Am I matching search queries to my service or product offering?
At its most basic, SEO is a game with Google–and a gazillion other online proprietors all vying for attention and page rank.
There are infinite, contrasting strategies for “how to do SEO”, but they all start with one thing: keyword research.
Keyword optimized content can increase traffic to your site and help your page rank higher in search engine results page (SERPs)–but you already know that.
What you really want to know is how to get more conversions.
You’ve come to the right place.
Every great enterprise starts with research.
I know, I know, who likes research, right? (Well, I do, but I swim in the nerd pool).
Keyword research isn’t hard. Some might call it exciting. But don’t take it from me. Take it from my non-nerd friend Rob who actually hates reading–a research requirement–but giggles like a small child on a merry-go-round when he nails down the right keyword to rank for.
How is keyword research done?
All research begins with a question (or two), and keyword research is no different.
Keyword research starts with identifying what your customer wants through two critical questions:
1. How are people searching for your product or service offering?
2. How does your offering align with their queries?
To start, let’s tackle question #1.
How are people searching for your product or service offering?
The number, order, and meaning of words in searches inform us of the searcher’s intention and where they are in the conversion cycle.
Matt Diggity, founder of Diggity Marketing, identifies three phases of research (in a 6-stage process) that potential customers go through when they are seeking a product or service. They are:
- Actively looking for a solution to their acknowledged pain (the need that your product is going to meet).
- Actively looking for the best solution to relieve their pain.
- Looking for the best place to buy the best solution.
During the first two stages, your customer is in the research phase. They’re using 1-2 keywords in their searches. These are your head or seed keywords.
Example: “yoga retreats”
In the second and third phases (they overlap), your customer is seriously considering a particular product or service. They’re using 2-3+ keywords in their searches. These are your long-tail keywords.
Example: “best yoga retreats in Bali” or “best Bali yoga retreats” or “kundalini yoga retreats in Bali”
As their research deepens, the search becomes more specific.
Make sense? Great.
Let’s move on to question #2.
How does your product or service offering align with search queries?
By asking this question, we’re essentially seeking to know how to use keyword research for SEO.
This step is strategic. It’s where you begin to use the information you’ve gathered through rigorous keyword research.
You want to make your focus keywords those that represent the consideration and conversion stages of the journey–the long-tail keywords. Although your site will include head keywords organically, they are too general to focus your core efforts on.
You care more about long-tail keywords for two reasons:
- They are specific and therefore relevant to your customer’s queries.
- They are least competitive (because they’re specific) and therefore, have higher conversion potential.
Now, you need to find target long-tail keywords that are most relevant, more frequently searched, and are moderate or low competition.
How do you do that?
Luckily, some of the best things in life are free, including the best apps for keyword research.
For starters, try these:
Google Adwords Keyword Planner
Next, compile a list of long-tail keywords generated by any one of these tools (I recommend all) and then rank them, first by their relevance to your offering and then by their difficulty. This will help you determine which keywords you should focus on because they address your customers’ queries and are least competitive.
Assessing keyword difficulty is a bit labour intensive and while several tools can help determine the difficulty factor, they can be expensive and aren’t 100% accurate because no one knows how Google ranks pages–we can only estimate.
However, as a tool for assessing MOZ puts out a free extension: MOZ Toolbar, which reports on the page domain (PA) and domain authority (DA) of each search result. When SERPs have a low PA and DA, you’ve got a good starting point for choosing keywords to rank for.
But we do know that high-quality backlinks and relevant content that also considers user-intent are significant.
(We’ll take a look at backlinks in another blog. Right now, relevant content is in the spotlight).
Low competition long-tail keywords exist because there is insufficient responsive content available.
Remember–you want to optimize your pages by writing content around those keywords that are most relevant and least competitive.
Don’t take this lightly because this where many SEOs mess it up.
We can make anything fit if we really want it too. Those too-tight jeans from ‘95? Nothing an hour worn wet can’t cure (a humble confession of a thrifty nomad). But when we try to make something fit that naturally doesn’t, it’s obvious and uncomfortable for all those involved.
We call it stuffing–don’t make this mistake. Stuffing irrelevant keywords into your copy increases bounce rates and signals to Google that your page is not providing useful information.
Why Keyword Research is So Important
Providing relevant content is one of the most important ways to respond to your customer’s needs (I argue it’s the pinnacle of SEO success). It starts with knowing what people are actually searching for and then responding with information that doesn’t relate to but explicitly answers their questions.
If someone asks about the gestation period of unhatched turkey poults, you’re not going to tell them about the sexual activity of turkeys. While it’s related, it’s not the question they asked.
You know how annoying not having your question answered is–don’t be that person.
And don’t insert those well-researched keywords into lousy copy. Instead, craft your content around those target keywords to provide your customer with on-topic, quality information.
Providing meaningful, relevant content means potential customers stay on your page longer,
their trust in your brand deepens,
they’re more likely to convert,
And Google ranks your page higher–it’s a happy place for everyone.
But, before we wrap up, we also need to consider user-intent. Words have double, sometimes triple, meanings. For example:
Someone searching for “chocolate labs” might actually be looking for one of three things:
a factory that makes chocolate, or
a dog-shaped chocolate treat for their favourite uncle (unlikely but don’t cancel it out).
There is greater belief now that Google looks first at whether pages accurately respond to user-intent, which makes relevance a moot point. So, consider all the different ways people interpret the keywords you want to rank for.
Go Keyword Hunting…
Now you’ve got something to start with on your way to SEO success. Keyword research is a necessary first step–a strategic one.
My advice to you is to use every keyword tool available to you. The most valuable one is your brain.
Metrics are important, but they’re machine-generated. Investigate by performing your own search queries and analyzing the results. Read available content and note what is lacking–that’s your opportunity. It requires manual labour, but it supports a greater understanding of how Google ranks pages and why (before it changes again).
Then, write awesome, engaging content built around your target keywords, that feeds your potential customers exactly what they want. Write your own or hire an expert copywriter with SEO knowledge.