How to Choose Keywords for SEO

Keywords are the directions for the search engine to find the most relevant thing to your query. When you go to Google and as type “nearest pet store” you likely are looking for directions to such a store or for a present for your beloved cat or dog. Google does not know this, it cannot read your mind. All Google knows is the keywords and a little metadata for context e.g., your location based on your IP address. How then does Google’s algorithm not immediately recommend the neared pet cemetery? The answer is in the keywords you typed into your query. Both “pet” and “store” are separate keywords that are combined here into one with even more context: “pet store.” By adding “near me” to your query you give Google the context that you probably care more about the closest physical location, meaning you are more likely to want to physically go to the store as opposed to buying a product online. And the results are what you expect, Google gives you the closest pet stores near you and suggests directions to them.

How then do you approach this from the other side? How does a pet store owner make sure that Google, or any search engine, displays the link to your store with the query from the above paragraph? Research needs to be done. However, consider the simple question of: what is a pet store? You can adopt a pet, buy food for your dog, or maybe you want to socialize your puppy with other dogs over the weekend. This highlights how many different ways a person can think of a pet store. Research needs to be done about the many different ways a person can think to possibly type into a search engine in order to find your store. How you choose your SEO keywords is a very important aspect of creating a successful website.

1. What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is not only about verifying how many searches a particular keyword, but it is also about making sure that they are what the searcher intended to find. In the pet cemetery example, the keywords associated with the website should avoid things that a person is looking for elsewhere, like pet food or pet adoption. Keyword research is about exploring the many varied ways that language is used to express an idea or topic, and then attempting to give the most specific and relevant results possible. Keyword research will not only help you understand what keywords will (and will not) drive traffic to your website, but you also can get ideas for web copy to write about FAQ’s, to name a common example. The more you learn about your audience and their needs, the more you stay relevant. Researching the words people type into search engines and using this research to create targeted content will drive the right traffic to your site and will increase in the conversion rate of said traffic.

Short vs long-tailed keywords is an important aspect of your research. Consider this example: a local hatha yoga studio opens up. Short keywords like “yoga” and “yoga studio” are likely used by many competitors, and even in tangentially related things like buying a yoga mat. A consideration for this store owner is to consider “owning” the long-tailed keyword phrase “hatha yoga studio near me.” An analysis shows that the search volume of the “hatha yoga studio near me” is much, much less than “yoga studio” but they specificity in the first query is good – the context of the query implies that the person is looking to take hatha yoga classes and likely will choose one that is closest by, assuming the prices are comparable. This “long-tail” keyword actually comes with a much higher conversion rate because the specificity of the search query demonstrates that the searcher knows what they want and with that comes the ability to directly become the solution to their question. By researching keywords this store owner knows how to most effectively build a website for her yoga store that attracts the traffic that will likely convert and buy her classes.

2. Why is Keyword Research Vital to the success of an SEO Campaign?

The keyword “seed” is the core of your research. In the previous paragraph, the keyword seed was yoga. But consider a word cloud of yoga. Ask one thousand different people what comes to mind with that word and you will get answers ranging from yoga classes, yoga poses, a philosophy, the history dating back to ancient India, and more. Digital marketing is about creating a successful search engine optimization campaign (target audience buying your product/service) is about understanding the seed of your keyword research and branching from there. This is actually SEM (search engine marketing). SEO is about making your site visible, as in having people be able to find it with a search query whereas SEM is about getting people to buy your product. The distinction is small and very nuanced. When it comes to targeting your audience, you want only those who are likely to buy your product, a different problem than having people find your store.

A common example of this is knowing if a free version of your product or service exists. Consider that one does and consider if you want people to click on your link in the SERP (search engine results page). The “free” keyword is significant. It does not matter how relevant your service or product is, but it is not free then the person who clicked on your link will immediately leave and continue searching. If you were running a PPC (price per click) campaign then congratulations, you just paid Google for a meaningless click. This highlights the importance of researching and knowing keywords to avoid in an SEM campaign.

Digital marketing is a very effective tool for your website, but it needs to be done intelligently. Language is complicated, and intent matters. Digital PPC SEM campaigns will do the hard work of getting your website on screen in front of people likely to click, but you need to be smart about what keywords you run your campaign.

