What is keyword research?

Keyword research is finding and researching the search terms people enter into search engines. By gaining knowledge about the search terms your competitors or industry are using, you can create informed SEO content strategies or effective PPC campaigns.

I’ve outlined an easy 5-step process very similar to the one we use here at TM that helps us find and narrow down keywords for our clients. Each keyword is used strategically in content marketing, as well as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns.

  1. Create generic topic buckets for your keywords to fall under.
  2. Fill each topic bucket with relevant keywords.
  3. Research different search terms.
  4. Research long-tail keywords and place them in each topic bucket.
  5. Check out the competition and see what they’re up to.
  6. Narrow down your list.

By reading this blog and using the 6 steps we’ve outlined you’ll be able to reach the right audience with the right keywords for your business and create strong strategies that will accelerate your visibility in search results!

Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Before we jump in to our 5 step process, you have to know about the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. It’s basically Google AdWords’ way of telling you how much they appreciate and want to help you. The Keyword Planner helps you get different keyword ideas that’ll translate into building better campaigns and creating a more efficient content marketing strategy, too.

The Google AdWords Keyword Planner helps business owners with three major things:

  1. Discovering new keywords
  2. Comparing keyword trends
  3. Creating and sharing your keyword plan

Step 1:  Create Topic Buckets

If you aren’t ready to start using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner just yet, you can get started by using a simple spreadsheet. List out the general topics that are relevant to your business. We recommend using a Google Doc Spreadsheet for a few reasons:

  • It can be shared with anyone in your company, all you have to do is give them access.
  • Multiple people can contribute to the same document at one time, eliminating any overlap in work.
  • Instead of uploading multiple variations of the same spreadsheet every single time someone updates it, or forgets to save it on your internal servers, all you have to do is access the spreadsheet and all your work has been saved in one central location!

We’ll use our own business as an example, so keep in mind that your topic buckets will be very different from ours, depending on your industry. Ours would include three general topic buckets (which we would put on separate sheets):

  1. Website Development & Design: Ecommerce web development, CMS web development, custom online software, and website maintenance.
  2. Digital Marketing: Email marketing, content marketing, SEO, social media, paid social media, search engine marketing, and blogging.
  3. Consulting & Training: Google plenty help, online business consulting, startup consulting, search engine marketing audits, and website maintenance.

Step 2: Choose Your Keywords

Now it’s time to choose which keywords will go under each general topic bucket. I’ll just go with the Website Development & Design topic to make this blog post simple. These keywords will represent the words and phrases that Internet users (specifically, the ones you are targeting for your business) type into the search box of a search engine, such as Google. Each word or phrase will then pull up the most relevant search result.

Example keywords for Website Development & Design and the services we offer could include:

  • magento web developer
  • magento developer
  • wordpress maintenance plan
  • website maintenance
  • wordpress web developer
  • wordpress maintenance plan
  • wordpress website design
  • ecommerce website
  • web design company

Understand that this list could be exponentially longer, with different word combinations. You can generate a massive list of keywords easily by using UberSuggest or a keyword search tool similar to it.

Step 3: Research Search Terms and Volume Trends

Because Google loves you so much, they always offer a list of related searches (located at the bottom left) once you’ve searched for a specific term. For example, people who searched for “magento website development” also searched for:

picture of searches related to magento website development

Using the Keyword Planner you can also view search volume trends, mobile trends, breakdown by device, breakdown by location, and even compare them to competitor domains. Pretty nifty, huh?

When we type in “ecommerce website development” in to the Keyword Planner (mind you I’m targeting the entire United States and keeping everything general, not using any negative keywords or filters) we see that the average monthly searches from February 2016 to January 2017 are fairly steady, with a slight increase at the beginning of this year.

ecommerce website development volume trends

Other great resources include:

  1. Google Trends
  2. Google Search Console (Webmasters Tools)
  3. Query Explorer

Step 4: Research Long-Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are those three and four keyword phrases which are very specific to your service or product. Generally, long tail keywords are more advantageous to your AdWords campaign or content strategy because people who are searching for specific phrases tend to already know what they’re looking for. They are then more likely to buy your product that matches their specific query or read the content you’ve written about it.

Long tail keywords for Web Development might include:

  • magento ecommerce website design
  • magento website developers in my area
  • wordpress website security help
  • how do i secure my wordpress website from hackers
  • content management system website development
  • is magento the right ecommerce platform for my business

These long tail keywords can be switched around or rephrased, of course. If you’re doing Keyword Research for AdWords campaigns, you can choose to target broad match keywords which will show your ad to people who search for that phrase, similar ones, singular or plural forms, misspellings, or related searches (to name a few).

For keyword research relating specifically to your content strategy, the long tail keyword phrase of “how do i secure my wordpress website from hackers” is going to draw more qualified traffic to your website than someone that has just searched for “wordpress.”

Step 5: Competitive Research

Competitive research can be quite fun, at least to me. The easiest way to do this is to use SpyFu or another service like it. SpyFu will let you poke around a little bit without having an account with them, but at some point you’ll have to go over to the dark side and sign up. Pricing ranges from $44-$299/month (No, this post is not sponsored by SpyFu, but that would be pretty cool, ’cause SpyFu is dope.  Maybe they’ll at least send us some new t-shirts?!?).

The biggest thing to remember, and try to figure out, is that your competitors might be targeting keywords for different reasons than you might have. For example, I’ve seen companies run AdWords campaigns for every keyword under the sun, including ones that might not seem like they hold much relevance to their services or products.

Why would they do this? It seems like they’re wasting a ton of money on keywords that aren’t going to get them much qualified traffic. However, they might just be using this tactic (and have the budget) to get some serious brand awareness out there, do extensive keyword research, and narrow down their keyword list as they go. Or, the might not know what they’re doing. In that case, you definitely shouldn’t follow their lead!

Understanding the list of keywords your competition is trying to rank for is a valuable way to evaluate your own keyword list and understand their strategies. If you notice that they’re organically ranking higher than you are for search terms relevant to you, then you know you’ve got some work to do to catch up. It’ll also help you identify keywords your competition isn’t capitalizing on, so make a push to build some serious equity when you see an opportunity.

Step 6: Narrow Down Your List

It’s easy to get carried away with your keyword list because the search possibilities seem a little endless at first. However, using Steps 3-5 should help you decide which keywords are truly worth your time to create content around or which ones might be too dang expensive to bid on in your PPC campaign.

That’s all we have today on keyword research!

If you have any questions, need help re-evaluating your keywords, finding new ones, or narrowing down your list let us know! Contact Us or leave a comment below!


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