Before any marketing campaign can get off the ground, there is some essential information that needs to be looked at. This includes target audience information, recent statistics and reports, and most importantly, keyword research – that is; what words or phrases is my target audience using to find my services/products/content?
Unfortunately, many site owners fail to understand the importance of conducting the research and, in turn, they fail to reach their full organic traffic potential. In reality, keyword research is possibly THE most important aspect of any online venture, especially where the outcome involves the intention of gaining significant natural search traffic.
Keyword research will generally uncover information that can be used to:
– help customers find you online
– better define your business to users
– create targeted anchor text
– create more descriptive page titles and Meta descriptions
– create compelling titles for blog posts
– find targeted topics to write about
– create/word your website navigation or internal linking structure
– create online marketing/promotional materials
If you’re selling anything online, be it a product, content or whatever, chances are there are more than just a few phrases your potential customers will use to try and find you. And since the search engines aren’t exactly openly sharing that info (with site owners at least), conducting keyword research is the only way to investigate what those phrases might be.
The Keyword is only as Good As the Data is Reliable
As with any project, ensuring you’re using the right tools for the job will make your mission easier. There are both free and paid tools available – some being more reliable than the others. Be wary of tools with “to good to be true” numbers. Wordtracker.com, KeywordDiscovery.com and the Google Adwords Keyword tool are all safe bets. Try using a combination of them all to get an average of search frequency for terms across the board.
Don’t confine yourself to using strictly keyword research tools though. Use “word” tools such as the dictionary, thesaurus or synonyms.com. Use “idea” tools such as kwmap.net and seedkeywords.com. There are also tools such as Google Insights and Google Sets. Even holding a small focus group among your friends and family to generate new ideas and different thought patterns can be helpful.
Remember to utilize tools you already have though. For example, if you have an existing website, it also helps to keep a record of what gets typed into your in-site search feature. Knowing the #1 term people search for once they get to your site is extremely valuable information for giving your users exactly what they’re looking for.
Deciding Which Terms to Target
After you’ve done the research and before you decide to target a certain keyword or phrase, carefully consider each of the following.
Relevancy – is the term relevant to my products/services/content?
Driving the wrong type of traffic to your site will do little more than cause your bounce rate to skyrocket. You’ll want to make sure that the keywords you’re targeting will actually provide traffic that is of value to you and more importantly, that you’re able to provide value to the people searching for them.
Search Frequency – is there enough search traffic to warrant targeting the term?
Once you’ve decided that the keyword is relevant, you’ll need to decide if it’s worth targeting based on how much traffic you can expect to receive. Try not to get too hung up on the amount of potential traffic though. In other words, don’t just pick the 5 top searched for terms and strictly target those. Instead, aim for a good mix of all search traffic big and small. Since it takes more time to rank for the competitive (i.e. highly search for) terms, plan to target those for the long-term while focusing on the less competitive ones for the short-term.
Competition – is the competition realistic? How hard will it be to rank for the term?
Generally speaking, the higher the search frequency the more competitive the term will be and the harder it will be to rank for. Typically if a search already returns more than one million results, you’ve clearly got your work cut out for you. Don’t necessarily shy away from the terms that have high competition though because now that you’ve identified those high traffic terms, you can use the opportunity to examine the sites that DO rank for them while you formulate a game plan.
Factors to Consider
Although, some keyword research campaigns will be more straightforward than others, there are some factors you should be aware of and carefully consider when doing your research. For example, remember to also examine plural vs. singular and slang forms of your chosen terms. Also look for word variations. A website that sells or promotes “running shoes” may not realize that “sneakers” also has a high search frequency. Or a site that sells taillights may be missing out on major traffic because they failed to also target “tail lights” (variation) or “tail light” (singular).
It’s also important to remove any bias you have and keep a very open mind by not getting stuck or hung up on one particular word or phrase. After all, the purpose of conducting the research in the first place isn’t to validate what you think you already know, it’s to uncover new avenues that you may have never even thought of.