When it comes to helping eager new prospects find your business at their time of need, few can argue the value of picking the right seo keywords. Pretty much every customer purchase for anything anywhere now involves a Google search at some stage and identifying the phrases that are most likely to lead to business is vital if you want to be leading the field.
Google’s search engine serves one primary purpose: to meet users search intent with the web pages that deliver most relevant, reliable & credible answers.
And when i’m offering Search Phrase Research Services to a customer, this leads to the first point I explain (before looking at a single keyword)…
SEO Search Terms – The Golden Rule: Decide in detail what you offer, who you offer it to and what makes you special.
Sounds simple, yes.
But the more targeted you can be in defining what you offer and who you offer it to, the easier finding and choosing relevant, targeted keywords will be. Being ‘all things to all people’ is not helpful when it comes to search marketing.
For example, being a marketing consultant that serves businesses throughout the whole of the UK is tough. Simply because the target audience is so wide and the term ‘marketing’ can mean a lot of different things.
The more refined I can be in defining the field of marketing I specialise in and who I offer it to will make the job of Google’s task easier in delivering me to the right prospects.
So, if for example, I instead chose to be a Local SEO Expert for Portsmouth small businesses, that’s a much more refined offering.
So, that’s the first step; get yourself crystal clear on the following:
- What do you specifically offer?
- Who do you specifically offer it to?
- What strengths or unique selling points do you have to help you stand out?
If you offer multiple products or services, I recommend segmenting each category as far as possible and performing separate keyword research for each section.
So, the next step is to look at the search terms people are using on Google that relate to your business offering.
The full stages of effective keyword research may vary depending on:
- Whether you’re performing Search Engine Optimization or Pay Per Click
- Your business goals
- Your budget and resources
- Your time frame for generating results
Large businesses with healthy budgets, strong backlinking and a crew of SEO copywriters may choose to target highly competitive keywords.
Because the majority of my followers are small businesses with smaller budgets and limited time, i’ll focus on finding the best SEO keywords for small businesses in this post. If you’re a large business wanting help with SEO keywords or a small business wanting advice for finding Google Ads keywords, please Get in Touch for a chat.
SEO Keyword Research: The Primary Objective
Put simply, the end goal is to find the keywords that offer you:
- High as possible search volume
- Low difficulty to rank for
- Value and relevance to your business
Step 1: Brainstorming
Create a brainstorming list of all the search terms you believe might be relevant to your offering, bringing prospects with solid search intent, whether that be to buy your products or services, ask questions or simply start a research process. Uber suggest is a pretty cool to help with keyword brainstorming.
If you already have a website with Google Analytics and Search Console set up, you might also wish to check your analytics for search terms you’re already ranking for. If you have an in-site search function, also check analytics for queries users are searching once on your site as these can be great low hanging fruit.
NB. Prepare this list in MS word or excel so you can copy and paste later.
Step 2: Expand
Next, we want to take your brainstormed list (of say 10-100 search phrases) and find all active Google search terms that relate to it. We’ll do this through the use of a keyword tool such as Google Keyword Planner (free), Moz Keyword Explorer (free) or Wordtracker (paid).
In this example, we’ll use Google Keyword Planner because it’s the most widely used.
To access Keyword Planner, you’ll need a free Google Ads Account and I recommend using a desktop device as mobile restricts some features.
Once you’ve set up your Google Ads account, hover over Tools along the top navigation bar to reveal Keyword Planner.
Keyword Planner provides the top 800 (or so) keywords that Google claims have been searched on it’s search engine according to your criteria.
When performing a search, complete the search fields as fully as you can:
- Enter all brainstormed keywords into Your Product or Service field. Multiple terms can be separated by a comma.
- Enter the URL of your website (if you have one) in the landing page field. This will allow Google to crawl your site content for other ideas.
- Selecting a Product Category field will help Google deliver ideas based on the activity of your industry peers
- Choose the suitable location(s) that you wish to target.
