Often, the first step one takes to optimize one’s website for the search engines involves keyword research.
To be honest, though, you should perform that keyword research BEFORE you do SEO – in fact, you should probably do it before you even build your website! Keep reading to find out why.
Keywords as Seeds
Think about keywords as you would think about the seeds you use to grow your garden. You may start by thinking about what you’d like to grow, but before you even buy the seeds, you’d research what kinds of plants grow well in your area.
For example, I like certain homegrown tomatoes, but if I lived further south I wouldn’t dream of growing them except under specifically controlled conditions; South Florida suffers from a serious nematode problem. Which is a pity, because you’d figure the climate is perfect otherwise…well, as long as you keep in mind that the growing season is different because it gets too hot in the summer for tomatoes to do well. (Big surprise to those of you further north, yes?). And don’t even get me started on the soil consistency…
Now before I take this metaphor too much further, let me explain what I’m trying to point out: if you don’t do your research, you could end up with some really unpleasant surprises. You might want to use a keyword that gets a lot of traffic, but also has a lot of competition. You might want to use one particular keyword for your product, but find that your customers use a totally different word for the same thing.
Or you could get some pleasant surprises… like the time I grew a tomato plant and had it last for more than two years, when I’d heard that one usually must replant every year. Not in Florida, apparently, or at least not with that particular plant! But you’re not going to know unless you do the research.
Research is Everything
You wouldn’t even begin to create a full-scale garden without researching your plants, and you shouldn’t even begin to create a full-scale website without doing your keyword research. Just like the plants, keywords are the key elements to your website; it’s what the site is all about. Yes, I know, it’s all about content and giving a good experience to the user (and helping you conduct your business, of course), but your content grows from the categories you choose, and those categories are your keywords.
Keywords are like tomatoes; raw or cooked, you can use them in everything. And plenty of people do. This luscious red fruit happily goes into salads, pizza, stews, soups, chili, on burgers (as both tomato slices and ketchup), pasta sauce, and so much more. If you do keyword research right, think about intent, how you can organize and cluster them, keywords can help you build navigation, titles, descriptions, content and blog posts.
But of course, you still need tools for your garden to grow. And depending on your area (or platform), you should pick appropriate tools, be it WordPress plugins or standalone web based apps. Your best bet is to go for a robust all-in-one solution that could tackle a lot of aspects of research and marketing your keywords. Cyfe is one example because, with its multiple widgets, it handle research, tracking, organizing, and expanding your keyword lists:
Your keywords help you market your website; they tell everyone what your website is all about. And by "everyone," I mean the search engines, your visitors, your writers, your suppliers, those who create your product or service, and even you. And that’s why you should get that research done BEFORE you build your website. Because if you don’t, you might find yourself fighting to grow tomatoes in July in South Florida in soil that’s full of nematodes. Good luck!
People over intellectualize things.
Keyword research can be hard and time-consuming and mind numbingly boring.
It doesn’t have to be, though.
In fact, all you need is about twenty minutes. So less than the time you waste on Twitter.
And I promise you won’t have to open Excel once.
Let’s dive straight in.
Tip #1. Let Google tell you what people are already searching for alreadyWe’ve all been there.
You’re typing something into the Google search bar, pleasantly minding your own business, when Google suddenly feels the need to finish your sentence.
Before you know it, Google’s bombarding you with roughly a billion possible searches via its auto-suggest feature. And this is all before you’ve even hit "Enter."
Irritating? Slightly. Helpful? Extremely.
The good news is that you can reverse engineer this irritating/helpful feature for new keyphrase research ideas.
Let’s take a closer look at how one might go about doing such a thing.
Hypothetically, you decide to create content about CRM tools. You type "best crm" into your search bar…
But before finishing that thought, Google’s already reading your mind.
Not just your mind. But everyones.
Typing in "best CRM" brings up a sneak peek into the most common CRM-related queries people use most often.
Scroll down to the bottom of the SERP, and you’ll also see a "Searches related to" list. These include other contextually related search queries people often use before or after the one you typed in.
