The Importance of Keyword Research: The Starting Place of SEO

jordanfowler@moonandowl.com SEO Leave a Comment

Keyword Research is one of the most important pieces of getting found online. It’s the foundation for your online marketing.

Why Keyword Research is the Starting Point

Someone somewhere is typing a keyword into a search engine.

It matches a product, service or solution your business, practice or organization provides.

Do you know what that keyword is and how have you planned to target it?

You shouldn’t do anything online until your keyword research and keyword planning is in order. . .

. . .don’t update your website, don’t write another blog article, don’t run Adwords, nada!

Why?

Keyword research is the bread and butter of online success.

The entire web works off matching keywords people search with a result.

This includes Google search, Bing search, YouTube search, Facebook search, and tons of other search engines.

If someone isn’t typing your URL (yourcompanyname.com) directly into their toolbar, then search and keywords play a large role in getting found.

Important Keyword Terms

Keyword research is the process to come up with an extensive list of keywords on which you should rank.

Keyword strategy is deciding which words to target made on the basis of the keyword research.

Key phrases are when more than one keyword are strung together in the search. Search terms can contain multiple words. SEO agencies use the word keyword all the time, but it can definitely be more than one word.

The Keyword Research Process

Therefore, it’s vital that you know three things related to search terms that match what you do.

1. WHICH keywords are people using to search?
2. HOW MANY people are using that keyword monthly?
3. HOW MANY COMPETITORS are showing up for this keyword?
4. What is the USER’S INTENT when searching that keyword?

So let’s start the process step by step.

1. Which Keywords are People Using?

People use both short keywords and longer tailed keywords.

For example, if someone is searching for a new accountant to help them rank their website and their business is in Dallas, they might search Dallas CPA.

It’s important to look at direct variants of this keyword. These would include:

  • CPA Dallas
  • Dallas CPA
  • Dallas Certified Public Accountant
  • Certified Public Accountant Dallas
  • Dallas Accountant

All the above are very short keywords. It will be tough to rank on them, but over time it can be accomplished. They represent the head of you sites siloing.

In the meantime, you could target some longer tailed keywords that get search but have less competition. For example:

• Best tax preparation services in Dallas
• Business advisory accountant Dallas
• S-Corp bookkeeping Dallas
• Who can do my business taxes near me

Getting Ideas

Sometimes it’s tough to guess the keywords that people might use to search for a solution, product or content that your business or organization provides.

Good Ol’ Fashioned Brainstorming

Grab a piece of paper or a whiteboard and make a list of everything you can think of related to your topic.

For example, if you offer baseball equipment, list the following:

wooden bats, pro baseball bats, aluminum bats, NCAA bats, MLB bats, pine tar for bats, handmade bats, homerun bats, best bats for bunting, best bats for power hitters, power hitting, RBIs, what bat does Adrian Beltre use, etc.

You can be as exhaustive as you want in this process. The more creative you are, the more hidden gems you might find.

There are also tools you can use to help you develop this list more fully.

Google Search Console

If you have Google Search Console set up on your site and your site has been live for some months, you should already be ranking for several keywords. Knowing these keywords is a great starting point for your keyword research.

Go to “Search Analytics” in Google Search Console (previously called Webmaster Tools)

Google Suggest

One free way to do this is to type in the search term and then look at the bottom of the search page where Google suggests related terms.

keyword research google suggest

 

Grab those keywords, and then search again using each one for further suggestions. As you might expect, this method takes a great deal of time and energy.

We have a faster way to do Google Suggest using software called PowerSuggestPro. It scrapes Google to find all the suggestions and then automatically scrapes Google again with all those suggestions to create a massive list.

Sometimes keywords will appear that never crossed your mind until you see them in the PowerSuggestPro report. Then you’ll think, “Of course, that makes complete sense.”

2. How Many People are Searching Those Keywords?

Search Volume

Ranking #1 on Google is great. However, if it is for a keyword that gets no searches or only 5-10 searches per month, that keyword won’t drive much traffic. It’s fine to rank for it, just know it won’t be your bread and butter.

There are several tools you can use to find out search volume trends. A free tool is Google Trends. They’ll tell you the trends for each search term. But you’ll have to enter the terms word by word and manually compare the trends. It’s an important part of seeing what Google sees in search trends.

Google Trends | Keyword Research

We also use Ranktrackr to see local keyword search volume (US or geographically local) and global search volume (worldwide). Targeting keywords that get a large volume of search is a good keyword strategy.

Here is an example ranktrackr.com volume report targeting CPA Dallas and accountant Dallas.

search keyword research volume report

 

2. How Competitive is that Keyword Going to be to Rank On?

Competitive Keyword Results

To see the number of search results you are competing with on a given keyword or keyword phrase, grab the keyword and put it in quotes in the search field of Google.

For example, type in “CPA Dallas” to see the number of results online that this exact match search phrase generates. This number will appear just under the search field once you hit the search button.

