What is Keyword Research and How Do You Do It?
In the world of inbound marketing, nothing happens until someone types a word or a phrase into a search box. This action gives a search engine the information it needs to begin sifting through the billions of web pages it has in its database, for the purpose of returning a list of relevant results to the user. For businesses relying on inbound marketing to acquire leads or drive traffic to their website, keyword research is perhaps the most important and high-value activity they can engage in, because it gives them a structured set of ideas to help them determine what their market is looking for.
Your market is communicating a message with the keywords they’re using in their online searches. It’s your job to play detective and find out what types of keywords and keyphrases your market is using to express their needs, motivation and sentiment. This is what keyword research is all about.
It’s not good enough to get a truckload of visitors to your site if 98 percent of those visitors have no interest in what you’re offering. What you’re really looking for is what is known as targeted traffic – i.e., traffic that’s ready and willing to buy the type of products or services that you’re marketing. Keyword research will give you the information you need to begin targeting certain words and phrases in order to boost your rankings in the search engines, thereby putting your website in front of the right kind of visitors. This will ultimately increase conversion rates and garner more sales.
So how do you perform keyword research? Below are three key points that will help you cultivate this all-important practice:
1. Search for the term(s) that you want to rank for (i.e., tennis shoes, golf clubs, mortgage insurance, etc.) in the three major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo) and take a moment to observe the websites that are currently ranking. These sites are your competition. Click on a few of them to find out what type of content they’re providing and what keywords they seem to be targeting. Also look at the search results page itself; if you see a lot of ads on the top and right margins (these are the non-organic results), this usually means that the keyword is a high-value and high-converting keyword.
2. Generic keywords aren’t always better. For example, a person searching for the word “shirts” could be trying to find out the different styles of shirts that exist. Someone else searching for “shirts” could be doing a research project on the history of shirts. Simply put, nothing about the word “shirts” gives any indication of a person’s intention to buy a shirt; it’s too generic. But someone searching for “inexpensive polo shirts” has buying in mind. This is the type of keyword that you should be targeting, because it has a very high conversion potential.
In light of the previous point, focus on what are known as “long tail” keywords – the search terms and phrases that are more specific and narrowly defined. Long tail searches are often made of multiple words, which usually means a lower traffic volume (less searches being performed), but if someone types “Converse All-Stars size 9 free shipping” into a search engine, that person is likely to buy on the spot! Remember that you’re after quality, not quantity.
3. Utilize one of the many online keyword research tools that are available. Below are some of the most widely used tools:
- Google AdWords Keyword Planner – This is the grandfather of all keyword research tools. It provides keyword search volume, advertiser competition and cost-per-click data. Requires signing up for a free Google Account.
- Wordtracker’s Free Keyword Research Tool – Displays search volume as well as related keywords. Requires registering for a free account.
- Bing’s Keyword Research Tool – Provides several thorough keyword insights and up to six months worth of organic search data. Requires signing up for a free Microsoft Account.
- SEOBook’s Keyword Tool – Offers daily keyword search volume for Google, Yahoo and Bing. Requires registering for a free account.
- Ubersuggest – One of the most valuable tools for long-tail search information. It provides thousands of keyword ideas from actual search queries.
Utilizing the above tools will give you more than enough information to determine the current demand for a given product or service. This will in turn help you understand how to appropriately respond with what you’re offering, and also how to optimize the structure and content of your website to target these highly valuable keywords.