The first step in performing Search Engine Optimization is keyword research. Two of the landmines we find our client shave is that they get lost in industry lingo or wind up battling industry giants that are a real challenge to try to beat. We want to introduce you to some of the factors that need to be taken into account. In this article, we want to look at your competitors, your target audience and your mission.
What makes your company different?
You need to differentiate your business, what do you do better? You need a clear understanding of your company’s mission. If you do not stand apart from your competitors, you can’t rank higher than they do. If your site does not offer the best results why should Google send customers to you?
If you choose us as your SEO agency, we will do the research for you and come up with a list of keywords, usually we will offer up about 100 of them. We will tell you how many people use that term each month. But we need your help in picking the best of those for your business. If you find that to be an overwhelming challenge take a step back and try to look at your business from the outside.
We have 6 branding questions that might help:
- What is the realistic objective for your company?
- Who are we talking to?
- What do they think about you?
- What do we want them to think about you?
- What fact-based reasoning will make them think that way?
- What deliverable promise can we make to them?
We use these for a variety of reasons; they started when we build a brand from scratch, but they extend well into understanding your keyword selection. If you are a smaller company, you are likely much better at the things the giants no longer think about or just don’t do. Know that you have a bigger problem than SEO if you cannot think of anything.
Consider your audience when selecting keywords
Now think about the audience that will be looking for your unique selling proposition. Once you do that you need to find the words that they are using to find your business.
Let’s use an example of a company that sells equipment and supplies to auto body shops. They offer training classes for the equipment they sell they call these classes the “Welding Academy.” It would make sense that we optimize for the keyword “Welding Academy” but the research we did show people are searching for “welding equipment training” significantly more than often. All companies have their own vocabulary or vernacular, but that is not necessarily the way your audience thinks. So we want to be sure that you choose keywords that are used by that audience.
One of the tools we use is Google Trends to research on how often certain search terms are used compared to other terms.
What about the competition?
It is just not possible to do your keyword research without taking the competition into account. We try to guide our clients away from words that they stand no chance in ranking for. So researching your competition is critical.
Like anything, you can go crazy trying to do a complete, in-depth analysis of your keywords, and never complete it. Although that might be helpful, let’s start with the basics. The easiest way to find out what your competition is doing by just Googling some of the keywords you would like to use and see what companies show up for them and where you rank. Are the giants in your market in the top 3 organic results? Does your company fit in these results?
CAUTION! You cannot just trust Google results! Your site will come up higher when you search versus someone else doing that search. Google knows your search history and your geographic location and returns results based on that. You can get better results by going into incognito mode in Firefox for example. Geography will still have an impact so you get local results.
Growing your strategy step-by-step
Big dogs can rank for general keywords, smaller sites can do better by carving out a more specific niche. We do this with long-tail keywords that have little traffic, but you will rank really well for them. Once your site has increased its authority with Google, we can start to move toward more general search terms.