The Fundamentals of Digital Marketing #7: Keyword Research

By Alexander Bussey

In previous articles, we?ve discussed the importance of targeting high-value search terms; including:

  • The value of appearing on SERP pages that your audience is actually using
  • The benefits of focusing on one single keyword
  • The benefits of picking the right keyword

However, we haven’t yet explained how you should find these high-value search terms. We think it’s important to rectify that here because focusing your efforts on ranking for the right keyword can be the difference between unprecedented growth and a stalled campaign.

In this article, we?re going to cover the basics of in-depth, keyword research so that you know how to find the search terms your audience is actually using.

Finding the right keywords

It?s often tempting to assume that you know how your audience searches. You?ve probably been servicing the same demographic for years now, and it stands to reason that you?d know exactly how they go about searching for products or services like the ones you offer.

Unfortunately, people do tend to behave differently online, and the actual keywords that people use to search for your products might be very different from the keywords you?d expect them to use.

Sometimes, people actually use more technical language than you might expect. As an example, we once worked with a garden machinery business that was selling strimmers. They knew that their target audience was comprised amateur gardeners and therefore assumed that said audience wouldn?t be familiar with a technical term like ?strimmers?, so they focused all of their effort on promoting garden ?trimmers? instead.

They wrote blog posts, buying guides and on-page content that prioritized this term – they ever scored a #3 rankings on the relevant SERP pages.

Unfortunately, once we actually reviewed some keyword data, we noticed that amateur gardeners were not actually searching for ?trimmers.? Instead, they were, in fact,?using the technical term, and Googling ?garden strimmers.?

How big was the difference? According to Google?s own keyword planning tool, ?strimmers? was twice as popular as the ?trimmers? keyword. And because the client in question had targeted ?trimmers? in all of their content, they ranked poorly for the more popular term.

Now, this is just an example, but it highlights the importance of picking the right search term. Since a page can only really be used to target one or two (closely related) search phrases, you need to make sure that your most valuable pieces are focusing on a keyword that has the potential to drive significant traffic to your site.

These are not necessarily always the most popular keywords. You have to remember that some keywords signify an intent to buy, while others are more likely to be used by people who are just browsing the web.

Conversely, it?s also important to remember that some keywords will be so broad that they could relate to products and/or services that you are not?offering.

That said, there are definitely keywords with more potential to drive traffic to your site, and we generally refer to these keywords as ?high-value? keywords.

Performing keyword research

So, how do you go about finding these high-value keywords? A quick Google search will reveal a plethora of paid tools, ?ultimate guides? and expensive courses, but we don?t think you actually need these services.

In fact, we would recommend that you limit yourself to the free tools that Google provides, including the aforementioned Keyword Planner, and Google Trends.

These tools might not offer as much insight as a paid service like SEMRush or Wordstream, but they are enough to give you a general idea of the keywords your audience is using, and they are very powerful in their own right.

Let?s start with Keyword Planner. You need a Google Ads account to access this tool, but once you?ve signed up (using a dummy campaign if need be) you can quickly click through, and find a screen like this:

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Selecting the first option (find new keywords) will open a dialogue box that you can use to start your search.

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Inputting a broad keyword will help Google to provide you with a list of related keywords, alongside a full breakdown of the number of times each option is searched for. Since we?ve already spoken about garden machinery, we?re going to pretend that you are running a garden supply business for the rest of this exercise.

Let’s say you are trying to create a buying guide for small lawnmowers, but don?t know which search term to focus on.

You would input lawnmowers into the dialogue box:

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And hit enter, loading this screen:

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Now, when it comes to picking the high-value keywords, we can rule out ?lawn mowers? straight away. Although this is the most popular term, we know that it is too ambiguously broad. People searching for lawn mowers could be trying to:

  • find out what lawn mowers are
  • find a brief history of lawnmowers for a history project
  • Compile a list of lawn mower brands
  • Looking for advice on lawn mower maintenance

In short, the phrase implies no clear intent to buy, and it will also be very difficult to rank. Petrol lawn mowers look a lot more promising though. Because this keyword is ?longer tail? and more specific, it?s easier to rank for. People looking for a specific type of lawnmower are much more likely to be purchasing, too.

The search volume is still good as well. That doesn’t mean that we should just go and write about petrol lawnmowers, though: Because we?ve taken the time to do some keyword research, we can also see that a lot of people are also searching for ?zero turn mowers,? ?electric mowers? and ?push mowers,? which indicates to us that there would be a lot of value to breaking our buying guide up into several different pieces of content, each targeting an individual phrase.

Straight away, the scope and potential ROI of our project have grown, and we?ve uncovered an opportunity to write more content.

By using these insights to guide your marketing campaigns, you can make sure that you aren?t missing a major keyword opportunity, as well as guaranteeing that you always target the best keyword.

What about Google trends?

Google Trends is another high-value tool. On the surface, Trends looks like it is designed to tell you about the popularity of a single, given keyword over time:

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In and of itself, this functionality would be very useful; particularly if you were trying to work out whether a keyword was still relevant. Google trends also have additional functionality. Namely, it allows you to compare the relative popularity of two or more keywords over time.

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This allows you to see whether or not one keyword has eclipsed another in terms of popularity. It also allows you to make informed choices about the keywords you are going to pursue.

Using Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends in conjunction, you can gain some incredibly valuable insight into the way your audience is searching, and make the best possible choice when it comes to identifying a target keyword.

Of course, paid services do offer more insight – particularly services like SEMRush, which are designed with organic rankings in mind – but you can perform some basic research using the tools we have covered, and improve the quality of your SEO campaign.

If you want to learn more about Keyword Planner, Google has a good guide on their site. Alternatively, we?d be more than happy to answer any questions or tell you more about keyword research.

To reach out, just use the contact form on our site!

 

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