SEO Keyword Research

Is keyword research the corner stone for effective SEO? We think so.

Here’s a SEMI definition of what keyword research is:

‘SEO keyword research is the process of researching your online target market’s search behaviors, patterns and interests. It provides the means for identifying opportunities and markets that may have been overlooked. SEO keyword research provides the basis for ensuring the effective and consistent placement of a web site in the SERPs resulting in long term ROI.’

Back to basics

  • If a company can figure out what terms its target market is actually using to find its product or service offering online, it is providing itself with an automatic competitive advantage.
  • By supporting and consolidating its brand name with these defining search terms, the company will increase its online brand awareness and exposure (and thus CTR).
  • By researching its competitors a business can see what terms they may have identified as optimal. The business than then choose to compete, or switch its focus to longer terms or slightly more niche oriented terms which are more specifically relevant to their market as and if required. These decisions will be based on knowledge, not guesswork, and that is vital to online success.
  • By identifying the clouds around each primary term, the business can validate the relevance of each primary term identified. Clouds of terms can open up new opportunities. For example; kitchen sinks are searched far more frequently that bathroom sinks, and Kohler sinks are the top brand name searched. If a business sell sinks but not Kohler sinks, based on the research they may want to consider expanding their product line and focusing more of their advertising on kitchen sinks instead of bathroom sinks.

Next Steps
1. Keyword Discovery

  • Make a list of the terms you think are important to your business, and the terms your colleagues think are important. Speak to marketing, finance, operations and HR. You might be surprised by the variety and difference in perceived term relevancy focus. Make a list.
  • Speak to your non-work friends, and your family (they are likely to be far more subjective – and insights can be astonishing). Add to your list.
  • Run this list through WordTracker, Trellian’s Keyword Discovery, WebCEO, Google or numerous other keyword research tools which you can search for and find online. Note search volumes and competitor numbers where possible.
  • Check out the clouds of terms provided by Yahoo! Search Assist, Google Search Suggest, MSN Search Funnels, MSN Consumer Detection (and the other MSN AdCenter labs Tools). 
  • Utilize Google Trends and enter a few terms to see what’s really searched.

2. Competitor Identification

  • Identify your online competitors by searching on the terms you have determined to be your primary target keywords. Look at the title tags for their primary pages.
  • Identify your real competitors title tags as above (if you are Kohler, Moen is a real competitor; if you are a plumber in Calgary, another plumber in Calgary is a real competitor). Your ‘real’ and ‘online’ competitors may differ in scope, range and primary offering or deliverable.

3. Keyword Selection

  • Make a final list of the primary keywords and extended keywords identified and noted from the above steps. Search on these terms in Google and see how many results are returned. At the same time provide your subjective opinion on how well optimized each of the top five results are.
  • Start knocking out terms, and start ticking terms as ‘hard, key and worth the effort’, ‘hard and key but not worth the effort’, ‘hard but not key’, ‘mediocre effort but key’, ‘mediocre effort and not key’, etc. For example, if you are in travel, ‘hotels and resorts’ might be highly relevant to your business, but probably impossible to get as a small to medium size player.
  • Take your final list of ‘key’ terms and re-evaluate. Speak to colleagues, speak to your marketing department. Marketing efforts are a ‘product’ on their own. Treat them as such. I strongly recommend Seth Godin’s book, ‘Meatball Sunday’s’.

4. Integrating Selected Keywords

  • Conduct an SEO Audit of your existing site and apply best practice SEO. Or simply start your redesign by providing the words to IA.

SELECTED INDEPENDENT RESOURCE: Keyword Research by Stoney deGeyter

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