Keywords are the most important elements of an SEO strategy. Check out this step-by-step guide to finding the right keywords for your business.
When starting a new project, especially if it is an online business or a company with a strong digital component, it is essential to plan your web marketing strategy. One of the most important aspects of that strategy is creating a list of keywords.
The greatest challenge of the keyword strategy is figuring out what keywords will boost your marketing efforts. This guide will help SEO beginners and digital marketing students. In just 3 steps, you will be able to create a list of relevant, well-performing keywords for your marketing goals.
1. Brainstorm to create a broad and comprehensive list of keywords
To find your business’ most relevant keywords and develop content, you must put yourself in your client's shoes and imagine what expressions they will use when searching for your product or service on Google (or any other search engine).
While doing this exercise, you should consider the following important factors:
- The different products and services that your company sells, as well as their relevant characteristics (such as specific functionalities, colour, size, etc.).
- The type of problem that your target audience is trying to solve when searching for your business or products. For example, if you own an auto shop, your potential clients may be searching for keywords such as: “My car doesn't start – what can I do?"
- For technical products, using very specific keywords (“niche keywords”) increases your chances of being found. If this is the case, pay attention to consumers who might be using jargon or acronyms and include these in your keyword list. For instance, if your business sells medical equipment, consider including the keyword “bp measure machine” instead of “blood pressure measure machine”.
- The language used by your target audience is a very important factor for companies that sell in several different countries or have consumers of different nationalities (e.g. a language school offering English courses to immigrants).
- A location component is especially relevant for services such as medical or catering services. It is unlikely that someone will travel a very long distance to find an emergency hospital or a restaurant. For this reason, you should use geographical references in your keyword strategy if this is relevant to your business. On the other hand, in some sectors (such as tourism), clients often search for specific locations (such as “vacation packages from Germany”) and it’s important to keep this in mind.
If you’re unsure where to start, setting up a focus group of people from your target audience can help to find out exactly which keywords they use to find your product in search engines. However, if you’re confident that you know your audience well enough, do a brainstorm in the office to create your first keyword list.
2. Expand your first list of keywords and include long-tail keywords
When you create your list of keywords you should make an effort to get a truly exhaustive list, covering all possible combinations of words. This will help to find the so-called “long-tail phrases”. These are expressions of four or more words which are specific to what the consumer is looking for. For instance, imagine you are managing an e-commerce website that sells pet products. Instead of focusing solely on general keywords like "pet food” or “pet toys”, think of phrases that might be used such as:
- Dog food for sensitive dogs
- Brush for long haired cat
- Training leash for puppies
- Cat toys with feathers
While the competition can sometimes be fierce for general keywords, long-tail keywords are usually less competitive, making them easier and cheaper to reach your target audience.
There are several SEO tools you can use to help expand your original keyword list:
- The AdWord & SEO Keyword Permutation Generator allows you to get several keywords from a multitude of word combinations relevant to your market.
- Another useful tool is Keyword.io. Although the paid version shows you all the keyword options, the free version is also useful. Give it a try.
- A simple way to get an idea of keywords is to click the “Searches related to…” suggestions at the bottom of a Google results page.
Image 1 – Google “Searches related to” suggestions for the keyword “cheap online pet shop”
- Google Ads Keyword Planner is another tool for keyword suggestions. You need to set up a Google Ads account to access it. However, bear in mind that Google Ads Keyword Planner suggestions are targeted to paid advertising and might not work so well for organic search.
- Finally, Google Trends shows the most popular keywords in “Related queries”.
Image 2 – Google Trends “Related queries” for the keyword “pet shop”
3. Create a list of the right keywords - search volume vs competition
Once you have a list of keywords and long-tail keywords, start to delete all the keywords that are not relevant to your business.
Remember: your aim is to appear in the first results of the SERPs - search engine results page. To achieve this, you must look for keywords that have the following characteristics:
- A significant estimated search volume – are the keywords you chose going to be used by your clients?
- A low competition volume – your competitors could be targeting some of the keywords you selected. That makes it more difficult (and expensive) for your business to appear on Google’s first page.
There are several tools that show you the search and competition volume for each keyword you choose. They will even feature the keyword difficulty score, a percentage figure that defines the degree of difficulty of competing with other websites that use the same keyword. Most of those tools are not free but some will show you a small sample of the results for free (such as Moz Keyword Explorer).
Can you get the search volume, the competition and the keyword difficulty score for free?
There are several free tools which provide useful information. Google Ads Keyword Planner is one of them. Although it is very focused on paid advertising, it is still an accessible and free tool, which allows you to know which keywords from your list will actually be searched on Google.
Image 2 – Keyword ideas from the Google Ads Keyword Planner for the keyword “google keyword planner”
The list of keywords will initially appear in alphabetical order but I suggest sorting these by the average monthly search. This will allow you to:
- Remove the keywords from you list that do not have a significant estimated number of clicks
- Select the keywords with the status “low” competition to make it easier to reach your target audience. Note: you should be confident that these keywords are actually used by your target audience.
You now have your final list of keywords.
Using your keyword list
Once you have your list of researched keywords, it is now time to start including them in your articles, websites, titles and meta tags to start gaining authority on the search engines.
For more information on writing effective articles, check out my article “How to write successful blog posts”.
Throughout this article, I mentioned several keyword tools. As this guide is intended for SEO beginners, I have focused on free tools. It is best that paid SEO tools are used by SEO specialists. To learn more about SEO and how to become an expert in this area, have a look at our courses.
The links included here are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. We bear no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of any external site or for any content on subsequent websites, nor does the inclusion of these links constitute our endorsement or an approval of any products, services or opinions stated.