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Simplifying Keyword Research

Tue, 06/08/2013 - 09:53

As the starting point of an SEO campaign, careful research needs to be done into key phrases that will not only result in more traffic to a website but (most importantly) more conversions.

Going broad with your research may lead to increased visits to a site, but all those visits won't mean much when none of them convert and the bounce rate goes through the roof.

With more of my time being spent on technical / onsite related work these days, I thought I'd share some keyword research tips and ideas:

  1. Get insight from the client. Knowing that a business only serves a local market or specialize in particular brands can simplify the keyword research process greatly and save you time.
  2. Think like the end-user. When you're running through keyword ideas, put yourself in the shoes of the people that the products are aimed at. If you were looking for the same products, what keywords would you use to find them?
  3. Check phrases against competitors. Unsure if a keyword is relevant? Ask Google. Take a look at the results that come up. If you don’t see any competitors in the results or information that is completely irrelevant appears you know you're on the wrong track. The last thing you want to do is compete in the wrong space.
  4. Qualify. Targeting anything less than a two-word phrase is a waste of time. Individual words (car, watch, bike etc.) are far too broad, highly competitive and generally don't have any intent behind them, so steer clear. For example, using the term "events" on its own for an events organization company that specializes in corporate related functions is too broad. However, the keywords "business events", "business functions" or "corporate functions" will be less competitive and will also lead to more qualified visits - i.e. visits will have a higher likelihood of converting.
  5. Make use of keyword research tools . Google's keyword tool has recently undergone a bit of an overhaul and has been integrated with the keyword planner. The old version of the keyword tool is still available here; however the talk is that Google plans to phase it out in the near future.
    • Ubersuggest (http://ubersuggest.org/) is a great way to discover long-tail keywords. Typing keywords fetches related long-tail queries, ordered alphabetically – i.e. “keyword”+ words beginning with a, b and so on. Even if you don't end up using any of the suggestions, it’s a great tool to use if you’re stuck for ideas.
    • Use analytics. If the client has an analytics account and the site has been live for a few months, take a look at the queries that have driven traffic in the past. Pay attention to the phrases that resulted in the most visits and that had the lowest bounce rates.

Try not to get bogged down in all the different variations of keywords. Decide on a set of main qualifiers and branch out from there. For example, if the website you're working on specializes in advertising and selling used cars, your main qualifiers would likely be: "used", "second hand" and "pre owned". This approach will also make the task of “grouping” the keywords much easier.

Finding a happy medium between traffic volume and relevance is ideally what you want to be aiming for. You don't want to be targeting generic queries all round, but at the same time you also don't want to focus solely on specifics.