How to Find the Best Keywords for Your Business

Written on
March 7, 2018
by
Sean Smith
in
Keyword Research
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Do you know the most important keywords to your business?

Do you know what keywords you should be tracking, paying attention to, and investing in over time?

You  may think you do, but in my seven years of experience doing SEO for  companies from mom-and-pop shops and startups all the way up to Fortune  500 businesses I would be willing to bet you really don't. I would be  willing to bet that you're probably on the right track, but that some  slight tweaks and turns might yield tremendous results to your bottom  line.

That's what keyword research is all about - finding the  needles in a haystack, the seismic shift keywords that have low  competition, and high volume (or search traffic) that could give your  business a tremendous leap in capital after investing correctly over  time.

Search Engine Optimization should be taken from the  perspective of a long-term investor. Imagine you're Warren Buffett, and  your keywords would be the industries, companies, and trends that you  would invest against. Over time they might change, the markets might  swing one way or another, but all the while you should be slowly  investing in the growth of your portfolio. Over time the compounding  impact of your website ranking for so many keywords that are each  uniquely valuable to your customers will grow your business  exponentially without you having to pay for the visitors actively.

This is the art of SEO, and it begins with Keyword Research. So let's get started.

The Tools used in our Keyword Research Process

Before  we get into the actual process, it would be good for you to be familiar  with the tools that we will be using throughout the process.

The primary tools we use in our Keyword Research process are:

  1. Ahrefs which we use to pull a report of our "seed keywords" or keywords that we think people would be searching for to find our business or products.
  2. Moz  which we also use similar to Ahrefs to pull a report of our seed  keywords, typically used in redundancy because they will sometimes have  different results and we use the average of these results to paint the  most accurate picture as to what keywords are actually the best for us  to target.
  3. Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel to organize the data  that we pull and run formulas against to pull the most accurate  information possible.

These are the main tools we will be  using throughout the process. They're pretty common in the industry -  but that's because they're the best in the industry at what they do. We  use these tools for every project and recommend them to everyone.

The Important Metrics in the Keyword Research Process

The  metrics that I touched on briefly above are the most important things  that we typically focus on throughout our Keyword Research process,  namely:

  1. Search Volume - the overall traffic  estimation per month that searches for the keyword in question. This is a  harder and harder number to come across since Google has limited this  information through Google Analytics, but the tools that we outlined  above still do a great job of showing a good estimate of overall search  volume for each keyword.
  2. Keyword Competition -  this is the estimated competition score of each search query based  around multiple factors (depending on the tool you pull from) including  the average link count pointing to pages ranking in the top 10 for that  keyword query, the domain authority of websites ranking for that keyword  query, and social shares of content ranking for that keyword query.  Overall it shows on a logarithmic scale how difficult it would be for  you to rank for that keyword (1-50 being not too hard, 50-70 being a bit  more difficult, 70-100 being pretty difficult unless you have a really  solid domain with a lot of high quality links and a social following to  direct traffic towards your site).

These are the main two  metrics you should be concerned with. There is CPC (which stands for  "cost per click") but that is primarily for using Google Adwords  (sometimes referred to as PPC or "pay per click") in which case I  recommend taking your SEO targeted keywords and expanding upon them for  direct ad targeting.

What is searcher intent, and how does it impact the Keyword Research Process?

"Searcher intent" is a fancy way of saying, what does the user wish to achieve with this search query?

  • Are they doing research?
  • Are they looking to make a purchase?
  • Are they looking to reserve something?
  • Are they looking to subscribe to something?
  • Are they wishing to learn more about something before making a purchase?
  • Are they vetting options?

Knowing  this information is very important when deciding what keywords to use,  and more importantly how to use them. Certain keyword phrases lend  themselves better to certain types of content, and knowing how to match  up search intent to keywords can allow you to build a very powerful  content calendar that will progressively get you closer to ranking well  for the keywords you wish to target.

Understanding searcher intent  behind keywords is honestly the art form behind the manual process of  performing keyword research. It's where the years of experience and  understanding come into play, that you really just learn by doing the  work and paying close attention to what works well, and what doesn't.

My  favorite story that I tell about my experience with searcher intent I  believe paints a good picture of the power of understanding searcher  intent and its impact on Keyword Research. I had a client that was  hell-bent on ranking #1 for "boston florist" even though they had a  brand new site, no reviews, and had just opened their store in the  center of Boston. While performing their keyword research I decided to  see the search volume of something I believed to be far more  transaction-focused, "boston flower delivery" because the majority of  their orders were for flower delivery - it only made sense. I was  shocked when I saw that "boston flower delivery" and "boston florist"  had roughly the same search volume, yet "boston flower delivery" had 30%  the difficulty score that "boston florist" had, which meant it would be  easier to rank for.

