How to do keyword research for SEO success

Keyword research isn’t the most exciting task we have to undertake, but it’s the foundation which underpins success in search engine optimisation.  In this article, we explain why keyword research is still so important to anyone serious about using online marketing to achieve their business goals.

What are keywords?

Keywords are the words people use to find information on a search engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing.  Sometimes they are single words such as ‘cabinet’ or ‘accountant’ and sometimes they are phrases such as ‘oak corner cabinet’ or ‘small business accountant’.

Finding more customers

If you don’t understand which keywords your customers are using to find your product or services and/or haven’t optimised your site for these keywords, your online marketing will definitely be suffering and your web traffic somewhat random.  You’re missing out on an opportunity to attract the attention of potential customers who know what they want and are in the sales cycle. And you’re giving other companies a competitive advantage.

Protecting your reputation

For e-commerce sites, the benefits of keyword research simply boils down to the fact that if consumers can’t find their products, they can’t buy them.  For B2B companies, dominance of their search terms is usually important for lead generation and to protect their reputation as the ‘go to’ experts in their field.

No-one wants to be the best at delivering a particular product or service, only to find an inferior competitor is getting the custom just because they are more visible to people on Google.  This is especially true of companies which need to rank for terms which include their geographical location (ie. ‘family lawyer Manchester’).

Going for the big keywords

Your ability to rank for the keywords which will send a lot of valuable traffic to your site will depend on a number of factors. If established competitors are already dominating the search term it can be a long and steady climb to a high page 1 ranking.  Worthwhile pursuit though this is, it doesn’t always lead to the highest conversions, especially if your offering is similar to your competitors.

Indeed, it may be that the amount of time and effort required to compete on that keyword means it’s not worth your while, at least in the short-term.  Detailed keyword research, competitor research and an honest look at your site’s ability to rank will determine your best approach.

Going for alternative keywords

While the main keywords for your products and service may attract the highest volume of traffic, it’s likely that a set of what we call ‘long-tail’ keywords can be found to help improve visitor numbers and conversions.

Let’s take the example of an accountancy practice in Manchester.  ‘Accountants Manchester’ is a highly competitive search term which will deliver a lot of traffic to your website.  However, there are big, established players who are already ranking for that keyword and are clearly being proactive in their online marketing in order to maintain their positions.

However, ‘small business accountants Manchester’ still has a high volume of traffic but is less competitive.  The other advantage of using a long-tail term like this (which still has a good search volume) is that the buyer is likely to be further down the sales process.  When someone enters a more detailed search query they know more about the sort of product or service they are looking for so are more likely to convert into a lead or a customer when they find a company which ranks for that search term.

Uncovering potentially valuable search terms

To uncover potentially valuable search terms we usually use a combination of  keyword research software, Google Analytics and Search Console.  We overlay the data we mine from these sources with an in-depth understanding of each client’s business and marketplace and their competitive situation to make a good judgement about the keywords which we should pursue.

Interestingly, one of the best ways to uncover these search terms centres around the burning questions asked by most of the client’s customers.  We’ve seen excellent results in creating articles and landing page content which answers critical questions.  This method works as well for a consumer business as it does in B2B, it’s a case of being creative, authoritative and keyword-savvy with your copywriting.

Increasing click-throughs

Once you’ve decided which keywords to target and optimised your on-page content, you also need to think about the words which will appear on the search engine results page (SERP).  This is where carefully crafted title and meta descriptions come in to play.  Try to make them as enticing as possible to encourage people to click through to your site.

Using keywords for navigation

As well as creating relevant content to help search engines rank your site it’s also worth reviewing your website to ensure that those terms are reflected in navigation elements.  Keyword-informed navigation means you’re helping visitors to find what they’re looking for on your website, making it as intuitive as possible.

Hopefully this article has helped to explain why keyword research remains important when trying to attract more visitors to your website, and has given you some insight into what’s involved in developing an effective keyword strategy.  It’s a big topic which we will cover in more depth over the coming weeks or months, so please check back for updates.

What to do next

If you need help with keyword research or SEO, please get in touch.  We would be more than happy to discuss how we can help improve your website’s visibility on the main search engines and draw more relevant traffic to your site.