How to find the right keywords for your target audience.

Posted January 10, 2016 in by

Keywords are the building blocks of any optimization strategy. Relevant keywords are used to attract visitors to your website through search queries. A strong keyword strategy is crucial to building and marketing an effective website. But when working with clients, one of the most common questions we hear is “How do you find the right keywords?” The truth is, it’s and art and a science. We use the data but finding the right keywords also means taking into account the humans that are reading it.

That answer definitely doesn’t provide a whole lot of clarity, but the thing to remember about keywords and search engine optimization is that everything we do is a test. No SEO strategy is written in stone. The best SEOs are constantly monitoring analytics and testing different things. It’s all about continuous improvement. To be frank, it can be a long road ahead to see traction on your site.

Choosing keywords

The old way of developing a keyword strategy was to try to rank for a single, highly searched keyword. Today, it’s much easier, and much more profitable, to rank for multiple similar or long-tail keywords on the same page. To accomplish this, it’s important to look at things from a higher perspective: keyword themes. Having close-knit groups of related keywords enables you to create content for a particular set of terms while showing search engines that you understand which of your keywords are related and capturing the variety of ways people search for your products and services. Below is a great graphic that Moz put together:

choosing the right keywords
Image credit: Moz

One of the most important steps in a keyword strategy for a website is to ensure that it is ranking for the right keywords. The objective of this plan is to identify the keywords that will not only attract new visitors but also generate qualified leads. To identify this list of appropriate themes and keywords, you’ll want to look at the following things:

  • Search volume.

    Targeted keywords should have relatively high search volume for the industry or market. It’s important to keep the industry in mind when evaluating search volume. A keyword in the shoe industry may have more searches compared to one in the wellness industry. Just because you may be in a niche industry doesn’t mean a keyword strategy isn’t worth pursuing. But remember, search volume isn’t everything. Don’t rest all of your keyword success on search volume. Dig a little deeper.

  • Competition.

    Even if a term seems spot-on, if there’s too much competition, we may never rank for it. It makes strategic sense to focus on relevant, well-searched terms with lower competition. To evaluate the competition for keywords, we looked at Moz’s Keyword Difficulty Score. The difficulty score is on a 1-100% scale: 1% being not competitive and 100% being extremely competitive. The score is based on a variety of metrics, including page authority, number of domains linking to the page, domain authority and many more. Essentially, this tells us how strong the top-ranking sites are for a given keyword, which gives us a better understanding of the competitive landscape.

  • Relevancy to your brand.

    Ask yourself if the keyword is relevant to your website. If somebody comes to your site with this keyword, will they stay? Will they be able to provide the information that they’re looking for? There’s no use trying to get visitors to your site if they will immediately leave. It’s also important to ask, “Does the keyword mean what I think it means?” Sometimes, the way you speak about products or services in your industry is not the way people search for them. For example, a college may refer to their executive master of business admin program as just that, but searchers are looking for “MBA programs.” In this instance, the college could be missing out on an opportunity if they focused on their internal nomenclature.

  • Intention.

    Remember, we want the right visitor, not just any visitor. Generally for most brands, that means a visitor who will eventually turn into a customer, so make sure that the keywords you’re choosing are those that have the possibility of converting. In Google’s Hummingbird update, it’s apparent that they are trying to discover the intent of searchers so that they can serve up the correct results. Does the keyword indicate that they are researching? Are they shopping? Although a lot of unknown factors go into searcher intent, it’s something that is worth evaluating. There are a plethora of tools around the Internet that can help you in your keyword research. The ones we like to use are Google Adwords for search volume and Wordtracker and SEM Rush for competition metrics.

Key takeaway

The key takeaway is that selecting keywords is not a perfect science. SEOs often depend on unknown variables that Google puts into the search algorithm, so the best course of action is to stay researched and use the data to choose the right keywords for your strategy.

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