Research: You dreaded it in high school, you learned to loathe it during college or university, and you swore an oath to avoid it as much as possible after graduation. Now you’ve started your own business, and you’re working on optimizing your website for search engines. You can’t help but notice that the word “research” keeps creeping up everywhere. It’s not just any research—it’s keyword research, and you have no idea how to do it. You don’t want to know how to do it. You swore off formal research long ago, and you’re determined to stick to your convictions.
Well, my stubborn friend, it’s time to start breaking some oaths, because keyword research is an inevitable necessity of search engine optimization (SEO). Here is a simple guide to teach you how to do keyword research. I promise to make it seem as little like research as possible, though I do have to point out that your reading this article is actually research. (Sorry to burst your “keeping-my-oath-no-matter-what” bubble.)
Step 1: Use Common Sense
You’ve used a search engine before, right? Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last two decades (in which case I applaud your business aspirations), there’s no way you aren’t extremely familiar with search engines like Google. Because you already have lots of experience as a searcher, the initial stage of keyword research is easy. All you have to do is think about what you would search for if you were looking for content like the content you’re trying to optimize. So, first you need to pick the page(s) you’re optimizing.
Let’s start with an obvious one—your home page. If your company sells energy-efficient lightbulbs, your home page is basically going to say, “We sell this specific type of lightbulb because it’s better than other lightbulbs.” So, what would a searcher type in if they were looking for a company like yours that they didn’t yet know existed? Make a list of possible search terms. For example:
You can also conduct keyword research before you write a blog post. Think broadly about the topic you’re hoping to write about. Again, make a list of possible words and phrases people could type to get them to a blog post about that topic. If you complete your keyword research before writing something, you can integrate those keywords more organically into your prose, which will help you avoid keyword stuffing (which is including keywords too frequently, making your writing sound awkward and unnatural).
Step 2: Start Your Research
Now that you have a general list of keywords to investigate further, you’re going to need to use a keyword tool. The most common tool for keyword research is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. Plug the list of potential keywords and phrases you came up with in the first step into the Keyword Planner.
The first thing you need to look at is the average monthly search volume for each keyword or phrase you’ve searched. Discard low-volume keywords. You might also need to get rid of keywords with extremely high search volumes, especially if these words are not directly related to your page. For example, the keyword “lightbulb” will have a much higher search volume than “energy efficient lightbulbs,” but the latter will be more likely to attract the right kind of visitors to your site: visitors who are more likely to convert to leads and then to customers. Finally, check the level of competition for each search term; the higher the competition level, the less likely you are to rank high for that keyword.
Step 3: Check Out Your Competition
Okay, so you’ve narrowed your first list down according to search volume. You should have a considerably shorter list to work with now. The next step is to see what your competition is up to. This part is simple. Just search for each potential keyword and see what results you get. If the results page is dominated by major brands or giant companies, don’t use that keyword. You’re not going to beat gigantic brands for the top spot, and if your site never makes it into at least the top 10 of the search page results, no one is going to click on you. You’ll have better results if you use a less popular keyword but make it into the top results for that keyword.
The other thing you need to do in this stage is to ensure that your keyword or phrase means what you think it means. If your search term tends to get results about something completely unrelated to what your company is selling, you need a new keyword.
If you complete the third step and find none of your original keyword ideas work, never fear! Go back to the second step, and look at the keywords suggested by Keyword Planner. Then proceed to the third step again.
Step 4: The Final Step
Congratulations! You’ve learned how to do keyword research. The next step is integrating those keywords into your copy for maximum SEO benefits. Check out this article to learn where you can place those well-researched keywords you’ve decided to use.