Google’s "People also ask" feature works the same way.
Start searching for a big, generic keyword like "keyword research," like so:
And then scroll down towards the bottom.
Right before the "Searches related to" list, you’ll see a few related questions that "People also ask".
Click on one of the questions and a few more will pop up, over and over and over and over again (until you inevitably get bored).
For all those visual learners out there, we’ll demonstrate this by clicking on the question "What is keyword research in SEO?":
And that makes these two follow-up questions appear.
If you think about it, these extra questions are really free tips from Google on how you can address all of a user’s questions about your topic in your content.
Gee, thanks, Google!
You know what those look like to me?
Blog post headlines. Subheads at the very least. And definitely some new keywords.
(Zero number crunching required.)
Tip #2. Use "Answer The Public" for nearly endless ideasYou could call it quits after playing that solid game of 20 questions with Google.
But if you just haven’t had enough keyword research yet, drop by Answer the Public before quitting Google Chrome (or, like, Safari, if you’re into that sort of thing).
Like Google’s Auto Suggest, Answer the Public can be used to brainstorm topic ideas. Many of them would have never even occurred to you otherwise.
And it’s free.
You can get started by pulling up the site and entering a new topic, like "keyword research," into the space provided.
A drop-down menu will ask for your country next to the keyword field.
Select your location and then click "Get Questions" quickly. (That guy with the turtleneck is creeping me out.)
Answer the Public will slowly start revealing new content ideas. (Along with another freaking guy in a turtleneck!)
From here, you can view three types of results.
- Questions results will list ideas in question form such as "which is the best keyword research tool."
- Prepositions results will list ideas with prepositions such as "keyword research for blogging."
- Alphabetical results will list ideas associated with popular letters, such as "keyword research for ecommerce" as an "e" result.
Ahhh, that’s better. Boring table view. You just made a nerdy SEO somewhere super happy.
Now, focus in on some of those who-what-when-where-why queries to get even more specific ideas.
Then you can look over to the "How" results for ready-made content headlines.
With this tool, you’re no longer writing content that scratches the surface.
You’re writing an official (dare I say, Definitive) guide for your topic that addresses across-the-board issues and provides the answers that your visitors themselves didn’t even know they wanted.
Tip #3. Use the Google Keyword Planner…(in this unexpected way)90% of "keyword research" blog posts mention the Google Keyword Planner.
That’s both bad and good.
It’s good because it means you can exit out of that post ASAP and save yourself the wasted time of filling your mind with more garbage. (You already have The Bachelor for that.)
BUT WAIT. Don’t go just yet.
Imma let you finish, but first, let’s use Google Keyword Planner for this one thing trick.
Today, we’re going to borrow ideas from the competition. To be returned at a later date. (Probably never.)
It sounds wrong, but it’s nothing personal.
Stealing your competition’s ideas is a smart way to figure out what’s working well for other people and how you can reverse engineer a similar angle.
So let’s get started.
Pull up the Google’s Keyword Planner and select the first option:
This is where things get interesting.
You’re not going to fill in your product or service or provide the URL to your landing page. Instead, you’re going to provide the URL to your competitor’s landing page.
Under the Ad group ideas tab, you’ll get results that look similar to this:
These are suggestions for your competitor that could, and should, be used by you.
Each suggested ad group will be accompanied by a few other bits of information:
- Keywords within the group (Helpful.)
- The average monthly searches for said ad group (Kinda helpful.)
- The competition for this ad group expressed as Low, Medium, or High (Not helpful at all.)
You want to use an idea that thousands of people are searching for every month.
The long-tail stuff works well for organic search. But it typically won’t have enough search volume or existing demand to move the needle for you on the paid front.
Tip #4. Pull up Wikipedia for these hidden gemsIt was banned from being used as a source in your high school papers. Ridiculed for being unreliable and insufficient.
But you’re out of high school now.
Let’s see how Wikipedia can also help you hack keyword research.
Run along to everyone’s favorite free encyclopedia and type a broad word related to your content into their search bar.
