How to Perform Keyword Research for Your Small Business
by Jessica Swanson
Let’s face it. Keyword research is a hassle. It takes time. It takes energy.
And if that’s not enough, it can be, well…kind of boring.
Scrolling through hundreds of keywords, trying to find that “perfect keyword phrase” is just about exciting as watching paint dry.
So, can’t you just skip it?
Keyword research is the foundation and groundwork for all your marketing efforts.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re building a website, optimizing your social media profiles, or writing a blog post, it all starts with keyword research.
Why, you ask? Because you need to know the exact phrases that your prospects are using when they are searching for your products and services. And, here’s the kicker. It’s not enough to just “think” you know what they are searching for. That never works.
Sure, you may be an expert in your field, and know every expression and catchphrase to describe your industry. But, that doesn’t mean that your clients or customers use those same phrases. Chances are, they probably don’t.
You need to research and investigate the actual words and phrases your target market uses when they are ready to make a purchase. And there are probably dozens, if not hundreds of money-making keyword phrases that you can uncover.
Once you’ve discovered profitable keyword phrases, you can use them as a foundation and road map for all your marketing efforts.
Okay, before we dive in and get busy with keyword research, we need to differentiate between three types of keywords.
3 KEYWORD CATEGORIES
Head keywords are single-word keywords that have tons of search volume and insane amounts of competition.
The keyword “weight-loss” is a perfect example.
There are hundreds of thousands of people searching Google every month using this particular keyword. And at first glance this may seem like a good thing.
But, here’s the real deal. The competition is fierce and the first page of Google is filled with sites like health.com, webmd.com, and authoritynutrition.com. There’s no way you want to try and compete with those types of authority sites.
Not only is the competition fierce, but another problem is that we aren’t even sure what the searcher is looking for. The word “weight-loss” is way too broad. Are people looking for weight-loss recipes, weight-loss programs, or weight-loss tips? Who the heck knows?
Body keywords are 2-3 word phrases that get a decent amount of search volume.
The keyword “best diet plan” is a good example.
Body keywords are often still competitive, but every so often, you can find a diamond in the rough — that high-volume, low-competition keyword phrase.
Long-tail keywords are 4+ word phrases that are much more precise and exact.
The keyword phrase, “best diet program for women over 40” is a perfect example. These phrases don’t get a lot of search traffic on their own (usually just 100 to 1,000 searches per month), but they do make up the majority of all online searches.
So, the million dollar question is which type of keyword should you use?
Skip the Head Keywords
You can just forget these guys. Head keywords are too competitive and the searcher’s intent is too broad. In a nutshell, these phrases don’t convert well.
So, why waste your time?
The key here is to find long-tail keywords that get a decent amount of search volume. The best part is that the buyer intent is usually incredibly obvious and clear-cut.
When you find a long-tail keyword that gets more than 100 searches each month and doesn’t have crazy competition, snatch it up.
You should focus most of your energy on body keywords. They end up being the perfect blend of high search volume, low to medium competition, and obvious buyer intent.
Hang in there, we’re almost ready to begin.
But, before we get into the nitty gritty of keyword research, let’s go through a few keyword research definitions.
KEYWORD RESEARCH DEFINITIONS
A keyword is a word or phrase that describes the content of a web page.
Ok. Simple enough.
Let’s say you’re finally ready to get that full-sleeve tattoo you’ve always wanted on your left arm.
So, naturally, you head over to Google and type in the keyword “tattoo.” Google is going to generate about 773,000,000 web pages, blogs, videos, etc. that use the keyword, “tattoo” to describe the content of that page.
Search volume describes the number of people who search for a keyword in a given period of time.
Now, let’s imagine that you’re a world-class tattoo artist. Not only are you a master of your craft, but you also want to investigate how many people are searching for keyword phrases about tattoos.
Using a few tricks and tools (which we’ll talk about later), you find out that about 135,000 people every month are typing in the keyword phrase, “sleeve tattoo,” on Google. Interesting.
Keyword competition refers to the amount of competition that exists for a particular keyword.
A highly competitive keyword will have lots of competitors who rank on the search engine result pages using that keyword.
A low-competition keyword doesn’t have as many competitors. And those competitors are more likely to be niche sites or blogs.
For instance, the keyword “sleeve tattoo” has low competition.
Keyword difficulty refers to how challenging it will be to get on the first page of Google for that particular keyword phrase.
There are all sorts of online tools that measure keyword difficulty. Generally speaking, this metric is determined through a variety of factors including on-page SEO factors, back-links, site age, trust flow, etc.
Using online keyword research tools we can determine that it would not be difficult to get on the first page of Google with the keyword “sleeve tattoo.”
The Magic Keyword Research Formula
To make things as simple as possible, you’re looking for a 3-part formula when it comes to keyword research:
- High Search Volume – there are a lot of people searching for the keyword every month.
- Low Competition – there are not a lot of competitors for that keyword.
- Low Keyword Difficulty – it won’t be very hard to rank on the first page of Google for the keyword.
