Millions of people use search engines on a daily basis to find what they want.
That’s why one of the benefits of having a website for your business is that at some point, someone will be searching for you. Or, more specifically, they’ll be searching for what you have to offer.
Even if a potential customer doesn’t know the name of your business, a search engine can still get them to your site if you have the right SEO keywords. But the key is knowing exactly which words or phrases people will search to get there.
If you have a business directory, for example, it’s not enough to simply have the keywords “business directory” tied to your site. There are a slew of other factors that will go into your keyword research to make it truly successful.
Let’s take a look at some of the basics to help you get started.
Why Keyword Research Matters
Every page published on your site that contains written content of any kind will automatically have keywords built in them. Search engines decide which words or phrases to pull from your pages automatically.
But that doesn’t mean you should leave the decision up to the search engines. In fact, it’s best to have a little control over which words and phrases sites like Google pull from your pages.
Even if Google could guess the best possible keyword from what you have written, it won’t do any good if no one is actually searching for that exact word or phrase. You could have the best content, but zero monthly searches still equals zero results.
That’s why it’s important to take some time to develop a list of potential words or phrases that your average customer might type into a search engine if they were trying to find a business like yours.
Here’s what that looks like…
How to Research Keywords
Keyword research doesn’t have to be overwhelming, you just have to know a few basic details about your target audience and industry.
1. Make a list of relevant topics about your business
To start, brainstorm some general topics that might be related to your business. If you sold watches, for instance, you would have something like “watches”, “gold watches”, “watches for men”, etc.
If you have a business directory, you might consider including topics related to location or categories in your directory, such as, “restaurants Los Angeles”, “local business Los Angeles”, “American restaurants Los Angeles”, etc.
Try to come up with 10 or so general topics (“watches”) and try to break those down further (“gold watches”, etc.) until you have a solid list.
2. Use those topics to develop keyphrases
Keywords can be single words, but more often than not your customers won’t simply type one word into a search engine; they’ll type a phrase of between 2-3 words at minimum, or type in full sentences (e.g. “Where can I find American restaurants in Los Angeles?”)
Once you have a list of topics, create a list of sentences or 2-3 word phrases that you would type into a search engine if you were trying to find out more about those topics.
3. Research related searches
After you’ve come up with a list of keywords and phrases to include, you want to search for any related topics that might draw people to your business.
For instance, if you type “puppy pictures” into Google, at the bottom of the page you will find a list of related searches, including “cute puppy videos” and “cute puppies for sale”. Someone who wants to see cute puppies may not have the initial interest to buy a puppy, but might after spending enough time browsing.
The same principles can work for your business. Even if a customer was just doing research using certain search terms with no interest to buy, they may be interested once your site pops up in their search results.
The last step is perhaps the most complicated, but thankfully there are plenty of SEO research tools out there that can help you with this part.
How to Use Keywords to Boost SEO
Having an established list of keyword phrases is the most important part of SEO, but it’s not the only part. Once you have your list ready to go, there are a few other factors you want to keep in mind to make sure those keywords bring in the most business.
The placement of your keywords matters more than frequency of use. It’s important to include your keywords in several pages of your site for maximum impact, but you also want to make sure you’re placing those keywords in the right spots. Having a keyphrase included in the title tag of your site or in the header of a page will have more impact than having it scattered throughout the body copy. Web designer Hirsch Fishman has 9 suggested places to insert keywords on your site.
Don’t forget to include natural language searches. Most keywords or phrases are disjointed by nature – “find American restaurant LA” – because search engines often omit prepositions like “of”, “at”, and “but”. Yet search engines are continuing to improve to include user intent, meaning that they will accept full searches – “Where can I find American restaurants in LA?” – written the way people ask questions in real life. (If you want to know more about creating natural language searches, check out this article by Search Engine Watch).
Remember to include each of the three types of queries in your SEO keyword list. According to Neil Patel, there are three basic types of queries:
- Informational – The user wants to get information on a certain topic. “How to…” searches would fall into this category.
- Transactional – The user wants to buy something or transact in some way. Searches like, “buy watches” or “order food LA” would fall into this category.
- Navigational – The user wants to get to a specific website but doesn’t remember the name or URL.
If possible, try to include keywords or phrases in each category. What would someone search if they forgot your business name? What would someone search if they were trying to buy something from your site? What would someone search if they wanted to know how to do something that you offer as a service? Be creative. The more phrases you can include, the better your SEO results will be.
The last thing you want to do is leave the final SEO decisions up to search engines. Sure, their algorithms are improving, but they don’t understand your target market like you do. Google won’t know exactly what terms your customers are searching to find you. Only you do.
That’s why it’s important to take some time to come up with a list of your own keywords. Focus on phrases that your users are most likely to search (or that you would search if you were in the same position). Start with general topics and break them down into searchable phrases from there. Use SEO keyword tools if needed to aid in your quest.
Finally, don’t forget to pay attention to keyword placement on your site. Include the most searchable terms in your headers and titles. You can also include natural language searches in your body copy or scattered in other places throughout your site for the best possible advantage.