Keyword Research, which I prefer to call Key Phrase Research, is the foundation of any SEO campaign. Once you know the business you are in and the areas you want to focus on, you need to pull together an initial list of potential keywords to target. It really is worth spending time on Keyword Research as it will impact all your activity moving forward.
So how do you do keyword research and how big should your keyword list be?
Ideally you want loads; I’d even suggest hundreds of key phrase combinations to research before coming up with the definitive target list. And remember over 50% of searches contain three or more phrases so make sure you include ‘long tail’ phrases; phrases with 3 or more words.
Getting Your Keyword List
1. Brainstorming keyword or key phrase ideas – start with what business you are in and think about how different audiences describe your products and/or services:
- You: consider what you would search for to try and find your product or service?
- Others: what other businesses or organisations might search for
- Customers: most importantly think about how your current customers talk about your products and services. What business do they say you are in? What is it they want from you?
- Experts: what do industry experts call your service or product?
EXTRA TIP: Not sure what your customers might search for when looking for you, then:
- Ask them – formally through research or informally by talking about it the next time you meet them
- Check your email correspondence – what do they ask for? Are there any clues or ideas there?
- Ask your sales teams and customer service personnel if you have either or both
Write down all the phrases you can think of, based on the above perspectives. You should have started to develop a lovely long list.
I’m going to use the example of a social media marketing consultant to show you just what I’m talking about.
Here’s my list so far:
2. Think about whether your service or product can be described in smaller parts e.g. Facebook consultant.
By doing this, I now have a list that has grown from 20 to 160 phrases!
Check out the screen shot here which includes phrases related to Facebook. Further down the list we also have Twitter, LinkedIn and more. In fact all the social media channels that a social media marketing company would offer.
And I’m not going to stop there. Let’s see if Google can help.
3. Use Google’s search engine – enter each keyword into Google one letter at a time and see what suggestions come from Google itself. I typed in ‘Social Media Marketing E’ and look at the suggestions that have been delivered.
And when I put ‘Social Media Marketing Expert’ into the search engine, I scrolled down and Google suggested additional related searches – all very useful and some certainly worth adding to my key phrase list.
And look what ‘Facebook Consultants’ provided.
So you can do this for phrases that are key to your business and see what Google suggests. This can be time consuming so I’d suggest taking the most important phrases.
I’ve done this for some of the key phrases and I now have a list of 178.
4. Add geographic search terms – consider where you are doing business and where you want to do business in the future e.g. Nottingham and also who your customers are e.g. small businesses. Finally are you targeting particular types of businesses? If so make sure you combine these into your phrases too.
Let’s assume the counties of Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire. For this I would recommend phrases are combined to include the city or the county. It is likely that there will be more city than county searches but it is worth looking at both.
Here we will add additional columns to our spreadsheet. You might want to add spreadsheets so that you can have one for each area although you will want to combine them again. The choice is yours. So we have something like this:
Don’t forget the geographic information may come at the beginning or the end of a phrase so it makes sense to look at both and to also add ‘in’ where appropriate.
I now have a list of 4,451 phrases!
5. Check out your Analytics data and look at all the phrases – what are you being found for at the moment?
We are already being found for some great phrases like:
social media agencies nottingham
social media agency nottingham
social media nottingham
media agency nottingham
social media optimization uk
social networking nottingham
Make sure you add these to the list and any others the list might trigger. I spotted Notts on the list so I’ll add that to the phrases too.
OK – the list has increased to 4,818 phrases!
You may also want to look Google Trends, check out your competition, consider synonyms and use a Thesaurus.
You’ll then have you final long list!
How to use Google’s New Keyword Planner for SEO (as well as the old Keyword Tool)
Let’s assume that you’ve developed a long list of potential keywords to target for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) purposes. The list I’ve created has over 4,000 phrases, so now I’m ready to pop the list into Google’s Keyword Tool or Google’s new Keyword Planner to find out more and start analyzing. Below is a step by step guide on how to use Google’s Keyword Tool and more importantly as the Keyword Tool is being phased out, how to use Google’s new Keyword Planner.
The purpose of this stage is to identify which phrases on my list are:
- Searched for
- Have less competition
Google’s free tools go some way to helping with this. The actual process is detailed below.
Using Google’s Keyword Tool for Keyword Research
Step 1 Login to your Adwords account
To access Google Keyword Tool you are best signing into your Adwords account (if you have one), although there is an external version of the Tool.
