So you’re getting smart and thinking about how to connect with more customers. Whether this is through PPC advertising campaigns or SEO efforts or even both (and that is smart) you should be doing your keyword research right at the very beginning before you do anything else.
Why is it so important? Well, you need to understand the language of your customers so you can connect with them either by triggering paid ads when they are online or writing content to match their search queries/answer their questions. Both of those can be very effective ways of driving qualified leads to your website.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is all about researching the language of your customers. Specifically the language they are using in their search queries. What are their questions? What are their worries? What are their concerns? What exact words are they using in search engines? As a business, you need to know the language of your customers otherwise you cannot connect with them.
People use language in very different ways. So for every service or product you offer there is likely to be a long list of words and phrases which customers will use. If this is your first time doing keyword research you will be amazed with the sheer variety of search queries you uncover. It’s likely that you will understand that the content you already have on your website is “thin” or “keyword-poor”. Most websites are unless the content is created by a number of people and the team is headed by an SEO savvy editor.
Your keyword list is simply a list of words, phrases and questions that a potential customer could type into Google. It sounds simple. But many, many people do not know how to form a complete keyword list. They might get some obvious keywords. But you, as a business, need all of them and you need to get them on your website and keep finding new ways to get them on your website every week.
How to Make a Keyword List
I always keep my main keyword lists as excel files. And I also have keyword lists stuck to my office wall so I can scribble things down if they pop into my head. I suggest you work in excel or another spreadsheet. If you are doing PPC advertising then this will be useful in the future as you can upload the file straight to your account.
Stage One – Google Keyword Planner
I like Google. They provide us all with very powerful tools, most of which are free. If you have an Adwords account you may already know about the Keyword Planner (this replaced the Keyword Tool in 2013). If you do not have an Adwords account you can get one for free. Just go to Google Adwords and either login with your Google account (if you have Gmail etc) or create a new one if you don’t.
Enter the required information. The Landing Page and Product Category are optional. Be sure that you are targeting the right geographical location. You don’t need to enter any other features but it will help get better results if you enter a landing page and category. Once you’ve done that hit Get Ideas.
You will be taken to a screen which shows Adgroups. We are not interested in these today. We just want the keywords. So go to the top of the table and click on the Keyword Ideas tab. This will be a list of hundreds of keywords related to your initial keyword.
Wow! I’m always interested to see search metrics. You can immediately see search volume per month (how many people are searching by that exact keyword/phrase). If you click on the top of that column it will sort the keywords by popularity. Any surprises there yet? How about scrolling down the list a little?
Don’t worry about the Competition and Suggested Bid columns. That’s useful later on if you are doing paid advertising. For now what we need is that list of valuable keywords. So after you’ve spent a few minutes goggling at them, navigate on up and hit the Download button. Your list of keywords will download in a nice CSV file which you can later open in Excel. Great stuff.
You’ll want to repeat this process for all your products and services and at the end you will have quite a few keyword lists. Some of them with literally hundreds of words in.
Google will give you a lot of relevant keywords. But not all of them will be relevant. So open each file up and go through the keywords, manually deleting all those words and phrases which aren’t relevant to your product or service.
Stage Two – The Human Element
Ask everyone in the office to write down what they would search for when looking for your products or services. If you don’t have an office ask everyone you know. Ask everyone who will listen. You might get some interesting results which Google don’t throw into the mix. Put all these words and phrases in a spreadsheet.
Stage Three – Variations – What variations could there be?
Think about local place names if you are offering a service locally. People often append a place name to the end of their search query. Google will likely show you some of the most popular place names but how about the smaller ones? Collectively these searches all add up. So list every town, village, county and city where you offer your service. And I mean every single one. Get on Google maps and get listing. It’s boring but it will pay off.
What are you going to do with this long list of places? Well, I often find that a good tactic is to include these in the footer of a website under the business details. Have a look at the footer of this page. I have a list of Berlin place names because that’s where we are based. I toggle them like this so that they are almost hidden but they are there for those who want to see them and (more importantly) for Google.
Date and Time Keywords
Think about time and date as a variation. People often append a search query with a year. “Best accountants 2014”, “holiday ideas 2014”, “2014 discount shoes” etc. A lot of people forget about these sorts of queries.
Also think about qualifiers people might append to a search. Words such as “best”, “reviews”, “popular” etc. Google may have given you these already but there may be some industry specific ones not on the list.
Stage Four – The Longtail
This is the really smart bit. Google will not give you these in the keyword lists. Some of your colleagues might get you started on the right path but you’ll need to have a think for yourself on this one.
Longtail search queries are very often questions containing your most important keywords. “What is the best seafood restaurant in London?”, “Where can I find a good builder”, “Who to go to for tax advice”, “Should I put my mother into a care home?”, “How much should it cost to get an extension built?”.
These are the worries and concerns of your customers. You should write them all in a big long list. You’ll be using them later on. How? By being really useful and actually answering them. It’s hardly mind blowing stuff when you think about it. But most businesses do not do that bit very well. If you do then Google will love your website and reward you with higher search rankings.
By now you should have a pretty good grasp of what language your customers are using. It’s probably taken you half a day depending on the size of your business. That’s a considerable amount of time. But it will pay off in time so long as you actually begin to use your research in an intelligent way.
Next week we’ll be looking a bit more in depth at what to do with all these keywords to in order to improve your website’s search presence.