Just about every week someone asks me a question about basic keyword research. With the advent of Hummingbird and semantic search, people were too quick to announce the death of keywords. But their significance has changed. And of course, Google is encrypting more search data than ever before making it harder to find out what your customers are searching for. The best way of thinking about keywords now is as building blocks. Semantic search has put the focus squarely on visitor intent. Context is everything. So keywords in isolation don’t mean very much. But keyword research has to start somewhere.
Think like Your Customers
Before investigating keywords you must have sight of the fact you are trying to uncover what searchers type in Google’s search box. For the most part these are long strings of words and typically these don’t appear in keyword tools replicated in full. Generally speaking the shorter the phrase the harder it is to rank and the less useful the keyword. This is because it’s also more difficult to discern searcher intent so shorter phrases tend to convert less well. A precise phrase, often with three words or more implies the searcher has purpose.
So, not all keywords are created equal. Your target is to find the right keywords to bring the right visitors. Searchers don’t search in a linear fashion and they mostly complete online and offline research before they make a purchase. The more expensive a product or service, the more research is required. For example, a searcher may research prices, product reviews, product features and suppliers. It’s no good thinking in terms of only “money” keywords. A site should have content which appeals to searchers at each stage of their search (and buying) process.
Long Tail Keywords
This brings us to long tail keywords or phrases which make up the bulk of searches on the web. These are the search strings that are more likely to convert but the variety of these searches is immense and hard to predict. If someone types “laptop” into Google it’s unlikely they plan to buy today. This is a head term that gets lots of searches but isn’t useful for monitising. But if someone types in “best price on XYZ model” the suggestion is they are closer to actually buying.
Ultimately your goal is to create clusters of long tail keywords for each section of your website including plenty of variety such as synonyms. The rest of your content then becomes the context.
Read my blog about concentrating on topics not keywords https://carrieannsudlow.co.uk/2013/12/why-we-should-focus-on-topics-and-not-keywords/
Keyword Research – How to Get Started
Keyword tools, remain helpful, but will only take you about half way where you need to be. They will however help you to get started. Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner Tool is freely available to Adwords account holders. One thing to keep in mind is that the same information is available to all Adwords Advertisers. So inherently there is no competitive advantage in generating keyword ideas using the tool. It’s what you do with the keyword data that’s that counts.
You’ll find the Keyword Planning Tool inside your Adwords account. Treat the traffic estimations with caution, just as you would for any other source. Focus on relativities.
You must supply details of your product or service, landing page and product category. Use filters to get more precise keywords and phrases. For example, local search is important for many service based businesses.
From there, further ideas for long tail keywords can be found using Google Instant and the related searches feature. Both are under-utilised but very useful. The more sources the better. Established businesses can utilise their own customer research.
Building on Basic Research
I encourage clients to develop keyword plans using lots of variation. When the time comes to create content it’s essential to write naturally. Using marketing psychology will take your research to the next level. This is difficult to do without having some understanding of your customers or if you are a new business, your competitors’ customers. Ultimately, keywords and phrases should be tailored for the persona of your own customers. That way, you can create meaningful, semantic-led content.