SEO without keyword research is like a sandwich without bread. Yes, keyword research, like bread, is a little dull, but the better the bread, the better the sandwich.
I realise I’m at risk of stretching this bread metaphor a little too far, but the point is that keyword research – initial and ongoing – is the very foundation of any SEO campaign.
It could be the difference between success and failure.
Understanding your client
We’ve all heard the phrase “I want to be number one for [insert mega-competitive keyword]”, and our hearts sink. But after a couple of hours with your client, you’ll start to see the parts of their business that make them money, the products or services that are seriously profitable, and those that aren’t.
It’s about understanding your client’s marketing better than your client does. Armed with information about margin, ease of selling, perceived competition, you can adjust your approach to keyword research.
Use the trophy keywords
Every client has the impossible ‘trophy’ keyword for which they want to rank, and this is often a good place to start. Once you have your keyword groups, start to build words around the trophy keyword so that you have some less competitive, long-tail key phrases. These could be local – towns, cities, etc., or could be price-related, e.g. cheap, inexpensive.
Google’s External Keyword Tool gives you some great suggestions, along with their volume, and even Google’s drop-down suggestion menu will help you out. In fact, those drop-down suggestions are used by searchers, so ignore them at your peril.
Now you can map the prefixes and suffixes around your trophy keywords, and build sub-groups within the main keyword group, adding tens of keywords each time. With your various tools, you’ll know which keywords return the greatest volume of searches.
What’s more, with a little intuition, you’ll be able to come up with search phrases that not even your client would have thought of – and potentially new service offerings that the client could offer.
Populate your content
With your keyword grouped together, you’ll be able to present back to your client a content strategy based around:
- their business strategy
- user intent
- search volume
The most difficult thing about keyword research is marrying these three areas – the client’s strategy and expectations, the intent of the searcher, and the potential of the keyword from a volume point of view. Now we can talk content – what do we need, as a business… what do users need, as buyers of our services… and what do users search for.
As time goes on, and volume increases, we start to add a fourth component:
- keyword conversion
In other words – we’ve got some great keywords, that are relevant to our business and that bring traffic – but they don’t convert into business. And back we go to the start – understanding our client better than the client understands themselves – the never-ending loop of keyword research!