How does your business do keyword research? Do you really know which terms are most important to rank for, and how do you know you haven’t missed any? These are questions that SEO analysts ask constantly, and a recent column by Nate Dame gives detailed advice on how to answer them.
What Is Keyword Research?
Knowing what keywords to rank for is the first step in most SEO campaigns. Even if you have an existing list of keywords, continuously testing it and researching new additions will only improve your targeting. But that’s not always easy to do.
The traditional method of keyword research is to take a wide variety of possible phrases and then check out how many monthly searches each one gets. These phrases can come from many places—Google Analytics, the meta tags of competitors, wild speculation, even the customer service team. A quick and dirty way of checking the traffic for those terms is to simply drop them all into the AdWords keyword planner, which is free. AdWords can not only give you traffic stats for each keyword (by region if preferred), it can also suggest more related keywords. Then all you need to do is choose the keywords that get the most searches, and focus on those. Right?
Nate says the answer is no. In his view, starting with a list of keywords like this leads to problems: writers create keyword-laden content that doesn’t appeal to real readers, and executives get dismayed if these initial keywords don’t deliver immediate results. In other words, people can mistake this first round of keyword research for a golden ticket, which it seldom is.
I don’t agree with Nate that this traditional way of doing keyword research is no good. It’s a great first step that quantified traffic potential for all your keyword ideas. But I do agree that it is only a first step, and then keyword research needs to be a continual process. The goal is to discover more and more about the context in which people search for keywords and what organic phrases or questions they’re really looking for. In other words, the deeper you go the better your content—and your SEO—will be.
And Nate has some great suggestions for that.
How to Dig Deeper
Two of Nate’s suggestions in particular stand out as being easy for any business to do, and incredibly valuable for SEO. They are:
- Listen to what real people say. Often we expect to get all of our keyword ideas from the internet. That makes sense, since the internet is where SEO happens, but it isn’t our only source for finding out what people are searching for. Another, much more organic source is people themselves. Nate points out that when he’s at conferences or industry events he will hear people ask the same questions over and over. Obviously, content written to answer those questions will get clicks and reader engagement, and will ultimately boost SEO.
- Use Google itself to to decode user intent. In SEO it’s easy to look only at the back end—what keywords are getting what traffic stats—and rarely at the front end. The front end is the actual search results pages (SERPs). Remember that the SERPs are themselves optimized by Google to serve the most relevant information first, meaning the most searched-for information first. That means that the type of content ranking first on Google is the type of content you should be writing. As an example, Nate says to Google one of your top keywords and look at the first two results. Are both sites informational rather than sales-oriented? If so, it’s time to make an pitch-free info page based on that keywords, and increase your ranking.
These tips are so good that every business should try them out. But they’re only half the story, and I strongly recommend reading Nate’s entire piece for the rest of his tips.
Meanwhile, if you want professional SEO that goes this deep, EverSpark Interactive is here to help. We take a comprehensive approach to your SEO that includes content, link building, and continuous keyword research. Contact us for a free consultation and see how we can help you.