Friday, September 9, 2016

SEO 101: How to Perform Keyword Research

No SEO-related activity offers a potentially higher ROI than keyword research. For a new online business, in fact, keyword research is the most important part of an online marketing campaign.

By researching your market's successful keywords, you can learn how to brand your business and how to compete against the current top ranking sites. Successful keyword research can also give you valuable insights into your potential customers.

More to the point, ranking for the right keyword often means the difference between success and failure. You want to attract traffic to your site; far more important than traffic, however, is conversions--when a visitor  performs an action on your site, like buying your product, sharing your content, or signing up for your newsletter.

As the popular SEO website, Moz, says in its helpful guide to keyword research, "It's not always about getting visitors to your site, but about getting the right kind of visitors"--in other words, conversions.

So how do you attract the right type of visitor?

For certain websites (and alien invasion movies), the wrong type of "visitor"
can mean certain catastrophe
[Photo Source]

Start With a "Working Keyword"

Most online keyword research guides urge webmasters to begin with a keyword research tool. Before you use any number of the available keyword research tools, however, you must identify, in a general sense, the most appropriate way to define your core offering.

But don't be too general. Do you sell watches? Well, "watches" will likely not be the most effective keyword for your site. Instead, identify the keywords you believe to be most relevant to your unique site's content. Perhaps you're a Philadelphia-area purveyor of Swiss watches. You might begin, then, with the working keyword "Philadelphia Swiss Watches."

Google the Competition

Once you have identified your "working keyword," Google the word or phrase. This is the best way to quickly and easily identify your core competition. Browse your competitor's sites. Try to identify why and how they rank for your working keyword; just as important, take note of any other potentially useful product descriptions that might inform your own keyword research.

Find a Suitable Keyword Research Tool 

You now have a working knowledge of your own keywords and your competition's keywords. Now you can use a keyword research tool.

You will find many available tools online--most will ask you to begin with a working keyword; many work on a similar premise to Google AdWord's Keyword Planner:

"You can search for keyword and ad group ideas, get historical statistics, see how a list of keywords might perform, and even create a new keyword list by multiplying several lists of keywords together."

Other good keyword research tools include Moz's Keyword Explorer and WordStream's Free Keyword Tool.

The purpose of these tools is simple. As WordStream writes in its guide to finding "niche keywords", a good keyword research tool "will help you identify a wide range of potential keyword opportunities including less obvious terms that could potentially drive traffic and sales."

Pay close attention: the "less obvious" keywords could be the perfect avenue for a new site to rank quickly. Most likely the most effective keywords for your site, especially a local site, will be long-tail keywords that incorporate locations.

Refine Your Keyword List 

The research tools will give you many keyword options. Your next task is to refine your list; the tools should give you the ability to refine as well. Your goal, to begin, is to find a minimum of 10 keywords that speak most precisely to your current offering.

Google the Competition Part II

Again, many keyword research tools will enable you to select keywords based on relevance and competition. However, as before, you can Google each keyword and research the competition on your own.

Writtent has a nifty DIY formula for analyzing the relative competitiveness of any keyword.  In general, however, the advice of Backlinko is quite sound:

"If you see a page littered with authoritative, big brand results, you might be better off moving to the next keyword on your list. But if you take the time to evaluate keyword competition, you can usually find keywords that get great search volume AND have little to no competition."

Some business owners might want to try to rank for the most competitive keywords; however, using a mix of highly competitive and moderately competitive keywords is often the best option.

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Once you have selected a sound list of keywords, you must create relevant, engaging content based on the keywords. For help writing the best content, check out some of our most popular content posts:

How to Write Good Content

Does Your Content Count?

Two Simple Questions to Inspire New Content

And remember: Keyword research is an on-going process. You might refine or change your strategy depending on your initial results.

As WordStream writes:

"It's important to remember that just because a keyword tool returns a keyword doesn't mean you'll be able to rank for it, or that the traffic it sends from search engines will end up converting. Make continual keyword management a priority and be vigilant about analyzing and acting on keyword research to improve your results."

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