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Keyword Research – What are Words for?

by Brian Colling - July 19, 2018

Keyword Research – What are Words for?

There’s an 80’s song by Missing Persons called “Words” where lead singer Dale Bozzio laments, “What are words for when no one listens anymore? Tell me what are words for”. For some reason, I always think of it when I do keyword research. Having performed Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for more than 10 years, words mean more now than ever before.

What’s Your Keyword Problem?

It never ceases to amaze me how many great-looking websites have poor keyword rankings, and they rank almost exclusively for their brand only. As crazy as this seems, it applies to companies big and small. The reasons are they were either not made aware of SEO and keyword research when creating their website (#1 website design fail), or had no budget set aside for SEO. I see this happen all the time, keyword research and SEO budget get pushed to the back burner.

Ranking high for a business name and pushing SEO off essentially leaves a company with a “business card”—not a website. It’s unfortunate as this leaves so much money on the table through lost opportunities. When searchers are trying to solve problems, they first look to find their answers online, and if you are not providing the answers, one of your competitors probably is. So what are your customer searching for? While it may be for your brand, it‘s more than likely for products and services that solve their problems.

Keyword Phrase Concepts

Keyword Research is the process of discovering all the words and phrases searchers are using to find your business, products, and services, and the problems they solve. Keyword Strategy is the process of taking keyword research and focusing on areas that will produce the greatest results the soonest, competitive factors taken into account. By doing proper keyword research, competitor research, finding out what your customer’s pain points are, and the questions they use to search online, you can begin to develop a strategy that you can use to build your SEO foundation.

So, what forms do keywords and keyword phrases take? And what is user intent?

• A keyword can be broad like “beer”
• A keyword can be narrower like “craft beer”
• A keyword can be narrower still like “craft beer recipes”
• A keyword can be retail-focused like “craft beer stores”
• A keyword can be location based like “craft beer stores nearby”, or “craft beer stores in Portland”.
• A keyword can be hyperlocal like “craft beer 97035”

Some people want to rank for simple one-word keywords with huge monthly search volumes and traffic numbers. Those tend to be the most competitive, difficult to rank for, and are really worth far less than the longer, much more specific keyword phrases. Besides, there are the big established businesses that have spent years and countless dollars creating content, backlinks, and SEO to secure top positions and traffic. Since rankings are similar to a points system, it can be very hard to break through in the short term.

Driving revenue as quickly as possible is our agency’s #1 goal. That’s why I commonly use a “flanking maneuver” strategy. My job is to target the most relevant keyword phrases possible, with relevant traffic, with lower levels of competition, to drive revenue. It’s the low-hanging fruit strategy, and it works well. Then, building on those early wins, we can go after progressively more and more competitive keyword phrases, and over time this will drive the business progressively higher in the rankings, and across more and more related keyword phrases.

I believe it’s better to rank well all day long for the much lower volume, long-tail keyword phrases. Long-tail keyword phrases can be your SEO bread and butter and drive regular monthly traffic.

Keywords – “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want”

User intent is like the Spice Girl song Wannabe, “Tell me what you want, what you really really want.” When people begin their online search it might be very general at first, like “Karaoke systems”. But as they research it more and more, Google will begin to suggest ideas that may take them into related searches because they need it for their bar, and not home, so the next search for PA systems for Karaoke.

Then several hours later, they narrowed it down to Yamaha vs EV systems and finally, they are price shopping for the Yamaha STAGEPAS 600I 680W Portable PA System without sales tax and with free delivery. Yamaha STAGEPAS 600I 680W Portable PA System is a very long keyword phrase that is worth so much because it will convert at a much higher rate than PA or Karaoke systems.

Keyword Phrases in Action

Now that we know customer searches are primarily based on problem-solving, the next part is identifying the customer’s problem or “pain point”. For example, finding a good Nitro Milk Stout nearby is not too difficult. But for researching logistical freight shipping companies, may be much more involved.

The way people search depends on many factors including:

Education level – Shipping Companies vs Logistic Companies,
Geographic language – Trucks vs Lorries
Industry-related terms, phrases, and acronyms – O/O / JIT / FOB / GVW / ELD / CDL
Problem-solving – Hazardous Material Shippers

An Agency’s Keyword Research Process

This is why I spend several hours doing discovery with a client and asking questions about their business, products, services, things that separate them from their competitor, and more. Then I dig into their competitors and perform thorough competitive research. From there I begin to map out a Keyword Strategy identifying difficult areas, the less competitive areas, and the easy targets to initially go after. Many times there are large volumes of pages that need to be created from scratch to target these keyword phrases, or groups of keyword phrases, and answer the related questions.

Since we have put all that time in, go the extra mile and search engine optimize all website pages, Meta Title Tags, Meta Description Tags, H1 Tags, Al-Images tags, internal and external backlinks, and make your site rank well. Then monitor it, tweak it, and improve it for conversions by testing different offers and calls-to-action (CTA).

Keyword Conclusion

Spending so much time talking about and researching keywords may seem like too much work. Though, when done correctly your Google Analytics data starts ringing like casino slot machines, except this time luck isn’t involved. And so when you hear anyone asking you, “What are words for?”, you’ll know exactly what to tell them – today words are still the best way to grow your business.

Colling Media is a Phoenix, AZ-based advertising agency specializing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

You may also enjoy this article: Why Your PPC Structures Matter & 5 Ways to Improve Performance

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

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