“What’s the big deal with keyword research,” you ask? Well, it’s right in the name.
These specific words and phrases are critical components in producing strategic and effective content. “What types of content,” you also ask? All of your online, print, and even outdoor marketing efforts can greatly benefit by identifying and leveraging focused keywords.
The primary reason? You aren’t guessing. Keyword research greatly reduces the mystery surrounding your potential clients/customers and what they’re searching for, helping to eliminate barriers between you and your target audience.
Learn how to open the right doors
To paint a tangible picture, imagine that you’re looking down a hallway with doors on both sides. You’re searching for a specific person…let’s say your accountant. You need his/her help with a tax question, and you’ve been told their office is located on this floor.
It doesn’t take long for you to realize, however, that every door is locked without attached nameplates. So, now what? Without at key, how can you successfully locate the accountant? Knock on each door? Shout loudly, so everyone working on the floor can hear you?
In order to shed pesky barriers (like locked doors) that keep you from reaching your target audience, you’ll need a tool: a key!
You can certainly try these things – and some may even work to an extent – but your methods wouldn’t be very efficient and they would all be disruptive. You might have to shout multiple times, irritating other accountants or waste your time knocking at all the wrong doors.
In order to shed pesky barriers (like locked doors) that keep you from reaching your target audience, you’ll need a tool: a key! In order to easily interact and engage potential customers, you must first identify what interests them and what they are searching for.
This is no simple task, however, as your clients’ interests and search engines’ ranking algorithms are constantly changing to account for up and coming trends. There are also multiple types of keywords that are utilized differently to help improve on-page SEO.
Types of keywords
Keyword strategy and SEO go hand in hand. In order to give your website’s SEO a boost, you’ll need to do your homework on which keywords would be best for you to rank for.
Even if you don’t expect to handle this research personally, it’s still important to educate yourself on all it entails and how everything works. This helps safeguard your business from being taken advantage of.
We’ll go into more detail on how to analyze keyword metrics a bit later on, but a great place to start is to understand the 3 main types of keywords:
1) Generic keywords
These are often 1-2 words in length and are difficult to rank for, unless you are in a niche market without much competition. For example, “animal shelters” or “best colleges” would be considered generic keywords.
Either would be difficult to rank for because there are thousands of animal shelters and colleges to search for online. These keywords have no qualifiers, such as geographic locations or specialty programs attached to them.
Due to their all-encompassing nature, generic keywords are most useful when used to support your main keywords within heading tags or the written web page copy, itself.
2) Broad match keywords
Getting a bit more specific, broad match keywords are very effective in driving traffic to your website, and often have less competition. For example, “animal shelters in Wisconsin” or “best colleges in the Midwest” will retrieve far fewer results from search engines than their generic equivalents.
What does this mean for your business or organization? Broad match keywords are your friend. They are the sweet spot between decent monthly search traffic and fewer competitors, resulting in a lower cost-per-click (cpc) to save you money.
3) Long tail keywords
Long tail keywords are best described as full strings of thought. Have you ever googled something like, “where can I adopt a puppy?” or “which colleges are great for business?”
These are long tail keywords. And although they aren’t searched for in great numbers, those who search this way are very likely to click through to your web page, resulting in fewer but more engaged visitors.
Similar to broad match keywords, these low cost long tails have very little competition, so ranking for them can be easier and cost less.
But choose wisely. Long tail keywords can suffer from being generic, as well, resulting in low quality site visitors that lead to higher bounce rates.
Do some experimenting. There’s no exact science. Find which types of keywords work best for you and learn to leverage them.
Keyword Research Tools
Quick recap: the important points to remember are 1) keyword research should be an integral part of your content marketing strategy, and 2) there are several types of keywords to consider.
But it’s also vital that you understand how keyword research is performed. There are several nifty keyword research tools that can provide insight and direction to your marketing content.
A few of our suggestions (from good to best) include:
Good: Google Keyword Planner
If your business is signed up with a Google Analytics account, then you already have access to Google Keyword Planner. For the novice researcher, this can be a useful tool in identifying which keywords you should focus your content around.
This tool is completely free and fairly easy to use, however, there are a few discrepancies in their data stream, which have led us to believe other tools are much more accurate and helpful.
Better: Moz Keyword Explorer
A powerful tool (and one that we use often) is Keyword Explorer by Moz. This online keyword research guide allows you to discover and prioritize the best keywords for your unique industry.
Simply plug in a list of your own or type an industry phrase to receive a list of keyword suggestions. Yep, it’s that easy and free to try. To use Moz on an ongoing basis, however, you’ll need to purchase a Pro account.
A much deeper dive than the two tools mentioned above, the SEMrush Keyword Research tool provides insight into which keywords your website is currently ranking for and which your competitors are ranking for, as well.
Ideal for deeper SEO audits and integrated keyword planning, SEMrush certainly isn’t a cheap option. It’s a simple case of “you get what you pay for.” Although very potent, most businesses and organizations aren’t able to afford it.
We often suggest the “better” option of Moz Keyword Explorer to our clients because it provides fairly accurate and actionable keyword insights to help you align your content with the right keywords.
Ultimately, it’s up to your specific business goals and budget to determine what’s right for you.
After choosing a great research tool, the next step for your business to take is a long, critical look at which keywords in your list will be most important and realistic for you to rank for.
This is an incredibly tricky and complex business; the very definition of a moving target. For the sake of this blog, we’ll simplify the agonizing…(cough)…we mean analyzing process down to a basic level.
In order to analyze keywords effectively, you’ll need to know several key metrics to track.
1) Monthly search volume
This metric is pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll explain it for thoroughness’ sake. Monthly search volume is the average number of times a keyword is typed into the search bar of a given search engine.
This provides you with valuable data on what your customers are searching for and allows you to monitor changes in search patterns over time.
2) Cost-per-click (cpc)
This metric is incredibly important because it communicates how much a keyword is worth. More specifically, it lets you know how much a click to your website, using a specific keyword is worth.
The cost associated with CPC is based on Google Adwords estimates and offers insight to help you plan your SEO/content marketing budget.
3) Competition score
Competition score is simple. Keyword research is a pay-to-play business, and it’s full of competition. The higher your competition score, the more businesses and organizations are trying to rank for the same keyword.
It’s all about the sweet spot
Your best chance to rank for a keyword is to find the delicate balance of high monthly search volume, low cost-per-click, and low competition ranking. You’re looking for the greatest opportunity to rank for the least amount of marketing dollars.
The Benefits of Keyword Research (Summary)
Overall, it just makes sense to slow down and research the topics and verbiage that resonate with your potential customers. It saves you valuable budget space and improves your ROI by ensuring your messages are backed by data.
This helps your business or organization website appear far more often in search results and assists with increasing your brand’s reach and awareness within your industry.
But most importantly, keyword research proves that you’re willing to meet your customers where they’re at by removing barriers that keep you from connecting.
With better content and a more targeted content strategy, you’ll find that you learn who your customers are and how to best connect with them along the way.
If you’d like to speak in more detail about keyword research and content marketing strategy, we invite you to reach out to a Signalfire marketing guide today!