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What is Keyword Research and How Do You Begin?

What is keyword research? It’s the process of discovering words and phrases that cause your website to pop up when you enter those words and phrases into search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Keyword research will inform which words you need to optimize on in order to improve your search rank using search engine optimization (SEO).

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How does it help your business?

Keyword research will help your business discover what people are searching for, how many people are searching for it, how difficult (or easy) it might be to rank for that search term, and other insightful data that will help shape the content you create. These keywords will show you which topics people care about and by creating content relevant to those topics and incorporating words they searched for, you can establish yourself as a subject matter expert and get more eyes on your links in the search results page (SERP).

How can you build a keyword research strategy?

Building a keyword strategy can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start - that’s why it’s important to stay focused on the basics. I’ve compiled a list of seven steps that will help you build out your keyword strategy.

1. Define your ultimate goals

Before you begin any type of strategy, you’ll need to define your goals. Are you looking to raise awareness for your brand, increase site visitors, optimize conversion to sales, or something else? By identifying goals, you can better develop an accurate list of keywords to optimize for achieving those goals. Brian Aylward, account lead, says the ultimate goal of keyword research is to better understand your audience and to learn what matters most to them. But other goals can lead to different outcomes. Let’s say your goal is to increase the duration of time each visitor spends on your website - internal linking and bold CTA buttons leveraging those keywords may be a tactic to achieve that goal. Or, if you want to improve Google Snippet ranking, concentrating on specific keywords can increase clicks and drive conversions . For every goal you define, effectively leveraging keywords can support higher engagement.

2. Get familiar with SEO keyword types

When building a keyword strategy, you want to devise a list of keywords with variation between head terms, body keywords, and long tail keywords. Let’s break it down.

What are head terms?

Head terms are single keywords with a high search volume. While aiming for keywords with a high search volume is typically great, this may not be the best strategy for a small business since these keywords will have lots of competition and high-bidding pricing. Examples of head terms are “Marketing”, “Advertising”, and “Agency” . I chose the word “marketing” since we are a marketing advertising agency. But marketing can mean a variety of things, therefore it’s important to narrow it down to the terms that make the most sense for your business. This leads us to our next type of keyword.

What are body terms?

Body keywords are slightly more specific with 2 -3 phrases. These keywords have a decent amount of search volume but you’ll notice they are more affordable compared to a head term. Examples we would use for a body term would be “Content Marketing”, “Social Media Marketing”, and “Digital Marketing Agency”. As you can see, these keywords are more specific than “Marketing” and are a bit more targeted to what services we offer at the agency.

What are long tail terms?

Long tail keywords, which are growing to make up a majority of online searches, are specific phrases often asked in a questions format like “What is content marketing?”, “Do I need a social media manager?”, and “How do I know I need a digital marketing agency”. Even though these longer phrases don’t have much search volume, they have less competition which can serve as an advantage for a small business starting out with SEO.

3. Decide what you want to be known for

This shouldn’t be a solo effort, find a team member to brainstorm with. In this situation, you’ll want to get insight from multiple people since each of you are likely to have a different perspective on what your company wants to be known for. That’s why it’s a good idea to hammer it out together. When you brainstorm, make sure to keep track of all of the keywords you’d like to rank for. If you need some inspiration, check out what competitors are ranking for, this can give you a good indicator of what your strategy will look like since your competitors have most likely done their research. Also, check out free sites like AnswerThePublic or Google Trends to discover what Google users are already asking, that way you can build your keyword strategy around what consumers are searching for.

4. Get organized

Now that you have a list of keywords you'd like to rank for, it’s time to get it organized. Transfer your notes to a spreadsheet. Not only will this keep all your keywords in one place, but this will be where the results of your research go.

5. Determine the value of keywords

This is the critical step where you discover if these keywords you’ve chosen are realistic to rank for; you’ll analyze your likelihood of success by capturing data. You can find this information by subscribing to a keyword research tool which can help you gather important data on target keywords such as relevance, search ranking, search volume, CPC, and competitiveness. Such tools can also suggest new relevant keywords and longtail you may have not yet considered. Although the free options such as Google’s Keyword Planner and Wordtracker do not offer as many capabilities, both are a great starting point. As you become more experienced in keyword planning, you’ll want to use a system that offers a wide range of capabilities. We use SEMrush to help us gather keyword data for our customers, but other paid options like Ahref and SEOMoz have similar capabilities.

6. Make decisions about which keywords to target

After analyzing the data around your list of keywords, you’ll want to find a sweet spot where the opportunity of ranking for a keyword balances out with the effort required to rank. If you’re a small business, the amount of time and effort it would take to rank for a high search volume is not worth it. With a competitive CPC price, you’d quickly blow your budget without ranking close enough to make any real impact. You have a better chance ranking for a less competitive CPC price with a decent search volume. That way you don’t blow your budget and you’re still able to rank on top.

7. Consider engaging an SEO expert for help executing on your plan

If you’ve made it this far and you’re still overwhelmed, that’s completely understandable. Although you’d like to do everything yourself, there’s nothing wrong with calling in a professional for backup. SEO experts are equipped with years of experience under their belt. Hiring a professional to run your campaign will eliminate the chance of error and ensure your campaign achieves the best results.

If you need help getting started, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d be happy to help you get started.


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