The 5 essential elements of search engine keyword research
Keyword research is cool. It allows you to gaze directly into people’s minds.
Rather than listening to people say what they think they might do, you get to observe what they actually did, by looking at the words and phrases they used to find information. And when aggregated, you get a nice view of the words people most often use when thinking about and searching for a certain topic.
Once armed with keyword intelligence that’s relevant to your niche, you have the unique ability to create highly relevant content that aids your site visitors and enhances your credibility. You’re speaking the language of the audience, and satisfying their needs. And if you get it right, you’ll likely rank well in search engines too – after promoting the content and gaining traffic from social media. It may seem strange to view search traffic as a secondary benefit in a Google-driven world, but that’s exactly how you should view it.
Google won’t treat you as relevant until others do first.
The counterintuitive rule of search engine keyword research is to try to forget that search engines can send you traffic. View the data as free or low-cost market research and you’ll have the proper mindset to formulate a content strategy that has a shot at ranking well. People need to like your content before Google will.
I’ve got a more extensive guide to keyword research for you in the Appendix to this report. But here are five essential things to understand when it comes to keyword research:
1. Research Tools
Some use Google’s Keyword Tool as a free research tool. Another free option is Aaron Wall’s SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool (registration required). Professionals often use paid keyword tools over those provided free by search engines due to the bias that comes with wanting to sell you search advertising. You can research the more popular solutions by clicking here.
2. Get Specific
“Keyword” is the term that gets tossed around, but what you’re really after in most cases are keyword phrases. For example, a real estate attorney in Austin, Texas would gain very little actual benefit from ranking highly for the single word “attorney” (and good luck anyway), but specific keyword phrases based on geography and specialty would yield highly targeted traffic (“Austin real estate lawyer”). And don’t forget synonyms. (“Austin real estate attorney”)
3. Strength in Numbers
Don’t take as gospel truth the reported number of monthly searches provided by any particular tool. But do pay attention to relative popularity among search terms. You want to make sure enough people use that phrase when thinking of your niche to make it worth your while, especially if this is one of the primary search terms you want to target for your site overall. At the same time, be realistic. If you are trying to rank in a very competitive sector, make sure that a certain keyword combination can rank for an easier phrase if the more competitive term ends up out of reach.
4. Highly Relevant
Make sure that the search terms you are considering are highly relevant to your ultimate goal. If you’re a service provider or selling specific products, keyword relevancy may be easier to determine — you ultimately want someone to purchase the product or service. Other goals may require more careful consideration, such as subscriptions to content publications and contributions to charities, for example.
5. Develop a Content Resource
Here’s the key element. Can a particular keyword phrase support the development of content that is a valuable resource to readers and act as a foundational element of what your business is about?
- Satisfies the preliminary needs of the site visitor
- Acts as the first step in your sales or action cycle
- Prompts people to link to it
It’s this step 5 – a foundational content resource – that translates keyword research into strong search rankings, so we’re going to look at it in more detail next.