Google handles over 2 trillion searches each year, which means there’s a strong chance that someone somewhere is searching for your business online. The odds of them finding you, however, can vary depending on the strength of your SEO.
According to WordStream, 50% of all searches made consist of at least four or more unique keywords, and each keyword affects the search results listed on the first page. If you want your site to be seen, choosing the right keywords is essential.
Many businesses spend an enormous amount of time and money doing extensive keyword research. In fact, as of this year the SEO industry is worth $65 billion. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get results for less effort.
The key to choosing successful keywords is understanding the words your audience are searching for. While this does require a little insight into the driving factors of your target market, generating keywords from this insight can be as easy as using Google’s search bar.
If you’re looking to improve your organic SEO through keywords but you don’t have the budget for extensive research, here’s what you should know.
SEO Research Without Fancy Tools
Search engines by themselves are excellent tools for generating keywords if you know where to look. Google’s autocomplete function, for example, allows you to type any keyword or keyphrase directly into the search bar and see:
- Related terms to the one you’re typing
- Relevant searches you’ve done in the past
- What other people are searching for (including Trending stories)
This method of keyword research is particularly effective for generating long tail keywords, or those with three and four specific keywords.
Taking it a step further, Google has a variety of other free tools to aid you on your quest, including Google Analytics and Google Trends, which shows you the most popular topics and keywords trending around the world.
Other search engines like Bing or even Yahoo search have their own versions of these tools as well (in addition to autocomplete functions of their own), including Bing’s Webmaster tool and Yahoo’s keyword tool.
But search engines aren’t the only place you can research keywords with a few clicks.
You can also search Twitter trends the same way you would use Google Trends, as well as search for hashtags related to your long tail keywords. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube all have search features built in to aid you as well.
Generating keywords based on social media topics can be a good idea, because ultimately the content on your site (or even your homepage) will probably be shared on social media, even if it’s by you and your team.
When you then tweet about your business with a corresponding hashtag, you’ll receive more targeted traffic, which can improve your organic SEO. And using search engine trends to generate keywords can be an effective way to get to know your audience.
How to Do a Search Engine Keyword Search
But where do you begin? Should you just type any keyword that pops into your head? If you’ve never done organic SEO research before, you’ll want to plan out your search strategically, following some basic steps:
Step 1: Search for Brand Terms
Start by creating a list of terms that are already associated with your business that people would already know. You could start with your company name and keywords associated with that name as well as your location.
If you owned a directory that listed businesses in the Chicago area, for example, you could start with “business directories Chicago.” The goal is to generate as many long and short tail keywords as possible, and don’t worry at this stage if they don’t seem like popular terms.
Step 2: Search for Competitors
If you know who your direct competitors are, start by searching for their name and look for any autocomplete keywords or phrases that appear and include them in your list. Also keep in mind that your audience may not know who your direct competitors are, so avoid keywords that are specific to their brand names, products, or website unless it’s something your audience would be searching for directly.
Step 3: Substitute Terms
Once you have a decent foundation of keywords to work from, re-enter keywords or keyphrases with substituted or complementary terms. For example, instead of “business directory in Chicago” you might swap it out for “lists of businesses that sell XYZ product in Chicago.” Some audiences might not search for the word “directory” but may want the outcome a directory provides (a list of businesses).
This should give you a solid starting point for your organic SEO. Keep in mind that not all keywords will have the impression rates you want, but having a robust list of potential keywords will help you clarify which are most likely to bring in traffic naturally.
Keyword Research Tips for Better Results
As you’re doing your research, there are a few other things you want to do to truly maximize your results.
Research Multiple Lengths
It’s important to include both long and short tail keywords in your search (e.g. “Chicago directories”), as well as words or phrases in natural language or question form (e.g. “where can I find businesses that sell XYZ in Chicago?”). As a general rule, a keyword’s length falls into one of three categories:
- Short-tail keywords (1 to 2 words)
- Medium-tail keywords (3 to 4 words)
- Long-tail keywords (longer than 4)
Short tail keywords are the easiest to search for but may not always yield the best autocomplete results. You can search for short tail keywords to see which pages pop up on the first page of your chosen search engine, however.
Medium and long-tail keywords will give you an idea of what users are looking for and tend to have less search volume than short tail keywords, which is ultimately better for your ranking if you include them.
Search for Multiple Keywords at Once
Google search is flexible and there are several shortcuts to maximize your time. When doing a search, consider typing in two keywords or phrases at once using the syntax “or” to combine them.
For example, you could type: “Businesses in Chicago that sell XYZ” OR “Where to find XYZ in Chicago.” If you use quotation marks, those exact phrases will be used, or if you omit the quotation marks Google will search for related terms and phrases for both.
Gradually Add Keywords
If you’re doing keyword research and autocomplete isn’t giving you the results you want, start with short tail keywords and then gradually add more. For example, you could start with “Chicago directories” and move to “Chicago business directories”, “Chicago businesses directories listing”, “Local Chicago business directories,” and so on.
This will gradually refine your search terms to give you more targeted results. You may also find that by adding keywords you generate different results than you would if you simply went for “Local Chicago business directories” the first time.
Keyword research, while essential to your online traffic, doesn’t have to be a complicated or costly procedure if you know how to work with the tools you have.
Start simple by using Google (or Bing, etc.) to search for short tail keywords using autocomplete results, and then build into long tail keywords to create a foundational list of potential ranking terms.
From there, you can use Google Analytics (or Bing Webmaster, etc.) to look for search volume and determine which keywords or phrases will net you the best results.
Keep in mind that this won’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll rank for your chosen keywords, but it will give you a much, much better shot than doing nothing at all.