Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Ultimate 7-Step Keyword Research Process

As far as quality content and good SEO practices are concerned, the process of keyword research is of the utmost importance. I personally believe that good keyword research lays the foundation for all good SEO practices – content creation in particular.

Regardless of the niche you’re working on, or the kind of content you intend on producing, the process of keyword research is essential, because it is one of the first steps that need to be taken before content creation, and provides you with the necessary preparation required for creating high-quality and valuable content. Going in without keyword research would be like going into a battlefield without guns or ammo.

Here is a 5-step keyword research process that will allow you to determine what to rank for, how to choose words that you’d want to rank for, and most importantly, how to tailor your content according to words phrases that you want to rank for:

1. Identify Precisely What You Want To Rank For

By ‘precisely’ I don’t really mean the exact keywords or phrases that you might want to rank for. First off, brainstorm on a broad list of terms that are relevant to your industry, niche or your website/blog.

For this purpose, it is important to know what exactly it is that you’re marketing.

Sit down and make a list of any all terms and phrases that someone, looking for your product or service, might put into Google or any other search engine. For instance what phrase would any random person use in order to purchase something on your website (or reach your website, simply put)?

In addition, at this point, it is also equally essential to determine a list of keywords which you would want your blog to rank for. This includes making a list of keywords relevant to the overall content and subject matter of your blog, as well as keywords relevant to specific pages of your blog.

Brainstorm with your team, use the Google Keyword Tool, use Google suggest data, ask people through a survey, ask friends, colleagues and family, and use your intuition.

The keywords that you come up with will most probably be your product, service or brand name(s), as well as generic names of the product and services that might be providing.

2. Keyword Research Tool

As mentioned in the previous step, a keyword research tool such as the Google AdWords Keyword Tool (free) or a product like Market Samurai (a paid-for solution) will be of immense help, in the process of determining your keywords.

Google Keyword Tool is a powerful tool here. It allows you to enter one keyword that is the most relevant to your blog, and returns an exhaustive list of similar keywords, along with their search frequency and competitiveness (all can be arranged in ascending/descending order). Both of these however are probably not very accurate, and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Nonetheless, this is important information because it provides you with accurate insight into what people are searching and looking for, and general search behavior and patterns of the people.

3. Remove Irrelevant Keywords

At this point, I suggest removing any irrelevant keywords from your list.  Google Keywords Tool usually returns a whole slew of keywords, and your brainstorming session might also have yielded a large number of keywords – many of which might be irrelevant to your blog.

Determine which of these would not really be any good to rank for, and simply cross them off your list. This will allow you to narrow your list down to relevant, profitable keywords only.

4. Determine Competitiveness

Google Keywords Tool, Market Samurai and other keyword research tools allow you to view the competitiveness of your keywords as well. Ideally, it is advisable to rank for less competitive keywords, as it is relatively easier to rank for them.

However this does not mean that you should not try rank for highly-competitive keywords, especially if they’re relevant ones.

I also suggest trying to rank for long-tailed keywords or keyphrases, consisting of 2 or 3 (or more) words. The competition for these is usually pretty low, but some might still be getting a lot of search volume.

5. Prioritize Your Keyword List

By now, you’ll probably have a comprehensive, rather large list of broad terms, all of which are relevant to your blog. First off, prioritize your keywords in order of importance. The most important ones will probably be the ones that are the most relevant to you – and hence most accurately describe your blog’s content or your products/service – and the ones with the ability to get you the maximum amount of traffic and revenue. The number could be anywhere from just a couple to thousands, depending on the content of your blog (I personally recommend having a diverse keyword portfolio).

Make a list of all ‘priority keywords.’ Ideally, you would want to rank for these priority keywords by incorporating them in your content-creation strategy (and other on-page SEO factors), and your link-building strategy. You will also want to track the rankings for these particular keywords.

6. Incorporating Keywords

Once you’re done with the process of identification, listing down and prioritizing your keywords, it is now time to assign keywords to specific pages according to relevance. For this purpose, incorporate these keywords in your on-page SEO strategy, by using them in the meta information (page titles and descriptions), header tags and of course, the content.

You may find that only a handful of your priority keywords are relevant to each page (maybe 1 or 2). At this point, dig into your non-priority list (the list of keywords that were not included in the priority list) and incorporate these to each page as well. This will allow you to optimize your pages for a wider range of keywords.

7. Refine Your List

Lastly, I recommend refining your list with the passage of time, and using analytics (such as Google Analytics) to determine which keywords are the most popular and you should rank for. An analytics suite will come in pretty hand here, as it will also allow you to check which keywords are most profitable, and hence the ones which should be an integral part of your keyword strategy and link-building strategy.

Keywords also tend to change with time, for instance with seasons, changing socio-political or economic factors, and other demographics.

Review your keyword strategy at least once every month, by following steps 1-6, which will help you determine new keywords in your niche that you should (or might) want to rank for. It will also aid you in filtering out unprofitable keywords.

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