Finding the right keywords can make all the difference to whether your website is found by search engines and potential customers.
But how do you know what keywords to use?
We’ve put together a beginner’s guide to keyword research – this should give you a good starting point for creating customer-focused content that search engines love too.
Keyword research step 1: Understand your customers
As with any copy, the content of your website should be driven by an understanding of who your customers are and meeting their needs. How can you help them? How can you solve a problem or make their life better in some way? Your website needs to show this by focusing on the benefits of your products or services, rather than the features of your business.
Google wants to know that when it delivers search engine results pages (SERPs), it’s giving the searcher the most relevant, informative and high-quality results possible.
Brainstorm the words that you think your customers will use to find your products or services, jotting down anything that feels relevant. Try to look at every page of your website with a single search intent. What would a customer search for to find that page?
Have a look at your social media pages. What questions do your customers ask? Are there specific words they use to describe what you sell that are different to how businesses in your industry talk? At this stage, no idea is too ‘out there’ – just make a note of them all.
Keyword research step 2: Understand your website
As well as understanding your customers, it’s important that you look at your website from a strategic point of view and ask the following questions:
- What is the purpose of your website, e.g. do you want to generate sales in your online store or get people to book an appointment to see you?
- What are the benefits of your products and services?
- How can you demonstrate your experience and authority?
- Are there clear calls to action?
- Does the information on the page keep the customer in mind? If they were searching for the answer to a specific query, would the page help them?
Make a note of words that crop up time and again on your website. When you write with the customer is mind, it’s normal for your keywords and phrases to crop up naturally.
Remember, you may need to hypothesise about which keywords people might use at this initial stage, especially if yours is a start-up business with no website traffic data to draw on. SEO is an ongoing process, not something you do once and forget, so it’s highly likely you’ll need to test your ideas, monitor the resulting data and adapt according to your findings.
Keyword research step 3: Think about a single focus search
Take one page of your website at a time to think in more depth about the focus keyword or long-tail phrase for that page.
- What is the page about?
- What would be the single focus of the most common search?
- If someone entered a specific word or long-tail phrase in Google, would they be happy with the result?
- Would your web page give them exactly what they were looking for?
Next, type the focus keyword or phrase into Google for yourself. What results do you get? Have the SERPs brought up products, services and companies similar to your own or are the results irrelevant to your offering? If the results don’t feel relevant, you may be off target with your current choice of keyword or phrase.
It’s also worth noting whether there are lots of adverts on page one of the search results, as this can suggest that you’ve landed on a popular and competitive keyword.
Quick tip: To make sure that you see a SERP that isn’t influenced by your previous search history, you could try running your search using Google Chrome’s Incognito tool. Incognito doesn’t save cookies or your browsing history, so you should be able to run a search without Google knowing anything about your search history, favourite websites or location.
Keyword research step 4: Review your competitors
Although we’d always caution against getting too bogged down by what your competitors are doing, it can be helpful to conduct some competitors’ keyword research to understand what keywords they’ve chosen to target for products and services similar to your own.
You can easily conduct some keyword research using a free tool like Browseo. Simply pop a competitor’s web address in the Browseo search bar to see their website as the search engines see it. This will give you information about the meta data, heading tags, alt tags, internal and external links, and more.
You can also view this information by right-clicking on any web page and selecting the ‘View page source’ option or by inspecting the individual on-page elements.
Keyword research step 5: Use your existing data
If you already have a website and have installed Google Analytics and set up Google Webmaster Tools, then you have a goldmine of information at your disposal.
Google Analytics doesn’t give as much keyword data as it used to, although you can still look at data for some of the organic searches that have led to your site. We much prefer Google Webmaster Tools. Simply click on Search Traffic>Search Queries for a comprehensive insight into how many times your website has shown up in SERPs for specific keywords, how many people have clicked through to your site, the clickthrough rate, your average ranking position and whether this has gone up or down over the past 30 days.
From this information, you should get some hard data to support which keywords would perform well if you used them more often on your website and which would perform poorly. The clickthrough rate is important because it shows the percentage of people who see your site in SERPs and actually click on the link to find out more. You can have low traffic for a page but a high clickthrough, meaning that nearly every impression converts to a visitor. The chances are that this represents highly relevant, targeted traffic.
Keyword research step 6: Use the Google Keyword Planner
From the above steps, you should have a strong list of potential words and phrases that customers will be using to find your website.
The Google Keyword Planner is a fantastic free tool that will give you some insight into the typical search volumes and competition from other businesses that each word or phrase attracts.
One word of caution is that the data provided by the Google Keyword Planner relates to paid Google ads rather than definitive data about organic searches but it’s a good barometer to how a keyword will perform.
In our next keyword-focused blog we’ll be looking at the Google Keyword Planner in more detail. The important thing to remember is that you’re looking for keywords or long-tail phrases that have medium to high volumes of monthly traffic but low competition as it will be easily to secure a higher ranking for these keywords. You can also look at how keywords have performed over the past 12 months – are they trending upwards or is their popularity on the downturn?
Follow these action points and you should have a really solid foundation on which to build your ongoing SEO efforts. I’d love to know what you think so, please leave your comments and questions below. And if you’ve found this blog useful, please share on your social circles – thank you.
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Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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