How to Perform Keyword Research the Right Way
Imagine if you could read your customers’ minds.
What would you do with this super-power? You could create the ultimate product or service. You could know exactly how to sell it. You could even anticipate your customers’ needs before they even know it.
In digital marketing, this super-power almost exists and it’s called keyword research. Every business owner who wants to have even a glimmer of a hope of succeeding in digital marketing absolutely needs to learn how to perform keyword research.
Four-part series on keyword research & SEO
We know that keyword research (and the overall concept of search engine optimization, or “SEO”) can feel intimidating for many business owners (and might even sound a bit like voodoo). However, it really isn’t as hard as it sounds, especially if you create a good system to use, and as you will see, it is hugely important. This is a four-part series on keyword research & SEO for business owners. Good keyword research will supercharge your marketing strategy and put you lightyears ahead of your competition! Here’s what we’ve got in store for you:
- In this article, we are going to show you how to perform keyword research the right way. To top it all off, we will even be sharing one of our favorite free tools to make your research as simple as can be.
- In part 2, we discuss the huge array of ways you can make use of keyword research even beyond SEO.
- In part 3, we will hone in on the basics for the most common application for keyword research: optimizing your web-pages.
- In part 4, we will end this series with a post on how to incorporate keyword research into your content marketing strategy – one of the most important skills to master if you want to effectively use SEO.
As a special bonus, we will be including a special report highlighting three of our secret weapons. These killer apps will make your content marketing 10x more effective in 1/10th the time and are a must-have for any small business owner’s marketing toolbox.
Let’s start with explaining just how important keyword research really is.
Learning how to perform keyword research puts you way ahead of your competition
Let’s just put it this way. Keyword research is extremely undervalued and underused. For most people, even your competition, it’s an after-thought. That’s a huge mistake.
Sure, you might hear the term “keyword research” thrown around if you speak with colleagues about who they use for SEO services or when you go to a pay-per-click seminar, but most of the time no-one really talks about how to perform keyword research. It’s almost as if everyone forgets about how important keyword research really is!
Consider how much critical data keyword research can give you:
- How many people are interested in a certain problem or solution
- How strong this interest is
- How much competition is out there
- How many prospective customers are nearby
With that in mind, isn’t it insane to ignore keyword research?
Imagine how much of a leg-up you’d have over your competition if you used keyword research as effectively as you should!
Keyword research: where it belongs in your strategy
Many people only start to think about keywords when it comes time to fork over lots of money to hire an SEO expert (who often has to fix their broken website), or when they want to place a few pay-per-click ads. This is much too late.
In reality, as we will discuss in much more detail in part 2 of this series, a well-planned keyword strategy should have you thinking about, researching, and be using keywords throughout your entire digital marketing strategy, from end to end. This means including keyword planning in:
- Planning and creating your business name
- Creating and naming your products and services
- The URL for your website
- The words you choose for your social media profiles
- The visible copy that you put on each page of your website
- The invisible, SEO-friendly words that go into each element of your website
- Every single blog post
- Your landing pages
- The scripts to your marketing videos
Good keyword strategy really should be the common thread that binds your entire digital marketing strategy together. Don’t let keyword planning be an afterthought. Thinking about it after the fact, like after your website is already built, after your business name has already been in use, after you’ve already named your products and services, after your social media profiles have already been drafted, and, worst-of-all, after you’ve already written a bunch of blog posts, is a sure way to give your SEO expert reason to charge you TONS of money to fix everything.
Learning how to perform keyword research is a must for business owners, whether or not they out-source their digital marketing!
How to perform keyword research: the basics
Step 1: Choose your tools
The first step in an effective keyword research strategy is to pick a good keyword research tool.
If you don’t mind paying a monthly fee, semrush and ahrefs are two of the best out there. Their keyword results are well respected as being highly accurate, and their interfaces are easy to use. Both are also expensive. With packages starting from $99 a month, this may not make sense for your business. Sure, you can use the handful of free searches these services offer you per day, but the functionality is limited and anyone who is taking keyword research seriously needs more than just a couple of searches a day.
Luckily there are some awesome free tools to use. Especially when you’re just starting out in learning how to perform keyword research, my favorite easy to use tool is Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest tool. This tool makes it super easy to evaluate any keywords you provide (providing you the basics: search volume, estimated cost-per-click, and competitiveness), and even adds a few hundred additional suggestions for you to consider! This tool truly is a goldmine (thanks, Neil!) and is a must for every business owner’s digital marketing toolbox.