Step 2 Once you sign in, click on Tools and Analysis and Keyword Tool.
Step 3 Adjust Google’s Keyword Tool Settings
Using Google’s Keyword Tool (available for a short while only); you need to select Exact only as the match type, add your phrases (500 at a time) and click search.
TIP: The reason we look at Exact match phrases only is because we want to know exactly what phrases are being used by searchers and the level of competition for those phrases.
Step 4 Download the results
You can download the results. You’ll see Google provide an indication of the level of competition and the number of global and local searches (which in this case are the same as we are targeting a specific geographic area).
I’ve completed this for all my phrases and come up with a list of targets based on a searches and level of competition. I could at this stage undertake further more specific analysis using KEI and KOI but the number of phrases is quite limited so I would suggest it is not strictly necessary as we will be able to target all of these within the client’s website.
IMPORTANT: Interestingly however there were phrases identified within Google Analytics which were providing traffic to the website that do not appear to have any traffic based on the information downloaded from the Keyword Tool. Suffice to say, Google’s Keyword Tool has its limitations.
How to use Google’s new Keyword Planner for SEO Keyword Research
I’m now being re-directed to the new Google Keyword Planner by default so below is the process for analyzing the keyword list in the new Planner. Don’t be afraid of the new Keyword Planner; I’ve found it really easy to use.
Step 1 Login to your Adwords Account
Step 2 Go to the Keyword Planner via Tools and Analysis
Below is the screen shot showing where you access the Keyword Planner.
Step 3 Click on ‘Enter or upload keywords to see how they perform’
Google is very helpful and suggests that you enter Broad, Phrase or Exact. As before, for SEO purposes I always recommend Exact as you really need to know ‘Exactly’ what people are searching for. So you now need to add the square brackets before and after each phrase – this can be done quite easily in Excel using the concatenate function. See below for the details.
You can copy and paste the key phrases into the box or upload a .csv file. I copied and pasted 1000 at a time into the planner. 1000 is the limit in the Planner which is an improvement on the 500 limit for the old Keyword Tool.
TIP for Local SEO: I left the location as UK because all my phrases include the areas I am targeting. I also left the search option as Google although there is the option of Google and search partners now. This is a new feature which will be useful for those looking at Google Adwords and potentially targeting Google’s search partners as well as Google’s own search engine.
Step 4 Click ‘Get Estimates’ and ‘Download’
When you click ‘Get Estimates’, a new screen comes up with the estimates and the option to ‘Download’. I downloaded the information and continued with all the phrases. Copying and pasting into one spreadsheet.
Step 5 Select your download options
The new Keyword Planner has some excellent download options. You can even download into Adwords Editor which is great for Adwords management. The new features of the Keyword Planner are certainly focused on the Google Adwords.
TIP: For SEO purposes, I downloaded the Excel CSV file (by clicking the radio button) with the historical data, but not by month. The by month option would be great for organizations’ that have sales with seasonality.
Step 6 Click download and then retrieve and open the file.
Save the file and then click ‘Search for Keywords’ top right, delete the old and enter more phrases. Repeat until you have all the phrases analysed.
NOTE: You are limited to 3,000 keyword downloads during any session but you can go back in to analyse more.
Step 7 Analysis
Once you have the data downloaded sort the data by avg. monthly searches with largest to smallest. What do you have?
The analysis shows that using the old Google Keyword Tool we found five phrases to target, whilst the Google Keyword Planner identified three phrases to target.
IMPORTANT: However we know there are other relevant phrases. We included the phrases from our Analytics but in Google’s Keyword tools none of these were seen as targets. What does this tell us? Two things: the phrases we’ve identified are definitely targets but also that there may be plenty more.
So what do we do? Do we look at other paid for SEO and keyword services or do we consider an Adwords campaign that will provide information on the number of searches being carried out and most importantly which phrases lead to conversions.
If you prefer to look at SEO services, check out SEO Tools Top 10 Review to see just some of the options available.
I tend to recommend the Adwords option and this has worked really well for clients in the past. Using Adwords allows you to identify quickly the phrases and amount of searches each phrase is receiving. You can even look at which phrases provide leads and sales as well as visitors to your website.
More on this in a later post.
On a separate point, I think Google’s Keyword Planner is a step in the right direction. It is quicker than the previous version, provides more functionality and will be of particular benefit to Google’s Adwords clients and Adwords agencies.
Please feel free to share and like this post as well as get in touch with me if you have any comments.