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Digital Marketing Bootcamp: Researching Keywords

Posted by Mark Hemmer on 8/24/16 10:30 AM  | 
Mark Hemmer
3 minute read

keywordresearch.jpg It's time to go back to Digital Marketing Bootcamp. Today's topic: keyword research.

While the word 'research' understandably causes some groaning, it's a necessary step in making sure your SEO is where it should be. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of ensuring that potential customers can find your business when they search for it. That sounds simple, but alas, it gets increasingly complicated from here.

Almost everybody researches the product or service they need online before making a purchase. While businesses were slow to catch on - some still haven't - the majority of companies now understand that they need to be in the first few results on Google when a person goes to search for what they offer. If they're not there when a potential customer searches for their product or service, they have little to no chance of being considered a viable option.  

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But, being on the front page of Google (or other search engines) becomes more difficult as more companies  vie for those spots. That saturation has led to an ever-shifting and sophisticated SEO strategy that starts with keyword research: 

What's the Word? 

The first step in keyword research is deciding what it is you want to rank for. For some companies, that answer might be easier to come by. If you're Big Bill's Soft Serve Ice Cream Emporium, you're likely going to want to rank for 'ice cream,' 'soft serve ice cream,' and maybe some local terms like 'chocolate ice cream in Texarkana,' or 'soft serve in Texarkana.' But, if you're Schuster & Austin and you practice insurance defense, criminal defense, and property law, you have tougher decisions to make. Do you want to focus your efforts on insurance defense terms? Do you want to focus on criminal defense terms? You might have to strategically choose your ranking terms based on what your research reveals. In the end, you want to rank for terms that make sense for the areas of your business you want to be found for. 

Long-Tail Keywords 

In Ye Olden Days of the Internet, when search engine competition was thinner, it made sense to try to rank for single keywords: 'hamburger,' 'plumbing,' 'gym.' Now, with nearly all businesses trying to rank for their respective industry terms, it's no longer a sound strategy. Small to midsize businesses, especially, do not have the resources to compete with the super corporations that will appear first for simple terms. So, instead of ranking for single terms, companies should build long-tail keywords around the simple terms they want to rank for. Take 'gym' as an example. If you're a local gym or fitness center in a major city, you may not rank high enough for 'gym in New York City.' Too many major chains take up those spots and you need to separate yourself. If you're a CrossFit gym, for example, you may try to rank for 'CrossFit gym in East Village,' 'gym with available daycare in NYC,' or some other variation that fits what you do specifically. That second example touches on another strategy you'll want to adopt: predicting what potential customers will be searching for. That's long-tail keywords like, 'gym with smoothie bar in 10280,' or 'affordable fitness classes nyc.' Get specific and be predictive. Those are the long-tail keywords that will yield the best results. 

Monthly Searches

If you're using a keyword tool (OneFire uses HubSpot), these next two sections refer to metrics that you should take into account when choosing which long-tail keywords you're likely to find ranking success with. The first metric to examine is local monthly searches. If the information is available, look at which long-tail keywords related to your business that people in your area are searching for. Find the keywords with the most monthly searches and evaluate whether or not you can (or should) rank for them. 

Ranking Difficulty 

'Ranking Difficulty' is the other metric that should be taken into account alongside 'Monthly Searches.' Again, with a comprehensive tool (like HubSpot), you can easily see how difficult the competition for a particular keyword is. If the ranking difficulty is too high, it might serve you to focus your efforts elsewhere. As your SEO strategy develops, you'll start to identify trends and get a better sense for where your best ranking opportunities are. 

After identifying what you want to rank for, building long-tail keywords around it, and analyzing the value and difficulty of ranking for it, work those keywords into your website content. If done well, your rankings will steadily improve and you'll be there waiting when potential customers look for what you offer. If creating original content (or keyword research) isn't your thing, reach out to a capable agency that can build and execute a comprehensive digital marketing strategy for you. 

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Topics: Digital Marketing