What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research consists of finding relevant keywords for your products or services. It’s the foundation of SEO in many ways, because if you can find niche, relevant keywords that other businesses aren’t competing for, you can rank for those keywords fairly easily and drive targeted traffic to your site.
For example, if you run an automobile dealer and can rank highly for, “used cars best price,” that could drive a lot of ready-to-buy customers to your site. However, many people that don’t do sufficient keyword research end up just targeting head terms that everyone else is already targeting. If you’re trying to rank for, “cars” you’re in for a rough time.
After you perform keyword research, you’ll map certain keywords you found to different pages on your site and then use on-page SEO to optimize these pages for these keywords and help them rank.
How to do Keyword Research
Keyword research is a little bit like chess: easy to learn, difficult to master. If you want to know how to do basic keyword research for your site, here are the key steps that will get you started.
These tips will give you a basic foundation, but it’s important to note that they won’t enable you to outrank all of your competitors. If you want to drive real traffic and revenue from Google, don’t just DIY it; consider hiring an expert SEO agency like Colorado SEO Pros.
Step #1: Brainstorm ‘Seed’ Keywords
Start your process by brainstorming a list of keywords that could fit on your site or a certain page of your site. For instance, if you have a website where you sell used cars, you could start with keywords like, “used car,” “affordable used car,” “used Ford,” “used Honda,” and other similar search terms. Think about what you offer and what you would Google if you wanted to find someone who sold your products. Also look at what your competitors are saying on their sites.
Step #2: Get Keyword Traffic and More Keywords
Once you have an initial ‘seed’ list of keywords, it’s time to see how many times these queries are searched each month. This is critical, because you don’t want to spend your time trying to rank for keywords that only have a few traffic per month. Even on the first page of Google, the #1 spot only gets about 30% of clicks and the #10 spot gets about 3%; so if you target a keyword with only 10 search traffic per month, you might get fewer than 1 click per month from this keyword even if you rank on page 1.
Once you know which keywords in your seed list get traffic, it’s time to build on that list. You can use Google Adwords Keyword Planner’s Get Ideas function to get a list of related keywords, or other keyword suggestion tools like UberSuggest, or even just additional brainstorming. It’s important to be comprehensive, so consider doing all three.
When you’re doing this process, it’s important to note that you get out what you put in. If you spend a few hours and use a couple of free tools, you’ll get results that reflect that. If you hire an SEO agency that doesn’t focus on keyword research, you’ll get marginally better results. If you hire true experts like Colorado SEO Pros, who specialize in robust keyword research, you’ll get results that move the needle and drive real traffic and revenue to your site. Comprehensive keyword research is one reason we’ve been able to deliver powerful results for our clients.
When you’re doing keyword analysis for your keywords, it’s important to focus on medium-tail and long-tail keywords instead of head terms. Long-tail keywords (keywords that are longer, like, “used Ford Focus 2014”) get less traffic, but they’re much easier to rank for than head terms. Additionally, long-tail keywords are more likely to drive revenue. Someone searching for, “cars” probably isn’t looking to buy. Someone searching for, “used Ford Focus 2014” is ready to cut a check. If you can get that searcher to your site, odds are good that you just made a new customer.
A good keyword research service can put together comprehensive lists of keywords, including key and difficult-to-find niche keywords, to maximize the profitability of your SEO campaign.
Step #3: Keyword Mapping–Relevance and Difficulty
Now it’s time to map your keywords onto specific pages. For instance, you might decide that your page on used Fords should focus on the keywords, “affordable used Fords” and “pre-owned Ford.” Then, when you get to on-page SEO, you’ll try to optimize that page for these keywords by using them in the site title, meta description, and on-page content.
You can also decide to build out new pages based on your keyword research. Let’s say that, “used Hyundai” has a lot of traffic, and you don’t have a page around the Hyundais you sell. That search traffic shows that there’s a lot of demand for used Hyundais, and that you could capture some of that demand with an optimized page. So keyword research can help you determine new pages you should add to your site.
This is one reason that thorough, comprehensive keyword research is so important. Industry-leading keyword research can be a game-changer for your website and your business.
When you’re mapping keywords, look at two things: relevancy and difficulty.
Relevancy: Your goal isn’t to drive traffic to your site–it’s to drive the right traffic. If you run a used automotive dealer, ranking #1 for the term, “new Bugatti racer,” isn’t going to help you–no-one who searches for that term is going to be looking for your product. When you’re looking at keywords, always ask if someone who searched that term would be interested in your website.
Difficulty: If you’re a small brand and you try to rank for the term, “cars,” you’re unlikely to succeed. Competition is fierce, because big brands already dominate the SERPs (search engine results pages) for that term. Instead, you want to try to rank for long-tail keywords like, “used Ford Focus,” that may have less traffic but is more attainable.
Finding a keyword’s difficulty is something you’ll generally have to pay for. Paid tools like Moz’ Keyword Explorer can show you the difficulty for any given search query.
Keyword mapping is a little bit like a jigsaw puzzle, because you don’t want to map each keyword to more than one page–so you have to analyze what keyword should fit where. A high-quality keyword research service or agency can handle this for you.
Should I Hire a Keyword Research Service?
Comprehensive keyword research is vital to a strong, well-executed SEO campaign. It’s the foundation that we’ll build on with things like on-page content optimization and even link building.
You know the basics of how to do keyword research now, and if you have the time, you can probably do an okay keyword research job on your own. Some paid tools, like Moz’ Keyword Explorer, make the process more efficient.
However, it’s important not to skimp on keyword research. You don’t just want to go after the same keywords your competitors are pursuing. You want to understand the whole keyword universe for your product or service, so that you can find the low-hanging fruit keywords that your competitors don’t know about. And that means you’ll probably need either an in-house professional SEO, or a top-tier SEO agency.
Choosing a Keyword Research Service–Stand-Alone Expert of Agency?
Some freelance SEOs make a living just by doing keyword research for their clients. They then hand this finished keyword research (and sometimes keyword mapping) off to you.
This can work if you have a low budget, or if you know a little about on-page SEO but want to hire help for the more difficult task of keyword research.
However, it’s generally better to hire one agency who will perform all of your SEO services, rather than treating keyword research as an add-on. That way the agency can help you not only find these keywords, but also maximize the value of their findings by helping you optimize the site for these keywords. Generally, if the same people are in charge of your SEO from top to bottom, that works better than multiple people all offering different add-ons.
If you want a car, you buy a whole car; rather than a new engine from one dealer and a new frame from another, and trying to jury-rig the steering yourself. SEO is the same way: it’s generally inefficient to hire stand-alone services like a keyword research expert. What you really want is an agency or full-time in-house SEO who will manage everything.
At Colorado SEO Pros, one of our specialties is highly advanced, comprehensive keyword research. But, instead of just handing that research off to you, we’ll use it as the basis of our SEO campaign so we can drive real results. If you’d like to work with us, just give us a call.