5 Steps to Successful Keyword Research
Have you ever searched for a needle in a haystack? You can imagine that it wouldn’t be very helpful if a person just said, “There's the haystack, and there's a needle in there.” A tip to try searching the bottom right corner would have been much more useful. And most helpful of all would be advice like, “Look beside the third straw from the left end.”
Keyword optimization is quite similar: The more precisely your own keywords are matched to a user's search terms, the easier it becomes for them to find your content. Because of this, you must know what your target audience is searching for, which makes keyword research a basic requirement.
Have you ever searched for a needle in a haystack? You can imagine that it wouldn’t be very helpful if a person just said, “There’s the haystack, and there’s a needle in there.” A tip to try searching the bottom right corner would have been much more useful. And most helpful of all would be advice like, “Look beside the third straw from the left end.”
Keyword optimization is quite similar: The more precisely your own keywords are matched to a user’s search terms, the easier it becomes for them to find your content. Because of this, you must know what your target audience is searching for, which makes keyword research a basic requirement.
Keyword Research: How Do I get started?
Keyword research involves a combination of hard work, technology and mental gymnastics. It’s important to think about what your site actually aims to achieve, what you offer and what user action you seek to trigger.
First, identify the likely needs that might lead a user to your site. Then, based on that information, consider what search terms the user might enter.
An online shop owner needs new product descriptions.
Search box entry:
First: “buy product descriptions.”
More specifically: “Where can I get product descriptions written?”
And most specific: “Writing service for product descriptions,” “product descriptions writer,” “outsourcing product descriptions,” etc.
Using this method, create a list of your products/services and the reasons why someone may need them. This list will make a good starting point for finding your keywords.
2. Tools for Keyword Research
Now that you have made your initial selection, utilize some technical assistance to check and expand your basic list. A number of (free) tools are available online that not only provide additional keyword suggestions but also offer new approaches to choosing keywords. Here are a few:
Keyword Planner in Google AdWords is one of the most important tools for keyword research. Although it’s actually intended for AdWords campaigns, it does a very good job searching for organic keywords. To use AdWords, you must have a Google AdWords account – you can then find useful instructions in the Tools menu. Keyword Planner has several ways to learn information about the requested keywords or to find new ones.
Google Keyword Planner can retrieve keyword search volumes and traffic forecasts, and you can also combine different lists of keywords together to generate further keywords.
Google Suggest is the Google autocomplete function – in other words, the proposals Google makes when you enter a search term. This tool is a great way to expand your first keyword ideas because it shows which terms related to the entered keyword are most frequently googled.
Google also displays a list of similar search requests at the bottom of the page. These give a quick overview of Google’s own “keyword suggestions.”
With Google Trends, you can determine how often certain keywords were searched over time and from which locations. From this information, you can get a sense of whether or not a topic might benefit from more in-depth keyword research and possibly if you should target a particular location.
It might be worthwhile producing new content for the keyword “Content Marketing.”
The keyword “Super Bowl 2014” currently has very few search requests.
The Webmaster Tools is a data set collected by Google that allows you to check your website’s performance. They should be part of every webmaster’s repertoire because this is where Google, to some extent, lays all its cards on the table. Among other things, users can find comprehensive information and data about backlinks, page impressions and site problems.
The Google Searches tab lists a summary of the keywords users found on your website. Though Google only lists keywords for the previous 30 days, it’s still helpful for your keyword research. You may also discover terms you didn’t realize were being used for ranking.
More Keyword Generators: Übersuggest, Keywordtool and SEM Tool
Übersuggest and Keywordtool list keyword additions in alphabetical order, and both programs offer the ability to select all keywords at once for easy copying and processing.
The SEM tool analyzes how the terms are most frequently searched in different search engines like Google, Bing, Amazon and YouTube. In the free version, users just get results from the “Search Suggestions” of each search engine (i.e. the proposals that are provided as you type into the search box).
From similar terms and synonyms, Google can recognize which terms are closely related to the topic of a website. So those who fill their websites with terms related to the keyword’s topic have a better chance of a higher ranking than sites solely optimized for a single term. Here are three valuable synonym resources: Synonym, Thesaurus and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. You can use these synonyms in content on separate pages or use them to support your “main keyword” and use them in the content on the same page. This will enable you to show Google your thematic content even more clearly.
3. View Competition
There are a few (free) methods of viewing your competitor’s keywords. The simplest is to look them up on your rival’s website. Visit your largest competitor’s most important pages in HTML code view (the easiest way is to press Ctrl + U). Check all technically prominent SEO landmarks, such as the title, the meta description and the subheadings, to see which terms they contain. Also, meta keywords, if any, give a clear indication of how these terms might be expanded.
Google also offers another way to get an overview of a competitor’s keywords using the Keyword Planner. Simply enter your rival’s URL in the request field and find the information that you need.
4. Verify the Data Traffic
If you have created your list of keywords, you should not immediately rush into producing and optimizing content. Check the data first!
Enter your keywords in the Keyword Planner to find out how often these terms are searched for.
The results give an approximation of the amount of monthly searches and also indicate how competitive a keyword may be. The more users searching for a keyword, the more likely it is that optimization is worthwhile – but more search queries usually also mean there is greater competition for that keyword.
5. Choosing Keywords
When asked about the right keywords, the answer is often this: It depends! The two important factors in keyword selection are the number of monthly searches and whether it’s for short-head or long-tail keywords.
You should not necessarily compete for keywords with the highest number of monthly searches. These are generally terms that are most competitive, and it would be more worthwhile to go for keywords with less searches where the competition is medium to low. So determine if it’s worthwhile entering an optimization contest with rivals over a certain keyword.
There is much more competition for short-head search requests: They bring more traffic, but the rivalry for long-tail search requests is significantly less. These are more specific searches that generally involve multiple keywords. For example: high-quality SEO content writer. Although these detailed searches provide less traffic, the visitors brought by these long-tail keywords are much more valuable: They convert far more frequently, and being real customers, they are better prospects.
Try to maintain a good keyword mix, and to ensure an optimal reach of your users and customers, you should cover both short-head and long-tail searches.
You have generated keywords relevant to your users and their needs. You have used tools to refine your keywords, checked your competitors, verified data traffic flows and selected the best keyword search terms. Now you can begin to produce relevant content. Create content with added value, the right amount of keywords as well as a clear target audience in order to help users – and search engines – find that needle in a haystack.
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