How to do Keyword Research
If you have ever thought of driving more traffic to your website from organic search, you are sure to have heard about how important it is to select the right keywords. There are many data driven tools, such as Google Ads Keyword Planner, Keyword Discovery and Spyfu, that can help you identify keywords, understand potential traffic and look at the relative competition that your site is facing to rank for these keywords. This process will often leave you with a large list of keywords from which to select.
The smart marketer knows that the final selection is not just about raw numbers. It’s about finding language that will best describe your product or service. This language needs to match the language your potential customers are using in their search queries.
This final selection of keywords is at its heart a qualitative decision.
Consider the following:
- Take into consideration the unique selling proposition of your products or services
- Consider the tone of voice of your website
- Incorporate the day-to-day language your customers use to speak about your products or services
The subjective nature of this does not mean that you can’t put a process in place that will aid in finding the best keywords possible.
How to do Keyword Research: Five Steps
The five-step approach outlined below will allow you to separate the wheat from the chaff and come up with the best keyword mix possible.
Step 1 – Decide what each page you are optimizing hopes to accomplish
Each page of your website should have a primary purpose that it hopes to accomplish. Is it an informational page setting up the next step in the buying cycle? Are you trying to gather a lead or close a sale? Are you setting up a comparison to a competitor’s product?
Different goals for a page will inform the language used on that page and how that language is interpreted by search engines. Search queries have become much more natural language focused over the last five years, with many queries being stated as a question: “How do the laws about European online privacy differ from the US?”, “What is GDPR?” and “How to do set-up opt-in email lists in France?”. These queries are around the same subject. However, what the searcher is hoping to accomplish versus the page that best answers each question is different.
Step 2 – Look at your competitor’s sites that rank well to understand how they are using language
Look at your competition for one-to-one comparisons with your products, services and stages in the buying cycle.
Ask the following:
- How are your top-ranking competitors using language?
- Does it mirror the top keywords results exactly or is there modifying language around the keyword?
- What is the actual content of the page?
- Is it delivering on the intent of the keyword you are looking at?
Step 3 – Add modifying language to your base list of keywords
Once you have clarified your goals for the page and looked at the successful competition, take your keywords and add modifying language that reflects the desired goal of your page. In the above example, our keywords were ‘European Online Privacy Laws,” “GDPR” and “French email opt-in requirements”. While related, each keyword can have different modifiers added to it to make the content of the page more relevant. For example, the keyword “GDPR” could be modified to read “GDPR Definition”, “Understanding GDPR”, “GDPR Timeline” or “GDPR’s Impact on Websites”. (GDPR refers to the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU. If you don’t know about it yet, you should find out more.
The modifiers are major signals to search engines of the intent of page content (its goal). Ideally, search engines will match the searcher’s intent as communicated in the query with your page’s content. This match between the search results and the searcher’s desires is what’s going to help your page accomplish its goal.
Step 4 – Draft a title and description for each page for the keywords you are considering
Take a few minutes and plug the different keywords that you are still considering into a rough title and description of the page’s content. Don’t worry about character length yet. You are working on getting the feel of the quality of the keyword you are using. Also, ask if it really reflects the content of the page and its ultimate communications/marketing goal? You can use the best matches later as a starting point when you are ready to polish them up and fit them into the required character lengths.
Step 5 – Select your top three to five keywords and titles that best describe the page, its goal and the customer’s next step in the buying cycle
Take your rough titles and page descriptions and compare them to each other. Find the one that resonates the most for the content and goal of the page. Show them to your colleagues and get their first impressions as to relevance and tone. Select the ones that best fit your page.
In summary, as you do your initial research using the online tools, you will see many variations on a keyword that have the same potential traffic and competition. The five-step process above will help you select the best ones on a subjective basis to drive the right search traffic to your page, achieving your marketing goal.
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By John Thyfault, Vice President, Search Engine and Social Media Marketing, Beasley Direct and Online Marketing