Everything starts with a keyword.
Okay, maybe not everything, but at least success in digital marketing.
As a business, you have a specific target audience (and if you don’t, you should). And as much as we would all like for those consumers in our target market to magically see our ads, read our blog, visit our website, buy our products and services, and become avid, loyal customers, the truth is that simply won’t happen.
Not that your target market can’t see your ad, read your blog, visit your site, buy your product, and become a loyal customer. But it won’t happen magically.
It’s going to take work—research, strategy, planning, trial and error—on your part (or someone you hire). You have to strategically get in front of, capture the attention of, and inspire action from your target audience.
This is where keywords come in.
Keywords in SEO, PPC Advertising (Pay Per Click) or other Paid Media are the cornerstone of success. Choosing the right keywords helps target the right audience and is the best way to ensure your ads show up at the right time in the right place.
However, know that there is no exact formula or one-size-fits-all plan for keyword research and selection. It’s part science and part art. It’s using as many of the tools that are at your disposal, but also knowing your customer and digging down to uncover what they are actually searching. And, like many things in business, it’s a bit of trial and error.
But that doesn’t mean that hope is lost! While there is no formula, there is a great place to start to select and improve your keyword list.
In order to start choosing the “right” keywords, you first have to know your goals! These goals consist of what you want to get out of your keyword campaign and the desired action you want a user to take.
Depending on what your goal may be, that will influence what keywords you use. For example:
- Do you want quick results? SEO, PPC, and keyword marketing can take time. So if you want quicker results, you might want to choose lower-competition and higher-volume keywords to increase your chance of achieving results faster.
- Are you a local business or trying to get people searching to come into your store? You want to choose keywords that have to do with local such as “near me”, “nearby”, the city or place you’re in as well as relevant information to your location.
- How specific is your desired action? Are you trying to build brand awareness or funnel people to buy your product or service? Use more general keywords for the former and more specific and detailed for the latter.
- Who are you trying to target? Your keywords are going to look very different if your business wants to get in front of a very targeted, focused group of consumers versus a broad, flexible audience.
Think of your goals as the foundation of your keyword plan; the end destination you want to get to. Then, you can work backwards from there to build the rest of the plan, always focusing on your goals.
Understand your Customer
While your goals are important, it doesn’t do well to just focus on you. Nothing about business success screams “you” (the business or the individual). After all, you can have all these great ideas and products for your business, but if it’s not actually what your customers want, then it means nothing.
The same is true for keywords.
If what you are selecting based on your goals is not what consumers are searching in search in Google, Safari, or any other search engine, then those keywords are useless. Understand your customer, what they want or need, and what they are searching for in terms of your product, product category or usage situation.
However, it’s not as simple as just matching the searched terms anymore. While that is a great start and knowing your customer’s search words is a necessary first step, you often have to go beyond that. Beyond simple matching terms and actually uncover the user’s intent.
For example, let’s say you are a car dealership. Imagine a consumer types “leasing a car” into Google. They could either a) be looking to lease a car and ready to make that deal or b) looking for information on why they should choose leasing over buying a car.
The first is most likely looking for ads or web pages that showcase the ability to lease a car at a dealership in that moment. Other keywords that would attract them include dealerships that lease, car leasing dealerships, etc. The second probably wants more informative content and not feel pressured with a direct call-to-action like “lease now”. Their keywords might be more of why lease a car, leasing a car over buying new, etc.
The search term is the same, but the intent behind what they are looking for is completely different. And knowing that intent could be the difference in getting a new potential client to your site.
Make a List and Check It Twice
Once you have the basic understanding of your business and your customer under your belt, it’s time to get to work.
Start by using what you know about your business to make a list of all important, relevant topics. This could include customer needs or problems you address, usage situations, associations with your brand, the category or industry you’re in, how people perceive you … the list goes on! At this stage, you don’t need to get too specific. First think at a general level. Aim for 5-10 general topic buckets.
Then, go back through your list a second time and fill in the gaps under each bucket with relevant keywords. Words that are related to the topic and you think people would search regarding this topic. This is where you can get more specific.
To put these two together, let’s say you are a roofing company. One general topic you might’ve come up with is residential roofing. On the second time around you would come up with those keywords people might search around residential roofing, such as:
- Roof repairs
- Storm damage to roof and/or home
- Replacing my roof
- How do I know if I need to replace my home’s roof?
- Residential roof repairs
- Tile roof repairs
I think you get the idea! These phrases relate to your business but also generally match the intent people have when searching for these things – more information on or a solution to their problem.
Doing both the general and the specific steps allow you to get a really good idea of key keywords for you to use for your business.
Do Your Research
The previous lists you made probably didn’t take much research, it most likely came from knowledge you already had about your business. So, this next step is where you are digging into research and uncovering more information to narrow down your keywords to the right ones. There are 3 different types or ways of research you can do.
First, the best place to start is to do your own searching for research. Actually use the keywords you came up with previously and search to see what comes up. You can also find more related keywords by looking at the bottom of the first search page, below all the search results:
Second, you can use the tools already out there for keyword research. There are a lot of options but some of the more popular tools include SEMrush, SpyFu, Moz, and of course, the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. There are a ton more out there, so do your research and find what works best for you.
Last, but not least, study your competition and what they are doing – either well or poorly. Make a list of your top competitors and visit their sites to see what keywords they might be using or see if they’re ads or site pops up high for certain search terms. You certainly don’t want to directly copy them, but you can get inspired by what’s working for them and adjust it to fit your company.
After all your research, you can take your brand terms and compare them to specific competitor terms as well as generic and related terms. For example, if we were researching a campaign for Nike Running Shoes, this list might look like:
Short-Tail vs. Long-Tail
The last note to know about keywords before you head off to refine your own is short-tail versus long-tail keywords. Because people’s attention spans are shortening, people tend to think that everything in digital marketing needs to be shortened too. This simply is not true. Especially when it comes to keywords.
Short-tail keywords or keywords that are 1-2 words while long-tail keywords are phrases consisting of 3-5ish keywords. Short-tail keywords are also called “head” terms. Here is the breakdown of the pros and cons of both:
Short-Tail Keywords = Good for more general campaigns
- More popular and more commonly searched
- Shorter terms for quicker searches
- More traffic
- More competition
- Higher costs
- Less targeted
Long-Tail Keywords = Good for more specific and targeted campaign needs
- More targeted
- Less competition
- Lower costs
- Limited traffic
- Less popular
Put It All Together
Now, it’s time to put this all together! Follow these steps to begin forming, refining, and deciding on a solid keyword list for your business’s digital marketing success.
Take what you know about your business and relevant topics, what competitors are doing or what is popular industry and what types of keywords are best for your goals and match those to the user intent. Keywords that match your goals and, more importantly, that match what the consumer in your audience wants, needs, and is looking for from you.
You probably won’t get it exactly right the first time, but you can always measure results (link to blog) and adjust from there.
If you are looking for help with your keywords, PPC advertising or Paid Media campaigns, let us help!