The reason keyword research is important for your website is the same as why a good design is important. Where an appropriate and attractive design keeps visitors on your page, the correct keyword structure brings those visitors in the first place. One is absolutely useless without the other. So let’s talk about keyword research for beginners and conceptualize exactly what you need to do.
Step 1: Brainstorming keywords
Before you get started with your website, spend some time brainstorming all of the keywords that you think it should rank for. Take a piece of paper, get away from the computer, and try to sink into the mindset of people who want to find your website.
Why? It’s all about ranking for the right keywords. It’s a matter of judging relevance. Will your Chicago law firm website target the keyword phrase “law degrees in Chicago” or “law services in Chicago”?
When you brainstorm keywords, you’re engaging the first step in keyword research. Without a solid idea of what it is your website provides, you can’t expect that the following steps will help you.
Step 2: Competitor analysis
Competitor analysis is as important a step in SEO as it is for traditional marketing techniques. In SEO, you need to find out which keywords your competitors’ websites are ranking for. First, use the big search engines, like Google and Bing. Search with the keywords you brainstormed in step 1. Test all the variations of these, because searching for “blue shoes sale” may bring up totally different results than “buy blue shoes”.
Now, crawl your competitor’s sites. Use a tool like Screaming Frog in order to do this. The tool will create a spreadsheet with the titles, meta descriptions, H1 and H2 tags. You can see the kinds of keyword combinations they’re using manually this way, or you can also use online tools like SEObook’s keyword density tool. It’ll give you a list of keywords and phrases, and how often they’re used.
Step 3: Keyword research
Now it’s time to conduct the actual keyword research using some very powerful tools. When it comes to this step, there are a number of important metrics to take into account. The first is called “impressions”. Impressions refers to how many times a given keyword or phrase was searched for in a month. The other metric is competition, which measures how difficult the keyword will be to rank for. Difficulty is typically ranked on a scale of low, medium and high. An organic way to test keyword competition is to conduct a search using Google. If apart from the organic search results there are a lot of paid ads, it means that marketers are targeting for that keyword. SERPs can teach us a lot.
Don’t try to rank for a single-word keyword if it’s common. Take into account the “long-tail”, as it’s called, which refers to all those keyword combinations that have a lower density of searches than the top 1,000 keywords. Believe it or not the long-tail comprises the majority of online searches. More importantly for online marketing, keywords in the long-tail tend to result in higher conversions as well. You can learn all about it by reading this Click Through Rate study.
Especially if big-name brands in your market are entrenched at the top of SERPs, you should be more concerned with ranking for a wide diversity of long-tail keywords than for the highly competitive ones.
Step 4: Testing
You can’t forget to test the keywords that you believe to be the most relevant and worthwhile to target. Testing will give you a better idea not only of whether searchers click through to your site, but if they stick around once they get there.
We really like Moz’s suggestion to buy a trial Adwords campaign to simulate high rankings for exact match keywords. Set up your ad campaign with the keywords you want to target. Through the campaign, you can measure exactly how many impressions there are (how many times your ad appears on SERPs for that keyword), how many clicks there are, and even how many conversions there are for those websites that sell a product. This way, you can use statistics to deduce the worth of a visitor who finds your website using those keywords.
You might decide to keep the Adwords campaign going, but the important thing for keyword research is that this allows us to get an idea of conversion rates if your website were to rank at the top of SERPs for those exact keywords. Resources permitting, you should test all your keywords this way, and pick the ones that work best.
Step 5: Implementation
Now that you have the keywords you want to target for, it’s time to implement them on your website. Static pages, including landing pages, should get the keywords that have shown greater potential for conversion. It’s important to conduct A/B testing with the landing pages you’ve established to learn which design works best with which set of keywords.
Step 6: Continued keyword research
The final step is an ongoing one. Keyword research never ends. You should always be adding fresh content to your website. Since search queries change over time to adapt to new trends, you might eventually need to create similar content to target similar keywords.