Now, it’s time to take a cue or two from the table of contents on that page.
These aren’t just headers on the Wikipedia page. These are topics you could address in your content about SEO.
Thanks to Wikipedia, you now detailed SEO information, like indexing, crawling, white hat versus black hat techniques.
This can help expose you to new ideas that never would have occurred to you. (Canonicalization, anyone?!)
Best of all, you have very credible info right here to help you get started on the content that you’ll eventually use to pull in more search traffic.
Tip #5. Look at what people are already searching for on your siteThis time, all you need is your own site.
Chances are, you started this site to provide resources and information to the confused people who need it most (and then turn their problems into profits).
Said confused people are likely going to search for answers within your site when they can’t find what everything they need.
The good news is that you can use your visitors’ unanswered searches to build better content on your site (then turn around and promote those pages).
How you ask?
In a twist, we need Google to help us keep our customers from going back to Google to look for another website.
Irony at its finest.
So let’s get started.
Go to Google Analytics and set up Site Search. On the left, you’ll see the "Behavior" tab. Click that, then "Site Search," then "Search Terms," and then you see this:
This list view is helpful. To a point.
What would be even more helpful is if you could see what page people searched for each of these queries on.
That would help give you an idea of how to change, modify, or update each page to improve topic targeting.
You could then also expand keyword ideas and campaigns with these new-and-improved pages.
Interested? Follow these steps.
Under "Behavior" and "Site Search," then click on "Overview."
Next, you’ll want to select "Start Page" for your primary dimension. This will list the pages people are searching from.
Now, your secondary dimension, select "Search Term." This will tell you what your customers have been searching for on those specific pages.
Here’s what that looks like:
In this example, we can see what people are searching when on the "style" tag page of our hypothetical website.
Congrats! You’ve hacked Google Analytics. Try this with multiple start pages to amass the ultimate list of your next keyword list to test.
Tip #6. Put keywords in context with this free keyword tool (that doesn’t suck)The first few tips should have dumped dozens of worthy ideas into your lap.
But now you’ve got a new problem.
Which topic do you start with? How do you prioritize several good ideas?
Well, do I have news for you!
The WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool has undergone some updates to help you figure this out.
New features allow you to tailor your results to provide possible keyword suggestions that apply best to your target demographic.
But wait, there’s more!
The tool also provides a proprietary Opportunity Score that boils down all of the other various keyword metrics (like demand, competition, and cost) to the bare essentials: Priority.
Let’s fire this thing up to see how it works.
Access the tool and type your keyword into the designated box. Next to that, you’ll see a drop-down menu allowing you to select from a variety of industries.
When searching for "click-through rate" keywords, for example, you may be writing for business owners. That means you want to prioritize keywords that business owners are likely to include in their CTR search.
After selecting your industry, click "Search" and browse the extensive list of suggestions.
You can also switch up the industry if you’d like to appear in the SERPs for multiple audiences.
You could search for computer & electronics-tailored CTR keywords, for example, and the results will update:
You don’t just want the most popular keywords, after all.
You want the right ones. You want the ones that are going to appeal directly to a specific audience so that they’ll convert after hitting your page.
You can also get information on the competition level, CPC, and opportunity score of your keyword options by connecting to your AdWords account.
So it will work hand-in-hand with your account, minimizing the time-consuming back-and-forth that often bogs you down.
Here’s an example now of how that would look when your results are sorted not by volume, but the shiny new Opportunity Score.
However, this is only the first step.
There’s one final filtering method to help you prioritize hundreds of brand new keywords you’ve now found.
Tip #7. Segment keyword data by funnel stageSo now you’ve got a boatload of ideas. You’ve even got some keyword metrics to help sort them.
But which topic do you start with? How do you prioritize several good ideas?
You could jump straight into volume and competition and potential and opportunity and blah blah blah.
Let’s take a step back, first, though.
What kinds of visitors do you want? Who do you need?
And how should you prioritize if all else is equal?
Keyword research can be like the chicken and egg problem. You want the bottom of the funnel visitors. But you ain’t gonna rank for those (or afford those) until you get enough top of the funnel visitors visiting, reading, sharing, Pocketing, and more.
