Keyword research is a scary realm for some people. How do I know if I’m doing it right? Can’t I just put a ton of keywords in a page and hope for the best? The truth is, keyword research is step one in a long process for your overall success with search engine optimization. It is a CRUCIAL point, even though, it is true, the old SEO methods of simply focusing on keywords is dead.
If you’re still writing content for your website, you better be doing keyword research.
The Google algorithm updates have been wreaking havoc on everyone’s rankings lately. But the fact remains that Google STILL pays attention to the content on your page. In fact, Google has released these Quality Raters Guidelines to help us identify what factors matter when ranking. And it’s definitely not how many times your keyword shows up in your content anymore.
Google is ranking your pages based on…
You’ve gotta know what you’re talking about these days. You can’t skim over your content with a paragraph or two and think that it is covered. you need to be the absolute expert. Show your skill - give your audience something they can use or something of value that keeps them coming back again and again. Be the source of the best info on your subject.
If you’re great but nobody else thinks so, you will have a problem ranking. Getting reviews and credible engagement is crucial. Bad information or mediocre information will get knocked off the rankings faster than you can blink.
How does your site make people feel? Do they stay? Does it feel like spam? Does everything about your site scream “this is a safe place to buy something!” This is a huge deal in ranking today. Keywords may not have as much to do with trust, but you can have optimized content on a site that feels unsecure, and you won’t get anywhere.
Remember that website traffic is not the end all. The goal is sales and conversions! If you get tons of traffic but it doesn’t convert, you haven’t achieved anything at all.
The bottom line is that keyword research is the basis of great content. And the key to ranking, barring any technical issues or major problems on a site, is awesome content - says Google’s own Danny Sullivan himself. And awesome content, on a secure site, is the key to website traffic and if you’re ranking for the RIGHT keywords, you end up with sales.
So how do you do GREAT keyword research to get traffic that converts?
Step 1: Think Like a Customer
Start by thinking like a customer. Get out of your own head and think about the challenges and problems your customer has. Create a list of all the topics you might see as relevant to your business. Let’s say you’re a photographer. You might include these terms in your list “family photography, senior photos, wedding photographer,” etc. For a plumber, you might have “leaky faucet” or another kind of issue. This is your baseline keyword research.
Step 2: Expand Your List
Expand your list with tools. What do people really care about when they’re searching for a photographer or for a plumber? Maybe price, maybe reviews. Perhaps they’re looking for someone close to them in town. If you have an existing website, check out your Google Search Console to see what terms you’re already receiving traffic for. These are our favorite FREE tools to expand your keyword list:
30 searches for free.
Google Keyword Planner
Sign up for an Ads account to get access. It’s a process, but worth it!
Free and gives tons of ideas.
Answer the Public
This tool gets points just for coolness. You get top questions, comparisons, all in neat little visual graphs.
Do a few searches yourself and see what Google suggests at the bottom of the SERPs for “Searches related to…”
Once you use one or two of these tools, you should have a big pool of words that you’d potentially want your website to show up for. Now that you have this huge list, how do you break it down into topics you can use?
Step 3: Categorize by Purpose
Think & Categorize by Purpose. What phrase do you think is more likely to be a potential customer: “family photography,” or “photographer for family event in Atlanta, GA?” The second one is much more descriptive, and usually this indicates someone further down the sales funnel. For our plumber example, would “leaky faucet” or “emergency plumber 24/7 in Atlanta” be more likely to convert? It’s possible the “leaky faucet” search is still looking for a way to fix it themselves, not make an appointment. Keep in mind that it’s also easier to rank for long-tail keywords than more generic short phrases. Get your top 5-10 “money” phrases that are likely to convert. The volume for these keywords is going to be much lower, but again - traffic is not the goal here.
Remember that writing optimized web copy isn’t simply about synonyms or keyword stuffing. Your goal is to be COMPREHENSIVE. Just by covering the topic of “family photography in Atlanta,” you’re satisfying those shorter key phrases at the same time. If you’re a plumber and you service toilets, sinks, and all kinds of problems, you need to cover all of them in your content.
Don’t get caught up in simply analyzing the key words. See what your competition ranks for and what kind of content is on their top pages. One page can be relevant for many different keywords, although your primary focus should be one topic. Your goal is to find a way to provide the BEST answer to a user’s query; i.e., give the best result for a given keyword or phrase. Once you’ve decided what your keyword targets are, match them up with a page of comprehensive content on your site. Longer form questions are great ideas for blog posts. Maybe “Best photography spots in Atlanta,” isn’t a keyword that indicates a user is ready to buy, but it will certainly get you traffic and authority if you publish the best piece to satisfy the request.