Why keyword research is important and how to do it
Pssst . . . wanna know a secret? I used to find the subject of keyword research intimidating.
There. I said it.
Phew, feels good to get that off my chest.
I found it intimidating because I knew its importance to SEO but didn’t know the hows and whys. As with most fears, my trepidation arose due to a lack of understanding.
And I know I’m not alone.
The fact is, many people don’t have a good grasp on keyword research. But it’s actually not that perplexing once you get the basics. To that end, here’s a bit of a primer on keyword research: what it is, why it matters and how to do it.
What is keyword research?
As the name implies, keyword research involves doing some digging into the main topics and phrases that people search for when they go online to find out about a subject. Typically, it’s done by and/or for people looking to improve their search engine rankings.
See, that’s not so confusing, right?
And keyword research matters because why?
Keyword research is important when it comes to having a good understanding of what your target audience is looking for. It can help guide your editorial and marketing processes and, maybe most importantly, determine what your company is known for.
Keyword research makes you think about your business like a customer. And the right keywords help ensure the right people will find you. In a world where the yellow pages no longer take precedence and when people have 24/7 access to unlimited information at the push of a couple buttons, SEO, content marketing and keywords are – or should be – significant aspects of any business’ marketing strategy.
How to do keyword research and reach your SEO goals
Step One: List topics relevant to your business.
Come up with a handful of topics, say five to ten, that you want to rank for and are important to your business. Perhaps it’s services you offer, things you blog about or queries that customers ask about. Basically, what do you want to be found for when people are searching for you? These are the general “topic buckets,” for which you’ll find specific keywords. So, for example, a copywriting business might choose media releases, content marketing, editing, blogging, webpage copy.
Step Two: Create your initial keyword list
For each of these topic buckets, identify keywords that you believe your target customers may be searching for. So, if editing is the general topic, brainstorm some phrases that people may want info about, e.g., editing tips and tools, editing services, how to be a better editor, how to find an editor, common editing problems.
Can’t come up with many ideas? Talk to co-workers, especially those in sales or on the front-line, to see what customers ask about.
Step Three: Research related keywords
An easy way to come up with other related topics is to go to Google and type in a keyword and see what automatically pops up when you start typing. Often in the list of results, Google helpfully creates a section that says, “People also ask…” and lists a few questions, some of which may trigger some ideas. Also, you can scroll down to the bottom of the page and see what else Google suggests as related searches:
The next step is to go Google AdWords Keyword Planner. It will ask you to set up an AdWords account, but don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have to create an ad. There, you can get more suggestions as well as search volume and traffic estimates for keywords you’re considering. This data will give you an idea of how important these topics are to your audience, and you can use it to prioritize your keyword list.
Step Four: Ensure there is a mix of long and short keywords for each topic listed
Short, generic keyword phrases are called head terms; long-tail keywords are phrases typically containing three or more words. A balanced mix gives a greater chance of hitting your SEO ranking goals. Yes, more people may search for “editing” than “how to edit like a pro,” but you can target qualified searchers better with longer keywords.
Step Five: Get writing
Start consistently producing fresh, creative writing using your new list of keywords. Ensure that your webpage content has plenty of them sprinkled throughout, too. When you’re writing, keep in mind that more and more people are using voice search to ask Google and Siri questions, so include some long-phrase queries as subheads.
And remember, even though you have a bunch of high-ranking keywords, you still need to present them in a way that is interesting, informative and entertaining, otherwise visitors to your site won’t stay for long.
Then again, you can just hire some experts and be done with it.