Don’t neglect your sales funnel.
How about a quick roleplay. Because those make everything a little more exciting.
In this installment of your hypothetical life, hypothetical you is running a campaign for some unnamed Hollywood Hotel. (Knowing you, it’s a swanky joint.)
So you get started with "Hollywood Hotel" in the fancy new WordStream free Keyword tool.
Ok. You type in "Hollywood Hotel" and up pops a ton of new ideas, helpfully ranked by Opportunity Score.
This is super helpful, don’t get me wrong.
But you’re missing one thing: Context.
Now take a look at it after this one tiny edit:
See it now?
The stuff at the bottom are your branded terms. People type these in when they’re ready to buy.
The stuff above it is more middle of the road (of funnel) terms. These people are comparing their alternatives.
They’re not sure, exactly, where to stay just yet. They ain’t checking rates just yet.
So help them compare!
How does your joint line up against the others? Why should they choose you over them?
If you don’t tell them, TripAdvisor (or similar) will.
ConclusionKeyword research isn’t just number crunching. It’s about understanding searcher intent.
Figuring out what specific groups of people are looking for, and then doing your best to give it to them.
Luckily, these seven tips are well worth the investment. They’re exactly what you need to tell you what your visitors want.
No tricks, gimmicks, hacks, or pivot tables required.
While the digital world can be highly changeable, some things remain the same. One of those constants is that PPC is still a primary profit generator, and a lucrative way to monetize. When you look at the methods of the highest earning websites across the web, what is often at the very top of their earning strategies? PPC.
If you are looking for a way to optimize your own website for higher earning potential, these tools are must haves.
Ringostat is an intelligent call tracking tool that increases the performance of the advertising and optimizes business workflow.
Ringostat multi-channel report shows the sequences of interactions that brought the user the phone call. With this type of reports Ringostat clients see how previous referrals and searches contributed to their sales, what traffic sources were the first in the consideration process and what sources ultimately converted the user into the lead.
Moreover, these reports show the number of visits from each advertising channel. The call log allows to evaluate the efficiency of advertising campaigns and properly re-allocate the advertising budget. Showing the source of each phone call up to a keyword level, it helps to determine the campaigns that really generate calls.
Obviously, you can glean a lot about your customer base this way, which can really help you with ad planning. It is expensive, but worth it if you have a decent sized business.
Nothing is as frustrating as having to manually go in and edit a bunch of different campaigns in Google AdWords. So your best bet is to make it possible to mass edit and make changes faster.
Adwords Editor gives you the power to do that. It is a super simple tool, maybe so simple it doesn’t seem like it would be that helpful. But it is…oh, yes, it is.
Speaking of Google, have you used their Keyword Planner yet? If not, you are insane. This is hands down the best free research tool on the web.
You can find the best keyword combinations and monitor your campaign progress, making changes along the way until you have the best possible keywords targeted. Start using it, and thank me later. If you are already using it, use it more. Then thank me again.
This is a great secondary keyword research tool to use in addition to Google’s Planner. You can generate questions related to your business, and come up with some awesome target phrases. Plus, it is free.
This is out of the usual scope of PPC tools, but is still really valuable and can inform your strategy later on.
How do you keep a leg up on the competition? Spy on them, of course! This tool is a handy little app that will do the detective work for you.
You can find out what keywords they are targeting, how much they are spending on campaigns, and a lot more. Sometimes knowing what the other guys are doing is the best possible way to improve your own efforts.
Trello is kind of my collaboration and project management tool of choice. I use it for everything from professional projects to personal ones.
I find with PPC campaigns it is a great way to organize keywords, track data, and make future plans. Especially if you are working with a team that needs to stay involved.
No one really likes spending all the time needed to run an effective PPC campaign. It takes ages, and so much energy.
These scripts written by BrainLabs automate several of the tasks that take up the most time. Every one of these is a lifesaver, and you should implement them immediately.
Have some tools to add? Let us know in the comments!