Finding the right keywords for your website (and website pages) is a critical first step to online marketing. You must think like your customers, and discover what they are typing into Google, Yahoo!, and Bing in order to find a business like yours. Listed below are proven strategies to help you find the best keywords to target.
Keyword Research Tools
There are plenty of keyword research tools available for you to use, but you can’t (nor want t0) use them all. Here’s two favorite tools that I suggest you try to see which work best for you.
Basic Keyword Research Tools
Advanced Keyword Research Tools
- Google Keyword Planner
- Google Search Console: Search Analytics
Further Tailoring Keyword Research
With these tools, you’ll get plenty of suggestions to then take into your own Google searches and actively see how your users are searching for your topic(s). When deciding which keywords to use, consider the following factors.
- What the search volume of the keyword is
- How competitive the keyword is
- What other websites are currently ranking
- What your unique value proposition can be
Tip: Fine-tune your keyword selection by searching for allintitle:”keyword phrase” in Google, and target keywords with less competing pages. You’ll be more likely to rank on page 1 of Google if you have less competition.
Discovering & Choosing the Best Keywords
- Understand the Buying Cycle: You will want to attract visitors who are in a buying mindset as well as those in a researching mindset.
- Buyer Keywords: For your foundational/catalog pages (products, services, categories), you’ll want to target “buyer” keywords. Buyers type head terms (short/general phrases) that describe the type of product or service they are looking for (i.e. – “men’s shoes”), as well as long-tail keywords (specific multi-word phrases such as exact product names) into search engines Buyers are mostly looking for the right product, the best price and a trustworthy website to purchase from. They already know what they want to buy, so you want to rank highly in order to sell it to them.
- Researcher Keywords: For your blog posts, articles and other educational content, you’ll want to target “researcher” keywords. Researchers often type question-focused keywords into Google, prefixed by words such as how, where, why, when, who, what, which, best, etc. They are likely not ready to buy, and present an opportunity for your brand to build trust with these potential future customers.
- Target Long-Tail Keywords: Long-tail keywords are longer, multi-word keyword phrases that have less search volume…but enough to warrant consideration for a small business to target. An example might be “how to choose hiking boots”. They are easier to rank highly in search engines for, since there is (typically) less search volume and the bigger brands might overlook them in their pursuit of ranking for the more highly searched keywords. For newer websites or small businesses websites without websites linking to them, long-tail keywords present the best opportunity to drive targeted traffic from search engines.
- Keyword-Targeting for CategoryPages: The only caveat to a long-tail keyword focus is that it only works for product pages and articles/blog posts, for the most part. Most likely, you’ll have a number of category pages, which are not ideal pages for targeting long-tail keywords. For these pages, you want to target people who are searching for product “types,” for example (i.e. – “electric guitars”). If your website is an online guitar store, then you’ll most likely be selling electric guitars, acoustic guitars, guitar amps, guitar pedals, etc. These “category pages” will need to be optimized for more general, “head term” keywords, which typically reflect the category name.
- Keyword-Targeting for the Homepage: Your homepage should target the most highly searched keywords that describe your business as a whole. If you run a sushi restaurant in Denver, then you will want to target keyword phrases like “Denver sushi restaurant”, “Denver sushi bar” and “sushi in Denver” on your homepage.
- Use Industry Jargon & Buzz Words: When discovering keywords, use industry buzz words to find even more ideas. For example, “boutique amps” is not a phrase you would have found if you searched for “guitar amps” in the various keyword tools. If you run a sushi restaurant, you want find keywords related to “fish” if you’re only using “sushi” as a seed keyword in your research. Make a list of synonyms and related terms. Research all of them and compare their search volume.
- Compare with Competitors: What keywords are competitor websites (who already rank well for your target keywords) focusing on already? Learn from them.
- Analyze Keywords in Google Search Console: If you’re website is already live and driving traffic from Google, then what are your current top keywords according to Google Search Console’s “Search Analytics” tool? Which receives the most clicks? Which receives the most impressions? Are you targeting them on your page? If not, re-optimize the page for them. The quickest path to increase traffic through SEO is to fully optimize your current web pages before building new pages to target additional keywords.
- Focus on a handful of related keywords per page and include variations (using synonyms, singular/plural, past/present/future tense, etc.) in order to increase your chance of driving long-tail keyword traffic and keep the content reading naturally. The wider your keyword focus is, the less likely a search engine will know exactly what your page is about. Ideally, you’ll build a page for every major keyword (or small group of keyword variations) in order to align a page with every keyword related to your industry (that you want to target).
- Use variations of your keyword within your body content and meta-tags. Consider singular/plural usage, synonyms, and hyphenated versions while keeping the content easily readable.
- Align descriptive and qualitative words near your keywords to increase the chance of gaining even more long-tail keyword traffic. For example, if you were optimizing a sub-category webpage for “boutique guitar amps,” you could consider using a phrase like “affordable boutique guitar amps” or “best boutique guitar amps” into the body content in order to gain some extra traffic from potential customers searching for exactly that.
- Use action words like “buy” or “download” to attract potential customers who are action-minded and searching using keywords with those words. For example, some searchers type keywords like “buy men’s shoes” into search engines, and you can target that keyword phrase on the appropriate category page if you run an online shoe store.
- If you’re a local business, look for geographical long-tail keywords such as “Denver acoustic guitar store” in order to target your exact customer. This way, you’ll be able to attract your ideal potential customer (a local Denver guitarist looking for a guitar store in the Denver area that specifically focuses on acoustic guitars).
Additional Keyword Optimization Tips
- In the past, it was determined that with a #1 ranking in Google, expect to receive 18% of total clicks for a particular keyword query in Google. Another study suggested that a #1 ranking would receive about 36% of total clicks according to Optify. Search engines have evolved over the years, and the search result page layouts are sometimes different than they once were. So, while it’s hard to say how much traffic you’ll get with a #1 ranking, just know that you won’t get all of it. Searchers browse, but typically click on the first few listings in the search results.
- Remember that the estimated search traffic for a particular keyword/keyword phrase is just that…an estimate. Keyword search volume fluctuates with seasonality, demand, evolving interests from customers/society, etc.
- Dig deeper into your chosen keywords by re-running them back into the keyword research tools you are using. This could help you identify more keywords that you may have missed the first time around. Also consider vertical search websites like Wikipedia, About.com, and others to get more keyword research ideas. Those sites create content about what people are interested in (and searching for).
- Google Keyword Planner (additional tips)
- When using the Adwords tool, don’t dismiss keywords with high competition. This competition is for competing Adwords advertisers, and may not necessarily mean that there is too much organic competition to rank for. However, it does suggest that this particular keyword is likely to be profitable.
- Widen or narrow the scope of your keyword research by checking and unchecking the checkbox to show closely related search terms. Checking this checkbox allows you to see keywords that only include the words in your seed keyword(s). Unchecking this checkbox allows Google to show you related keywords that you might also consider, however, they can sometimes be too broad.
- Place the top 10 website URLs already ranking for your chosen keyword into the “website content” section of the tool to discover more keywords.