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There is no escaping it – keyword research is one of the most vitally important parts of your SEO marketing campaign, and it is one of the most common areas that corners are cut, having a massive impact on your search strategy. Without research, you could be targeting the wrong keywords altogether, or maybe not the most effective keywords you could optimise your website for to generate best return on investment. 

With that in mind, we have put together a few steps and tips for you to ensure you are getting the most from your Keywords and your Business:

 Step 1. Forget everything you think you know…

It might seem a funny step 1, but the most common mistake made with keyword research begins with you.

Every business knows (or should know!) their service and product inside out. You are an industry expert. So you should know what your customer wants, right?

Well, you may have a really good “gut feeling” about what people search to find you, however you are viewing your site through a narrow lens, coming up with words that are maybe industry specific, technical, or too jargon-esque and not viable Google-y words that your actual market would use, which means the chances only a small % of your customers are probably finding you.

The second misconception with keywords, is that the more generic or more ‘big money’ terms are the most important for your rankings, which quite simply isn’t true. Being associated with a word that no-one would think to associate with your brand, no matter how much it is worth, is a waste of time and money. Remember, keywords are a two stage process. Not only do you need your customer to visit your site, but you need them to stick around too.

Step 2. Make a List.

So back to basics. What, as a business, do you actually do? Can you sum it up in an easily digestible  sentence? What do you provide your customers? Great service? Do you save them time or money? Free delivery? Cheapest prices? If you can surmise your business effectively and it will help defining the searches you want to be found for.

Where are you located / selling your products and services?

People are wise enough when using search engines to be specific, so they don’t have to scan through hundreds of pages to get a relevant match to their search.

Firstly, add to your list the locations in which you operate (if appropriate). Once you have that clear in your mind, you can start to compile some keywords. There are few ways to do this.

Brainstorm all the words that you, in your customers shoes, might search for when trying to find you. Think of the scenario they would be in to require your product or service, and as a result, what would they type into Google?

Avoid overly generic terms like “clothes” or “finance”, and go more for the niche areas you can really make a difference. The thing to bear in mind, is that the essence of keywords is to qualify your customers before they hit your site. The more generic the term, the less qualified they become. We’ll touch more on this in Step 4. 

Speak to your colleagues, regular customers, friends, associates. Ask them what they would search for using open questions (don’t ask “would you search for X” , more “What would you type in to find us?”). Do some competitive research – something easily done with effective use of Google Analytics. What are your competitors ranking for? What are their customers looking for?

Step 3. Check out the Tools.

So by this point, you have an extensive and coherent list to hand of words and phrases you might like to use and rank for, but how do you narrow it down to the sought after and suitable words and phrases to bring the most qualified traffic to your site.

As with most things, there are a number of great free tools online to help you along your way, and Keywords are no exception. By inputting your proposed keywords into a keyword research tool, you can quickly learn how many users are conducting searches for that term each day, how many times each month each search is performed on average, plus a whole host of other information. “Google Adwords” is a free tool and a great first port of call. Check out “Google Suggest” as well, as it might throw up some ideas or synonyms you had not previously thought of.

Step 4. The Final Countdown.

With all your newly acquired information from the Research Tools, you are in a position to narrow down the words that will work for you.

So, firstly, lets expand on our earlier point – keywords are your personal tool for pre-qualifying your customers before they get to your website, which in turn, minimises your bounce rate from your landing page, and maximises conversions; a ‘win’ all round!

With this in mind, you need to group your keywords into two sections. First, look at the specifics of who you are and what you do as a brand. Secondly, look at more item/service specific terms to broaden your search base. Both these groups need to rank well, broad to describe what your website does, and specific for the level of qualified traffic.

For example; Say you run an e-commerce bakery, delivering cakes to order. It is natural to rank for broad terms such as “cakes for delivery” free delivery, bakery” etc.  These  will importantly tell Google what it is you ‘do’. But what cakes do you deliver? Wedding Cakes? Birthday Cakes? Gluten Free Cakes? By targetting these more specific terms, you will receive hits from a more specific customer on site.

What these more specific terms do is highlight you and your business as a ‘subject matter expert’ to Google, as the more targeted terms strengthen the theme you have created with your broader phrases. “The more you diversify and lengthen the term you are targeting, you are further qualifying and creating a ‘sales funnel’ of customers that are at a peak of conversion at the end of their search journey.

Step 5. Spread the SEO Love.

Now you have a list of highly focused keywords, so what next? In theory, at least some of these words should already feature within your site content, but chances are some won’t at all. You might be able to re-write your website copy and change the odd sentence where necessary. Alternatively, you could use this opportunity to give your website a content overhaul and start afresh to give the added ‘wow’ factor when visitors hit your page.

Add in new pages to support new words and phrases where appropriate, using unique content, contact details and calls to action to track and manage keywords on going, and see what is working for you.

Remember do not run the risk of ‘stuffing’ your pages with keywords that make no sort of literary sense to your end reader, and may well be penalised by Google as a result for essentially ‘spamming’ your pages. Keep it “normal”.

Don’t neglect the other areas that keywords can be inserted too. Look at your title tags, meta description tags, Alt/Anchor text to name a few. You’ll have spent a lot of time formulating the best words and phrases, make sure you use them to their maximum benefit, and as a result, maximise your ROI to its full potential.

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