It’s going to take some time and energy and to find keywords that fit into this formula. But, no matter what industry or niche you are in, it’s possible. Just keep exploring, researching, and digging deeper until you find them. They are there — I promise!
So, let’s start this keyword research party!
LET’S GET ORGANIZED
Before we get down and dirty with our keyword research, we need a place to organize our keywords.
As we begin researching keywords we’ll focus on three main categories: keyword volume, keyword competition, and keyword difficulty.
1. Setup Google Sheets
Open up a blank document in Google Sheets.
Label Columns A – E:
We’re going to start by using the ol’ noggin to brainstorm as many keywords as possible. We’re not going to use most of them, but it’s the best place to start.
Brainstorm all the phrases you think a prospect would type into a search bar when trying to find you. Consider phrases that define your industry and describe your products or services.
If you were searching for your products or services, what keywords would you use?
Imagine you’re a doctor who specializes in helping patients lose extra fat.
For fat loss this might be:
- Lose fat
- How to lose fat
- Fat loss programs
- Best fat loss programs
- Ways to lose extra fat
Add Your Phrases to Your Google Sheet
USE ONLINE TOOLS
Using keyword research tools can help you uncover additional keyword phrases, while also determining search volume, competitiveness, and keyword difficulty.
Let’s start with Google. If you’ve done keyword research before, you’ve most likely started with the Google Keyword Planner.
Google’s Keyword Planner can be a good tool, but it’s definitely geared toward advertisers using pay-per-click to generate traffic. That being said, it’s not the best tool for diving deep into keyword research.
So, we’re going to head in a different direction. We’re going to use Google’s Related Searches.
Google Related Searches
When you search for a term in Google, you’ll see searches related to your keyword phrase in the “Related Searches” section at the bottom of the page.
Here’s all you need to do.
Type Your Seed Keyword in Google Search
Scroll to the Bottom of the Page
Add Relevant Keyword Phrases to Your Google Sheets
UberSuggest is another awesome online tool for keyword research. And, best of all, it’s free.
The tool works by scraping Google Autocomplete and if used properly, it can give you some promising keywords.
Since Ubersuggest will spout out a lot of suggestions, it’s best to type in a short, head keyword.
In our case, we’ll type in the keyword “fat loss” and let Ubersuggest offer relevant suggestions.
View as Text
Check relevant keywords and view them as text.
Copy and Paste
Copy and paste the keyword phrases into your Google Sheet.
Our next step in the keyword research process is using a powerful keyword research tool called LongTail Pro.
LongTail Pro does cost money, but they have a 7-day free trial to test out the tool. And if you’re going to get serious about keyword research than you probably want to invest in some sort of online tool. LongTail Pro is a great way to go.
Longtail Pro allows you to analyze:
Search Volume: The average number of times each month people have searched for the keyword. You’ll want to look for > 100 searches each month.
Competition: The amount of advertisers across all search networks bidding on the keywords. Focus on low and medium competition.
Keyword Competitiveness: A number from 0 – 100 that measures how difficult it is to rank on the first page of Google for the keyword. Look for KC < 40.
Type in Your Keywords
Load your keywords into the “seed keyword box” and set some filters based on monthly searches and competition.
Sort Your Keywords
If you don’t want to scroll through competitive and difficult keywords, set filters to sort by volume, competition, and average keyword competitiveness.
Analyze the Competition
One of the highlights of this keyword research tool is the competition analysis feature. Just click on any keyword from the list and Long Tail Pro will analyze the top 10 competitors for that keyword.
Now you can dig deep and find out everything you need to know about the competition. Everything.
This includes: trust flow, citation flow, domain trust factor, external backlinks, indexed URL’s, internal links, and site age.
The Final Keyword Research List
Once you’ve found additional golden keywords from LongTail Pro that fit into our keyword magic formula (high search volume, low competition, and low keyword difficulty) add them to your Google Sheet.
If you really want to get keyword crazy, you can add a few notes about each keyword as well.
Now it’s time to scroll through the keyword list and pick one or two that fit the bill.
You’ll notice that both “fat loss plateau” and “fat loss before and after” would be fairly easy to rank on the first page of Google. Nice.
Okay. So, you’ve found the perfect keyword phrase. What do you do with it?
Remember, this is a keyword that your target market is actively using to find your products and services.
So use it everywhere, including:
- Blog posts
- Guest blog posts
- Website content
- Social media profiles
- On-page SEO
- Press releases
- Online advertising
Your ultimate goal is that when people are searching for your product or service, they can find you.
Keyword research isn’t just another marketing strategy. Sure, it might take some time. It might take a little elbow grease. And, it might be a bit tedious and mundane.
But, once you understand the importance of keyword research, your views will change.
You won’t mind putting in some extra time and elbow grease if it brings you additional traffic, more leads, and an increase in sales.
Because there’s nothing tedious and mundane about boosting your small business profits. Absolutely nothing.
So, let the keyword research begin!
CEO of Shoestring MarketingJessica is the Founder and CEO of Shoestring Marketing, a digital marketing agency that provides low-cost, high-quality marketing services to small business owners.