Keywords are the building blocks of any website or internet marketing campaign. However, its surprising how often website owners are actually targeting the wrong keywords. Sometimes they are targeting "industry terms" that the public are unaware of, or terms that are too broad or too competitive. Sometimes their target keywords are based on assumptions of what they think their customers are going to use.
For these reasons, before you undertake a new website or a new marketing campaign, its essential that you understand your target audience and the keywords they will use to search for your product or service. In this tip I will show you how to do simple keyword research without shelling out for expensive software.
Keyword Research - Google Suggest
How do you know which keywords your target audience is using? One of the simplest ways to do keyword research is to use Google itself. Imagine you run a search engine optimisation agency (SEO) and you want to know what keywords or key phrases people use when looking for a SEO company.
Go to your web browser. Sign out of Google if you have a Google account and/or then clear your bowser history. This should mean that Google can't infer what you actually want from your account history. Now enter the search term "search engines" - immediately Google Suggest will provide a dropdown list of popular related search terms.
You can see that "search engine optimization" (US spelling) is second, followed by "search engine land", etc, etc. (What is amusing is that Google itself is not on page one for the term 'search engine' - who said Americans don't do irony)
Doing this over and over again for each keyword phrase is possible but is time consuming and only gives a hint towards the right keywords for your project. What Google Suggest will not tell you is how competitive each phrase is or how often its used (known as its search volume).
You can find out how competitive each key phrase is by actually using it as a search query in Google - the results (SERPs) will say how many websites there are that have that keyword, but this is laborious and wont give you any indication of search volumes. This is important because keyword search volumes and competitiveness are key variants in building a successful campaign.
Keyword Research - Google Adwords
To find even more keyword phrases, you can use Google's Keyword Planner (previously the Keyword Tool) found in your Google Adwords account. Using Keyword Planner you can also discover search volumes and competitiveness, in relation to AdWords themselves. You don't actually have to have an active AdWords campaign to use these tools. You just need to create your AdWords account and then login to use the Keyword Planner. You'll find this tool under Tools & Analysis.
Google had produced an accessible guide to using Keyword Planner for keyword research. What I'll show here is how to begin to analyse which keywords may be relevant for your campaign if you're on a tight budget.
In this example we have asked Keywords Planner to suggest key phrases based upon the seed term "search engine optimisation". What we can see is that certain terms are used far more often (higher search volume) than others. We can also see what terms have higher or lower competition (ie., how many other advertisers are targeting these terms. The assumption here is that these highly competitive terms will also have a high number of websites competing for this term). You can also get a clue from the "Avg CPC" as to how competitive a keyword is - the higher the bid price, the more likely it is to be a popular term and harder to rank for organically.
Especially if you are on a limited budget (and who isn't!), you need to make sure you are targeting those keywords where volume is sufficient but competition is lower. Often these keywords are called 'long tail keywords'. While they may be searched for less often, the lower competition means you have a greater chance of gaining page one results if your site is optimised for these terms. The chances are that your return on investment (ROI) will be quicker for less competitive terms.
So in this example, "search engine optimisation tips" is used 480 times per month but has high competition. In contrast, "local search engine optimisation" is used 50 times per month and has medium competition. More surprisingly, "search engines" is used 60,500 times per month but has "medium" competition. Compare that with the term "search engine", which is searched for 8,100 times per month but has low competition.
Knowing which keywords to use is part art, part science. If you are an SEO company based in Essex, then you will obviously have to target "search engine optimisation essex" and luckily that has medium competition and 170 monthly searches. That's a no brainer! However, you will need to do some analysis of your Google Analytics logs to see if "search engine" is the right key phrase for your campaign - do you get any visitors to your website who have used that phrase, have they converted (however you define a 'conversion'), etc?
In the next instalment, I'll look at how Google Analytics can help narrow down the correct keywords for your campaign.