Keyword Research Best Practices

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Keyword research, at its core, is market research. Instead of evaluating the acceptance of products or services, you are evaluating consumer acceptance and usage of specific search terms. Terms can change based on demographics, geographics, psychographics etc. For example, altering the spelling of a keyword can make it more relevant to a certain geographic location than others. If you are renting home theater equipment in New York, but choose to spell “theater” as “theatre,” you might be getting a lot of traffic from overseas that wont necessarily help our localized rental service. Based on thorough keyword/market research you can identify your target audience and what specific language they are using when they think about certain topics. It’s almost like mind reading.

Here is a simple guide to get the most out of your keyword research.

Research > Brainstorm > test > apply

  1. Go back to your business plan and look at your competitive analysis and your SWOT. Identify those competitors that have a strong web presence. What are they doing right? Which keywords are they targeting? Identifying their keywords can help you define which ones you are missing as well as spark new ideas on how to bring out our point of difference. It is important to aknowledge how many other sites are competing for the same keywords and how strong their sites are. If you are going up against a giant in your industry, and you’re a small start-up, consider if your efforts will yield a great enough of a return before launching your campaign.
  2. Start brainstorming. Think of all the terms and their synonyms that consumers might use when trying to find you. If you can, avoid generic terms like “phone” or “cup,” further define your terms with product details and specifications. Generic terms are tough to rank for and might also mislead consumers. If you are looking for a glass cup and get taken to a glass door manufacturer, you are going to leave the site. You are looking to build qualified traffic, not just traffic.
  3. Limit your jargon. For example, if you are a cardiologist and have come up with a heart attack prevention method, identify the words a consumer might search for, not a word found in your latin-derived medical textbook. Writing extensively about Myocardial Infarction, might speak to the medical community (which might be your target) but if your target is not in the medical profession, simply using the words “heart attack” might serve you better.
  4. Conduct a focus group. No one knows the consumer, well, like the consumer. A controlled group of 6-12 participants can create a lively discussion and reveal search trends, patterns of consumption and behavior that you may not have considered.
  5. Use a keyword research tool. This is the fastest way to learn how many users are searching for that specific term each day and what the conversion was like. It might also clue you in on words you may have overlooked.
    Organize your data. Create an excel sheet that allows you to see the conversion rate, search volume and competition rate for each of your selected keywords. Find a balance of broad keywords and targeted keywords. In order to be successful, you will need to rank well for both of these.
  6. Create your content. Search engines will need to know what you do on a macro level and consumers will need to know what you sell on a micro level. Your content shouldn’t be forced and targeted keywords will be needed to support the context of your broad keywords. Keywords should be a part of other site elements such as Metadata, h1’s, alt text, achor text etc.
  7. Remember that stagnation is regression. If you don’t update your content and your keywords, your competitors will and then they will outrank you. Revisit your research periodically or as there are shifts in consumption and patterns of behavior. Then adjust your content accordingly.

Amina AlTai is the Marketing Director for the Imagemme New York City office.

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