If your website was state-of-the-art in 2010 (or even 2015), chances are that your search engine optimization scores aren't great. Constant updates to Google's algorithms mean things have changed, and if your content and SEO keyword research hasn’t kept up, you may find your website’s ranking slipping lower and lower as your competitors adapt and compete.
Initially, keywords that were optimized for search engines were enough. Now, though, Google ranks sites based on whether or not they contain the intuitive search terms people use to find goods and services.
That means the keyword “jeans” won’t be enough — you’ll have to specify “cotton bootleg jeans” or “stretchy skinny jeans” or “where to buy all-cotton jeans” or even “dad jeans” to stay close to the top of search engine rankings.
Basically, search engine optimization has evolved to solve problems for searchers, and your use of SEO keyword phrases is crucial to being found now that everyone has a website. When users type their queries into a search engine, Google searches its indexes and matches the words used in the query to content.
Then, it delivers a list of websites that answer the user’s question. Those keywords need to appear in your copy, but they also need to be strategically placed so Google can find them and your web site ends up on the first page of search. As many as 92% of users don't move beyond the first page of Google's search results. To be found, you'll need to do some leg work.
How to Begin Doing Your SEO Keyword Research
Start out by making a list of topics and keywords that describe your business: menswear, widgets, semiconductors, bike repairs, etc. Use as many synonyms as you can think of — this list should be as long as possible.
It may help you to think of the index of a reference book. Imagine a nonfiction volume about wild cats and the number of entries that would appear in the index to lead you to the relevant page or section of the book.
In the case of a book index, those entries wouldn’t appear just one way--they would also be reversed. For instance, there would be an entry for South American wild cats and another for wild cats, South America. SEO keywords can be thought of in much the same way.
At this stage of your research, it pays to be as thorough as possible. More keywords are better.
Test your keywords by typing them into your search engine (you'll get the most bang for your buck with Google) and see what comes up on the first page of the search results. If you see your top competitors, you’re on the right track for developing great SEO content.
Develop Some Keyword Search Phrases
Start thinking like a customer as you determine the keyword search phrases people looking to purchase your goods or services use. This involves taking a long, hard look at your website’s traffic sources to see how people are currently ending up on your site. Make sure to identify the keywords people are actually using. You will want to develop keyword search phrases for every keyword you’ve decided to use.
If you have a sales team or a customer service department, enlist their help at this point. Remember this is not a grammatical exercise, but search engine optimization research.
It doesn’t matter that "Thermos" is a specific make of vacuum flask. If that’s what people are using to find portable containers to keep hot liquids hot and cold ones cold, that’s the term you’ll want to use. Your sales and customer service teams are the people who have the most direct contact with your buyers, and can be a wealth of both qualitative and quantitative research.
Be careful when developing a piece of content that you also consider the search intent of your users. This means your keyword ideas should consider what potential customers will be entering as search queries and why.
Try to get into the heads of the people who are searching for your content. Why do they need to read more on the specific topic you're covering? What relevant keywords can you use to draw them in? By truly trying to provide value to potential customers, you will boost the ranking of your SEO content dramatically.
Check Google’s Related Search Terms
At the bottom of every search page, Google now provides suggestions for other, similar searches. These terms may or may not work for you, but taking a look at other terms you might not have considered is part of this process. You may want to use some of these search terms or you may want to modify them for your business.
Take note of which sites rank highest for which search terms. If you see your top competitors ranking well for particular terms, consider using them. Also check to see what the phrases used for the search terms are.
Develop Both Head Terms and Long-Tail Keywords for Each Keyword
Short “head terms” are one to three words in length. They're also often referred to as "short-tail keywords." Using one of the examples above, “dad jeans” is a head term.
You’re going to want to develop a series of long-tail keywords to accompany your head term “dad jeans.” Doing so won’t just help you rank higher with search engines. It will also help you create some elegant variation in the content you develop.
While repetition is key to both language learning and sales, it’s also likely to generate a higher bounce rate. Bounce rate measures how many people navigate to your site and then click away immediately.
It's the dreaded point at which a customer leaves your site either because they can’t find what they’re looking for or they can’t stand the way you’re describing your goods or services. Phrases like, “jeans for men over 50” or “jeans for older men” should be used in conjunction with the head term “dad jeans" in an organic, smooth-flowing piece of content that doesn't feel salesy and offers value.
The negative aspects of keyword stuffing in your meta descriptions or on your landing page can't be overstated. Not only will potential customers be immediately turned off by repetition in your piece of content, Google and other search engines will see right through it. Text should flow smoothly and logically.
Check Your Competitors’ Keywords and Study Their SEO Copy
One of the ways Google rewards the use of both head terms and long-tail keywords is based on placement. There are some misconceptions about keywords that need to be addressed: while you want your initial keyword search to be extensive, you need to winnow down the keywords you’re using and use them sparingly but appropriately.
Keyword stuffing is a no-no. High search engine rankings don’t happen because you’ve used the same keyword 10 times in a 750-word blog post. Placing your keywords strategically and appropriately in the article’s heading (known as H1), and its subheadings (H2) and sub-subheadings (H3) are far more important than sheer volume of keyword repetition.
Best Free Keyword Research Tools
While you can invest in paid tools to help you with your keyword research, free is often just as good if not better. Set up a Google AdWords account and use Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner. You don’t have to commit to creating an ad, but the keyword planner will provide both search volume and traffic estimates for the keywords you plan to use.
When you combine Google’s Keyword Planner with research done using Google Trends, you should be able to eliminate some of the less-productive keywords you’ve chosen. Then, you can focus on the ones that are going to really answer buyers’ questions and help drive sales.
Overly simple keywords may not be as effective as more specific ones, and your site could get lost on page four of search engine rankings if you start out with keywords like “men’s clothing” or “jeans” rather than more specific head term keywords.
Pick terms that are trending upwards on Google Trends. Most importantly, don’t forget that your website should be a living organism rather than a static entity. Plan to revisit your keywords on at least an annual if not a quarterly basis and adjust your content strategy to map to trending keywords.
Need Help with SEO Keyword Research?
Need help with SEO keyword research? Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing helps brands with keyword ideas to boost your blog post and SEO content rankings in organic search.
We also specialize in social media management, white hat link building strategies, and content creation to help brands find customers and effectively convey what they have to offer. Contact us today with inquiries or check out more of our content and SEO blog posts to learn more about the value of content marketing.
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