Laying the Groundwork: The Keys to Keyword Research

Published Date: March 22, 2013 Author:

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Keyword research may not be the most exciting or sexiest part of an SEO strategy, but you also can’t build an effective SEO strategy without it. Detailed and in-depth keyword research is the foundation upon which the rest of your plan is built and while it may seem simple (and it is) there are still best practices you should follow to ensure you are making the most out of all those hours spent thinking up different ways people might ask about “getting more blog traffic”, or something like that.

Be As Comprehensive As Possible

We know, chasing down every keyword and phrase that is relevant to your product, service, and brand is going to be exhausting and tedious. But remember that the rest of your SEO strategy – interlinking, link-building, content creation, and meta title and description optimization – will rely on accurate and highly-targeted keyword research for its success. Google’s suggestions will gift you some of the easy variations on the words or phrases, but don’t solely rely on Google’s suggestions. Use other suggestion tools, ask others for help, and add “s” to the end of every singular noun in the phrase. It sounds dumb but any experienced keyword researcher will tell you of times they unearthed a few gems almost by accident and it is because they understood that there really is no limit to the depths of your keyword research.

Put Yourself In the Mind Of The User

It seems obvious but it is always good to remind yourself that you aren’t trying to target yourself, you are trying to target “the average search engine user”. Of course there is no stereotype for the average search engine user, but if you are constantly asking yourself “Okay, if I was the user and potential customer, what would terms would I search?” you will almost always find that your list of potentially fruitful terms is longer. Weird tricks like purposefully rearranging letters or leaving out a word can occasionally help you find hidden opportunity. And thinking about what someone less web-savvy than yourself might search can be a good way to find odd turns of phrase and terms you never would have thought of.

Use Every Tool You Can

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

While the Google Keyword Tool may be the most popular by a wide margin, it is not without its faults and tools like WordTracker, WordStream, Keyword Blaze, and Keyword Elite offer features that Google’s tool doesn’t. It sounds like a redundant use of your time and its possible the efforts will be fruitless, but consider it an extension of being comprehensive. The most accurate research in any field or space always comes from those with the most information, and using all the tools at your fingertips ensures that you will have all of the information available to you when you start selecting terms to target.

Don’t Forget Competitive Analysis

When it comes to keyword research, competitive analysis really takes on two distinct forms. The first type of competitive analysis is studying the efforts of your competitors in the space, and this should be done before you even start keyword research. Look at their website, see what terms they are going after, see what phrases they link to, find out what words they use in their H1 tags, and study what type of titles and descriptions they are using. This will not only help you build a base list of low-hanging fruit to use, but might also give you ideas on what words and phrases you hadn’t thought to branch off into. Then, make sure to include branded competitor keyword search volume in your research if only because it will give you more data in that marketing channel. Don’t get silly and try to target their branded keywords, but it’s always nice to know where you stand.

Make Sure To Manually Check The Search Results

In reality, checking to see who ranks for the key terms you are targeting is more important competitive analysis than studying your business competitors. These are your real competitors, at least when it comes to optimizing your website for certain terms, and while some tools give you a rough estimate of the competition for terms, nothing beats spending a little time looking for yourself. This will help improve the effectiveness of your SEO tactics and will also refine your list of words to target. For example, you are unlikely to ever outrank .gov or .edu domains, so it is not necessarily a good use of your time to target key terms dominated by those types of sites, even if the search volume looks almost too juicy to pass up.

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