SEO made simple Part 2 – Keyword Research
Journeying forward into the land of SEO as promised, I had hoped to cover the rest of the SEO terms in this supposed “part 2” post.
As I began writing about “keyword research”, however, I realize it’s often a SEO process discussed with just the how’s, the tools and maybe the search volume to justify which keywords to target. What’s left unsaid are the search intent and the real marketing concepts behind keyword research. It’s like eating a burger without the patty: plain and pointless! (sorry to all my vegetarian friends!)
That’s the FUN part of search marketing: 1) Understanding your potential customers, 2) Identifying your brand’s unique value, 3) Reflecting in your website how the need and unique value intersects, 4) Using proper keywords and content to influence website
Before you start considering any sort of SEO initiative, you should think “keywords”. Why? Keywords form the foundation of your SEO campaign. It’s the one thing that connects what the users are searching for to what your site offers. Very often, someone will come up to me and ask, “How can I rank number 1 on Google?” At that point, I’ll ask, “on what keyword?” For a brand or business, ranking number 1 on your brand name should be a given. In order to rank for non-branded, product or service related keywords, what those keywords are should be well-defined. I would even suggest taking a couple steps back and ask yourself the 5 W’s as you would with any marketing initiative, before considering keywords.
Why, who, what, where, and when
The question I’ll ask is why would someone be looking for your services or products. What’s the bigger need that you may be able to help or service? Let’s say you own a yogurt shop in North York. You may be thinking of variations of “Frozen Yogurt in North York” like “froyo north york”, “yogurt in north york”. If you end your keyword research right here, you may be missing out on other searches such as “dessert place north york”, “10 best yogurt places in the GTA”. As Google advances in its voice search recognition and people do more searches on mobile, search queries tend to get longer and become more complex. Asking why can help you see beyond what you as a business owner could offer and see the intent behind the searches people do. Do people only want frozen yogurt or could they be looking for cool date ideas in the area? That’s just one way of looking at it. The “why” question should tie in nicely with your unique brand offering.
(On a side note, it’s brilliant that Yogurty’s came up with the idea of froyograms. That page, however, wasn’t optimized for “froyo date ideas” or “valentine’s date ideas” so it doesn’t come up in search unless I know to specifically look for froyograms. A bit of a missed opportunity in my perspective)
This should be an easy one but it doesn’t hurt to repeat the drill. Who are your target customers? The more you know about them, the better. In marketing, they may call it customer profiling or customer segmentation. Beyond knowing about their age, gender, likes/ dislikes, spending habits etc, what would be relevant in this area is also where they spend the most time online. If you’re already considering SEO, you must know your target customers are indeed finding out information through search engines. What you need to determine next is the type of keywords that would really ring a bell for your potential customers. For some industries like insurance, travel or grocers where it’s very price-driven, adding “cheap” in front of whatever you’re selling may be a great call-to-action. For luxury goods, “cheap” may be the last thing you want to use to describe your products. Or perhaps, there IS a group that’s looking for affordable luxury goods. How would the search queries of that group reflect that?
(I do need to give props to my friend’s Designer Consignment blog – Designer Swap for inspiring this paragraph!)
This is very simply asking, “what are my customers looking for and what should I put on my website?” We may have covered a bit of that in the “why” paragraph. Without diving into the intent of your customers, this question can be answered by mapping out a detailed list of your services/ products. Let that list guide the building of your content and pages of your website. For the specific product that you’re selling, is it common for people to also look for features, reviews, functionality and other information? Doing keyword research and having a grasp of how much monthly search volume there is for “Product A reviews” and “Product A features” can fill in those gaps.
Google Adwords – Keyword Planner is a free tool that is a good place to begin your keyword research process . It helps to have an idea of search volume before deciding on what keywords to target in your SEO campaign. Having said that, the current keyword planner shows broad match search volume, so the number can be a bit inflated. To understand better all the keyword match types, here’s Google’s quick guide: https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2497836?hl=en&ref_topic=3122868.
I’ve briefly talked about where your potential customers hang out online in the “who” paragraph. Now I have to put on my inbound marketing hat for a sec. Search marketing is great- there’s a sense of answering a customer’s immediate need when they search for you that makes this medium so effective. If you operate a website, you must consider some type of SEO efforts, because that’s long-term investment and it’s FREE! (Win-Win) There are other channels that not only drive traffic to your website, but also impact actual foot traffic or online conversions. Just to name a few, there are all the social media channels, paid ads, retargeting ads, YouTube and local directories (yelp, urbanspoon). Maybe there’s a blogger/ influencer whom you know gets a certain readership from your target audience that you can collaborate on a feature post? How would this tie in with keyword research, you may ask? Maybe the effect won’t be much when it’s a standalone effort. Imagine, though, if all digital channels (social, local, referral sites) start describing your brand a certain way with certain keywords, that won’t go unnoticed by Google. Google will start associating your website with those keywords too (when proper links are set up between all these properties… but let’s revisit links on a different post).
SEO, when done well, is an always-on strategy. If you’re not dealing with a high turnover of products each season, most of your product/ services pages should look relatively the same. In the same regard, keywords and on-site optimization wouldn’t fluctuate very much for those staple pages. But most business also handle some level of seasonality: high/ low season and trends. The most agile part of your site would be your blog if you have one. I would then recommend supplementing that with a paid search campaign, social media hype and partnerships with other bloggers. The type of searches that may take a user to your online presence for seasonal products may also look different.
Google Trends is a great free tool to spot any historical trends or upcoming surges in search volume.
Clearly I’ve gone off topic here and there when I really meant to talk solely on keyword research. Truth of the matter is, SEO isn’t only about websites anymore.
Other SEO’s out there, what’s your take on keyword research? What are some tools that you can share with the folks here? New to SEO, what are some of your challenges and experience? Share them in the comments below!