In the past couple of months, Finn has written some really great SEO Boy blog posts about Keyword Research. He’s covered: high-traffic and long tail keywords, planning your research without all of the information, and competitor analysis vs. keyword analysis. Today, I wanted to take a step back for those that might be starting at square one.
You have your website up, now what do you do? Here is a step-by-step guide to SEO Keyword Research.
Step 1: Brainstorm.
- Before we begin talking about online tools or spreadsheets, sit down and spend some with your website. Browse the site and jot down any terms that frequently show up.
- Act as a searcher and from Google.com search for terms that you might type in if you were a potential customer looking for your product or service. Click on some of the competitor sites and pull any additional terms you haven’t thought of yet. You can look at the sites’ meta-data (right click on the page and view page source) to find their meta descriptions and keywords, which can help inspire your own keyword list.
- If you have any print material, brochures or magazines, look through them as well, and add any reoccurring terms to your list.
Step 2: Dig a Little Deeper.
Using the accounts below you can find additional keywords that you will definitely want to include in your keyword list.
- Google Analytics account – using Google analytics you can see the search queries people are using to find your site. Login to your Google Analytics account and click on traffic sources and then keywords on the left hand side. If you have a PPC Account be sure to segment your visitors by Non-paid only. You can do this in upper right hand corner, above the date. PPC keywords may be helpful, but you want a clear understanding of the organic searches from analytics before you look at the paid terms.
- Google Webmaster Tools account – with GWT you can see your most-used keywords as well as keywords your site is appearing for. When you login, your search queries should be right on the dashboard for you to browse. If you don’t have a Google Webmaster Account, sign up for one today. It’s free and essential for your SEO efforts.
- Pay-per-click accounts – if you maintain a pay-per-click account you can pull your most successful keywords and include them in your SEO list. Remember that PPC keywords are a little different in that you are trying to cast a wider net. With that in mind, choose the keywords to include in your SEO efforts carefully. If you won’t be using that keyword as a term on your site to describe your product, don’t include it.
Step 3: Additional Tools.
Once you’ve finished your creative brainstorming, it’s time to go online and utilize free tools. Remember, everyone can access these tools so your best shot at finding unique and useful terms that are different from your competitors will come from your initial brainstorming. Make sure you’ve fully exhausted your creative energies before moving on.
- Google Keyword Tool: You can use this tool one of two ways. First you can type in your Website URL and the tool with scan your website looking for keywords (make sure the ‘website content’ radio button is selected). Secondly, you can type in those individual terms to find additional, related terms (make sure the ‘descriptive words or phrases’ radio button is selected.
- Additional Google Tools: When you search for a term in Google, on the left hand side of the results page you’ll see ‘more search tools’ – when you click on this Google offers additional tools that you can use including the Wonderwheel and Related Searches tools. Test these out to see which ones work best for you.
Step 4: Organize Keywords.
Once your list is complete, separate keywords into themed “silos” or lists by topic. Each silo should be on a separate Excel worksheet. This way you will have a list of keywords unique to that particular topic or page. This organization will help you identify what keywords to target by topic. It will also help you avoid targeting multiple pages with the same keywords, and to ensure that your keywords are very relevant to search users trying to find the information offered on your pages.
Step 5: Generate Ranking Statistics & Sort Keywords.
- Using the SEOBoy Keyword Tool or Google Keyword Tool and search results pull the rankability, search volume and competing pages for each keyword. The Rankability is an indication of the relative ease of ranking for a keyword based on search volumes and competing pages. The higher a keyword’s rankability, the better chance it has to rank in the Google search engine results. Search Volume is the estimated global monthly search volume for a word, provided by Google. Competing pages are the number of pages in Google’s index that also appear for that particular keyword.
- To determine the best keywords to target, sort each of your keyword lists by competing pages (ascending order). Within each silo, further separate your keywords based on the natural breaks in the competing pages total. One this is complete, sort each sub-group by rankability (descending order). This will help you select the best keywords to target.
Step 6: Keyword Selection.
Choose keywords based on both highest rankability and relevance to your page. Keywords should be those which people searching for your services will be using, not just any interesting and rankable keyword. For each content silo, choose two to three target keywords and compile these into a target list. The total amount of keywords targeted on your site should only be 25-30.
Once you have your target list in place you can begin to optimize your site with keywords. Set up an account with Advanced Web Rankings program and make sure your Target List is ran once a month to track progress. It is a Hanapin best practice to schedule the ranking reports to run at odd hours (during the night).
Voila! Your keyword research is complete. Now it’s time to start optimizing the Meta Data with your Target List.
Maybe that’s a choice topic for my next post…