Keyword Research – what it is and how to do it
What is Keyword Research?
Simply put, it’s the art and science of fully understanding the topic of your website and the specific pages of your site, and crafting content for your pages while keeping in mind what people are actually searching for.
Keyword Research is, or at least should be, a fundamental part of every page creation effort for your site. For the most part, when you create a new page for your site, you have a reason to do so, a point you’re trying to get across, a lesson to teach. Do yourself a favor and conduct some research to find out what internet searchers are looking for in regards to what you’re writing about and then sprinkle (don’t keyword stuff!) the search terms you find throughout your content.
Writing an article about Teeth Cleaning for a Dentist site? Don’t just settle for “teeth cleaning”, go the extra mile and research what others are actually searching for and include content about those topics as well.
Have you thought about including information about “Teeth Cleaning Kits”?
“Teeth Cleaning Strips”?
“The Cost of Teeth Cleaning”?
The best consumer based “Teeth Cleaning products”?
What about “pediatric teeth cleaning”?
What about “deep cleaning for teeth”?
“Professional Teeth Cleaning”?
“DIY Teeth Cleaning”?
“Ultrasonic Tooth Cleaner”?
You get the picture – every one of those items in quotes above are actual search terms being used, most for hundreds or thousands of searches per month. Any one of those items could be a main paragraph for your article. Include every one of those, add some images and maybe a video or two and you would have a truly authoritative page about Teeth Cleaning that Google would be proud to show high in the results for those searches.
So don’t settle just for writing about “teeth cleaning” when 5 minutes of research can give you so much more info to make your page more useful to your website visitor. Google will reward you handsomely for the extra effort. As a side note, the above search terms were researched in less than five minutes, actually, using Google Recommendations (what Google shows you as you’re typing your search term – the auto-finish stuff), Google Related Searches (what Google gives you at the bottom of every search page), and the Google Keyword Planner (free Keyword research tool offered by Google). All of those tools…provided by Google for free. Why? Because this is how they make their money, and they make a lot of it.
The Google tools are each explained in detail below
Why is Keyword Research important?
Google makes about 95% of it’s revenue from companies who pay them to show up at the top of their search results in the “Pay Per Click” section. Last year, Google raked in just shy of $75 Billion so you can see that 95% of that coming from pay-per-click elevates the seemingly simple act of keyword research into the stratosphere with regards to how important it is.
The search terms a user enters for the search, or the keyword, is the most important piece of the entire puzzle when it comes to Google’s revenue. They have categorized and indexed billions upon billions of search terms and can return the results of your search in milliseconds. The technology behind this is amazing, the hardware they use to do this is extensive and the knowledge required to build and evolve their search algorithms over years is out of this world. And it all comes down to what search terms…what keywords…you enter into that little box at the top of their page.
With this in mind, it’s important to realize the makeup of keywords, how they’re ranked, how to find the best ones, how to determine if the ones you are using are good or not and, importantly, which keywords should you be focusing on for your website?
This article will not go into things like On-Page SEO, or website optimization, or building links. These topics are covered elsewhere. This article is strictly about researching and choosing the very best keywords for your website.
We’re going to use a fictional Dentist site for a dentist located in Atlanta, Georgia as an example – we’ll call it BossFloss Dental – that has a nice ring to it. BossFloss Dental does all the normal stuff a dentist office does such as cleaning, filling cavities, whitening, invisalign and crowns.
They plan to have a home page, an About Us page, a contact page and then a Services Page which will have blurbs about each of their services and links to more pages that explains those services in more detail. BossFloss Dental is a customer of SnugData and has been advised on the perfect website structure for this and to focus a single page for each service they offer. Given this, they want each of these pages to be expertly written and, importantly, focused on a good set of keywords that support the topic of that page.
As a good breakdown, their pages will look like:
So for the Cleaning page, BossFloss will want a large number of Teeth Cleaning related keywords. For the Cavities page, they’ll want a large number of Cavity related keywords, etc, etc.
So, lets take a look at Teeth Cleaning and see what kind of keywords we can come up with. There are a lot of different ways to do this but I recommend using the information Google provides since your intent is to rank with them anyway. They also provide some pretty cool tools to get you started. So open up a spreadsheet or text document so you can keep a list. We’ll be noting a lot of keywords so you’ll want to keep them somewhere handy.
Lets start by simply using Google. In the Google Search box, type “Teeth Whitening” but don’t press enter. You’ll notice Google will give you some recommendations before you hit enter. These should go on the spreadsheet. I got:
- Teeth Whitening Kit
- Teeth Whitening Atlanta
- Teeth Whitening Strips
- Teeth Whitening Cost
Why are these important? Because Google is giving them to you and they are being given to you because somebody else has searched for those terms.
Finish noting that down and then, with “Teeth Whitening” in the search box, hit enter. Don’t worry too much with the result just yet – instead scroll all the way to the bottom where Google will give you even more related searches:
Put these into your list – again, these are keywords Google is recommending because they are related to what you searched for and others have searched for these terms.
