We all know it makes sense to spend some time thinking about keywords before starting a campaign. After all, you need to know which keywords to target, what competition you may encounter and how best to distribute your efforts. I have never met a client who had a problem with the concept of relevant keyword targeting. The problems often start when the moment comes to set aside actual time and resources for doing proper research. This is because most non-SEO people and many beginner SEOs think they either already know which keywords they need to target or can get away with minimum research. Once you've experienced the horror of a badly targeted campaign, though, you quickly learn never to assume prior knowledge.
When you run a business, no one is likely to know your business better than you: you know your products or services inside-out; you know all the buzzwords and jargon and probably hold answers to questions your prospective clients may not even know need asking. Your SEO company or consultant will never know the ins and outs of your business as well as you do. On the other hand, when you are so involved with your business, it's easy to get locked into a certain way of looking at your own website and assume all of your prospective clients will see things the same way. In reality, your potential clients may not be able to put into exact words the particular product/service you can provide for them or they may use completely different words than you would. If you rely too heavily on industry terms and jargon, you may be missing out on valuable traffic.
Another common misconception is that the broad terms are the most important ones to target. Be it a misunderstanding of search behaviour or a matter of prestige (wanting to beat the competitors to the most obvious top spots), many business owners still believe they will do best out of targeting obvious, generic terms and that the rest are less important. Sure, the broad terms are highly visible and may have big search volumes, but how likely are they to actually convert into sales?
So here are a few things to keep in mind when doing your keyword research:
- Realise that while you may well know many of the keywords you need to target, there are many that are bound to elude you without proper research. Start with a blank slate, without assuming you know everything
- Brainstorm everything - broad, narrow, specific, synonymous - your initial keyword list should have anything even remotely related on it, even things you think may not bring you any joy
- Try to involve people who are new to your particular world and may not know the right terminology or the ins and outs of the business. Let them come up with search phrases they would use to find you
- Do some competitive analysis and see what words your (successful!) competitors are targeting
- Use keyword research tools to estimate search traffic and level of competition. This, together with relevance to your site and company, should help narrow your list to a workable one and help you plan your campaign
- Go deeper: you may well be able to supplement the broad search terms with more specific key phrases that will generate plenty more sales for you. What's more - they are less likely to attract as much competition as the broad terms
- Most importantly, remember: keyword analysis should be an ongoing thing. Industries, search behaviour and the search landscape in general are all likely to change on a regular basis. Doing a keyword audit every once in a while will ensure you stay on track