Search Results in Keyword Planning

The more competition there is on a keyword ( the bigger this number), the more difficult it will be to rank on the term.

In our example, there are 38,000 exact match results.

You can also repeat this without the quotes around the search term for a search that isn’t an exact match of the keyword but is highly related.

Non-exact match keywords

This open, non-exact match search yielded 487,000 results.

Note these two numbers on a spreadsheet. Put the quotes number in a column called Exact Match and the non-quotation search under Open Match.

You then repeat this process for each possible keyword.

This is a tedious but necessary process. You either have to do it manually or buy expensive software tools.

Fortunately, we already own the SEO tools needed to determine all this.

Our software can complete this automatically for you in an exportable report that shows you your current ranking, who is currently ranking in the top 5, local search volume, competitive search volume, and the number of results for each keyword.

This process can save you hours of time that you can use to focus on running your business.

Spy on the Top Ranked Sites

You can also pick the top result for that keyword and go to the #1’s site by clicking on the search result. Then grab that URL and cut and paste it into the search bar as follows:

site:toprankedsitenamegoeshere.com keyword here

In our CPA Dallas results example, the top ranking site for the term was ggpcap.com. So we add site: before that ULR, add in the keyword(s) and hit search.

 

The exact match version of the #1 ranked site has 70 pages dedicated to the term Dallas CPA. The non-exact match keyword search (without quotes) has 286 pages of results.

This number can help you understand the volume of content you are going to have to create to get competitive on this term. Remember that Google, Bing and other search engines love topical breadth and depth on any given subject.

4. Ask Yourself Is This Keyword Truly Profitable Based on User Intent?

This is where you determine user intent and how relevant that keyword is to your offerings as a business.

Does this keyword appear to bring our company revenue?

Consider the psychological approach of the searcher.

This is known as searcher intent. Ask yourself, “Why would someone put that keyword into the search bar? Does it indicate an intent to buy or purchase?”

Also ask, “If I were looking for this solution, product or service, what would I type into the search bar?”

We’ve shared before that our web design page is called web designer, because people who want to pay for a new website choose that term over simply web design. People searching web design could be looking for cool designs or even be designers themselves seeking inspiration.

Web designer has a much better searcher intent for us in terms of people looking to pay for a new website.

Similar Terms: What to Look For

We had a client who sold high-end old world bedding (comforters, duvets, pillowcases, shams, throws, etc.). Bed sheets consistently popped up as a keyword in our research. However, this client didn’t sell sheets. So we realized this word was not profitable, even though we tested it as such.

Why did we test it? That keyword is in the same vein as their offerings. We wanted to be sure someone who was looking for bed sheets didn’t drift over to the client site, look at her stunning work, and then say, “Yes, I’d like to buy that, while I happening to be thinking about bedding.”

We found out it wasn’t a match for true conversions in terms of sales in under 21 days.

Once we determined it wasn’t a match through our testing, we culled that word from our list.

Sometimes you’ll know this intuitively, this word won’t convert. Other times, you’ll want to test the word to make sure it doesn’t convert. Whenever in doubt, it makes sense to test the keyword. We don’t want to leave money on the table that could be yours.

What to Look For in Your Keyword Research?

Silo Headers

We talked about the importance of siloing your website. The words that get very high search volumes of search should be strongly considered to be your silo tops or lead pages.

If there are two phrases that get similar search volume but one has a radically lower level of competition, make that your silo keyword.

For example:

CPA Dallas has 590 searches monthly and 487,000 competition results
Accountant Dallas has 210 searches monthly and  10,700,000competition results

It would be wiser to choose CPA Dallas as the main keyword to target.

You can then build out sub-pages and/or blogs on the keywords that get less search volume but keep them grouped under the main silo header regarding site structure.

So Dallas Tax Preparation Services could be a sub-page (and a series of blog posts, as well) and that whole sub-page plus articles sits under CPA Dallas.

In this way, you can rank for the less searched term while also ultimately building rankings on CPA Dallas.

Long Tailed Keywords

Don’t forget to target the long tailed keywords with decent search volume but fairly low competition. These can rank more quickly. While they don’t get massive search volume, the modest search volume can be directed to your site as you rank. This can mean money in your pocket while you work on the shorter, higher-volume keywords that are more profitable.

And remember, the longer the keyword phrase, the more your site’s ranking on it will exactly match the searchers intent.

For example, the search term “who can do my LLC taxes in South Dallas” has a definite intent. They are going to 1) pay someone to do their taxes, 2) they are an LLC who must file and 2) want their preparer to be in a specific part of Dallas.

Getting Keyword Research and Keyword Planning Strategy Help

Keyword research can be challenging, especially your first time doing it. And because this research is so foundational to your online marketing success, you don’t want to mess it up.

We have the tools and know-how to create a clarity-providing keyword research map for your business or organization. You can then use it for DIY search engine optimization efforts, or allow us to help you with all your SEO while you focus on running your business.

Either way, we are here to help. Call us at 817-889-1487 for a free consultation.

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