- Sticking with the default 12 months date range is recommended so seasonal search trends can be considered
- Select to show broadly related ideas. This will help Keyword Planner show similar phrases and synonyms (words or phrases that mean exactly or nearly the same in the same language. Such as Keyword Planning and Keyword Research) and can help ignite great new ideas.
NB. Synonyms are great to use in SEO as they reflect natural human language.
Press the Get Ideas button. When results are displayed, press the Keyword Ideas tab.
Here you will see Google’s top search keywords relating to your criteria. Press the Avg. monthly searches tab to sort the list in descending volume order.
Now at this point, there’s some important stuff to know:
- The search volume that Keyword Planner states is for exact match searches only. Read here for an explanation on what the different search match types mean. For organic listings, Google works on exact match and broad match so your actual traffic volumes will vary (be higher) from the exact match figure.
- The competition scores you see only relate to advertiser (PPC) traffic and are calculated by the volume of websites competing on Google Ads, their quality scores and Domain Rank. Exporting the data to csv (by pressing the Download button) shows competition scores displayed from factors 0.1-1, which can be helpful for ascertaining more accurate competition rates.
NB. For SEO keywords, ignore competition score and focus instead of difficulty score (which i’ll come to later). It’s possible that highly competitive keywords on Google Ads are not fairly easy to rank for in organic search, and vice versa.
- Behind every Google search is a Search Intent. Just because you rank well for generic keywords with high volume, it doesn’t mean you’ll be attracting quality traffic.
Now, personally I like to work from spreadsheets, so I always export the data to csv by pressing download. You’ll need to sort the csv file into descending search volume and here’s a guidance video in case it helps.
NB. If you export to csv, keep the Adwords dashboard open as you’ll need it again shortly!
Step 3: Refine
Now, you should have a long list of search phrases
- Remove all the keywords that show a search volume of 0 (no point ranking for no traffic).
- Remove all the keywords that don’t relate to what you offer.
- Remove all the keywords that could deliver a low quality of traffic (ie. highish chance they could be searching for something different than what you offer.
Step 4: Fat Head Vs Long Tail
Your remaining list will include a variety of generic (fat head) and specific (long tail) keywords.
The generic ones may bring high volumes of traffic with low quality (and are usually harder to compete for) and the specific ones usually attract lower traffic volumes but higher quality (and are usually easier to compete for).
Unless you’re already ranking strongly or are creating a powerful backlinking network (the primary factor behind SEO success), you probably want to approach generic & high search volume terms with caution, as competing on a worthwhile scale takes a high page rank with solid backlinks, to avoid wasting your time.
I think it’s better advice for small businesses to cherry pick the terms further down the long-tail with a greater chance of high rankings.
How many search terms should I have?
The number of keywords you want at the end of this exercise generally depends on the size of your website in terms of page numbers and content bulk. As a rule of thumb, I recommend one primary target keyword per page so you can be super focused and relevant on the topic. Target keywords should also be supported with related keywords, related topics and semantically connected keywords to reflect the natural use of language.
Remember, Google crawls web pages and domains on a holistic basis, considering the content and focus of each page and the domain as a whole. So, it’s fine and recommended to mix keywords throughout relevant pages (without over-stuffing). Page title, description, header tags and page relevance are more important than how many times you place a keyword in a page, so don’t get hung up on that.
Step 5: Difficulty Scoring
So you should now have a refined list of high quality keywords which includes generic (fat head) and specific (long tail) terms.
The next and final step is to define the difficulty scoring for each keyword. There are a variety of tools you can use to do this, but my favourite includes Moz (30 day free trial) or you can also use http://www.webseoanalytics.com/free/seo-tools/keyword-difficulty.php (10 day free trial).
Using Moz enables you to see for each keyword:
- Difficulty score based on other competing websites who are trying to rank for that keywords
- Potential score based upon average click through rates for websites on page one of that keywords
Obviously you’ll want to target the keywords that have greatest volume greatest commercial search intent, lowest difficulty and greatest potential.
Investing a few hours into finding those little beauties will reap dividends in the months ahead.