Step 2: Think of relevant and useful keyword terms
This is where some creativity comes in. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer (you’ve taken the time to build a customer avatar right?) and think of what search terms they would use to find your business and the services you offer. The goal in this step is to try to guess what search terms people are using. You will check to see if you’re right on your guesses in Step 3. Depending on your business, your keywords may be an individual word such as “computers” or a string of words such as “how to repair my computer.” You will often find that individual words are too general. Longer keyword terms (sometimes called long-tail keywords) are more specific and useful and are also easier to rank for.
Write down these search terms. Enlist someone who isn’t part of your business if you can. Sometimes (oftentimes actually) it is helpful to have the perspective of an outsider when trying to think like your customer. Better yet, if you’ve got some actual customers you can bribe with a cup of coffee, get their perspective and help!
When you’ve got a decent list of search terms that are relevant to your business, start to make them a bit more useful. What I mean here, is start adding terms that are indicative of a “buying intent.” One way is as simple as adding “how to” to your search terms. For example, while the search term “life coach” is pretty general and might indicate that someone is simply curious about what a life coach is. However, with a slight modification, the term “how to hire a life coach” is much more indicative of high interest and might signal that the searcher is getting close to wanting to buy or hire.
A final tactic I like to use before deciding for sure whether I want to use a search term is to do a search on it and see what the top hits are. Do these look like web pages from your competitors or articles written by your competitors? If so that’s a great sign. If the top hits are something totally off the wall and have nothing to do with your business, then you probably want to choose different keywords.
Step 3: Check for search volume
Take the list of search terms you’ve compiled in Step 2 and plug them into your keyword research tool. The purpose of doing so is twofold. First, you want to make sure that there is a sufficient amount of search volume for your chosen keywords. Obviously, ranking on page 1 for a keyword is useless if no-one is searching for it (or if there are just 10 searches a month coming from Bulgaria…). What you’re looking for here is a reasonable amount of search volume. What’s “reasonable?” Well, the answer varies according to who you ask. What I recommend is to look for at least the high hundreds and ideally over 1,000. So, using these search volume criteria, take the search terms you came up with in Step 2 and decide which ones make the cut.
The second purpose of plugging keywords into your research tool is to look for related keywords. Almost all research tools have this great feature (and, as mentioned above, Ubersuggest definitely does this well). This will greatly expand your keyword universe by making suggestions for additional keywords you may not have thought of. Look through the list and see if there is anything else that looks promising.
Step 4: Check for competition
The final step in choosing your keywords is to analyze the competition. The idea here is that keywords with too much competition will be next to impossible to rank for. In most keyword research tools, competition data is sourced from the number of search ads for the keyword, and is expressed in a Competition Score that is a fraction of 1.0 (eg 0.2 or 0.6). The higher the number, the stiffer the competition. In other words, if the competition is “0.9” competition is sky high and you’re probably wasting your time. On the other hand, if the competition is “0.1” the coast is clear and you’ve got a decent chance with the keywords you’ve chosen. I like to look for keywords with competition below 0.25.
For example, if you own a business coaching business, the keyword term “business coach” might be highly relevant and has decent search volume. However, it has a Competition Score of 0.67. This is pretty high meaning you’ll have a really hard time ranking for it. If you use a keyword with a Score of 0.20, for example, even if it has slightly lower search volume, you’ll probably rank much better.
Step 5: Compile your list of ideal keywords
The final step in learning how to perform keyword research is to compile the keywords.
Take all the keywords that passed the tests in Steps 2, 3, & 4, and put them on a list.
Remember, this is just the first in a four-part series on keyword research & SEO for business owners. In part two of this series, we will be discussing the huge number of ways your properly conducted keyword research should be used to drive your marketing efforts and even your overall business strategy (and SEO is just the start)!
Let’s sum it all up
Remember, the right keywords for your digital marketing efforts need to meet three simple, but powerful factors:
Choose and use keywords using this formula, read your customers’ minds, and get a big advantage over your competition!
That’s it for now!
What do you think? Was this useful? Will you be taking advantage of any keyword research yourself? Do you think I missed anything? If you found this blog post useful, please do me a favor and 1) share it with your friends and colleagues; and 2) let me know by commenting or hitting us up on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
Here’s to the success of your business!!
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