Google, like most search engines, uses words and terms, dubbed keywords, to help them organize and index the various web pages online into easily searchable listings. Keywords are how you get to find your favorite recipes by typing into Google “How do you make chicken cacciatore?” They also help you find movie times, directions to the dentist’s office, and the history of World War II.
The listings you see in the Google SERPs lead to optimized web pages that should deliver what you expect. When searching for a chicken recipe, clicking through to the top listing will reveal a page that undoubtedly contains the keyword phrases such as “Chicken cacciatore recipes” but also “how do you make chicken cacciatore?” as that is probably an often searched for term.
To determine which keywords and phrases you should be using, a few tactics are used. We’ll get to those in a moment. Before we do, it’s important that you see keywords as more than just words that people type into Google (or speak using talk-to-text search). Rather, you need to see keywords as the lifeblood of your SEO profile, and only the highest-value keywords will do.
With limited resources, including time, you should only spend your efforts on the keywords most likely to give your brand a competitive edge online. Spending money and time on hundreds of keyword possibilities can spread your web profile too thin, and your SEO campaign can become scattered and unfocused as a result. Your job is to determine the quality of your current keywords list.
A keyword is said to be of the highest quality when it possesses three necessary signals:
Let’s delve deeper into those concepts so that we’re all on the same page.
The best keywords are those that are clearly popular with searchers. Google Trends is a platform that can help you see which keywords people are searching by topic.
The graph below represents search trends for the keyword “Keyword Research.”
Scrolling further down on the page gives you a variety of top keywords for that particular topic. Here, you can see keywords and related queries to your topic. You can also view trends according to demographics, such as location, age, and more.
Social media conversations can also give you insight to a keyword’s viability. Search using the engines provided by Facebook, Twitter and others, and see which ones produce the most relevant results.
Your goal here is to collect a list of rudimentary keywords that you can then whittle down or add to using a few high-powered tools.
You want to identify keywords that have above average search volume, as those keywords are queried most by Google users.
You’ll want to attempt to identify those keywords that exhibit the “sweet spot” between attention and competition. Ideally, you want to focus on keywords that have high search volume, but that few brands are optimizing for.
Here we want to determine that your chosen keywords are attracting good leads and leading to direct conversions while improving your online reputation.
More specifically, we’re only interested in keywords that indicate purchase or buyer intent, such as “Emergency plumbing services New York.” Essentially, you’ll want to focus your resources on the keywords that best explain what the organization wants to rank for.
Put more simply, the best keywords explain what the company sells.
There is no limit on the number of your keywords list. The longer your keywords list, the more successful your SEO campaigns will be. Just remember:
Google’s Keywords Planner is designed for Google Adwords advertisers. The tool can give you live-action data to identify popular keywords along with those terms’ keyword search volume. Using Google’s powerful AI algorithms, the Keyword Planner can even provide you with forecasts, letting you know how those keywords are suspected to perform in the future.
If you are working on a client’s keyword list and you want to determine their viability, the Keyword Planner is a great place to start.
If you don’t already have a list, choose the former. If you have a list of keywords, the latter option will let you know how viable those terms truly are.
Insert a topic or primary keyword and the tool will provide you a list of related keywords you can then select from, like so.
If you already have a list of keywords, enter your list like the image below.
Both search types will yield a list of keywords and their respective search volumes, along with other stats. The former (creating a keyword list) will only yield those types of terms while getting search volume and forecasts may yield terms you never thought of. It’s recommended to conduct both types of searches to be as thorough as possible.
When selecting keywords using Google’s Keyword Planner, look for buyer intent, high monthly search volume and low monthly competition. Once you have your list whittled down, move on to the other tools to get a more accurate list.
NOTE: If you are focusing solely on local search traffic, low monthly competition isn’t necessarily a priority. Instead, you’ll look for keywords with high search volume that also indicate buyer intent.
Google’s Adwords planner is designed for advertisers, which means that Google may not give away the whole enchilada when it comes to advertising data. For that reason, use the other tools to round out your keywords list.
This platform is designed specifically to find “low hanging fruit.” Basically, those sweet spot keywords we recently discussed that have high search volume with low competitiveness.
To use the Keyword Finder, search using your primary keyword and click “Find Keywords.”
Once you enter a keyword, like “Phoenix Orthodontist,” you’ll receive a report that gives you monthly trends, search volume, cost-per-click dollar amounts, and a host of other data. Check your keywords to see if they are still deemed valuable, or complete a new query with all new keywords. Keep the process going until you have a nice list of viable keywords, then move on to the next tool.
Saving the best for last, this tool does much more than check for keyword search volume and viability. SEMRush, among other things, allows you to conduct a little reconnaissance work on your competitors.
It helps to know which keywords the competition is vying for so that we can dip our lines into the same pool of prospects. SEMRush can also tell you how those competitors are performing.
Getting a peek of the competition’s SEO playbook can help you sharpen your campaigns by letting you know what’s working. When we work with a new client, we will ask the client for the keywords they want to rank for. Again, the keywords they choose usually revolve around the services they sell. Subsequent keyword research will then allow you to add or remove keywords from that list.
Once you have a list of viable keywords, only then should you spy on the competition and cross-reference your keywords list. That way, you can determine if the list can be pared down, built upon with new keyword opportunities, or if certain keywords might be too competitive.
Keywords aside, conducting competitor research will allow you to identify missed linking opportunities, as well as determine what types of content are working well for the organization in question.
SEMRush is terrific for competitor research. Once you enter a keyword or domain into the provided search box, you’ll have an immense amount of data at your disposal. Below is the information for Facebook.com.
Once you submit your query, you’ll receive all types of information related to organic search, paid search, backlinks, and of course the prime keywords put into play.
Once you have a list of viable keywords, you can use those keywords to improve your chance of being seen by prospects and customers by attaining Google prominence. You’re also ready to complete your SEO audit.