For the longest time how to perform effective keyword research has been one of the most debated elements of search engine optimization. Pretty much every SEO company and consultant out there has their own process. Unfortunately, not all methods of keyword research are created equal, and picking the best phrases to target is a critical step.
There is a huge difference between broad search and exact, between search volume in different countries and languages, between different months of the year, and over time. You need to understand not only how people are searching, but when, and whether or not a keyword term is trending down or up. There is far more to keyword research than a quick search in the Google Keyword tool.
So that begs the question:
Is There a Right Way to do Keyword Research?
Believe it or not there is; but the “right way” varies depending on the goal of the website in question. Before you can define what keyword phrases you should be targeting, you need to clearly define a purpose for your site. This will essentially come down to how you plan to make money from your visitors.
You see, there are 3 widely accepted intent based search categories: transactional, informational and navigational. The purpose of your website will determine which type of keyword phrase you should be optimizing for.
If the purpose of your website is to be a subject matter expert or to make money from ad revenue, you’re most likely going to want to aim for informational keywords. They are usually the highest search volume keyword phrases, and often bring in the type of visitor most likely to click on an ad.
Informational terms are usually head terms, like “lawn mowers” or “storage sheds”. There may be some transactional intent down the road, but at this point in the search funnel those search phrases say that the searcher has yet to decide on a product, and is still performing research.
If, on the other hand, you sell a product or offer a service, you are probably going to be more interested in transactional keywords. Conversions are the name of the game. Though the search volume is often much lower for transactional keywords, the conversion rates tend to be much higher, providing far better bang for your SEO buck.
Transactional keywords often include specific product or service descriptions, sizes or colors, or even model numbers, such as “xl furious fowl t-shirt Threadless” or “Samsung UN55D7000 55-inch TV”. Searches like that tell you that someone has done their research already and they are most likely ready to make a purchase. These are the money words.
The third keyword category, navigational, is most often composed of brand keywords. These searches are often some of the highest converting of all, so regardless of your website goals you will want to know how people are looking for you brand and integrate those terms into your site at every level.
Because many sites will target keywords in all 3 segments, it’s important to do research that covers all your bases. However, it is equally important to keep in mind that not all keywords are created equal. You need to set realistic expectations for performance based on keyword type and search intent. Just because keyword phrase X has 10 million broad searches per month does not mean that you should target it.
Now that you understand the different keyword types and how the intent of a searcher comes into play, you’ll need to determine which keyword phrase(s) your site should be targeting. It can be a time consuming process, but it will lay the foundation for all future SEO success.
And with that, we’re going to leave you hanging. Yes, so sorry, but that’s the way it has to be, so much to do, so little time…you understand.
If you need help with this process, we’d be more than happy to help you with your SEO keyword research.