Everything they never taught you about Keyword Research
When you are searching for something specific online, you type a word or phrase into your search engine (SE), and send off a query for the information you are seeking. What you are typing in the SE query box is a keyword or key-phrase containing several keywords.
The SE uses a series of algorithms to locate and display links to web pages matching the keywords/phrases you typed. If you are a webmaster and want your web pages to be amongst those displayed in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), then you need to use appropriate keywords in your content to attract SEs to pick your page.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about keyword research, and how to select the most appropriate keywords for your site.
THE NEED FOR KEYWORDS
Keywords are used for several purposes. Here are a few key reasons why we need keywords:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO is one of the main reasons for which we use keywords. When your web page content, as well as the Meta data associated with it, is optimized for specific keywords, SEs will be drawn to them and your pages will be featured in related SE query results.
- Content enrichment: Keywords help to enrich site content, adding relevance to the subject matter. For e.g., if your site is about sports car hubcaps, it is hard to make your content relevant to a reader without using the words “hubcap”, “hub cap” or “wheel cap”.
- Contextual leveraging: Contextual advertisement campaigns are a great way to promote your business and your brand. Keywords are key to a successful ad campaign.
- Site promo: Whether you employ an internal or external site optimization strategy, keywords are a key part of acquiring links with either anchor-text related keywords or links with anchors.
So, if you want your site to benefit from any of these tactics, then you need to be aware of the keywords to target and how to leverage them.
TYPES OF KEYWORDS
Keywords aren’t just a random set of words; they come in specific types. To use them effectively, you need to know what types of keywords will be most impactful for your purpose:
- PURPOSE-BASED KEYWORDS: These include Informational (used for generic info searches), Navigational (used for searching specific content), and Transactional (primarily for commercial use) keywords.
- FREQUENCY OF USE: These include Low-frequency (LF) – (usually used less than 1,000 times a month); Mid-Frequency (MF) – (used anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 times each month); High-frequency (HF) – (which are used over 5,000 times per month) keywords.
- REGION-BASED: Which could either be Geo-oriented (targeting a user’s specific region); or Geo-independent (which is independent of any specific geography or location) keywords.
- TYPE-BASED: Which include
– Exact Entries – which are used verbatim (without changes) by the query;
– Direct Entry – which may include punctuations to bifurcate the words or phrase;
– Diluted – which use other words/phrases to dilute a keyword;
– Morphological – which change the context of a given keyword based on its morphology or context;
– Synonymous – which replace words within the keyword/phrase with other synonyms, acronyms, abbreviations or common lexicon;
– Misspelt – which use keywords with typos or misprints to account for uneducated users or for common typo errors
- FACT/FICTION: Which include Real keywords – representing actual context;
or Fabricated keywords – which are artificially created or ones that relate to fictionalized context
- AMBIGUITY: Which include Unambiguous keywords that clearly spell out their purpose; or Ambiguous ones that may be left to broader interpretation
IMPORTANCE OF HIGH-QUALITY KEYWORD RESEARCH
If you want to implement a targeted keyword strategy to promote specific pages on your site, or to optimize certain content for specific visitors, then high-quality keyword research and analysis is absolutely important.
Here’s how to go about analyzing specific keywords:
- Assess keyword relevance: Determine whether the keyword has relevance to the target audience that you intend to attract to your site
- Competitor analysis: Assess the keywords in the context of your competition. Analyse them for contextual advertising as well as organic searches
- Conduct trials: If your site isn’t featured in the top 10 on SERPs, then try putting a paid advertisement (using Google AdWords) using those keywords. Use Google tools to track conversion to see how effective the keyword choices are
- Do the math: Work out whether PPC conversion is really economical for you. If your ad is featured 500 times, and you make only 5 sales worth $100 from 50 visitors per month, then the average sale revenue is $2 per visitor. Is your PPC promo strategy really working?
If possible, it is advisable to do the math before you launch a full-blown PPC strategy. Why? Because in many cases low-conversion keywords might not justify the cost of the promotion. You may therefore have to search for other alternate keywords to ensure you receive appropriate Return On Investment (ROI) from your SEO strategy.
KEYWORDS THAT DRIVE TRAFFIC
Your keyword search strategy must be based on concrete research. Once you have done appropriate research, it is possible to start off by using LF keywords and key phrases to drive traffic to your site from users who may visit the site just a few times each month. By targeting your keywords to induce specific action, you can generate some sales even without using AdWords.
Keyword promo can be a difficult endeavour, especially if you haven’t conducted any prior analysis of at least the top ten ranked sites for the following criterion:
- Their relevance to the pages that are being searched
- The appropriateness of the goods and services they offer
- The usability of the sites
- The convenience for placing orders at the site
- The rate of site response
Once you conduct your assessment of these 5 points, you’ll be able to understand the relevance of specific keywords that they use, and leverage that information to your advantage.
