Keyword research is central to strategic digital marketing success
Step 4. Do keyword research
Keyword research will help you establish the top terms within each of the purchasing phases – find the need! This will tell you a few more things:
- The terms and phrases people use to describe the products and services you offer. It’s important you speak the language your consumers use, otherwise you’re going to miss the mark on relevance.
- The competition level of various versions of your keywords. You may find that there are keywords that have low competition levels, but suprisingly high levels of traffic. These represent great opportunities for you.
- You may uncover additional products or services are trending that you offer but do not feature on your site. You may want to create new pages or blog postings to cover this gap and attract some of this traffic.
You’ll want to start by looking at each phase and putting together variations of keyword “seeds” to start with. I call them seeds because you’re going to plant these during your keyword research to uncover the true keyword opportunities. Go through each of your phases and create your seed list of words and short phrases you think people might use. These will include the product/service words at each phases, but will most likely be accompanied by other words in each phase which give you some insight into where they are. For example, if the search includes product/service+trends or product/service+ideas or product/service+news, they are probably early in the process. When they get to how to+product/service, product/service+reviews or compare+product/service they are probably in the middle and rounding the bend toward a purchase. When they search for buy+product/service, product/service+availability or product/service+delivery they are more ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. Local businesses, don’t forget to check keywords in combination with local cities and metro areas.
Google’s keyword tool is your best friend. It’s not the only keyword tool by a long-shot, but given Google’s search dominance, it’s a good place to start. It’s also free. Also check out SEO Book’s (free) Keyword Suggestion Tool (Requires registration). Utilize the Google AdWords Keyword Tool first and work to narrow down the best keyword/keyphrase options from there. Google’s Webmaster Tools site has links to AdWords, Analytics and other useful SEO & SEM tools. You need a Google account to use Webmaster Tools but not to use the keyword tool.
- Start with a list of words you THINK people are using to find your site and the words people are currently using to get to your site (seeds).
If you have Google Analytics check the keywords that are driving traffic to your site and search for them. If you are not using Analytics, install it, but try this tool for now. This tool is also great for some elements of competitor research and rank checking.
- Do another search by entering in your URL for the tool to extract and check keywords you’re already using
- You can also put in a competitor’s URL to extract keywords for this exercise as well. You should do these as separate searches.
- Look for competition levels (higher is more competitive) and also look for gaps – where the competition levels are lower than one would think. Don’t forget to check for long-tail terms also. That means terms are aren’t as popular, but might be very effective when they do come up in searches. These might be specific brands or sizes of products for example. Look at what your competition is doing for keywords and seize any opportunity you can.
Analyzing the Results
First, the default results will be presented as “broad searches,” which means that these words were contained in the search term/phrase. It does not tell you exactly what searches are contained, which is why the first thing you should do with the results is scroll down to Match Types in the left hand column and UNcheck “broad.” Instead, check “exact” which will give you the breakdowns of exact searches. You’ll notice these numbers are significantly lower.
The second thing you will want to do the first time you search is re-sort the results by “Local Monthly Searches” on the far right at the top of the results. This will sort by searches in the COUNTRY you have designated. By default, US if you’re in the US. This is good for your first broad look at the world of keywords for your business, because you may have missed something important – however – this will decrease the relevance to the seed words you put in. When you’re doing more refined keyword research – for a particular part of your site, page, blog post, product, etc, you will NOT want to do this in the keyword tool. Instead leave it sorted by relevance (default) and extract the entire list into Excel by selecting CSV for Excel from the “Download” drop-down box at the top of the results on the right.
Once you have extracted the entire list into Excel, then you can manipulate the data however you like without losing the terms generated by relevance to the seed words. Start by resorting by the local monthly searches column, then go down the list from the highest traffic to the lowest and put a “1″ in a new column to mark the keyword opportunities you want to take advantage of. Create a second column for particularly great opportunities, which have either high-value or high-volume traffic and comparatively low competition levels and indicate these with a “1″ as well. Finally, re-sort the spreadsheet by the new opportunity column and delete the keywords you aren’t interested in pursuing currently. Save the Excel document and go back to the keyword tool and try the next phase/product type.
You will find many of your searches will overlap, and that’s okay. You’re just trying to get a feel for what keywords to focus on where. These will help you select just the right one or two to focus on for each page, blog post, product or social media post. It will also help you with the right focus for your Meta data (should mirror the keyword(s) you’re targeting on the corresponding page. As an experiment, try testing some of the keywords in the Google search page, and see if the results reflect what you expect and if you fit on that first page.
Once you have done several rounds of keyword research for each major phase, product group and general trend you can think of, merge your Excel documents so you have all of the keywords you want to target in one document.
Typically, at this point, it’s a good time to put it all together, prioritize and start creating.
Bottom Line: Keyword research is at the heart of your strategic digital marketing efforts. If you don’t optimize for the right keywords, you’re doomed from the start. Search traffic depends on your site/blog/posts being relevant to the search terms people are using. It will help you find the need, and attract the customer with great precision.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post to get you moving on Step 5: Put it all together, prioritize and start creating.