I was able to convince the client that they  should focus on "boston flower delivery" and within two months they had  increased their search traffic by 100% and their organic revenue by  300%. This allowed them to have the budget to re-invest in building out  their domain, buying ads on Yelp to get more local reviews (which help  tremendously as a ranking signal) and eventually rank #1 for "boston  florist" which they still do to this day.

The intent behind the  keywords matter tremendously, because some keywords might be hard to  rank for and not as transaction-oriented. More often than not you will  be able to get more transactions with even less search traffic by  targeting more direct keywords that your competition isn't even focused  on - until you have the authority built up to compete for the higher  traffic and more generic terms.

The Keyword Research Process

The process is actually simple in nature:

  1. Make  a list of "seed keywords" you believe your customers would be searching  for based on your products, your industry, your unique selling  proposition, and (if applicable) your location.
  2. Research  elsewhere around the web to see what your potential customers, or other  people are discussing around your industry on places like Quora, Reddit,  Twitter, and Facebook. Try to add any terms that might make sense from  the discussions you've found to your "seed keywords" list.
  3. Research  your competition to see what keywords they are targeting on their  website on their product pages, add these keywords to your "seed  keywords" list.
  4. Pull a report of those "seed keywords" from  Ahrefs & Moz where you will have the opportunity to add "suggested  keywords" to your list based on the keywords that you entered and other  queries that are usually tied to those keywords.
  5. After pulling  this report from Ahrefs & Moz based on your "seed keywords" and  adding their suggested keywords to your list you should have a list of  around ~300 potential keywords depending on your business's size and  scale (it can be in the thousands if you have hundreds or thousands of  different types of products).
  6. Pull your list into an Excel  spreadsheet or Google Sheet and manually scroll through filtering our  keywords that you really just don't think fit with your brand, what  you're trying to target, or if the searcher intent is wrong. Spend a  good bit of time filtering simply based off of relevancy before you get  into the traffic to difficulty scores.
  7. After you have filtered  based on relevancy, start splitting up your keywords into keyword types.  This can be done either by adding another column and filtering keywords  based on their type, or creating different tabs that mirror each other  and split the different keyword types among their respective tabs.
  8. Target: Keywords you wish to directly target with your product or services pages on your website, and even the homepage.
  9. Content:  Keywords that you wish to target with content on your blog, ebooks,  infographics, videos, or other types of content. These will usually be  "long-tail keywords" that make up 4-5 words, like "how long do flowers  last in a vase" or other keywords that will be somewhat relevant to your  overall buyer's journey, but not directly as transaction-oriented as  your "target" list.
  10. Competitive: Keywords that you might want to  target with landing pages that either your competitors are targeting  and you want to compete for, or keywords that you want to build pages  for to directly compare yourself to your competitors (which can often be  a good strategy to try to take market share from a larger competitor).  An example of this would be "Dropbox vs Box: A Web Storage Comparison"  which people could be searching for, and could get you some conversions  every once in a while.
  11. After you have your keywords  filtered out into the three different primary categories, start  filtering them by search volume and difficulty score. The lower the  difficulty score you get the easier it will be to rank for that term,  but the higher the search volume (usually) the more visitors you will  get from ranking higher for that term. If the keywords are very relevant  to your business or products, and you target them properly throughout  your site you will have a good chance of ranking for them over time.

What comes after Keyword Research

After keyword research there are a few tasks that we usually perform that help put all of the data into quantifiable action.

Here are those tasks:

  1. Create  a Keyword Gaps Chart: We create a list of the gaps in our website where  we either don't have pages that target terms that we filtered through  to our "Target" list, or that we do have but should be adjusted to fit  the right keywords that match that page.
  2. Create a Content  Calendar: We create a calendar of content production based off of our  "Content" list. This is essentially just a production queue, of the blog  posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, ebooks, or other content items  that we should be producing to target all of the keywords we found in  our keyword research process.
  3. Optimize the Site: This is by far  and away the most important part. Update the title tags of all pages on  the site to adequately target all of the keywords that you have found  throughout the keyword research process, and re-work on-page content to  better target those terms, as determined in the Keyword Gaps Chart. Add  pages that are missing and need to be created as well.
  4. Create  Competitor Pages: This is always optional, but create entirely new pages  or content to immediately address the competitor keywords that you  found throughout the Keyword Research Process.
  5. Track the  Keywords: Set up a rank tracking software like Moz or another tracking  software and track the progress of your keywords as you begin to target  them actively on your site pages and content.

After all of  this, we typically wrap the Keyword Research phase up by moving into our  Content Audit - which essentially finds the best ways to target all of  the keywords based on deep research into your past content performance,  the content performance across your entire industry, as well as your  competitor's content performance.

We split this into an entirely  separate audit because of the breadth of information that comes from a  Content Audit, and the targeting it enables you to have, down to the  word count of content you need to succeed in your industry, or where to  go to get the best amount of shares you possibly can so that your  content can have the impact you want it to.

Simply effective marketing.