Learn how to get more traffic and increase your website’s search rankings. In this post, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about finding the best keywords for your website by helping you build a keyword research tool that will help you find the perfect keywords for your page content.
There are likely to be some concepts that I will introduce to you throughout this book that you are unfamiliar with: keywords are unlikely to be one of them. Whether you’re an SEO expert or not try our SEO: The Ultimate Guide To Search Engine Optimization for a better knowledge, you probably know that keywords are an important part of any search-related activity. Knowing that, however, is not the same as doing keywords well.
While it’s nice to start with something familiar, keywords aren’t the only reason chapter 1 is organized around keywords. It’s also because keywords are the cornerstone of all search marketing; they pretty much underpin everything in the world of search.
Keywords, at their most basic level, define your content and inform search engines and people who use them. Consider this: when you search for something online, or when someone searches for your business, service, or product, search engines analyze the phrase or string of words you type (keywords) and return the most accurate and desirable results. (At least, that’s the plan!)
Searching Outside The Search Box: The Problem With Primary Keywords
You may believe that your relevant keywords are self-evident, but I assure you that the world of keywords is not as simple as most of us would like to believe. In fact, the most common mistake people make when selecting keywords is assuming they know exactly what their target market is looking for. After all, you are an expert in your field. But it turns out that keywords aren’t just about that.
Consider the following scenario: you own a business (and, of course, a website) that sells handcrafted socks with custom designs based on 90s cartoons. Congratulations on having a fair niche product! You’ll make a lot of geeks ecstatic, but only if they can track you down.
The problem is that only a small percentage of people will search for “handmade socks with custom designs inspired by 90s cartoons” on Google. Instead, they might look for ‘cool socks,’ ‘awesome socks,’ ‘anime socks,’ or any number of other search terms that aren’t exactly the words you’d expect people to use to describe your product or service.
Maybe your ideal customer isn’t looking for socks at all, but rather ‘cool 90s gift ideas’ or ‘what to get my gamer boyfriend for Christmas.’ I’m sure you’re beginning to see how this whole ‘keyword selection’ thing is becoming a little more complicated… This isn’t to say that your ideal search term doesn’t exist, or that you won’t make money once a customer finds your page; it’s just that most people don’t search online in this manner.
Now imagine you’re selling a more mainstream product. Perhaps your company specializes in network security or cloud computing; perhaps you manage an elderly care facility or a small dental practice that specializes in cosmetics or orthodontics. How can you compete with the most popular pages, which consistently rank high for terms like “network security” or “dental clinic”? Especially when you consider that the internet is also a battleground for large corporations with a long history of customers and a large database of data. Here’s another example of why you should think outside of your primary keywords, or, more accurately, think laterally about what your keywords are.
Research Prevents Your Customers From Researching
You’ll need to do some research to find your ideal keywords, the ones that will perform well for your specific business. It won’t take years of dedicated study or poring over thousands upon thousands of pages of search results in search of a magic word to capture your audience’s attention, but it will take time, persistence, and a little bit of outside-the-box thinking.
Consider this: when it comes to search results, it’s not about ranking for what you want; it’s about ranking for what your customers want. Consider this: the average person will search the first term or phrase that comes to mind when looking for something. If they don’t find it, they’ll tweak their search until, perhaps five pages later, they settle on the closest product available or, even worse, they give up, believing the product they’re looking for doesn’t exist.
The foundation of your journey to being found online is understanding the primary keywords you want to rank for. It’s a place where you can condense all of the information on your website into a few key terms. This could be as simple as Socks, Cartoons, 90s Fashion, Handmade Clothing, and Custom Designs in the case of our boutique sock company.
After you’ve considered the keywords you’d like to rank for and the ones that define your business, you can look into what we call ‘long-tail keywords.’.
Pinning the tail on your keywords
Singular keywords, such as those listed above, are notoriously difficult and time-consuming to rank for, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. While these keywords may have a lot of searches, the competition can be so fierce that it can take years for your page to even reach page two of Google, which, let’s face it, means it might as well not be there at all.
Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are slightly longer variations of the same keywords that may appear in lower-volume search queries but often yield higher conversion rates. For example, ‘Where can I buy socks with cartoons from the 1990s printed on them?’ or local search queries such as ‘Online store for custom socks in Auckland.’ These terms will have a much lower search frequency than terms like socks or ’90s cartoons,’ and will also narrow down the intended results a searcher may find, so you’ll have a much better chance of attracting the right customers. It’s also a good idea to think of this as a case of quality over quantity when it comes to website traffic.
Here are some examples of the primary keywords mentioned above, as well as longtail keywords that may be more effective:
- Socks: Custom socks with cool prints are available online.
- Cartoons: Fun socks with vintage cartoons printed on them.
- Men’s 90s Fashion Socks: Authentic 90s Fashion Socks
- Handmade Clothing: In my neighborhood, I can find inexpensive handmade clothing and socks.
- Custom Designs: Where can I find custom-designed socks in Brisbane?
Finding and refining your keywords
Of course, you probably don’t run a business like the one I did in the example above, and you don’t make quirky socks. If you do, you’re welcome to take advantage of some free work I’ve already completed for you. Everyone else, on the other hand, should take a look at some of the tools, tips, and tricks available to help you narrow down your own keywords and improve your search ranking.
Keyword research tools
There are a variety of keyword research tools available, ranging from Google Keyword Planner, which is free for Google Ads advertisers, and WordStream, which has a free alternative to its paid service, to paid tools such as Moz Keyword Explorer and SEMrush. Because most people will have free access to it, we’ve chosen to use the Google Keyword Planner in this case. It will work in the same way and provide you with the same information as other similar services.
