell to you customers. What are the topics that top your sales pitches, your client conversations? If you have a blog, chances are that these are the topics that you blog about most regularly.
Keyword Research Step Two: Come up with more specific words and phrases related to each of your broad topics.
Right. Now that you have your broad topic areas sorted, its time to identify keywords related to each. These are the keywords that your target customers are most likely to type into a Google search if they were looking for your website.
If you’re having trouble coming up with keywords, it might be an idea to make this step a group activity, particularly if your company is quite large. In large companies, the sales department can often be quite insightful at this stage. It is your sales department that will have a handle on frequently asked customer questions, and (given that they have the most frequent interaction with your customers) will know your customers best.
For example, if we take ‘content marketing’ from my list of broad topics, some of the keyword phrases I would come up with might be:
- what is content marketing
- content marketing plans
- content marketing strategy
- benefits of content marketing
- content marketing tips
Get the idea? You could keep going and going forever (much like the energiser bunny!). The idea with this step is not to generate your final master list of keywords, it is simply to do a brain dump of all the possible searches that your customers might type into Google. Don’t be scared if your list starts to look complicated and unwieldy. We’ll massage it back into shape soon. Promise.
Keyword Research Step Three: Ensure you have a mix of short and long tail keywords for each and every broad topic.
Not sure of the difference between short and long tail keywords? It might sound a bit technical, but it’s really quite straightforward. Short tail keywords (otherwise known as head terms) are short phrases. Typically, they are one to three words long. For instance, in my example, ‘content marketing plan’ would be a short tail keyword. On the other hand, long tail keywords are longer. They are usually phrases and contain more words.
Having a variety of long tail and short tail keywords will ensure a balanced keyword strategy, a strategy that will provide both long and short term wins. Generally, short tail keywords are more competitive than long tail terms. Short tail keywords are harder to rank for, but often it’s the traffic from long tail keywords that you want to attract to your website. Confused? Don’t worry, so were we to begin with.
Long tail keywords often generate more qualified traffic. A person that types in a longer search term (a long tail keyword) is usually looking for something more specific. If you can target that specific something, and answer their needs with your products or services, then you’ve got a potential lead.
Keyword Research Step Four: Look for related search terms.
Google can actually help you with this step. If you are struggling to pad out all your broad topic areas, google the broad topic area yourself. Once you’ve plugged in the topic area, scroll down to the very bottom of the page. There, you will find a small section entitled ‘Searches related to…’. The search terms that you find there might spark other creative ideas. And, if you want to get really creative, click on one of the related searches and then scroll down and view the searches related to that. And so on and so forth! You get the idea.
Keyword Research Step Five: Use Google’s tools to hone your keyword list.
Okay, by now you probably have a list that looks so daunting, so scarily comprehensive that you don’t know where to start, or what to do with all the keywords. This is the step where we cut that list down, refine your keyword strategy and hone your efforts.
The easiest way to do this is to use a couple of Google’s tools:
- Google’s Keyword Planner: https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner. You will need to set up an AdWords account to be able to access Keyword Planner, but you don’t have to set up (or pay for) and advertisement. Using Keyword Planner, you can access traffic estimates, search volumes, average monthly searches and competition levels.
- Google Trends: http://www.google.com/trends. Google trends can help you to determine which keywords are trending upwards, and should therefore be the focus of your website content or content marketing strategies. Using Keyword Planner, pinpoint keywords that have way too little (or way too much) search traffic and think about removing these keywords from your list.
Before you do delete any keywords with low volume search traffic, double check the trajectory of each keyword in Google Trends. These keywords might actually be trending upwards, becoming more popular. It might be a keyword that you could rank for now, and enjoy the benefits down the track.
That’s it. You’re done. Your keyword research is complete. For now. It’s always best practise to monitor your keywords, check what’s trending and add more keywords to your list.
P.S. I have a favour to ask. I’ve entered my blog ‘Wordly’ in the 2014 Best Australian Blogs Competition. The People’s Choice Award category is now open for voting and I need your support! You can vote here: www.surveymonkey.com/s/BAB2014. You will have to scroll to the very last page (they’re in alphabetical order). Thanks in advance!
P.P. S. If you’re wondering what the rolling green hills have to do with keyword research, let me enlighten you…not a thing! Rather than relying on boring stock imagery, we’ve decided to go with beautiful photos. Photos that inspire. Photos that make us smile. Fingers crossed; they make you smile too!