Get found faster with your audience: Keyword research process for SEO

The importance of keywords cannot be denied in a world where one’s entire business is conducted online. Though Google keeps updating its search ranking algorithm frequently it still doesn’t diminish the role that keywords play in defining your SEO strategy.

What questions should I ask while coming up with an effective keyword research strategy, who all should be involved in this process, how often should one be revising these tactics to keep the momentum going. These are common concerns that must be factored in during the research process.

Eventually, the success of any keyword strategy lies in identifying the intent behind any search and then aligning one’s products and services with the keywords used to articulate those intents. Here are your seven steps to arrive at a keyword strategy that is both profitable and sustainable.

1. Define your seed keywords

Seed keywords are a set of words that are used to describe your core business and competency. These do not change over time and help in laying out the foundation of your keyword strategy. Essentially try answering what business problem(s) are you trying to address and what terms are used in the industry to describe solution providers like you.

For example, if you are a dentist, then your core business is to diagnose any problems related to teeth, mouth, gums and related areas. Based on this description, your seed keywords might be dentist, dentistry, oral care, dental treatment or gum problems.

Though one need not come up with an exhaustive list of keywords at this stage, it’s prudent to have a set of 4-5 seed keywords. Repeat this step for every vertical, category and sub-brand that your business supports. Note that we are not using any tools at this level- a simple paper and pen would do this job.

2. Involve all stakeholders

Your next step involves reaching out to all the key stakeholders of this product. Stakeholders can be product managers, CEOs, marketers, subject matter experts, suppliers, vendors, others- basically everyone who contributes to the success of your product. The idea is to get conversant with the industry parlance and make a note of the words that they use to describe their role and business.

Don’t forget the most important stakeholder- your customer, and see what keywords lead them to your website in the past. Add the keywords from these observations to your original list.

3. Learn from your Competition

Do make a note of the choice of keywords your top competitors are using to put their business on the map. There are lot of valuable lessons and keywords that one can learn from players in the same field, which in turn will help you up your SEO game.

For instance, type out different keywords, short or long and look at the ranking secured by some of your opponents. If those match the intent of your business then add those keywords to your grand list.

4. Take help from freely available tools

It’s time to collate all the keywords that you have collected so far and expand upon those. One can manually expand by finding synonyms, associations, and abbreviations linked to these keywords. Let’s take a look at some of the common tools that are available for one to come up with a most comprehensive list and weigh its importance from a business standpoint.

Google Trends

Google Trends is a keyword research tool that portrays the relative interest levels shown in a keyword or phrase over a period of time by Google users. It also provides comparative data between keywords to see how they fared in different regions all at the same time. It’s a great tool that allows brands to evaluate the popularity of a search term and which ones are trending better.

Take a look at the results that google trend provides for five keywords- dentist, dentists, oral hygiene, dental and dentistry on how they performed in the last 12 months across Canada. It is clear that the keywords Oral hygiene and Dentists aren’t faring well when compared to other keywords. Also, the relative dip in the search results between Christmas and New Year times are not good periods to use any of these keywords. But there is also a surge in the search during the 2nd week of January which makes it a good time to market your dental efforts.

Google Trends

Google trend is a powerful tool for analyzing trends around keywords but doesn’t give out the actual search number hence it’s best to use it in tandem with Google Keyword Planner.

Google Keyword Planner

Google keyword planner is one of the most influential tools in the bag of an SEO expert. It provides historical performance data for certain keywords and also forecasts the number of clicks and impressions your keywords are capable of generating in a certain region for a certain time period in the near future. All you need is to set up your google keyword planner account.

This tool also provides data for ad group ideas and keyword ideas that are relevant to your search terms along with the intensity of the competition, average monthly searches and estimated bid price based on the ongoing prices in the region, if you plan to go the paid way. This tool can introduce you to a world of new keywords which were originally off your list.

google keyword planner
google keyword planner

Google AutoComplete

Type in your keyword and wait for google to auto complete your statement with common searches that happen every day around that keyword. These are good places to get insight about how users express their problems.

Google Auto Complete

Google Related Searches

After typing in your keyword, look for the related search results at the bottom of the page. This will help you gather further information around keywords and key phrases that are being used by your audience.

Google Related Searches

Related Searches on other Search Engines

Typing the same keyword dentist on Bing threw these related searches. If a significant proportion of your traffic comes from search engines like Bing, Yahoo, Baidu and others, it makes sense to collect these keywords too.

Related Searches on other Search Engines

5. Align keywords with the buyer life cycle

For any product, a buyer typically moves through three stages- Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase. The purchase cycle for each product varies based on its size, the complications, its financial implications and the number of decision makers involved.

Brands must take cognizance of this fact and intelligently allocate keywords for each stage so that they can educate and progress their customers through each phase accordingly. Plan on catering to each phase differently and come out with a wide range of keywords during your research process.

6. Go for a healthy mix of chunky middle and long-tail Keywords

When we talk of keywords there are basically three types of them->

  • Fat Head keywords: These are pretty broad in their scope, extremely competitive and usually ring in a lot of traffic. E.g. Dentist, football, salons.
  • Chunky Middle keywords: These keywords elaborate a bit more on your search intent and get more specific. They attract medium competition and have fewer searches compared to fat head keywords. E.g. Dental specialist in root canal, Canadian football League, Best Hair Salons
  • Long tail Keywords: These keywords attract the lowest of competition but bring a lot of relevant traffic to an audience that has specific intent. A set of long-tail keywords can collectively bring in the more targeted audience to your site. E.g. Top dentists in Ottawa, CFL TV schedule 2017, Top 10 hairstyles for boys.

Search Demand Curve

The search demand curve explains this concept very well. Try to arrive at a sweet spot of keywords, where the competition isn’t too high and the search volume isn’t too low.

7. Execute, monitor and optimize

With all the keywords in one central place, now segregate them into primary, secondary and tertiary buckets based on their relevance, traffic & business importance. In the advanced stages of keyword research, one can go for paid keyword planning tools such as SEMrush, Moz’s Keyword explorer, KWfinder or one can come up with their own formula to weigh in the importance of each & every keyword. It can look something like this

Keyword Value= Relevance X Monthly searches X Business importance X CTR

This is the formula at its simplest. One is free to add more parameters that affect their business.

Once this score has been established, include these keywords in your on-page SEO efforts and monitor your clicks, impressions, conversion rates and other metrics for all these keywords. Based on your results, eliminate non-performing keywords and include new ones from secondary or tertiary buckets and repeat the process.

In summary, keyword research is a constant process that shifts with the wants of your audience, seasonal demands, competition and other subtle changes. One can reap tremendous benefits out of their keyword efforts when words are skillfully selected, carefully sprinkled across content and intelligently presented to the end user.

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