what is keyword research?
Keyword research is the practice of researching common, industry-specific terms and phrases that are driving search traffic to search engine results pages. This is the time-tested first step in search engine optimization (SEO) for any website.
The purpose of performing keyword research is to find words and phrases that users are searching for on Google and other major search engines. These terms are related to the products and services on your site. Now, more than ever, keywords have an increasing focus on searcher intent. A great deal of keyword research involves taking the time to understand your audience and the questions they are asking, then finding ways to answer those questions in your content, using a mix of keywords and phrases.
Keyword research during site architecture
When you are looking to redesign your website, keyword research can help you edit your existing site architecture and further the copywriting for your new website. If you are simply refreshing your content for SEO, keyword research will guide the optimization for what other terms in your industry or location your site has the potential to rank.
Ideally, the first round of keyword research should be performed before the site architecture is built. This strategy is helpful for reorganizing a cluttered website and simplifying the user experience. Discovering new keywords helps to separate products or services that overlap. It is also instructive in developing new and clear section or page names.
Why keyboard research is important?
Keyword research should influence your website navigation, URL naming and content for each page. For main navigation titles and page names, keyword analysis will help you determine what terms people are searching for in relation to the products, services and the location of your business.
Once you have a site structure that aligns with your new website goals, further keyword research is advised for each page to strategically inform the copywriting process. It is an SEO best practice to include several unique keyword variations for each service you provide. Additionally, keywords should always be integrated smoothly and exclusively in your unique brand voice. A successful keyword strategy uses conversational language to answer questions customers may have about website content.
SEO requires a long-term relationship with search engines, so needs to be maintained on an ongoing basis. MOZ reports that Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times a year. While most algorithm changes are minor, having outdated SEO techniques can largely impact rankings. Routine maintenance of your SEO strategy will ensure that you stay on top of any Google algorithm changes and ahead of your competitors.
Content optimization for keywords is an important part of ongoing SEO on a website. It is recommended to perform content optimization for each site at least on an annual basis. As your online presence evolves, so do the ways that users are searching. Common words and phrases used to describe products online can differ from traditional terms – and both can change over time. By performing content optimization yearly or even more frequently, you have a higher chance of making the content better align with your SEO goals, as well as attracting customers that are likely to make a conversion rather than someone just browsing.
When changing keywords on your website, it is a SEO best practice to also change the meta titles and description for that page to match the new content. Search engines are perceptive to these changes and will be looking for consistency throughout your content.
In order to out-rank competitors it is recommended that you focus on specific keywords with high search volumes and low competition. For a marketer who is looking to improve search rankings with content, it is less important to impress your audience with big words, than it is to use keywords and phrases with a generous amount of search traffic.
Keyword research tools
There are many keyword research tools that marketers and copywriters use to understand what users are searching for in relation to an industry, product or service. Popular tools, such as Google Keyword Planner and MOZ Keyword Explorerprovide average monthly search volumes for specific terms, as well as keyword suggestions based on what was originally supplied.
There are several benefits to using these tools, primarily that most provide the average number of monthly searches, which can be filtered by geography if desired. A keyword with a high search volume is not always the most valuable, because the more people are searching for it, the more competition there will be for rankings on the search engine results page (SERPs).
Instead, choosing a medium-to-low keyword or phrase that is more specific will set you apart from the competition. For instance, if you are a marketer looking to optimize for a residential real estate business, you would want to include keywords and phrases that set this service apart from others, such as geographic indicators or property distinctions. While “houses for sale in CT” is a highly searched phrase, the competition is also higher. Specific key phrases with lower search volumes such as, “townhouses for sale in CT”, “houses for sale in Stratford CT”, and “cottages for sale in CT”, will catch the attention of valuable searchers that are more likely to make a conversion.
Being specific in product, service and location will attract customers who are looking for exactly what you provide and, in your geographic area, rather than a broad range of browsers from all over the world.
Incorporating local keywords is very important to the searchability of your site if you operate in a defined geographic footprint. In recent years, Google has placed a higher importance on local businesses, and encourage businesses to claim their business on Google My Business. If you do not claim your business, Google will pull the information that they think is correct straight from your website for online publication. Nothing on Google can be controlled 100% by marketers or business owners, but you can attract more local searchers by performing local keyword research and optimizing the most important product and service pages of your site.
Local keyword research can be done to the state, county or town level. If you are located across multiple states, it’s still important to include local keyword references where applicable, especially on your contact pages and about pages.
An example of local keywords for a residential real estate office in Glastonbury, Connecticut, would include: Realtors Glastonbury CT, Glastonbury Homes For Sale, Hartford County CT Real Estate, Glastonbury Real Estate, CT Local Realtors, Real Estate Agents in Glastonbury CT.
Footer text is a crucial place to fit in these local keywords and is a highly recommended SEO best practice. If you are a business that is located across all the northeastern part of the United States, a place where you can list all your locations on every page, is in your footer, along with your top services.
Optimizing for search starts with keyword research
Keyword research is always the number-one step in the SEO process. Marketers should think of it on the same level as market research when it comes to optimizing sites and creating campaigns. As a part of your preliminary planning, it’s always a good idea to look at what competitors in the industry are analyzing keywords on their site. Using keyword tools, you can compare those to your own to determine which is more commonly searched.
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