When it comes down to it, one of the biggest factors in utilizing SEO to your advantage is training yourself in keyword research.
The truth of the matter is that this foundational skill can make or break almost any kind of online business venture. Learning how to do it properly is the kind of thing you really can’t ignore unless you’re going to be hiring a professional to handle it for you.
It’s also not nearly as hard as some would like you to think, so let’s dive right in together and talk about this crucial part of SEO knowledge.
Why Are Keywords So Important?
If you’re completely new to learning search engine optimization you might be wondering if the above is an exaggeration. After all, if you produce great content aren’t you going to get what you deserve?
Not necessarily. Look over the top ranks of Google on your next search for a niche topic, you might be surprised to see what kind of content is ranking.
Without keywords, there really is no such thing as SEO. While Google is getting more and more contextual all the time, the truth is there’s really no way at all to do away with keywords.
While your research isn’t going to rank you in and of itself, it can definitely help you to make sure that you start appearing on the radar. Increase your visibility and you’ll have more viewers, more viewers makes for more potential customers, and paired with great content you’ll get higher conversion rates.
Of course, all of that is much simpler said than done.
Keyword research is something anyone can learn, but it really is part science and part art. If you can get a solid grasp on the science, however, then you stand a good chance at being able to rank in a whole lot of places.
The Pitfalls of Finding Keywords
Most people are going to go right ahead and pop open Google Keyword Planner when they start their research, especially if they’re not paying for some of the more advanced tools out there.
This isn’t necessarily a mistake but it can lead to some really goofy results since GKP is terrible at coming up with it’s a wide variety of ideas and instead will draw only from what you enter.
This means that if you’re stuck using it as your primary tool it’s time to get creative.
Let’s say that you wanted to start an affiliate marketing venture centered on kitchen appliances. When you enter the keyword “kitchen appliances” into GKP you end up with this:
This is all well and good… except for one thing. If you give this niche even a tiny amount of thought, you’ll end up coming to a pretty natural conclusion: you’re missing a whole lot of possible keywords in your niche.
Off the top of my head, the following could all come under this niche:
- Vegetable Spiralizers
- Coffee Makers
- Pressure Cookers
What does this mean?
It means that relying on Google’s Keyword Planner to find all of your keywords simply isn’t going to end well for you.
Niche Topics: Grab a Pad and Pen
You don’t need to literally grab a pad and pen, although that is definitely the preferred method of some people.
Instead, you’re going to need to sit down for a good bit of time and brainstorm about the topics which surround your niche. Pretty much every niche is going to actually have a wide range of concepts, topics, and products which fall under the same umbrella.
Most niche markets are pretty small, which means that there’s generally a lot of competition for the main keywords within it unless you’ve got something truly revolutionary on your hands.
Focus on a few main keywords with commercial intent in your niche, then start gathering long tail keywords with a lower search volume to draw in more viewers. Your long tail keywords should fall under the heading of specific questions, how-to’s, or subproducts underneath the larger keywords you plan on focusing on.
Continuing our appliances example from above, let’s say you’re using the “vegetable spiralizer’ keyword. Under this heading you could record the following pretty easily:
- How to use a vegetable spiralizer
- Recipes for vegetable spiralizer
- Best vegetable spiralizer
- Uses for a vegetable spiralizer
At this point, if you know your niche, you should be able to come up with at least a half dozen broad topics and at least that number of quick long tail keywords under each of them. Hopefully you’ve been keeping them in an organized manner as you go along.
Of course, a lot of people start sites with commercial intent and without in-depth knowledge of their niche. While this isn’t necessarily ideal, it’s definitely a good way to break into a weaker market with a lot of commercial intent but fewer competitors.
In that case, the lack of intimate familiarity will work against you but there are definitely ways around that.
Create an Ideal Buyer Profile
Quick, barring outliers, who is going to be buying your products?
This is really a cornerstone marketing concept anyways, whether you do your content yourself or outsource it’s a great way to home in on your potential buyers with the right tone.
But for right now, we’re going to use this thought experiment as a way to figure out what else a buyer might be interested in.
You’ll want to think of the following qualities to have a good picture:
- Rough spendable income
- What problems do they have?
- What do they want to do with themselves?
Write all of this information down. Or type it up. Beyond keyword research, this is an important foundation for any kind of marketing efforts.
You may have multiple persona in mind when you do this.
Now, you’re going to want to put yourself in the place of this persona and consider everything on the list from the perspective of those qualities you wrote down.
Forums. Message boards. BBS if you’re particularly old school.
These are pretty much the ideal focus group for small businesses, since most of us don’t have the time or space for a full marketing department and consumer testing.
Use them as such. If you’re in the pet niche, go crawl through forums dedicated to dogs and cats. If you’re working the survival niche, check out forums on bushcraft and primitive skills.
Spend a little bit of time “among” your customers and you’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.
Of course, you should always check if there’s a subreddit dedicated to your niche. There almost always will be and these quick moving forums are a good indicator of overall interest as well as a valuable data mining resource.
Types of Keyword
You’ve got a few different types of keyword available to you, which you’ll want to use differently in order to maximize the potential of your on-page SEO.
Once you’ve gone through and gotten the approximate search volume for the different keywords you’ve come up with, you’ll want to separate them in order to get a better idea of what you’re doing when it comes to the final strategy.
The types of keywords are as follows:
These are your basic one or two word keywords which are all over the place. “Kitchen appliances” would be ours from our running example.
They tend not to convert well and competition for them is insane. Since they’re not that specific it’s hard to gauge the intent of the searcher.
These are usually short phrases, two or three words, which have a decent search volume but might still have quite a bit of competition. Since they’re more specific they’re usually easier to judge intent on. “Best blender” might be a good example for our kitchen appliances site, or possibly “best blender recipes.”
Long Tail Keywords
This is the money, but they’re easy to overdo and litter which will end up hurting your rankings over time. Use them sparingly directly in articles, especially as they get longer and more unwieldy. These are keywords like, “how to set up a blender” or “zucchini recipes for a vegetable spiralizer.” They’ve got a serious intent behind them just because of how they’re phrased and that means commercial potential in many cases.
Put your effort into body and long tail keywords, but don’t overdo long tail keywords. Head keywords can be used, but they’re usually almost impossible to rank for due to their generalized nature and they’re also not all that commercially viable in many cases.
Body keywords are probably the sweet spot, since they have a higher search volume, but long tail keywords have even more specific intent and even with a lower search volume they’ll tend to have a higher conversion rate.
You’ll also need to do a lot of long tail keyword focused content in order to make serious money off of them. They’re best for long term strategies.
Learning the basics of keyword research is the first step in mastering search engine optimization and monetizing your project. Whether you’re a small business or trying to start an online empire, you’ll have to learn how to properly find and use keywords.
So grab your pad and pen and get down to it, there’s no time like right now.