A word of caution though: Don’t try to go head-to-head in a keyword war with large companies or big Fortune 500 corporations. You will lose! Instead, as a small business owner you should target your keywords based on a niche that you dominate. That strategy will ultimately net you the most amount of traffic for your site.
Now, we will dive deeper into how research is important for SEO purposes. We’ll talk about some keyword research tools, and also highlight some common keyword research blunders that many keyword researchers commit, and how to avoid them.
TOOLS THE TRADE
There are a number of tools available (some paid, some FREE!) that can help webmasters and content developers research their keywords. Here are just a few of them:
1) Google AdWords Keyword Planner: If there’s one tool that any keyword researcher should have in his/her toolbox, it’s this one!
This is the “granddaddy” of keyword researching, and it provides you not only the tools to build new campaigns, but you can also expand existing ones. Highlights include:
- Keyword Planner is FREE!
- Helps Keyword searches
- Produces statistical data on how the keywordperformed historically
- Assists in creating new keyword lists by combining/merging several lists together
- Helps in planning campaigns and budgeting for them
This is a great tool for both new bees as well as veteran keyword researchers.
2) Keyword Tool: Another great tool that is highly effective in keyword research that generates keywords based on a specific language and Google domain of your choosing:
- Keyword Tool is FREE!
- It is based on Google Autocomplete, which is a highly predictive concept for targeting keywords
- It generates great long tailed keywords
- It has a proven 99.99% reliability factor
- It can produce upwards of 750 recommendations for each keyword you wish to target
This isn’t changing the keyword research space a whole lot. But what it does is leverage Google’s technology to assimilate and present keyword suggestions in a more user-friendly way.
3) Yoast: Perhaps you’ve never heard of this one, but it too is a neat little tool that keyword researchers can use very effectively:
- Yoast is FREE!
- It bases its results on Google Suggest
- It helps researchers expand the Google suggestions
- It delivers a long list of long tailed keywords
- The output can quickly be sent to a CSV file!
If you are comfortable with Google, then you’ll be pleased with Yoast’s ability to expand on those features!
4) Keyword Eye: If you feel FREE tools limit your ability to do the type of keyword research you want to do, then this tool may be what you are looking for:
- It offers a choice of plans, starting from $17/month to $157/yea
- It leverages “suggestion” features from Google, Amazon and YouTube
- It has built-in tools to allow you to spy on your competitor’s keyword patterns
- Generates LSI keyword lists
- Has a great Link Analysis tool
- Offers Keyword CPC data
Best of all, if you are new to keyword research, it offers a FREE version that you can use before upgrading to a paid version.
DOING IT RIGHT
Regardless of what tools you use, they will all provide certain basic functionality that researchers can use to effectively conduct their research. Here are a few tips/tricks that you should use when conducting your research:
- Most tools will offer “Autofill” options – use them liberall
- Some tools tap into “Google Suggest” – if that’s an option, then use it
- When using “Autofill” or “Suggest”, delete keywords unrelated to your particular environment
- Where a tool has the ability to analyse competitor keywords (like Keyword Eye), do some research on the keywords you want and take advantage of the analysis options
- Clean up your own act! Check your inbound links to ensure they are reliable/credible; Ensure all your content is optimized for on-page effectiveness; Present genuine, unique and helpful content for visitors
Do not try to compete with competitors keywords that may be highly ranked.
If you do, then you may need to be prepared to pay a lot for that battle. Instead, filter out all such competitor keywords, and then focus on the remaining ones – usually those will be high-effectiveness free keywords.
TRAPS TO AVOID
If you are new to keyword researching, then you may become overzealous and aim for a goal that is not immediately achievable. To ensure your keyword research efforts deliver the results that you expect, consider the following:
- Be realistic: Instead of targeting keywords that show high amounts of traffic, consider using those that have moderate to mid-level activity, but which have the potential to grow with time.
- Be focused: Don’t target a whole bunch of keywords in a single campaign. Take a focused approach and target keywords in batches – for instance: Phase 1 are the most promising keywords. Phase 2 may be the next level, and so on.
- Look at the broader picture: Instead of going for exact matches, use broadly matching keywords for best results. With a broad match you are likely to cast a much wider net of search results, thereby bettering your chances of catching traffic that you would otherwise miss.
- Grammar matters: Using the plural of the keywords you choose matters! Where more than one product is being offered, optimizing content with the plural version of the keyword can help boost your sales.
- Relevance matters: Not all keyword research tools are accurate. Some tools are known to generate keyword suggestions that are nonsensical! Use your commonsense to get rid of such keyword recommendations immediately, or yourresearch results might be compromised
The net result from avoiding these traps is that you will be able to identify a focused set of keywords that are unique to your particular niche. And if you use the other tools and recommendations provided of this series of articles, your keyword research efforts will be rewarded with increased traffic, better conversion rates and higher revenue!