“Google it” is one of those “if I had a penny every time someone said it” phrases. It’s part of our nature and has become a saying that we all understand, even if we don’t quite grasp the complexities inherent in the phrase.
Search engines like Google have come to suffuse and influence our culture and everyday life. Information about anything and everything can be found online, and many of us have come to live a life based upon our internet presence.
The Influence of Google
Most of us “Google it” several times a day and with over 3.5 billion searches on Google per day, there can be many iterations of a search. This makes it difficult to know exactly what people are typing into their search bar. An optimist will look at those many iterations and see opportunity.
Keyword research is similar to the gold rush. Once a topic or keyword is discovered, all the businesses and content creators rush to create a piece of content to satisfy the intent behind the search. With the discovery and new content, the creator hopes to rank higher in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and increase web traffic and conversions.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research, a component of the SEO (search engine optimization) process, identifies the keywords and phrases users type into search engines to find information, products or services on the internet.
If you are able to pinpoint which keywords or questions will bring people to your website, you can provide targeted content. If you know what questions your target audience is asking, you can give them the answers that will bring them to your site.
The end goal of keyword research is to identify that list of phrases that will bring traffic to your site and increase conversions, so your business will enjoy more prospects and customers.
Keyword Research Best Practices
Keyword research is a piece in a much larger puzzle, but it is at the heart of SEO. Using a keyword research tool such as SEMRush, Ubersuggest, or Keywords Everywhere, you can develop a list of potential keywords. Here are some items to look for as you start your research:
- Tools provide the estimated amount of searches per month for a given keyword or phrase. This is known as keyword volume. Typically, the higher volume keywords are more difficult to rank for. It’s ideal to find variations of your ideal keyword or phrase. These will generate consistent traffic for you, but offer less competition in ranking.
- Keyword difficulty is an important metric to consider for your targeting efforts. It’s meant to paint a picture of how hard it may be to rank on the first page of the SERPs for a particular keyword or phrase.
- Keyword intent represents the purpose of a search. Keywords can be broken out into informational, commercial, navigational and transactional intent. Intent is important when understanding how far down the sales funnel a prospect is in their research.
- Informational – “how to grow organic traffic”
- Use phrases like how to, best way, why, information
- Informational – “how to grow organic traffic”
- Commercial – “Apple Store NYC”
- Navigational – “Facebook” (which happens to be the most searched keyword on Google)
- Transactional – “Flights to Kansas City”
- Use phrases like buy, discount, [specific product names]
- Keywords can be organized into categories such as product, service or solution. This helps visually identify the keywords as they relate to your business.
- Prioritizing keywords should be based off several factors: volume, intent, difficulty and competition. Take a look at your conversion or sales funnel — what are you seeing success with? What do you WANT to rank for? What is the intent behind the searches and how well does your content align with the answers they seek? By prioritizing your work with these factors, you can identify the work that will deliver the highest return for your business.
Using Keywords in Digital Marketing
Now that you’ve done all the keyword research legwork, it’s finally time to implement your strategy.
Take your keywords and place them organically into your content. Do not try and “keyword stuff” or force them into your content where it doesn’t make sense. Strategically place them into your title tags, meta description, body copy, headers (H1, H2, H3, etc.), URL and images (alt text).
The goal of the keywords in your content is to provide value for your customers and prospects. The keywords should answer their questions and give them the help they need.
Measuring Your Keyword Strategy
Not to crush your hopes, but measuring your campaigns isn’t a one and done task. It’s an ongoing effort to see if your SEO efforts are working. Are you ranking for the keywords you’re targeting? Are there more you have seen you want to create content for? Is your competitor ranking for a new keyword?
Depending on the answers to these questions, you will need to continue your keyword research. With 15% of daily searches on Google being new (never seen before), there is always opportunity for improvement.
Keyword cannibalization is the result of using too many identical or similar keywords within your website content. Cannibalization sounds extreme when it comes to keywords, but it’s a perfect way to describe its potential dangers. Search engines pick up on such practices and can penalize a site and its rankings for such actions.
Competitor Keyword Research
Your competitors will likely be trying to rank for the same or similar types of keywords and phrases, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on their activity.
If you don’t have the luxury of a tool providing a competitive analysis, we recommend doing some old fashioned detective work.
The process is easier than you might think. Go to your competitor’s websites and right click on the pages to “view page source”. This will give you a behind the scenes look at the HTML and page build. Then run a simple CTRL + F function to find the following:
- <meta name="description"
- This is meant to summarize what the page is about. Check the keywords they are using in the meta description.
- This might take a little more digging, but the H1 is a unique header that can and should only be used once on the page. The code will begin with <h1> and end with </h1> and the text you see between will indicate the header on the page. It’s a best practice to include a keyword you are trying to rank for in the H1. See what words and phrases your competition is targeting.
- Similar code setup to H1, but there will likely be multiple H2s on a page. These will provide more insight into the competitor’s strategy.
Once you have an idea of the keywords your competitors are targeting, you can see potential gaps in your own strategy. You might discover if there is opportunity to either create better content for those terms or new content around words that aren’t currently being targeted.
You can also see if your competitors are running PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns such as Google AdWords. PPC campaigns give great insight into the keywords your competitors DEFINITELY want to rank for (and they are willing to pay for it).
Getting Started With Keyword Research
It’s all in the “tents” — content and intent. Determine the intent of your customers and audience, and provide them content that meets their needs.
Don’t lose sight of what keyword research is about. It’s helpful to know what people are searching for, and then utilize those phrases directly in your content. However, the keywords don’t do you much good if the overall content doesn’t satisfy the needs of the end user.
Strive to satisfy the intent of a search through your content.
Just like sprinkles on top of a cake, if the cake is bad enough to feature on Nailed It, the amount or quality of sprinkles won’t matter. The same can be said for keywords. It doesn’t matter what (or how many) keywords you use if your content isn’t helpful or your audience won’t use it.
As always, the GO2 team is here to help. Reach out today and our SEO specialists can answer any questions you have regarding your SEO efforts.