There are a lot of factors involved in marketing a website and spreading the word about what it has to offer. Anyone just starting out might find it overwhelming, but once the basics are learned things get a little bit easier. One of the most basic concepts involving marketing today, especially Search Engine Marketing (known as SEM), is the keyword. That’s what we’re going to learn about today because it is the focus of keyword research, our real topic. By understanding what keywords are and how you can use them to promote your site and its content, you will find that you have a lot more control over the marketing process. For a solo entrepreneur, this is excellent, but it is just as important for a company who is marketing online or an organization looking to inform people about its mission. So let’s get started learning more right now so you can find out how to use keyword research to your advantage.
First, What is a Keyword and Why Are They Important?
When you perform a search through a search engine, you type in a description of what you are trying to find. You might type in a movie’s title, the name of someone famous, a location or something far more abstract such as ‘dogs under 20 pounds‘. In any of these cases, what you are hoping to get back is content that is relevant to your search. When the search engine analyzes what you have input, it is trying to decide which part of what you typed in matters most and then find sites which offer content most appropriate to that. Search engines use what are called keywords so they can analyze the content of a site and send it the most relevant searchers.
Ideally, the person doing the search will use very clear language to describe what they want to find. In reality, however, people often are not that skilled at using search engines nor communicating verbally and as a result there are many strange combinations of keywords that are searched for. This is why it is important to understand that just because you feel a certain keyword or keyword phrase is how people will look for the content your site contains does not mean that this will end up being correct. That’s where keyword research is going to come in handy for you.
History of keywords
The history of keywords being used on the web in similar ways to how we use them today dates back to the mid 90′s during the rise of the search engines. The search engines that existed then decided to include keywords as something there spiders would look for when analyzing a page’s content and looking through the meta data. At that point, keyword was a meta element. That meant, if you looked at a page’s html code, you would see this or something like it somewhere in that code:
<META NAME=”KEYWORDS” CONTENT=”keyword 1, keyword 2,keyword 3″>
This is just an example, but what this told early search engines was that the content of the page covered topics such as dogs, dog beds and flea collars. Back then, search engines trusted that and what people ended up doing was cramming huge numbers of popular keywords into that keyword element.
Or, they would simply use a few high traffic keywords on a page whose content actually had nothing to do with the keywords they indicated. Obviously, this led to getting worthless results for searches and the search engines had to change the way they did things after that, and today’s search engines actually ignores your meta keywords, but your meta description is still important, because that is the snippet of words that shows up under your site listing the in the SERP’s.
The Definition of Keyword Research
On the surface, keyword research is a fairly simple concept to understand. It involves researching keywords that searchers use in search engines. You find out how often certain keywords are used, how they are used in specific phrases (also called longtail keyword phrases) and you take a look at your competition who is using keywords you are interested in targeting in your own marketing efforts. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, the truth is that keyword research is quite a bit more complex than this because the web itself is nearly infinitely vast, it’s always changing and the way that both search engines and real human beings use keywords is always evolving.
At its heart, keyword research is about trying to discover the words that searchers use, not search engines. A huge part of keyword research comes down to studying your audience. You need to know the way they communicate and what they tend to read. If you do not know this, it can be extremely difficult to do effective keyword research that actually brings you the people using search engines who are interested in buying what you have to sell.
Target NICHE with keywords
To really make keyword research work for you, it helps for you to target a niche. Most sites on the web today that are run by solo entrepreneurs are focused on a niche. Most companies serve a very select audience.
In either case, knowing the way your customers think is to your advantage and forums, or the comments section of blogs, in your niche are going to give you keys. Checking out the banter related to your niche on social networks is another excellent way to find out which keywords you need to target.
Once you know what you are looking for, what keywords are going to be likely to result in searches, then you can begin performing keyword research. This is the process of using tools to discover the traffic volume and, if you are doing pay-per-click (PPC) advertising that uses keywords, the cost of advertising with certain keywords. While we will get more into the keyword research tools available to you later on in this article, suffice it to say that these are totally essential to your research efforts. We highly recommend SEMRUSH for these steps.
