Great keyword research will take a few days and will use several tools and will examine your competitors websites. I prefer to start not with the various keyword tools but with a blank sheet of paper.
Initially I want to just think about the words and phrases that people might use to look for me, my products, or services using Google. If you company uses a receptionist to answer the phone ask them what people ask for when they call. Beware of internal speak, that is jargon that is commonly used within your company but not used outside of it.
For me there is quite a list of words and phrases before I start researching elsewhere: SEO, search engine optimisation, search engine marketing, Internet marketing, online marketing, SEO Ireland; there are many more but I am sure you get the idea.
Add all the above to the master list on a spreadsheet. Next add in modifiers: buy, location like Ireland or Dublin, free – I am never sure free is good but it can pull in traffic; for example – free (something) ebook.
In general the longer your search term the easier it is to rank for: SEO keyword research will be easier to rank for than keyword research – which is also easier to rank for than SEO. At the same time longer search terms often have better buying intent, whereas the very broad is often informational.
Check Your Competitors Keywords
Most company owners know without looking at Google who our main competitors are. Add these to you list then confirm on Google that they are the same when you search for your main term.
I then want to check what keywords my competitors are using on their website. There are various paid tools to make this quicker by pulling all the information from their site, but first I like to check by hand on the main pages. I do this by using the site operator site:domain.com
This will list all their pages by importance ranked by Google. The blue hyperlink is the page title – take special note of any keywords used here and add them to your spreadsheet.
Open their home page and right click on your mouse and select view page source. Look at the top of the page for meta name=”keywords”. These are keywords that have been added by the website owners, add these to your spreadsheet.
Use Google Suggest in Search
Use Google.ie, if you are researching for Ireland else your local version of Google, the start typing your main keywords from your spreadsheet. As you can see in the image Google will start to suggest search terms. Take note of these in your spreadsheet.
When you search for any keyword term scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see searches that Google suggest that are related – add these to your spreadsheet.
Use Competitive Research Tools
There are various competitive research tools. I use SEM Rush, but there is also Spy Fu, Search Metrics, Compete.com, Keyword Spy. They all require payment or subscription, however they are worth the money even if you only use them for one month and pull all the information you need.
Using these SEO tools you will get a list of keywords that each of your competitors rank for, (some will show the position), but additionally you will also see the keywords they are bidding on in Google Adwords.
Paid Keyword Tools
There are a lot of keyword research software companies, too many to list here. The most common are Wordtracker, Wordstream, and Search Metrics – all require subscription.
The problem with all keyword research is being willing to put the time into the seed keywords – they are the words that are currently in your spreadsheet. Many people will just fire up Google Keyword Planner or one of these tools and use a very short list of keyword. If you do this you end up with all the same keywords as everyone else. If I find a new keyword combination I know I will not have it to myself forever – but having a new combination can create a springboard effect.
With any of these tools you can download the research to excel.
Use Google Keyword Planner
It depend on how deep the market is in a niche on how much I will re-use the results from the Google Keyword Planner. Some times I will take a main keyword and export the results from that. Then add 100 keywords phrases at a time back into Google. Sometime Google needs to be encouraged this way to spit out words it might not otherwise have.
However most of the time now I want to take all the keyword I have and run them through Google to check the volume and cost associated with each word.
Google now only give exact match and the headline numbers are for monthly averages. Be aware that behind these monthly averages can be very high numbers for yearly events, for example the Super Bowl or Wimbledon.
Suggested bids indicate the competition on a key phrase. For example search for SEO and SEO company, set the country to UK and you will see that the suggested bid for SEO company is twice that of SEO.
Cleaning Your Keyword Lists
There are various tools you can find for de duplicating lists. Currently I use a small desktop tool from Clever Gizmos. It can help sort keywords in groups.
Use the groups of keywords on the same page when possible or if the keywords are very high volume and / or competitive create separate pages – however one very good page on a website will ranking for 10’s or 100’s of keywords.
Long Tail Keywords
Long Tail keywords are generally non-competitive phrases. I strong suggest being aware of these as you sort through your lists. Long tail keyword phrases are great for blog posts or other articles on your site, even better if they are evergreen content.
The above is only the basics of keyword research to stop this article going on forever. However there are two other areas that need to be included. The data from your analytics and Webmaster tools can form part of the seed keywords.