Keywords are the starting point of SEO
Keywords are at the heart of search engine optimisation (SEO). Without keywords there is no SEO.
Every search starts with a user entering some keywords.
…if your keywords do not match their search term, your site will not rank in the results. It's as simple as that.
But it is not just about getting in the results – it is getting in the right results to attract the right customers that counts.
You need to get into the mindset of your customers…and use the words that they will use to search for your products and services.
Single keywords vs Long-tail keywords
Single keyword terms are highly competitive and not everyone can be at the top of the results. For example, a small company selling oak furniture is unlikely to be able to appear at the top of the first page for searches on ‘furniture' (due to too much competition).
However, you can use what are known as long-tail keywords to connect with customers searching for more specific terms. In our furniture example, there will be much less competition for search terms such as ‘oak coffee table' or ‘shaker style oak bookcase' than more general search terms.
There are less searches per day using each variation of 3-4 word terms than a single popular term. But taken together, these make up the majority of searches (between 70-90% of all searches).
Think about it – when did you last search just for ‘shoes'? Or did you search for ‘Nike Tennis Trainers' or ‘walking boots' or a more specific term? Now you just need to work out the long-tail searches your potential customers are doing…
Online keyword research tools
There are many free and commercial online keyword research tools:
The Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a brilliant, free tool that is aimed at helping you build new advertising campaigns.
You can also use this for your general keyword research activities to guide your content and copywriting efforts too.
We are assuming you have your own Google account (if not, check out our article on ‘Setting up your Google account‘).
Then go to the Google Adwords site:
You will need to create a free Google Adwords account by signing in or clicking on ‘Create an account' in the top right corner:
You will need to set up your company details and enter your billing information (including your credit card details) but your account will not be charged (unless you create an advertising campaign).
After you create your account, you will be given various options:
Click on ‘Go to your account' and you will be given a tour of the Google AdWords system.
To access the keyword planner, select Tools > Keyword Planner from the top menu:
On the Keyword Planner page, select one of the following options:
- Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category
- Get search volume data and trends
- Multiply keyword lists to get new keywords
You will also see a help link for ‘How to use Keyword Planner' on this page.
Google Trends is also well worth a look. If you enter a search term in the ‘Explore topics' box, you can see how this search term has been used over time (over the last 10-15 years), what interest there is in the search term in global markets and related search terms.
For example, in our search for ‘horse driving', this search term has decreased in popularity over the last 10 years:
Also, this term is much more popular in the UK than other markets such as the US, Australia and Canada:
Particularly useful for generating keyword ideas and keyword groups are the ‘related searches' results:
Now you have searched for your first keywords, make a note of the related searches that are of interest and repeat the exercise for the new search terms.
As the world's largest search provider, Google have many insights into keyword research that they provide free of charge. If you intend to take your keyword research to the next level and do not mind paying for services, there are many other tools other than Google!
A few of the more popular ones used by SEO and marketing specialists include:
- LongTail Pro
- Keyword Tool
- Keyword Snatcher
- Yoast Suggests..
Also, make sure you have a look at:
Google Analytics – your Google Analytics data will show you the most commonly used keyword searches that result in your site being found.
Site Search – if you have a search facility on your site, set up a log to track what terms people are searching for. Apart from showing you what the most popular terms are, you can also see what people are searching for that results in no results and produce more content to meet their needs.
Doing keyword research is not rocket science…you can outsource this activity to an SEO specialist but remember, you know your products and your customers best.
With a bit of time and effort, you can come up with a better list of keywords than someone who does not know your industry as well as you do…so why not have a go?
What other keyword research tips, techniques and tools have you found that have worked for you?
Leave a reply below and let us know!
Mark Woodroof is a qualified marketing coach who was awarded a BA(Hons) in Business and a Diploma in Marketing (from the Chartered Institute of Marketing) in the early 1990's and has spent the last 20 years working with private and public sector organisations.
During that time, Mark has worked with hundreds of business owners helping them to grow their businesses, launch new products and services, set up and manage their own marketing plans, websites and digital marketing strategies.
Today, he specialises in Digital Marketing, Social Media, WordPress Development and marketing automation systems such as ActiveCampaign & Infusionsoft.
Mark's areas of expertise include:
- Marketing Strategy & Planning
- Software Development Project Management (Microsoft.Net & Laravel)
- Customer Relationship Management Systems (Infusionsoft, Zoho & Insightly)
- Web Design & Development
- Digital Marketing Campaign Development
- Mailing List Services (eg AWeber, Mailchimp)
- Traffic Generation Strategies & Tactics
- Sales Funnels, Squeeze Pages & Online Conversion
- Customer Value Optimization
- BA(Hons) Business Studies (University of Portsmouth)
- Diploma in Marketing (Chartered Institute of Marketing)
- Level 5 in Coaching and Mentoring (Chartered Management Institute)
- DigitalMarketer Certifications:
- Certified Content Marketing Specialist
- Certified Customer Acquisition Specialist
- Certified Customer Value Optimization Specialists