Why Choosing the Right Keywords and Keyword Phrases Matters
There are keywords and then there are the right keywords for your site or your PPC ads that point to your site. In both of these cases, it is important that you are choosing well because you need not only keywords and keyword phrases people are actually using on a regular basis, in order to get any real traffic, you also need those keywords and keyword phrases to be feasible for you.
This means you need to pick those that you can afford for your PPC campaign budget or which you can eventually rank for so that you can get organic traffic from search engines. Either way you go, this must be part of your analysis. Doing keyword research for PPC campaigns vs SEO Campaigns are two completely different animals and should be treated as such.
The beginner might get stuck on trying to pick out the keywords related to their site that get the most visitors per month. This is understandable, but it is usually not wise. Just because ‘scary movies’ gets tens of thousands of searches each month and your site is about scary movies, for example, does not mean you will get all of those visitors (or even a fraction of them) if you target those keywords.
You need to make sure that keywords and phrases you pick are low in competition or you are likely to be several pages into a search containing those keywords and that means you will end up with very little traffic. Yes, one day you might rank for those keywords, but at the beginning that would be a truly costly and time-consuming proposition involving months if not years of labor.
Keyword phrases with few SEO competitors
What you want are keywords and phrases that few sites are competing for because that means your costs, in terms of time or money, will be low. If you are selling something then choosing keywords that suggest buyer intent is a smart idea. Those kinds of keywords might be ‘buy fishing poles’ or ‘baby clothes shop online’, for example. These keywords show the person is most likely looking to buy something and that means less risk that they are merely searching for free information.
Every niche or topic will have unique keywords and phrases that serve it well. You will need to discover how to position your site to make the most of the searches happening and the keywords available so that you can give people what they want. This is really what good keyword research is all about.
Should You Focus an Entire Site Around Keywords?
This is a question a lot of people wonder about because it seems like a laser focused way to meet the needs of the searchers. Instead of having a large, sprawling site with lots of different or varied content, you could target just a keyword or two and provide specific, focused information. In reality, this is not something that is as good of an idea as it used to be. Many search engines see ‘mini sites’ that target specific keywords as attempts to manipulate their search engine results and could impose penalties on sites of that type.
Mini sites are not good!
Mini sites are a concept that was abused by many marketers, as the search engines see it, to siphon traffic from searches and send them to more or less commercial sites. What search engines want today is sites that are more geared to having a lot of content and, when possible, a diversity of content instead of just selling people things. This doesn’t mean that a site which is solely about selling something isn’t allowed to be in the search engine’s index, it just means that they are not likely to send a lot of organic traffic, wanting those sites to purchase PPC ads instead.
Tight groupings of keywords are a better focus for your keyword research. What you want to do is identify a few valuable phrases or terms and set your sites on those. If the market is crowded, try to find an alternative way to fit in – that’s what keyword research is for. You can discover new ways to reach out to your audience and be sure you are giving them what they want.
Remember to Think About Keyword Research When Doing Content Marketing
One of the more popular methods of marketing, especially for those that want to focus beyond SEO in their efforts, is content marketing. This kind of marketing is for sites that do not want to be at the mercy of search engines only for their traffic. While it can certainly help a site to get good search engine rankings if it has good content, this same content can be given to other popular sites and distributed as a way of exposing the brand to a wider audience.
Why keyword research is good for content marketing is that it tells you a what people want to know about. That can help you discover untapped niches so you can provide them with content that meets their needs and also meets your need of being able to show your site off to more people.
This kind of two-way street is a very smart idea because both you and the reader benefit. Even if the person consuming the content – be it a written article, video or audio recording – never visits your site, they may pass that content on to someone who will or mention your site to someone in conversation.
When you are creating content you can use your keyword research to help you understand the way people talk and think about certain topics your content covers. You may not have thought about something a certain way, but keywords can clarify that what you considered a ‘scary movie’ is called a ‘horror film’ by someone else, for example. Use your resources and do keyword research well so you can locate the right audience and give them what they want.
Why Having a Collection of Keyword Research Tools is Important
As we mentioned, you really can not do any genuinely effective keyword research without having the right tools at your disposal. There are tools out there that can give you some basic ideas of how keywords function, such as the Adwords Keyword Tool from Google, Wordze, Keyword Discover and so forth, but limiting yourself to these – unless you have absolutely no money to invest – is a mistake.
