Keyword Research: A Forgotten Art

With all the lights and cameras on social media and the headliners like Twitter and Facebook, it’s easy to forget about the “little people”making it all happen behind the scenes. I’m talking about the “worker bees” who do the grunt work of keyword research and discovery, which is the foundation on which every online presence should be built on.

However, that’s usually not the case, and research is often neglected. Every day I see sites with top-tier pages with no content, title tags with words and phrases that look to be from a Dr. Seuss book, or pages that obviously had the company stakeholders in mind, rather than the potential customer, when written.

So what happened? Was SEO confused for social media? Did the stereotype that “anyone can do keyword research” equate to no one doing it? For the most part, I think it is an issue of “haves” and “have nots”. There seems to be a large gap between those who have embraced and understand SEO and the importance of their keywords and those who have not.

Regardless of when the boat was missed, it is still essential to take care of the basics, keyword research included. As Google continues to look for new queues to rank sites, like social and overall conversation, you want to make sure all your efforts are on the same wavelength. I’ve laid out my keyword discovery process below to help you start down the road.

Brainstorm – Bring everyone in your organization together, including sales, chief officers, customer service, writers, and hash out every possible way your product or service can be defined.

Data – Your current website analytics are priceless when it comes to improving your search.  Pull your referring keywords and add them to your list.

Competition – Pay attention to the keywords on your competitors’ sites. They might know something you don’t.

Social – “Listen” to your customers on Twitter and Facebook and see what keywords and phrases people are using when discussing your brand products or services.

Divide and conquer – Take your current list and break it down into manageable categories. If your offering warrants sub-categories, create them. It will be easier to focus your research and content direction if you have very specific sets of keywords to use.

Google – At this point I start looking through Google and their recommendations. I normally start with the main words and see where that leads me. If you are really short on ideas, simply enter your keyword and start down the alphabet.

Keyword research using Google

Research tools – When you have a pretty robust list broken down in categories, move to the research tools to grab any stragglers and note search volume. Search volume? That’s right, just because the CEO spit out a keyword (see step 1) doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is searching for it. I normally start with Google’s free Adwords Keyword Tool.  I simply take the keywords from the category and paste them into the keyword tool and then sift through the suggestions for additional gems. At this point you’ve probably created a pretty decent list of keywords but I sometimes will cross-reference – more for search volume – another keyword tool like Wordtracker or Keyword Discovery.

Make a decision – It’s now time to act. Which keywords will be your primary focus, which will be secondary? What content is needed to achieve your goals?

Now you’ll have a foundation that you can continue to build on with new content and keyword direction. You should always be refining and analyzing your keywords and their performance to determine new opportunities.

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