Search engine optimization has grown to become a very broad and deep specialty in the field of marketing. Today, it is hard to find a perfect place to start for someone new to SEO since SEO is a moving target, always evolving and always giving even the most experienced marketers fits. Still, I do believe that keywords are the single most important aspect to search engine optimization. Keywords are words people are typing into search engines to find what they are looking for. Keywords can be very mainstream or broad, or more niche and focused. It is the more focused keywords that people who want to be found on the net are dying to know so they can better target their desired users.
Ultimately, search engines rely on words to understand relevance. The search engine is where real humans interface with the internet. Everything your potential customers are thinking about in relation to the products and services you sell, or your very brand itself can be known by conducting keyword research.
Whether you are a dedicated SEO professional or looking to improve online visibility for your business, gaining a mastery of finding keywords will help you gain more search traffic and give you a more detailed look into the specific needs of your potential customers. The most basic way to do some keyword research is to enter some phrases relevant to what you have to offer into a web-based keyword tool such as Google’s keyword planner. This is totally free to use and since it is Google, its results are more important than those you would get for other search engines (though it is not a bad idea to do some searching for keywords on other major search engines like Bing).
Typically, you would start the process by thinking of the kinds of things your customers would be searching for, and then enter those into your chosen keyword tool. The keyword tool would then give you the results for your term plus a list of searched for terms similar to what you typed. You will see some stats for these terms pertaining to pay per click, but most important to you right now is the amount of search volume and competition per month.
It is important to spread your focus a bit so you can gain an audience for both higher traffic search terms and the less competitive niche terms. Many of the terms you receive from a keyword tool will be closely analogous to the term you typed; it will help for you to think a little more specifically about what others may be typing in relation to your target. It is important to see what results you get back for keyword phrases that include your product, it is even better if you can find a more specific searched for term that is a bit longer, a bit less competitive, and gives a clue as to the propensity for the person to actually be shopping.
Long tail keywords are keyword phrases with three or more words that typically typed by people looking for something specific, whether it be a product, service, or an answer to a need. In most cases, these are the most likely searchers who will buy something from you!
Something you should keep in mind when conducting your own keyword research is how people tend to think when they are about to begin looking for things on the internet. Simple, broad terms tend to be more for research; longer, more specific phrases are usually for finding something they wish to acquire. The process of a typical transactional internet search query is as follows:
Step 1 may be a mildly interested person who simply types “fishing rod” into a search engine, or merely sees a picture of a fishing rod while reading a blog about someone’s outdoor vacation and lets their curiosity take them to a few more sites about fishing. Targeting very broad interests like this is likely to not yield much for you.
Marketing towards consumers who are at steps 2 and 3 of this process is a great way to go. Step 2 is for people who may not be quite ready to purchase yet but they are closer to a purchase than a person who is merely curious. A person at step 2 may begin looking for something more specific, like “fly fishing rods” or “how to use a fly fishing rod”. They need good information to help push them over the edge of merely being in consideration. Though you may not see immediate sales from having keyword phrases that appeal to these types, you may gain lots of traffic that will eventually come to see you as a trusted source for information, which then can turn into a sale later. In the age of social media and sharing, content which informs people will be an increasingly more important part of your internet marketing strategy.
Potential customers at step 3 may be using search phrases that include more specific fly fishing information that reveals their knowledge and intentions. These higher value keyword phrases may be “orvis helios 2 vs sage one”, “orvis helios 2 saltwater”, or “orvis helios 2 review”. These step 3 phrases reveal that the consumer is interested in a specific kind of fishing and a particular brand and model. The saltwater related keyphrase lets you know that they are even more serious about what they need. The “vs” phrase lets you know that they probably have only one hurdle left before they buy, and that is how this rod stacks up against the “sage one”, and the “review” phrase would go great on your fly rod shop’s blog as anchor text for your links to the positive reviews this product is receiving across the web. You can also have “orvis helios 2 review” before the link as the lead text in your tweets for SEO value.
There are multitudes of ways to think about keyword research, and this is only meant to help get you started. With experience, you will come up with even better ways to tailor your research to the particulars of your industry so you will find those blue oceans of niche, qualified traffic.
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