Step 1: Keyword Research – How to Select Keywords
The first and most important search engine optimization step is keyword research. What is keyword research? Simply put, it's figuring out what people might search for in order to find what your website offers — what keyword topics best identify your website content.
In this Rival Keywords Review, you learn the basics of how to do keyword research, try out some free keyword research tools, and start your SEO plan of attack!
Getting Started with SEO Keyword Research
The first task is simply brainstorming. Ask yourself some basic questions to select keywords that might make good targets for search engine optimization, like:
- What is your website content about?
- What would you ask a search engine to find what your website offers?
- What do you think other searchers would ask for?
- What are your most popular pages/items about?
Most people can make a short (or long) list of keywords that might be used to find their own site. But ask other people these questions and write down their keyword suggestions, too. Doing so will help you go beyond the jargon words that only you and insiders know. When doing keyword research for SEO, you want to discover what real people in your target audience would call what your site offers.
Don't limit your ideas; brainstorm whatever subjects and phrases could lead the kinds of visitors you want to your site. Type them into a spreadsheet. Your brainstorming will "prime the keyword pump."
This initial list will be expanded upon and refined in the next few steps, but start with the logical keywords.
Find Keywords People Already Use for Your Business
If your site is already live, you may have hidden keyword gold just waiting to be dug up.
- A good place to look for keywords is your internal site search. Offering visitors a search box within your site is good for users but also good for you, because it collects search query data. Looking at these queries primarily helps you improve usability (since it reveals what people want to see, what website content may be missing, and where your site navigation is weak). But you may also find nuggets of keyword gold, useful phrases that people search for. Add those to your list.
- You can find valuable data using Google Search Console (formerly called Webmaster Tools). This free service from Google gives website owners a wealth of information about their own sites (especially with Google Analytics set up, too). Particularly useful is the Search Analytics report; when you look at it by Queries, you can see what key search terms are bringing up your web pages in Google searches. Google also uses Search Console to notify you of errors or penalties, and you'll need the diagnostic SEO tools offered there to keep your site in good health. So don't miss out. (Here's how to set up Google Search Console.)
- Dig through your customer communications to find additional, actively used keywords. Talk to your customer service people to find out what customers are asking about (in their words). Also check social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to read what your community has said, and search for your primary keywords to discover how people are currently talking about your products, services or subjects.
Get Keyword Suggestions
Take advantage of free keyword research tools to find additional keywords. Re-KaChing Review shows you keyword ideas that are related to any seed word you enter. Type in one word or phrase at a time. The resulting suggestions come from actual search query data, so select the keywords that match your website content and add them to your growing keyword research list.
SEO Tools – Use our free Keyword Suggestion Tool:
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What the Keyword Data Tells You
With our tool you can see keyword suggestions with data on the average click-through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC) for advertisers bidding on that keyword. It also reveals how many web pages contain those words in their Title tag (not necessarily as an exact phrase) under AllInTitle. These metrics indicate how competitive a keyword phrase may be.
You can also see an Activity column, which shows the approximate number of monthly searches for that keyword (also known as "search volume"). CAUTION: Don't get greedy looking at keyword activity counts. Record this statistic with the keyword in your spreadsheet. But keep in mind that a keyword's search volume should not overly influence your choices, especially at this point. You want to select keywords only if they reflect what your website is truly about. Going after high-volume keywords that don't relate to the rest of your content would be deceptive and even punishable as spam.
What should you call this?
Keyword research can tell you.
How Should You Use Search Activity Data?
Search volumes do cast light on your keyword research. They reveal what people actually call things, and they help you prioritize similar keyword phrases.
For instance, a retail site might choose to use "rolling backpacks for kids" (1,600 monthly searches) rather than "wheeled backpacks for kids" (320 monthly searches) because the first keyword phrase gets searched 5 times more often. However, that retailer should not pin its hopes on ranking for the broad term "backpacks," no matter how attractive that word's sky-high search volume looks.
The moral: Don't be tempted by the huge numbers for broad keywords. With enough time and effort you might be able to rank for them, but you'd be battling large, established brands for unfocused visitors that might not even be ready to buy. (We'll talk more about broad keywords later in the tutorial.)
