One thing has remained fairly constant amidst the race to keep up with the ever-changing Google algorithm updates: keyword research.
When it comes to SEO strategies, it seems like Google gets a kick out of keeping us inbound marketers on our toes. Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about the infinite world of digital marketing and website optimization, the search engine comes out with yet another algorithm update.
But wait… there is one eternal aspect of SEO that will never lose its gravity. You guessed it, the fundamental need to do keyword research.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research should be the basis of any online marketing campaign, according to Neil Patel, the co-founder of NP Digital.
To put it simply, keyword research is the process of discovering what your target audience is looking for when using search engines, with the ultimate goal of creating optimized content around those keywords and keyphrases. You’ll need to determine a strategic approach that, when applied, will allow your optimized content to rank for those keywords. With the right methods, your website will be able to crawl its way up towards the first page of Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
The result of your SEO efforts? By landing your site on the top of the Google SERP, you’re guaranteed to get clicks – a lot of clicks. And, you know what all these clicks deliver? Increased conversions, generating more leads, and of course… more revenue for your business.
It’s obvious that strategy-focused SEO methods provide profit-driven results. But what may not be as obvious, is the fact that keyword research plays a major part in whether your SEO content strategy works, or epically fails. So yeah, keyword research is kind of a big deal.
Why is Keyword Research Important for SEO?
The keyword research you perform will directly impact literally every other SEO task that you perform. From finding content topics, to on-page SEO, outreach and promotion.
Hence why keyword research is, or at least should be, the first step of any SEO campaign.
Think of it this way: Keywords act as a compass for your SEO campaigns – by telling you where you should go, what words you should and could rank for, and the level of progress (or lack thereof) you’re making.
In addition to acting as a compass, keyword research serves up the thoughts, fears, questions and desires of your target audience to you on a silver platter. This gives you a huge advantage, as you can use this insight to leverage the results you’re after with your SEO plan. Essentially, keyword research gives you a glance into what potential customers are searching for, including the exact words and phrases they’re using when they search the web.
It’s like market research, for the 21st century.
What to Consider When Performing Keyword Research
There are several factors you’ll need to take into consideration prior to, during, and post-performing keyword research. We’ve listed some of the most important aspects to keep in mind:
Ask: What makes my company unique?
Prior to starting keyword research, you need to ask yourself (and your team, if applicable) what makes your company stand out from the competition? What is your “niche”? Your company should have a clear concept of what your mission statement is – what your company has to offer, because that’s what’s going to get you ranking. Make your mission a passionate one, so that you stand out. People need to connect with your company on some level.
Look at your business as a whole, and analyze these questions:
- What does your company have to offer?
- Is there power and passion behind your mission?
- Have you determined core values and reviewed your strengths?
- Do you stand out? What are the niche aspects of your business, what do you excel at?
You’re clear on what your company has to offer, now you need to analyze your audience. SEO is all about ensuring your customers, both loyal and potential, are able to find you, afterall. So, what words and phrases does your audience use to find your company while searching online?
Here’s an example: A flooring removal company called Sundance Tile Removal offers a variety of package options for their customers. The most popular package is titled “Bathroom Tile Removal”, so one may assume that the logical keyword phrase to optimize would be “bathroom tile removal. However, the phrase “tile removal for bathrooms” is searched WAY more often by the company’s primary audience. Therefore, Sundance Tile Removal should try to rank for “tile removal for bathrooms” instead of the name of their most popular package. That way, they’ll be able to reach a lot more potential customers searching online for these services.
What About Your Competition?
It’s impossible to devise a successful and strategic keyword research plan without taking your competition into consideration.
Unfortunately, it is all too common for websites to try for, and build an entire keyword optimization strategy around keywords and terms that are simply impossible for them to rank for. That said, do your research – including researching your competition.
Of course, you can go all out and build an entire analysis of your competitors, which can certainly be helpful! But to bring it back to the basics, you can simply do a google search using the search terms you’re planning to try and rank for. Keep in mind, your search results are tailored around what you’ve previously searched for, so if at all possible, use an “incognito” browser when searching for these terms and the results that populate. Once you’ve done so, consider how large or well-known the companies are which appear in the search results. Would your company fit among these companies? Analyzing your competition can be as simple as doing a few “incognito” browser searches of the keywords and terms you’re hoping to rank for.
Expanding Your Strategy
As a general rule, big sites are able to rank for some of the most general terms. Smaller sites with a very specific niche are able to do the same. However, the majority of companies will be somewhere in between these two types of sites. So, your best bet is to start with a large set of long tail keywords, which have a smaller amount of traffic, but are easily rankable. As you build up your keyword rankings, you will be able to expand your strategy and go for higher searched keywords and keyphrases. As time goes on, your SEO authority will strengthen, and you’ll be able to optimize your site for more general, frequently-searched keywords. If you approach this correctly and with patience and time, you should be able to rank for your top keyword goals!