There have been many doomsday proclamations over recent years, declaring the death of Search Engine Optimisation amid the rise of pay-per-click and native social media ads. The shady days of keyword-stuffing certainly gave SEO a bad name, but thankfully they’re well and truly over.
The text used on your site forms the building blocks of your digital presence, and understanding the principles of keyword research can elevate your presence in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). This is why any small business owner should take SEO seriously, as following best practice advice can quickly see you gain page one rankings on Google.
Keywords are one of the primary indicators that search engine bots use to ‘read’ your website, so they play a big role in determining how relevant your content in relation to search queries. As such, you should always keep keywords in mind when optimising web pages or conducting a content marketing campaign.
Identifying the right words and phrases for your site takes work, but it’s well worth the effort. When done correctly, keyword research helps to bring targeted traffic your way, so if you’re new to SEO, this guide is for you.
Bring in the right crowd with targeted keywords
You don’t just want more traffic, you want the right kind of traffic. It’s no good bringing in a thousand visitors who are looking for something you don’t sell; you’re much better off attracting ten people who want to buy exactly what you’re offering. Therefore, consider what your target audience will be looking for, and gear your keywords research toward that.
Unless you have a really monstrous online presence, you need to be targeting specific queries. Not only are they less competitive, but the people you reach will be closer to making a purchase and therefore more valuable traffic.
You’ve probably got a good idea of what you want to rank for already – if not, take a look at your site’s content and draw inspiration from there. Once you’ve got a list of a dozen or so keywords, we’re going to reverse-engineer some suggestions from Google itself (create a spreadsheet to keep these all organised, if you haven’t already).
Run each of your key phrases through Google, and check out what the suggested searches are for it:
So, Google’s telling us what the most popular searches are that include our original keyphrase. We know that “keyword research” isn’t necessarily going to bring us the right sort of traffic, but evidently there are enough people searching for “keyword research tutorial” that Google suggests it. That’s useful information which we can use to attract high quality traffic to our website.
Useful Tools for Keyword Research
It can be pretty long-winded, typing in keyword after keyword. Luckily, there are a few tools which can help you generate plenty of key phrase ideas without needing to manually enter each one.
Answer The Public
This helpful tool takes your keyword and runs through thousands of actual user searches, then displays the most common results. Essentially, it’s doing a similar job to Google Autocomplete, but shows you hundreds of suggestions at once.
This is a really great tool for marketers, because it can help you identify questions that are being asked but not necessarily answered, so use Answer The Public to make sure your content answers the right questions.
Google Keyword Planner
Who better to ask for suggestions than Google themselves? Though it’s designed for pay-per-click marketers rather than for keyword generation, the AdWords Keyword Planner is still a handy tool. A useful aspect is that you can refine the results to see what people in your area are searching for – very insightful for businesses with a local aspect.
Unless you’re a paying PPC marketer you won’t be able to see exactly how many people are searching for each phrase, but this is still a handy way to develop useful specific keyphrases for your web content. Making the most of this tool takes a little practise, which is why we’ve written up an in-depth guide to using Keyword Planner – read this to give your keywords that little extra boost.
Want to know how your keywords have been performing over time? Google Trends is a brilliant way to get insight into the popularity of different searches historically.
Not only that, but we can get even more keyword suggestions just by scrolling down. Every source is valuable when it comes to keyword generation, so keep an eye out for anything you haven’t already included.
Categorising your Keywords
Alright, so you’ve got an exhaustive list of keywords to pepper throughout your website – what do you do with them now? Well, you want to send as strong a message as possible to Google about the content of each page on your site, which means you’ll need to divide your keywords up into different categories.
On our website, we have a page dedicated to content marketing and outreach. Throughout this page’s content we use key phrases that are relevant to the page’s subject, so that when Google comes calling it can instantly identify this page as a suitable result for anyone looking for content marketing.
If we were to use these same keywords on our page about social media marketing as well, then Google will get somewhat confused. Since both pages contain the same keywords, which one should it pick? Ultimately, it’s less likely to display your content at all.
Split your keywords up into different topics, and assign them to the different pages within your site. Don’t worry if some of them don’t fit naturally; I always have a few leftovers, and it’s important to write for your audience first. Just put them to one side and keep them for later. When it’s time to choose review your content marketing strategy, you can dig out these key words and use them for inspiration.
Placing Keywords into Content
Actually placing your keywords isn’t too difficult, you just need to know where they should go. The most important phrases should occupy the strongest positions, so your primary keyword ought to occupy the page URL, with slight variations for the title and header. Our content marketing page is titled “Content Marketing, Guest Blogging and Link Building Services”, and the H1 header is “What is Content Marketing, Outreach and Blogging?”. The page URL is “http://www.bespoke-digital.co.uk/content-marketing”, so we’ve used our core keyword several times in the most important positions for SEO purposes.
You should then use different variations of the keywords throughout the page’s content. It would be strange if a page about content marketing didn’t mention it in several different contexts, so pepper your writing liberally with alternate phrasings of your core key phrases; “marketing with content”, for example, or “building links”.
Don’t be tempted to stuff as many keywords as possible into your text; Google does a good job of sniffing this out. You’ll also compromise the readability of your site’s content, making it less likely that anyone’s actually going to sit and read through it. If you’re interested, you can learn a little more about Google’s keyword algorithms by researching term frequency vs. inverse document frequency – essentially, they attach significance to keywords which occur more often than would be expected.
Keyword Research Wrapup
It might seem long-winded, and it might seem boring, but if you’re serious about raising the authority of your website, then you have to choose your keywords carefully. A few hours spent working behind the scenes can outperform any amount of spending on pay-per-click advertising, and every digital marketing strategy should begin with keyword research.
Refining the words on your web pages can pay dividends, ensuring your content consistently ranks well in organic search listings. PPC and social media ads will certainly get you noticed and direct targeted traffic your way, but bear in mind that you have to keep paying for these tactics to work.
Following SEO best practice, on the other hand, ensures that your site will continue to rank in organic listings for the long-term.