In pre-Panda and Penguin days, keyword research amounted to little more than finding out which keyword phrases in a particular “niche” were searched for most often. Having compiled a list of the most popular keywords, you then built a website around them, maybe allocating one keyword to each page or post.
Now you are forced to do a lot more thinking. You’ve not only got to find your target keywords, you’ve also got to find a set of words and phrases that relate to them. The best approach is to “zoom in” on your subject and answer their question.
Some words are almost impossible to rank for, no matter how experienced you are in SEO. For example, “plumbing”, “emergency electrician” and “painter” would take a huge amount of effort just to reach the top 100 in many areas. Definitely not for the faint-hearted – or the contractor trying to run a business on the side!
You need to be more specific. If your website offers deck building, don’t try and rank for “decks”, instead look to write content that answers questions about decks.
“How much does it cost to build a deck?”
“What are the best types of wood to use to build a deck?”
“Are there any contractors in XXXX who build decks?”
That last question also has you thinking locally. If you are a painter in Seattle, it would be nice to be number one in all the search engines all over the world, but really you only need to be #1 for the phrase “painters in Seattle”.
To know which keywords will work best for your website, it helps to be aware of what real people actually search for. The tool most people use for this is the Google Keyword Tool. Sign-in with your Google account (you need to have an Adwords account now to use the tool).
I find it best to click on “Exact match” in the menu. This gives you the numbers of people who actually searched for the particular keywords – and not a phrase that include them. Similarly, I click “only show ideas closely related to my search terms” and (unless I’m targeting traffic in another region), select “United States” as my location, as this is the largest English-speaking market.
If I already have my keyword phrase in place, I’ll click on the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms”, if I’m looking for ideas, I’ll leave it blank. Make sure the “Keyword Ideas” tab is highlighted.
You will then be presented with a list of your keywords and an approximation of how many people are searching for each of them globally and in your chosen area. When the results come up, I click on the “Local Monthly Searches” tab, so that they are displayed showing the most locally searched-for phrases first.
Make a list of keywords you consider most appropriate to your business. I usually gather up more than I know I’ll need, just to be on the safe side. A typical list for me might have 20-30 keywords in it, even though I’ll probably only use half of them.
Photo Credit: zen