Keyword research is an essential part of any SEO strategy and one that sometimes doesn’t get the attention it rightly deserves. If you are planning a new website, keyword research should come before the layout and pages are finalised and, if you are optimising an existing site, your keyword research may well require you to make some structural changes.
What is keyword research?
Put simply, keyword research is about finding terms that people use when searching in Google (or other search engines) to find the products and services you offer on your website. So, if you sell leather wallets for Ipads you need to find the terms to use that relate to this. You could just make some terms up and use these but that’s not very scientific and you might find that you are missing opportunities to pull in more traffic to your website. A bit of keyword research will help you target the most important terms and may identify some terms you hadn’t even thought of.
General Terms vs The Long Tail
Many companies I have come across make the mistake of using very general keywords for their website e.g. if they are selling handbags they may have a page that uses the term “leather handbags”. That’s fine and in theory there are lots of people searching for that term but the chances of all but the biggest, most established sites being found for this are small. This is where the long tail comes in. Keywords or key phrases that have more words in them are generally easier to rank for BUT they have lower search volumes meaning your site needs lots of long tail search terms rather than one popular but highly unachievable shorter term. Going back to the leather wallets for Ipads example, you might choose “black leather Ipad wallet with zip” as opposed to “black Ipad wallet” or just “Ipad wallet”.
The benefit of long tail key phrases is that they are of a higher quality. They are specific and hence the person who types it in knows what they are looking for. They are more likely to convert. Someone typing in “Ipad wallet” knows they want a wallet for their Ipad but do they want a leather one, a neoprene one, a pink one? They don’t know yet so they are less likely to convert. Once they have worked out what they want, their searches will become more specific.
Another area to consider when researching keywords is relevance. Some terms that you may come up with when researching suitable keywords may have a double meaning or may be relevant to a B2C environment rather than B2C. It is therefore important to spend time typing in search terms that you come up with to make sure the results that come up are bringing up similar sites to yours and relate to products and services you offer.
Competition is also worth considering when researching keywords. Typing your search term into Google will give you an idea of the competition i.e. the number of pages that Google found that are relevant. The higher the number, the harder it will be to rank for that term. This needs to be balanced with all other factors i.e. the number of searches for a particular keyword or key phrase (obtained from the Google Keyword Tool), the relevance and the competition.
Another factor relating to competition that is also worth considering is the pages that actually rank for the term you typed in. How well optimised are they? If they aren’t well optimised that will give you an indication that if you do thinks properly, you should rank well for that term.
Bring it all together
This isn’t a comprehensive guide to keyword research but I hope it highlights that keyword research isn’t just about typing some terms into the Google Keyword Tool to see how many people search for the chosen term each month. It’s an investigative process where you have to make a call based on a number of other factors including competition and relevance. It can take a while and can be arduous but that little extra effort can make a big difference.