One of the fundamental parts of any SEO or SEM campaign is conducting a solid keyword research. Even tough this is a relatively simple and straightforward task, a lot of people are still confused about how to properly conduct it, why it is important and even what a keyword research is.
What is a keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of analysing the keywords and phrases users enter into the search engines.
It is best to perform it right at the start of an SEO or PPC campaign, as it is instrumental in determining your website content and what your PPC campaigns will focus on.
Why is keyword research important?
Consider for a moment the current state of the web. Every topic is saturated with a vast number of websites which causes the search engine result pages to return thousands and even millions of results for each search query. This makes it increasingly difficult to reach high SERP positions and acquire organic and PPC traffic.
Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. – SEOmoz
Without conducting a keyword research, you won't have an insight into the direction your search engine marketing strategy should take. By using keyword research as a reference, you will know exactly where your focus should be.
How to find your keywords?
It is actually very simple. All you need to do is to follow these steps:
Choose solid initial keywords
This step is really important. You need to take some time and do some brainstorming. Write down all the good keywords you can think of, and don't forget to analyse your website content, there will always be keywords you will overlook.
Expand your initial keywords
After you've run out of ideas of your own, it is time to make use of keyword suggestion tools. You can also do a little espionage to see what keywords your competitors are using. I'll talk more about what tools you can use for this step later on in this guide.
Group the keywords
Once you have expanded your list you need to organize the keywords into logical groups. The most common way people group their keywords is by brand, category or topic keywords, etc.
Choose the right keywords
Ok, so now that your keywords are neatly organized into groups, you can start to evaluate them. Chances are you will have some great keywords in your list, but also some that will be not so great. In this step you need to really take a deep look into all the keyword data you've gathered and decide what keywords you should target.
Monitor the keywords performance
After you've finished your first keyword research, don't think your job is complete. You still need to conduct new keyword research every now and then. The constant changes in search trends will require continuous effort on your part if you want to keep up with your competition.
So, what is the „right“ keyword?
People often ask me how I decide which keywords would be good to target, and which should be tossed.
There are several criteria that I use when determining a keyword value.
The first thing you should consider is the keyword search volume. If it is too low, obviously, there is no point in targeting it. You should note that usually the higher the search volume is, more people will be competing for the keyword.
You can use various keyword research tools to get an insight into keyword competition. Generally, long term keywords with lower search volumes have less competition. You will often need to find a balance between good volume and competition.
This one is pretty straightforward - your keywords need to be relevant to your website topic or niche.
Type of keyword
Different types of keyword will convert better than others. Ask yourself what the person entering the query needs. If the user is only searching for specific information or website, he is less likely to convert than a user who wants to perform an activity such as a purchase or a download.
If you've delved into keyword research to find the right keywords for your PPC campaign, you should not overlook this criteria. Evaluate how much you are willing to pay for a click, considering your conversion rates.
Which tools should you use?
The most important tool for any online marketer is his own common sense. Don't forget that one.
Beyond that, there are many useful tools you can use to get new keyword ideas as well as the data you need to select the right keywords. These are the tools I use most often:
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
Google AdWords official tool designed to help you find new keyword ideas. With this tool you can get an insight into local and global search volumes as well as keyword competition.
With Google Trends you can see how often a particular search query is searched for relative to total search volume. It also allows you to compare two or more search queries. You can also use it to see the forecast of search interest towards a particular search query.
Microsoft Advertising Intelligence
Microsoft Advertising Intelligence is a keyword research tool for Excel 2007 or Excel 2010. You can use it to quickly generate additional keywords based on your keyword list.
This keyword research tool allows you to find relevant keywords, identify your site's SEO problems, track your SERP position and drive more traffic to your website.
SEMrush is an invaluable tool for doing extensive keyword research. Other than finding great long term keywords you can use this tool to compare various SEO metrics and even study your competitiors' ads.
This often overlooked free tool can be of great value. It can greatly speed up keyword editing and it even comes with an ad editor that can be helpful for creating your Google AdWords ads.
With Übersuggest you can get thousands of great ideas and suggestions on new keywords. This "Suggest on steroids" is a perfect tool when you've run out of ideas but still need to expand your keyword list.
Need more tools? Go ahead and take a look at our extensive list of Online Marketing Tools.