Using a keyword planner
After you’ve set up your planning spreadsheet, make a list of all the keywords you’d like to rank for. It could take five minutes or five hours to complete. Write down every term, word, or phrase you want searchers to type to find your page at the top of the results, no matter how long the list is. Ask your employees, customers, and other people who are familiar with your business what terms they would use to look up what you do.
After you’ve compiled your list, go to Google Keyword Planner and enter all of them. Export your results to an Excel file and paste them into your keywords worksheet, filling in the columns for average search volume and Google Ads competition for each term. To use the Keyword Planner, you must have a Google Ads account.
Sort them by the number of times they’ve been searched. Any terms with no search volume should be removed. It’s pointless to optimize for terms that no one is searching for! The goal at this point is to narrow down your massive list of terms to the ones that people are actually looking for.
After that, sort the remaining terms into three categories: high, medium, and low relevancy. This is a personal choice based on your knowledge of your industry. Consider whether a keyword is likely to be used by one of your customers, or if the term is irrelevant to your target market.
Get rid of anything that you don’t think is important. Remember, we’re trying to figure out the most accurate way to respond to your customers’ search queries, not to prove or disprove your assumptions about how they search.
Now that you have a slightly shorter list, you can perform an Intitle search. Open up Google and type: Intitle: “your keyword or search term here”. Make sure there are no spaces between ‘intitle:’ and the opening of the double speech marks. Then put in the term and close the speech marks (as per the image below).
This will tell you how many people have this keyword or search term in their page title tag in the exact order you’ve listed, which gives you an indication of competition. From an SEO perspective, the title tag, or meta title, is the single most important thing on a website. We will describe more about how title tags work at the start of chapter 2 but, suffice it to say, for now if someone is using this term in their title tag, you know they are targeting it from an SEO perspective.
Enter the number of people targeting each term (44,500 in the example above) into your ever-refining spreadsheet of search terms, under the column ‘Competition INTITLE’.
Google now sends a searcher to the most relevant page on a website, not necessarily the homepage, based on online behavior. Most visitors no longer enter a site through the homepage and navigate to the appropriate page from there; instead, Google wants them to be directed to the most relevant page in the search results. As a result, you’ll need to figure out which pages in your list are best for which keywords.
As a result, the ‘landing page’ is the last column on the spreadsheet. Enter the most relevant page on your website for that term here, based on the content of each individual page.
Consider the case of our sock company and the search term ’90s cartoons,’ which we’ve already looked into. People looking for this should be able to come to your site and go straight to a page with only the socks that are related to and inspired by 90s cartoons. Sure, you have other socks on your site, but visitors looking for 90s cartoon socks won’t want to sift through the rest, so they’ll want to land somewhere where what they’re looking for is already compiled.
In this column, write ‘content opportunity’ if you don’t already have a page on your website that relates to the keyword you’ve chosen to target. Keeping track of these potential new page additions will help you plan your content strategy later.
Take a deep breath after that; you’ve earned it. But don’t get too comfortable with your accomplishments just yet. While you’ve completed the majority of the hard work in terms of determining your keywords, it’s still a good idea to revisit your keyword research on a regular basis, as things change as internet use (and the way we search) evolves. As a result of the rise in voice search, for example, subtle shifts are already taking place (we’ll go over this in more detail in Chapter 16). Remember to check in on your top terms, as well as any other terms you might be using, on a regular basis.
Building on the foundation of your seo strategy
Your keywords worksheet should now contain a few key elements:
keyword search relevancy title tag and Google Ads competition level relevant landing pages on your website.
Looking at the information on your spreadsheet, your top keywords should reveal themselves naturally. What you should be looking for is a good search volume, high relevance, and a reasonable level of competition.
Seeing your keywords laid out like this will make it obvious which areas will produce the best results. While it might seem basic or oversimplified and perhaps a little counterintuitive all of this is based on what your customers are actually searching for.
Armed with this information, you can compare the keywords you need to rank for with pages on your website that don’t exist yet. Check off what you think you’re covering well and use this information as the basis of a content gap analysis. Seeing the places where relevant and related content is missing will help you to form a content calendar that you can use to build your site and content into a well-rounded and formidable search engine competitor.
This search volume and competition document will be the foundation of everything you build upon in the coming days, weeks, and months; everything that we explore in the remainder of this book. Even years from now, when you are a master of SEO and can barely remember this moment, all of your success in the online search realm will have started right here and now, with a simple spreadsheet and a few free online tools. The road to get there might be winding and long, but it will also be paved with knowledge, success, and continual growth.
Once you’ve created a list of your top keywords, it’s time to look at your website. Keywords are critical there’s no doubt about that but to use an extended metaphor, they are like the key to a car. That car can’t run without the key in the ignition. But without the car, there’s nothing for the key to doing. Your website is the car, and just like an actual car, it’s a complex piece of technology.
The foundation of your SEO efforts is keyword research. Make an effort to look at as many terms as you can.
Don’t give up and don’t give up hope. Your keyword research findings may not be ideal or what you expected, but they are exactly what your customers want.
Consider what your customers might look for, rather than assuming they’ll be familiar with your industry jargon. Get in front of your local audience. Make sure to include keywords that are specific to your location.
Your keywords are the foundation of everything you’ll do in the search world, but figuring out what they are or should be isn’t as simple as one might think.
Consider your keywords from a different perspective: the way you describe what you do or sell may not be the same as what others would type into a search field to find you.
Consider how long-tail search terms can help you in addition to your primary keywords. People are more likely to buy, click, respond, or otherwise engage as a result of these more specific queries, which typically have lower overall search volumes but higher conversion rates.
Engage with the tools available online and get feedback from a variety of people who are familiar with your industry. Analyze your keywords based on competition, frequency, and relevancy to see where you have a chance to rank well. These are the key terms on which your SEO strategy will be built.