Keywords are critical to succeeding with search engine marketing because they are what people are actually searching for – it’s what they type into the search box. Successful use of keywords involves expanding on an initial list, understanding the volume of traffic for each keyword, understanding how competitive these are and coming up with a plan to target a selection.
1. Brainstorm an initial list
Make sure you take enough time to select keywords. It’s good to get some initial ideas from brainstorming the terms that you would search on if you were looking for the products that you sell. Also look at competitor’s sites and note the words they use in the page titles that appear at the top of your browser when you view their site.
2. Expand your list
Once you have a list you need to expand it as there will be lots of variants and related ways of searching that you hadn’t thought of. Avoid single words like ‘shoes’ or very broad terms like ‘groceries’. There will be so many sites in these kinds of category that you will be very unlikely to get ranked on the first or even second pages.
Use free online resources to further expand and determine volumes
You also need to determine the volume of searches on each term. The following resources can help:
- Google Trends
- Neil Patel – Uber suggests
- Keyword Discovery
- Ahrefs Keyword Explorer (Free Trial)
- Keyword Surfer (Browser Plugin)
3. Understand your competition
By entering keywords into Google, you can determine two things. The first is how many search results there are in total for the particular words, which Google reports back along with the first page of results. Secondly you can see on the results page how many adverts there are. In general, the more adverts there are (particularly at the top of the page), and the more search results, the more competitive the keywords. You are looking for keywords which have a lower ratio of competitive results to traffic, as these represent the best opportunities.
4. Try a Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising test with Google
PPC ads can be useful and cost-effective traffic generators in their own right, but here we are talking about a small scale (and limited cost) test to both gain familiarization and to test the water. PPC works a bit like an auction. You put a bid in on the amount you are prepared to pay, and Google will place your ad mostly by comparing your bid with the competition, with higher bids appearing higher up the page. You only pay when a searcher actually clicks on your advert.
Getting an idea of the workings of this is crucial. PPC attracts fewer clicks than natural or ‘organic’ listings and is generally much more expensive than optimizing your site. However, you can get a “double whammy” by using PPC to both test whether PPC is cost-effective for you and also testing out how much traffic and sales you get from various key words. In fact with a new site it is probably worth using a PPC ad for a few weeks, limiting it to one or two pounds a day, as this seems to get Google to visit your site more frequently which should improve your ranking.
5. Decide on what will be targeted in SEO and what in PPC
You might choose to target high cost keywords in SEO rather than PPC, or if profitable, you might do this the other way around or using both. This will depend on which approach will yield profitable results. Every company will be different. For instance, depending on the lifetime value of a customer, a higher cost PPC campaign may work for one company but not for another. Large companies may get kick-backs for advertising through their agency, lowering their relative costs. Research by the Atlas Institute (Microsoft) has shown that prospects exposed to both search results and display ads from the same company are more likely to purchase. There are whole sections on PPC and SEO below.
6. Work to your timeline
Pay per click advertising can start producing results immediately, but search engine optimization can take months before any impact is made, especially as you can be stuck in Google’s “sandbox” for some time while Google appears to be thinking whether to list you or not. Search engines are businesses too, and the quickest way to get listed is to pay them. Consider this if your timelines require it.
7. Manage keywords as a critical asset
Keep a master list of your keywords (and phrases) and track results against them. Redo your keyword analysis regularly e.g. every three or six months, to ensure that you change your marketing in line with customer trends. Remember seasonal variations e.g. Christmas, Spring, Valentine’s Day, the World Cup, end of accounting year, new competition, new products etc. Rank top keywords by the results you get.
8. Match your proposition
You may choose not to target “Cheap”, “Discount” or “Clearance” due to the mindset of the person searching, and how it matches your business proposition. If it does match, you may specifically target these words in tandem with other keywords. The point is that you should achieve better conversion when the searcher is aligned with the way that you do business.
9. Target all relevant traffic
Remember that you want to make sure that people searching specifically for you find you. So as well as looking at the products you sell and your proposition, target your own brand and probably competitor brands too e.g. Renault cars, Audi cars.
10. Consider the long tail
In recent years, a new expression – “the long tail” has emerged in business circles. In the context of PPC advertising, this is about advertising on lots of keywords that are rarely searched for, but can collectively add up to a lot of traffic. Companies have been known to use over 5,000 different groups of keywords because hard work pays off. Rarer keywords tend to be cheaper and convert better.
11. Use variants
Use words in both the singular and plural as well as putting words in different orders as these are all regarded as different searches. Find synonyms. You may do this yourself, or let Google do it for you using its broader matching. Remember you may put brands into the keywords. Highly refined keywords tend to indicate a real intention to purchase, as does use of words like “Buy”. Don’t just choose the obvious.
12. Last (and most importantly) – be unique
To distinguish yourself, one approach is to try to offer something that really sets you apart. It may be a unique range of products, special arrangements, some expert advice, or even a combination of products. You can then optimize your site on keywords around this specialization, which can be much more cost effective. The message here is that the more you specialize, the less the competition. If you can identify a new trend and be the only business selling a product for a while, this can also be very profitable. This doesn’t need to be complicated, one of Sellerdeck’s customers spotted a major retailer selling a new product very successfully, but not stocking the spares. They sourced the spares and got them online, then bam – there was an immediate stream of orders.