What is keyword research and how to pick keywords for your site’s SEO strategy

Google has entered itself as a ‘verb’ in the modern dictionary, and aptly so. If you haven’t Googled something till now, you have not used one of the most powerful though simple tools that the era of information technology offered to the mankind. But why only Google and not any other search engines like Yahoo or Bing? Well, Google captures almost 70% of the search market, which means that 70 out of 100 people search for things, facts, services, tools, products and even people using Google’s search engine. So, if you take care of optimizing your website for Google, you are mostly good for your overall search engine strategy.

Why choose certain keywords?

There are billions of queries—keywords or key phrases as they are called—processed by Google in a day. How will it decide which keyword your website or online business belong to? How will it mark you as the potential destination of a search query?

Well, the answer is simple—you have to tell Google which main keywords your business is focused on. There may be certain permutations and combinations that Google’s algorithm will work out on its own, but you have to give concrete directions through these keywords.

Keyword research also helps predict the shifts in the demand and the evolving needs and expectations of the customers on the whole. From time to time, businesses need to appropriately respond to the changing market conditions and fine-tune the production and services in line with these popular expectations. Keyword research can also help update the content according to what the customers actively seek. Therefore, in every niche, keyword research provides a low barrier entry to understand and interpret the customer motivation in a virtual fashion.

How to choose best keywords for your website

You are the best judge of choosing the keywords, but you will need help. Google provides excellent keyword intelligence for any type of business. You can use Keyword Planner—a free tool provided by Google—to do the initial keyword research. Later on, you may choose to use some paid tools etc.

We will take an example of choosing the keywords for a website which is related to weight loss. This is how the Keyword Planner would look like.

Put ‘Weight Loss’ in the first field, and it will give you options to choose the geography, language etc.

You can choose these fields as are related to you. I will keep these blank just to give you an open example.

The above show results will give you the most related keywords that are popular in Google with their average monthly search volume, competition, suggested bid if you want to do paid marketing against that keyword, etc.

The image shows only few suggestions—Google usually offers hundreds of these keywords and you can choose after analyzing deeply.

This video will give you another practical example:

What type of keywords to avoid?

  1. Very low volume low competition keywords—they don’t bring any value to your business even if you rank high on those keywords because the search volume is very less. This means that there are not many people searching for that keyword.
  2. Very high volume high competition keywords—if the competition is very high, avoid picking those keywords. You may target them if you have a huge budget and if you are looking for an SEO strategy that could last at least a year.
  3. Very low volume high competition keywords—these types of keywords may be good for paid marketing strategies but not for search engine optimization just because there is not enough search volume to target.

Things to consider

While deciding which keywords you would be focusing on, understand that keyword queries through Google may vary on these parameters:

  1. Location—geography of the customers
  2. Language—users use English as well as their native language to search
  3. Spelling mistakes—a lot of spelling mistakes become popular in keyword research just out of sheer numbers
  4. Singular plural—many keywords have their plural variants and Google may rank your website differently

Analysis of competition helps you in picking low-competition keywords to start with and gradually build your business for more competitive keywords. Long-tail keywords are preferred by startups than single-word keywords. You may also like to go local for your keywords—like ‘buy chocolate in in Ottawa’ or ‘learn how to ski in Montreal’ etc. These types of keywords are preferred by local businesses.

According to best practices, it is better to optimize your homepage for 3-5 keywords and similarly every other page for different keywords. Don’t try to optimize multiple pages for the same keyword.

Assessing the value of a keyword

The value of a keyword for a website is rather very high. For instance, if you are the owner of an online shoe vendor, you can get to know from which search phrase you are getting more sales whether it is “black shoes” or “Brown boots”. Webmasters have access to the complete list of keywords that the visitors input while doing web search. Such information can be got by banking on keyword research tools. At the same time, there is also a limitation. Keyword research tools can never directly reveal to you how useful it would be to get the desired traffic from those searches. To understand the value of a keyword, it is essential to fully understand our own site and work with some hypotheses and experiments and keep repeating the web marketing formula that is in vogue.

The way to ascertain a keyword’s value

To ascertain the value of a given keyword, you must first ask a few questions to yourself. In the first place, decide whether the given keyword is relevant to the content of your website. If the customers input the given keyword and land on your site, will the content in your site address what they are looking for. If the information on your site can make them happy and enhance the traffic thereby bringing in more financial rewards and help achieve the organization goals, then you have clear indications to pick the said keyword.

Summing it up

Because you are the owner of the website, you are the best customer also—think like a customer and jot down some common phrases that come to your mind related to your website. Run them through Keyword Planner and see if you are close to the most relevant searches to your website. You can always tweak these phrases as suggested by the tool. Keyword research is a progressive activity and you can’t think of doing it just once for your website. Keep doing it and keep improving.