Google Keyword Planner
Now lets go to Google’s Keyword tool. This is where things get real interesting. Click this link. You may need to create an account (it’s free) and log in. It’s time and effort well spent.
Once here, you’ll want to ensure you click on the correct link. I’ve spent some time confused here so to make it clear, you’ll want to click on the Tools menu and select “Keyword Planner” from the drop down menu.
Once in the keyword planner, you’ll want to choose the very first menu item under the green “Find new keywords and get search volume data”. You can and should experiment with everything else but for now, let’s focus on this option. You’ll want to fill in the items that have a red arrow below. Again, feel free to experiment as well.
For the purpose of this effort, I will enter “Teeth Cleaning” into the “Product or service” area, and then change what reads “Augusta” in the screenshot to “Atlanta”. The results are below.
Lets go through the numbers:
- This shows the options you choose for your search. In my case, I specified Atlanta.
- This shows the keyword we are searching for
- This is the number of searches for all terms that are related to the keyword you entered. In this case, there are between 10,000 and 100,000 related terms to “Teeth Whitening”.
- This number shows how many searches there are on a monthly basis for the selected keyword and location. In the above example, there are between 100 and 1,000 searches every month for Teeth Cleaning in the Atlanta area.
- This area shows a long list…several pages…of the related terms
- This enables you to pull all of the items in the related terms grids (always caps at 701 for some reason) into a spreadsheet or separate list.
If you scroll through the results, you’ll get hundreds of variations of the keyword you selected. Each of these are unique keywords and can be used on the page for “Teeth Whitening” to help Floss Boss Dental’s authority for that specific page.
For FlossBoss Dental, I would repeat this process for the other topic areas of Invisalign, Cavities and Crowns. What I would end up with would be literally thousands of keywords, provided by Google, that I can use for the content of my page.
Long Tail Keywords
The next step is to take a look at the Long Tail.
The Long Tail is simply a longer keyword term. So instead of searching for “shoes”, you might search for “women’s shoes”.
Maybe you’ll search for “women’s running shoes” or “the best women’s running shoes”.
Maybe “where can I buy the best women’s running shoes”.
Maybe even “where can I buy the best Nike women’s running shoes”.
The more terms you include in your search, the more “long tail” it is. Whereas “shoes” would be considered the Head search term, all the rest is considered the “Long Tail”.
What’s important here is that as the Long Tail grows, intention also grows. So somebody who searches for a long keyword is more likely to become a customer of your product or service. If somebody searches for “Divorce”, they could be doing a research paper, they might be an attorney doing research, they might be checking the spelling of it for all you know. But when somebody searches for “the best divorce attorney in Atlanta”…well, you know there’s some intent behind that search term.
The other point to note is that as the search term grows longer, the number of searches drops. There’ll be far more searches for “shoes” than there will be for “Nike women’s running shoes”. This drop off in the number of searches helps us qualify our website visitors though. Getting large numbers of visitors to your site is great but if there is no intent, why bother? Far better to craft the content of your site around Long Tail keywords that show intent. You could actually consider a middle ground – call it Medium Tail Keywords (I may have just made that up) – and that would also be a good focus. This would allow you more searchers and better intent than just Head keywords.
Another point is that long tail keywords are less competitive. The longer the search term, the fewer websites there are to actually rank for that term. Upon examination, this is obvious. There are, as of right now, 1.8 Billion websites competing for the search term “Shoes”. For “Best Nike Women’s running shoes”, there are 189,000 websites competing. Quite a difference. 189,000 websites sounds like a lot (and it is) but its far better than 1.8B!
The last point to consider is mentioned in the above graphic – 70% of all searches are Long Tail searches. Google currently does about 3.5 Billion searches each day, which amounts to about 40,000 searches per second. If you take 70% of the daily number of searches, this means that about 2.5 Billion searches per day are considered Long Tail. Still leaves a lot of room for Head searches, of course, but since there are far more Long Tail searches, they show more intention and they are less competitive, why not focus on them?
The last point I’ll cover here is determining how competitive a given keyword is for your website.
Google doesn’t give this information.
So, for example, if you intend to rank for “Ultrasonic Teeth Cleaning” for a dental site located in Atlanta, how many other sites are ranking for that keyword and how powerful are they? There are several tools available that show this – most of us SEO geeks use a couple. They are not free but if you are curious, feel free to shoot me an email or call me and I’d be happy to run some analysis for you. This goes into the heart of solid SEO – making sure you are targeting good keywords and keywords you actually have a chance to rank for. If you find out that the first page of the Google Results for “Ultrasonic Teeth Cleaning” are locked up by extremely powerful websites, it might make sense to focus on a different (or longer?) keyword.
Keyword Research Summary
I hope this helps a bit. If you depend on website traffic to run your business, it’s critical to build it around this kind of research. Leaving it to chance is not a good strategy.