What we’re going to cover
After this lesson you’ll understand why keyword research is so essential and how to conduct your own research like a tech savvy Hercules.
1. Why do you need to do keyword research?
Whether you’re planning on driving traffic organically through search engines (SEO) or paid channels (such as AdWords, Bing) – it all starts with killer keyword research.
The main aim of the game is to find out what your target market is searching for as they look for the type of services/products you offer. If you plan on running paid ad campaigns, you’ll bid on those keywords to display your ad whenever that keyword is searched. If you’ll be doing SEO, these keywords will be used throughout your website (onsite SEO) and also when writing articles and blog posts on other websites (off site SEO) – more on this in the SEO lesson!
2. What is a keyword?
A “keyword” is confusingly any series of words (as opposed to just one word) that people use to search. E.g. “Best hotels in Sydney Australia” or simply “hotels”.
Your challenge is to find keywords that are both relevant to what your site is about yet also generate sufficient search traffic. Meaning, a keyword such as “buy aqua blue mediterranean seashell necklaces in Ohio” may be exactly what you sell and from where, but in reality nobody will be searching for such a keyword!
This brings us to the two main classifications of keywords:
- Long tail – specific keywords that comprise of 3 or more words: “buy black cashmere sweater”
- Short tail – generic keywords comprising of (surprise, surprise) 2 or less words: “cashmere sweater”
Long tail keywords are where the money is at for a number of reasons.
Competition/Cost: the more generic and shorter a keyword is, typically the more competition you’ll be up against. If you’re doing SEO, it will take longer to get a top position and if you’re running paid ads, they will attract a higher cost per click.
Relevance: the longer a keyword is, the more insight you get into what that person is looking for. Going back to the “cashmere sweater” example, aside from being cashmere, we have no idea of what type of sweater that person wants. It could be big, small, blue, red, girls, mens, made from New Zealand materials or perhaps handmade. If you are paying for your traffic you want to be getting the highest quality potential customers as possible – longer keywords help you achieve this.
Intent: Long tail keywords also help us to gain insight into where someone is in the buying cycle. For example, when someone first starts looking for a new TV they may research with keywords like “best new TVs”. The generic nature of the keywords tell us that the customer has only just begun their buying journey. As they continue to research they may find that Samsung OLED TVs are the best. So next they search “Samsung OLED TV reviews” to compare models. After reading some reviews they are convinced to make the purchase so they search “Buy Samsung OLED TV online”. Which type of keyword do you think would drive the best prospects to your site?
Whether you are selling something online or not, the moral of this story is that longer tail keywords are where you should be focusing your initial efforts.
Now that we’ve covered why we love longtail keywords – how do you actually discover what the best keywords are?
One of the very best tools available also happens to be free. It’s the Google Keyword Planner.
Before we dive into using this powerhouse of a tool we need to cover some keyword basics.
3. Match Types
There are 3.5 (yes, three and a half) different types of keyword match types. These match types are most important for running paid ad campaigns, such as with AdWords. However, the estimates given in the Keyword Planner use match types so it’s important to learn.
An exact match keyword is denoted by the [ ] symbols. If a keyword [buy blue suede shoes] has 1,000 monthly searches that means 1,000 searches have been made using those exact words and in that precise order, with nothing before or after.
Phrase match keywords are wrapped in the “ “ symbols. Phrase match keywords also trigger for additional words written before or after what is inside the “ “ – however the words within the “ “ must remain in that precise order. For example, if you use the keyword “blue jeans” your ads would show up also for “buy blue jeans”, “buy blue jeans online” but not “jeans blue” and not “blue mens jeans”.
Broad match is the loosest keyword match type as you essentially give Google control over what searches your ads are displayed on. Google attempts to determine the theme of your keywords and trigger your ad on any search they feel could be relevant. Broad Match is very dangerous for one main reason:
Relevance. Google gets free reign for when to display your ads. A bad idea. Google’s primary objective is to make as much money as possible from you by people clicking your ads. Meaning they will try and display your ads as often as possible, even if the searches are not ideal. When looking into AdWords accounts that primarily use Broad Match it’s very common to see people wasting $1,000s on keywords that would never give them a sale. One of the more severe examples was with a client who sold beekeeper equipment, using keywords such as “beehive help”. He was extremely confused as to why he was paying so much for his traffic until he realised that his ads were showing for people searching for “HIV help”! An expensive and completely irrelevant search. Even though the ad was about beehive equipment people were still clicking it – I see this time and time again.
Should you ever use Broad Match?
When used properly, Broad Match can be a brilliant way to discover new keywords, as even with extensive keyword research, you can never find every keyword that people will use. The unrestricted nature of Broad Match will allow you to discover these new keywords – it’s just not an advisable starting point.
4. How to use the Keyword Planner
You’ll be spending quite a bit of time in here, so it’s worth getting well acquainted.
In order to use the tool you’ll need to login with a Google account, which is the same login as your Gmail. If you don’t have a Google account yet, get one here!
You can access the planner here.
On the opening screen you’ll see four options. They are each used at different stages of the research process, from generating initial ideas right through to estimating costs.
1. We can get everything we need in “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas”. So click it to get started.
2. Next, start adding keywords that describe what you do or sell, with each keyword on a different line. This list doesn’t need to be extensive, it’s just to get started. You’ll also see an option to add a landing page, whereby the tool will scan a page on your website to pick up relevant keyword ideas – very handy! You can also select a product/category to further refine, I rarely use this.
Then add in the geographic region you operate in, which can go right down to the city level. If you service an entire country, just add that country rather than all the sub regions.
Finally, select “Get ideas”.
3. Like magic, Google has kindly generated some keywords and listed them under Ad group ideas, which are essentially grouped themes of keywords (which is how you build AdWords campaigns). We want to see the actual keywords in those groups though, so click on one of the Ad groups or select “Keyword ideas”.
We are now looking at the keyword level estimates – please note that all search volumes are in “exact match”. Meaning, for SEO purposes, actual search volume will be much higher with all the slight variations of the keywords.
So what we can see is that the exact keyword “party catering” is searched for 480 times per month in Australia. The suggested bid tells us that if we were running a paid AdWords campaign, every time someone clicks our ad we will pay around $5.31. Even if you’re not running a paid campaign these dollar estimates give you a great idea of how valuable that traffic is.
Working out the value of traffic is really important when trying to work out how much to pay when running search engine optimisation campaigns, with the aim of getting your site in the top spots of Google for your main keyword ideas.
The website in the first position gets around 35% of the clicks, meaning if 480 people search for a term each month and you’re in the top spot, you’ll get 168 clicks. If each click is worth around $5.31 that’s approximately $900 worth of traffic. We’ll get into more detail on these estimates in the SEO lesson.
4. First create an Ad group to sort keywords into similar themes. For example, if you were selling toys, you would have different Ad groups for “boys toys” and “girls toys”.
5. Next, whenever you find a keyword you feel is a good fit add it to your plan by clicking the arrow in the far right hand column, ensuring that the correct Ad group folder is selected.
6. Once you are happy with your keyword research, select the “Download” button, select the .csv format and download it.
It’s well worth allocating some time to doing keyword research properly, as it will be the foundation of your websites content. You’ll often be surprised about what people search for, and it’s not always what you expect. For example, I co-founded a survival kit website and we were planning on using “survival kit” keywords, yet after some research we found that the best quality traffic was actually searching for “bug out bags”, this simple change was worth $10,000s in potential search traffic!
5. Other Tools
If you’re not finding what you want with the Keyword Planner it would be worth checking out these tools: