Keyword research is the cornerstone of any SEO initiative. This series walks you through the basics. Part two of two.
In part one of this series, we reviewed keyword research at a high level. In part two, we'll take an in-depth look at how to conduct keyword research. You know the theory, now let's put it into practice.
Understand Customers' Information Needs
Each person in your audience may have a different motive for searching. If you sell a product or service, people likely undergo a decision-making process before they make their final selection. For some products, this can be very quick (e.g., buying shampoo). For others, it can be very extensive and drawn out (e.g., buying a car or a house).
A simplified decision-making process involves:
Knowing these steps, we get an idea of the type of information needs users may have at each stage. Let's revisit the real estate example from part one. Say you're a home builder trying to determine what type of information users might search for. You might come up with the following:1. Initial research:
Develop Initial Keyword Lists
Once you have a good idea of what your audience might look for, you can start to think about keywords they might type in a search engine.
Some sample keywords to answer a couple questions from earlier:
By undergoing this exercise, you begin to formulate lists of keywords that may interest your target audience. You might later decide some aren't relevant to your site, but the point here is brainstorming, so anything goes.
Try to build out these themed lists by brainstorming with a variety of methods:
You should emerged from this process armed with multiple lists of keywords that could be relevant for your business. If you started with step one, these lists should be somewhat themed by information need. You may want to begin to group the terms into more focused topics. Loosely aligning these lists with the various content site areas can help down the road.
Employ Keyword Research Tools
Now that you have a good idea of what keywords your audience might search with, enlist the help of an online keyword research tool to find out what keywords people actually search with. (Some useful keyword research tools are suggested in part one.)
Copy and paste your themed lists one by one into the keyword research tool. If you do hundreds of keywords at once, you'll likely miss some important niche terms because they'll be overshadowed by the high-volume terms.
Each time you run a search, the tool will return a variety of different queries that relate to those initial terms (plurals, misspellings, related terms, synonyms, etc.). Some will be well suited to your business; others will be irrelevant. Don't try to scrub the results now. Instead, immediately export the results to an Excel spreadsheet.
Scrub the Lists
Armed with your results spreadsheet, go through the lists to narrow them down to the most appropriate and desirable terms. There's some manual labor here, but use Excel's many sort and filter functions to help automate some tasks. Some tips for scrubbing the list:
Once done, you should be left with a relatively decent list for each area. Depending on how popular your market is, you could be left with 10 terms in each list or 100. If it's 100 in each, you'll need to be more ruthless with your scrubbing.
Make Selections and Allocations
Start to determine which keywords you'll actually use for SEO (define). That means choosing which keywords you'll target for which pages on your site. Check out "Doing It Right" in part one for help with selecting the best terms.
You ideally want two or three terms per site page. Create a new column in your spreadsheet called "URL or Page," and enter a potential page that may be a good fit with each keyword. Then sort by page, and see which pages require more or less keywords. Further edit and refine until you get to the final list.
Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.
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Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.
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