Advanced keyword research tools are going to help you in ways that free tools can’t. Keeping up with keywords you are targeting is a lot of work and what good tools like Ahrefs and Semrush and others do is help you make the most of your time and energy. They are streamlining your work and helping you discover keywords and phrases you most likely would have missed without them. These tools do generally have a learning curve, but thanks to the fact that videos now walk you through how to use those tools step by step, you can get a lot more good from them even if you are newer to the world of keyword research.
So, seriously consider investing in well reviewed keyword research tools. They are going to come in handy by helping you make sure you are getting the most from your researching efforts. They will show you things that free services just won’t and if you use more than one, you can get a pretty good idea about how keywords are performing in the major search engines at any given time.
Keyword Research is Essential for Building an Authority Site
We told you earlier that mini sites are all but dead these days as profitable, effective sites, but you do have another option that the smartest route to go right now: an authority site. In case you are not familiar with this concept yet, this is a site that is designed to become a leader within its niche. It’s aimed at providing the audience of that niche the best quality information, plenty of fresh and relevant content, and really pleasing them. It’s not about search engines or traffic, but organic traffic can and does play a role in any site’s success. The secret is that with an authority site you do not need the search engines, they are just part of how you market.
Keywords matter to authority sites because like we’ve covered, you need to know how your audience is talking about the niche you’re in. Keyword research gets you closer to that understanding. Also, authority sites generally do a decent amount of content marketing and we learned how keywords can assist in bettering your content marketing, too. The bottom line is that an authority site is one that will focus on a niche and target a few keywords with a decent level of traffic that it knows it can master. This way, your efforts can remain steady and consistent when it comes to keywords and you can focus on creating the content that pleases your niche. We go into much greater detail in Building Authority Sites.
Hiring a Professional or Turning to a Coach Can Help Make Things Easier
If you have tried to understand keyword research and you find yourself utterly lost, do not despair. You do not have to give up building a site online or marketing it. You can turn to professionals that offer services which are designed to help you with keyword targeting. These experts can do the research for you and they have experience behind them so as long as they understand what it is you are trying to do with your site, it’s quite likely that they could give you good, profitable advice in the form of consulting or by providing you with SEO or PPC marketing services. There’s always a way to get to your goal and sometimes it is about outsourcing. You have to play to your strengths and do what makes sense for your business. When it’s more logical to hire an expert then there is no reason to shy away from doing so.
Another thing people do if they are struggling with keyword research and they feel they need to master it so they can pursue marketing their own site further is turn to education. Courses are out there, and they can certainly help, but you might also consider the benefits of having a coach. When you can learn in a group setting from someone who can also provide some one on one time to you, this is quite often very beneficial and may be exactly what you need in order to reach your full potential at marketing.
Just like hiring consultants or services, you should certainly research your choice of coaching or courses to be sure they have a solid reputation, but other than that this could be a smart investment of your time and money that produces real, long-term results.
If You Do Your Own Keyword Research Prepare for Some Rigorous Work
Once you begin to look into keyword research online, you are bound to come across a lot of sites where people claim that this task is a piece of cake. That’s just not true, it is an activity that – so long as you actually want to make the most of it – is going to take practice to get good at. You’ll have to learn how to cull irrelevant keywords and do a lot of testing over time to see what works for your site. It’s a task that involves tools and learning how to use those tools in a way that produces the results you want.
To put it simply, those with sites that benefit from keyword research and are succeeding at pulling in organic traffic today have often put in many, many hours to get to where they are now. If you’re just starting out in keyword research, expect to do the same yourself. Having a site that gets a good flow of traffic takes time and it takes consistent effort, too. It also takes investing in your business the same way you would any other enterprise.
As long as you make an effort to educate yourself, work intelligently towards your goals and remain persistent even when things don’t look so great – you are going to succeed. Use a solid strategy to plan and promote your site and let keyword research help inform that strategy. Doing this will set you apart from the vast majority of other marketers and put you in a great position to succeed within your niche no matter what kind of site you happen to be promoting.
Lastly don’t be afraid to fail at research, we literally have created 100′s if not 1000′s of websites in our past endeavors, in a variety of niches and many times you need to create a few dozen or more sites to find one that is plausible and that will demand more of your time and effort to grow it.