3. What are the Best Tools for Doing Keyword Research?

Now that we have hammered home the importance of keyword research and its importance to SEO and SEM, how do you do it? For promoting your website via SEM the CPC (cost per click) for certain words is absurd. Some keywords have a CPC as high as $50, whereas others cost on the order of a penny per click. On a budget of $1000 dollars, this is the difference between 20 clicks to your website and 100,000. Granted the higher-priced keywords are likely to result in higher conversions. Consider also targeting common misspellings of your product, if they exist. Luckily there are many tools out there to help you conduct your keyword research:

Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer

This tool prides themselves on their extensive keyword database. They provide search volume results on hundreds of millions of keywords. They pride themselves on their “clickstream” tool. Thanks to metadata and micro-schema, it is possible for Google to display the info you want without clicking into a link, great for users, terrible for conversion and the clickstream tool accurately shows the percentage of searches resulting in a click.

Moz’s Keyword Explorer

The Keyword Explorer tool is a “time-saving keyword research tool that helps you find profitable keywords and organize your keywords into lists.” Great for when you know your keyword seed and want related terms.

SEMRush’s Keyword Suggestion Tool

A great tool for finding long-tailed keywords. Unlike simple keyword analysis, SEMRush actively tracks any query you search. The ability to log your searches is limited to the paid tier service.

Google Keyword Planner

Google’s free service advertises itself as being the best at forecasting keyword trends. SEO/SEM campaigns should contain lists of words that are constantly being updated and this tool harnesses Google’s metrics to forecast seasonal search trends for you.

Keywords Everywhere

A browser add-on that promises to be your go-to source for aggregating different metrics across different keyword research tools.

4. Product Page Keyword Research

A solution to minimizing duplicate content on your website is having custom landing pages for different keywords or products. Consider the intent behind asking a question – you want an answer and likely are not looking to buy a product. Therefore by researching what keywords are associated with a question you can deliver a custom landing page that establishes you as a being credible. This can be used to funnel visitors to your store because they trust you after satisfactorily answering their questions.

Having different meta descriptions for your products helps with this as well. The intent behind a product is to use it, but it suggests that other products are needed during an experience. Consider camping and searching for a tent. A proper product page would mention the versatility of tent in different weather conditions, leading to the thought of having a sleeping bag that suits those conditions. Customizing these aspects of your website will increase your conversion rates and in general be a better experience for all visitors.

5. Services Offering Keyword Research

Hubspot is a useful service keyword research. Incorporating all of the above, they also recommend researching relevant topics for your keywords while conducting research. Keywords are not static, they change over time as language evolves. Certain keywords also will be very topical by nature. Creating a good list of keywords to use requires assessing if there is a trend you can take advantage of. For instance, if you own a pet store, and a celebrity adopts a pet, then you should know that you can capitalize on this trend. It is not necessarily obvious that a celebrity with millions of followers on social media will be good for your business, but by researching keyword trends, a savvy business owner will know to create copy that mentions this connection and that you provide the ability for the followers to be like the celebrity they admire.

Keyword trends can be predictable, but most are not. Certain things are seasonal, like Christmas decorations or shorts during the summer. However, the above connection between a celebrity adopting a dog, a breed you can sell, is a lucrative one that can be easily missed. Likewise, the converse can be true: researching can highlight keywords to avoid. Consider food and diets. If the latest fad diet is about cutting out cholesterol and your product contains a lot of cholesterol, then you could remove as many mentions of this keyword as possible because there is a negative association with cholesterol in the mind of many searchers.

A successful keyword list has many keywords, both short and long-tailed, and is constantly updated. If two words have similar CPC, but you notice that one is 10x more likely to result in a conversion, then remove the nonperforming word from your campaign. Keyword performance is constantly changing and can be affected by the most unrelated topics.

6. Blog Content Keyword Research

As mentioned earlier, a blog is a great tool for SEO purposes because it provides great backlinks. However, a blog is an invaluable resource for targeting ultra-long keywords. The more specific a search, the higher the chance of a conversion. A savvy website owner can leverage a blog into being an SEO tool by researching topical events and connecting them with the blog copy. We already know that long-tailed keywords are more likely to convert into sales. Therefore it is possible to capture searches that combine the long-tail keyword analysis results from a tool in Section three correlated with search volume analysis. The combined results will allow your blog to rank high in SERP and can establish your brand credibility by backlinking to your store.

Choosing keywords for optimizing for search requires constant research to be effective. Trends are always present that can beneficially (or detrimentally) affect sales or interest in your product or services. Be smart when researching keywords and consider all the tools your website has to help you rank higher in SERP.

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