Keyword research serves as the foundation of your content marketing efforts. As a matter of fact, it strongly influences SEO, social media, and pretty much all of your marketing tactics, so it’s definitely an important function to understand and know how to execute effective keyword research. Not sure where to start? Here’s an overview to understanding the basics of keyword research for better marketing.

What is keyword research?

To understand the basics of keyword research, you first need to know what keyword research is. According the marketing pros at Moz, keyword research is a core SEO task that involves identifying popular words and phrases people enter into search engines  so your small business can make an attempt to figure out what to rank for. Researching keywords gives marketers a better understanding of how high the demand is for certain keywords and how hard it would be to compete for those terms in the organic search results, offering some direction to optimization efforts. Why does that matter?  Keep in mind that many people may be searching for a company like yours but may not know that your company in particular exists. However, with effective keyword research, you can determine what keyword phrases searchers are using to find companies like yours and use that intel to better rank for those phrases online through effective use of those phrase in your marketing efforts. It can help enhance your SEO, your content marketing, and even your social media efforts. By researching the words people type into search engines and using this research to create targeted content, you can drive the right traffic to your site that is most likely to engage with your brand and ultimately convert.

How to conduct keyword research

The number of tools you can use to do research can be overwhelming. Here are a few basic steps to get started with keyword research.

Create your own list of keyword list

TO get the ball rolling, create a list of phrases you feel are associated with your company and what you offer. These may be very basic at first, at that’s OK! It’s a starting point. Let’s go through this exercise using the example of a company that offers sales training. What words could be used to start?

  • Sales training
  • Sales training services
  • Sales training for companies
  • Sales training for businesses

Obviously, there are quite a bit more, but this is a good start. It’s kind of a mind-dump to get the creative juices flowing. The key is to start creating a list of phrases that someone might use to find a company like yours but may not know you exist.

Expand that list with some simple searches and tools

Now that you have your basic list, here are a few easy ways to find more phrases and what’s better, all of these tools are FREE:

  1. Google Keyword Planner
  2. Google Trends
  3. Answer the Public
  4. Google Correlate
  5. Keywords Everywhere
  6. Wordtracker Scout
  7. Google Search Console
  8. Google

You don’t have to use them all, of course. Pick a couple that will help you expand your list. One of the easiest is actually the last one on the list above:  Google. How exactly does that work?  Easy, start typing in a phrase and Google will come back with all kind of related phrases it thinks are related (and are based on searches on Google):

Google SearchThese are great keyword phrases to consider because if Google suggests a phrase, you know people are searching for it! (TIP:  there’s a similar function on YouTube!). Also, check at the “related searches” at the bottom of the same search page for even MORE suggestions:

Google related searches

Sure, not all terms will be applicable to your company, but it’s a nice place to start.

Understand search volume

Once you have this wonderful list of phrases, take the time to prioritize them by search volume.  You want a good balance between a fairly highly searched keyword phrase, but not so competitive that you have no chance of ranking. Here’s an example (extreme, but you’ll get the point):

Too competitive: “training”

Too narrow: “sales training for people over 50 who have never sold technology before”

Now, trying to rank for a two-word phrase is tough, so do try to narrow your focus a bit (3-5 words!) but don’t go so narrow that you’re the only one who would ever dream of searching for that phrase. These phrases with more words in them are called “longtail keyword phrases” and if you’re a newer company, you’ll stand a better chance of ranking for these to start. So how do you figure out search volume?  Here are three great tools (some free, some paid)

  1. Google Keyword Planner
  2. SEMrush
  3. ARefs

Any of these tools will give you a visual on how competitive a keyword is. Here’s an example of SEMrush:


Use the list to decide where to use these phrases

You’ve got your list of keyword phrases and you’ve prioritized them based on relevancy and how competitive they are. Identify the main pages on your site that should rank for these phrases. Mostly you’re looking at shorter phrases. Now look at some of those longtail keyword phrases. How can they be used to drive traffic to your site?:

  • Paid ads
  • Blog posts
  • Social media
  • Content creation

To really hit those phrases on your list, short and long tail, you’ll need to create a variety of content to leverage those phrases. The best place to start is content, specifically blog posts, but you can expand upon it. The key is to always keep your keyword research in mind when you’re creating any content at all, and when you’re optimizing your site. A small business marketing professional can help you with this strategy. Also keep in mind that you should readdress your keyword research quarterly to make sure the list is still relevant. It’s also a good idea to watch your competitors to see if they are outranking you or targeting keywords you should target.

Understanding the basics of keyword research can really elevate your online marketing efforts. Taking these simple steps will provide invaluable insights to make your marketing more effective.

Patty Hughes
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