4 Steps to Get the Best Out of Keyword Research in SEO
Every internet search begins with a query. Whether spoken or written, words are the most powerful tool we have in our search for knowledge. Almost every website now has a search feature of their own, enabling visitors to search for specific contents they’re looking for. For better or for worse, search engines have more or less transformed how we live our daily lives, so much so that the phrase ‘look it up’ now refer to the act of searching for something on the internet.
Now that society has grown increasingly reliant on search engines for everything, the internet has now become the initial meeting point between businesses and customers. Potential customers type in their query into search engines, “best law firm in Melbourne” for example, and the search engine would present a list of results on what it thinks answer that question. This in turn gave birth to the practice of SEO services, aiming to optimize webpages in such a way to raise their prominence with certain queries.
SEO, queries and keywords
Search engine optimization or SEO for short is a method to increase a page rank in a search engine results page (SERP) for a given query. There are a lot of ways to achieve this; some are technical, involving having to mess around with HTML code, while some aren’t. All of them involve what is called keywords, which is the word or phrase that was used in a query. The query example given earlier uses law firm and Melbourne as keywords.
These keywords are the foundation of SEO because these are the things you optimize for. In the example above, using law firm and Melbourne as keywords might seem acceptable but the reality is more complicated. Optimizing for law firm might mean having to compete with 100 other businesses but adding the keyword family law, and you might trim that 100 into a much more manageable 25.
This is why properly doing keyword research is important, especially for small businesses whose size and resource might limit them to certain niches. For these types of businesses, using more focused keywords might be more beneficial than using generic ones and having to compete with bigger businesses. To get you started, here are 4 basic steps you could take for keyword research.
Step 1: Think of topics that might be relevant to your businesses
Keyword research correlates closely to the practice of content marketing, because your contents should always reflect the keyword you’re optimizing for. Now, figure out things you’d like to write about that you consider to be relevant to your business. In family law for example, some noteworthy topic would include divorce, adoption and inheritance. You could also look to what similar businesses are doing to look for inspiration.
Step 2: Find out the words people are using
Once you’ve settled on the general topics you’d like to write on, the next step is to figure out what queries are people are actually typing into search engines related to that topic. The easiest way to do this is to make use of Google Trends. It’s still overwhelmingly the most popular search engine in the world so data from Google would be representative enough.
Google Trends allows you to see a topic’s popularity over a given period of time and even check its popularity by region. The main focus of our attention however is located at the bottom, in the ‘Related topics’ and ‘Related queries’ segment. In there, you could see what other topics that intersect with the one you pick and queries actual people use to look for information on that topic. You could also filter these with two metrics; ‘Rising’ refers to the one currently popular while ‘Top’ refers to all-time results.
Step 3: Experiment with Google Search
Now that you have a couple of topics and queries in your belt, input some of those into Google too see the specific questions people are using. Type in some of the words you found but before clicking search, see what queries Google autocomplete came up with. Going further, click search and scroll to the bottom of the results page to see searches related to your keywords. Experiment with keyword combinations and see what Google comes up with.
Step 4: Mix long-tail keywords with head terms
Long-tail keywords are phrases that are generally longer than three words. By contrast, head terms are phrases that are one to three words long. In content writing and SEO, it’s advisable for businesses to mix these two together and the idea behind this is rather simple. A customer’s search is a process, in the beginning they use more generic terms to find basic information of a product. Once they’re more knowledgeable, they use more specific terms to find a product that is best suited to what they need.
It is possible for a customer to start right in the middle of the process because they’re already knowledgeable about the product. It is also possible for this process to repeat all over again as a customer abandon their search for a product and look for other products that also fit their need. Using both long-tail keywords and head terms would allow you to accompany your customer in every step of their process.
As briefly mentioned in step 2, it is possible that what people is currently searching for might be different to what people have been searching for so far. Current events or when it comes to law, amendments and new bills, could lead to people looking up a certain phrase in droves. As such, it’s advisable for businesses to reevaluate the keywords they’re optimizing for every now and then if they want to capture the zeitgeist.