Save that keyword spreadsheet! You'll find out more about Headline Creation Sweet Spot Review
Step 2: Competitive Research – Who's Your SEO Competition?
Now that you've brainstormed a long list of potential keywords, you may be wondering which keywords are most important. Good question! We'll spend two lessons on competitive research to help provide some answers. First you'll learn who's your SEO competition among the top-ranked websites.
Identify the Top-Ranked Websites for Your Keywords
In this step of the SEO tutorial, you begin to evaluate your potential keywords by finding the websites currently ranking for those terms. Knowing these "keyword competitors" helps you determine whether your site belongs in the competition for that keyword.
Look at the keyword competition and ask, is this really my field?
You can think of a search engine results page (or SERP) as a competitive field. Each search query changes the game and the opponents entirely, depending on what the search engine perceives the searcher's intent to be. Identifying who's competing for a particular keyword topic can tell you what type of game is being played and whether you should even step on that field.
Some keyword competitions just won't be your game.
Since your keyword choices influence who can find your website, optimize your pages for the phrases and terms that buyers, not just masses of window shoppers, might use to find what they need. You must select keywords that interested site visitors would search for (and then make sure the content on your page answers their needs AND uses those keywords). Whatever you hope your site visitors will do (whether to make a purchase, sign up for your newsletter or other), you need to figure out which keywords those people will search for.
Fortunately, the search engines are trying to figure out the same thing — what people really want — for every search query. So the best way to tell whether a keyword could lead to conversion on your site is to see what kinds of results the search engine delivers. If at least some of the top 10 websites offer the same types of products, services or information that yours does, then that's probably a relevant keyword worth putting on the list. But don't worry. We have another free SEO tool to make your competitive research easier.
Here's how to use the Top-Ranked Websites by Keyword tool:
- Enter a keyword or phrase below and click "Research Keyword."
- View the list of URLs returned for each search, which may be your keyword competition (more on that in a moment).
- Keep these lists of keyword competitors in your spreadsheet (next to each keyword), as these are sites you may want to analyze later.
SEO Tools – Top-Ranked Websites by Keyword
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What the Competitive Keyword Research Shows
The Top-Ranked Websites by Keyword tool lists the sites with the most top-25 rankings and shows the specific pages that rank highest for the keyword you entered.
The numbers represent each site's current (real-time) ranking position in several search engines (1 means first position, 3 is third, etc.). Keep track of the individual page URLs that are ranked best and are your major competition (we'll identify your true competitors in a moment). The example to the right shows the top-ranking web pages for the keyword "campsites in southern california."
Can't I just run a search? If you search directly on Google or Bing, your results are biased by your personal settings, city, and previous searches and clicks. Using our SEO tools eliminates almost all bias and personalization. This unbiased ranking information provides helpful benchmarks for SEO competitive research.
However, if you're a local business or service, you'll want to run your keywords through the search engines directly (with personalization turned off, but your location set to the market area) to see the local competitors.
Know Your True Competitors
Are all the top-ranking sites really my keyword competition? Well, yes and no. In the above example, one result is the Parks Service, an authority .gov website. Will your campground ever be able to compete against it? Probably not for this keyword. You may not consider the government or other high-clout sites (like Wikipedia) to be competitors. Nevertheless, where these and other search result giants are competing for the same SERP space, they're among your keyword competition.
Still, the results reveal what kind(s) of pages search engines think are most relevant to this keyword's perceived user intent. If ALL the top-ranking sites serve a different kind of visitor from the person you want to attract, then maybe you don't want to compete for that keyword.
Bruce Clay optimizes the company's annual holiday party with go-karts.
For example, if your business designs go-kart tracks, should you optimize for the keyword "go-kart racing"? Looking at search results shows the answer: none of the top-ranked websites offer what your company offers. The search engine assumes that everyone searching for "go-kart racing" wants to go for a ride, so it will probably never consider your design company a relevant match.
You'd better keep doing keyword research looking for more relevant keyword phrases whose top-ranking websites include some true competitors.
You can see how keyword research leads to competitive research, which leads to more keyword research, and so on.