As a startup you need great content. It is the glue that holds together your brand, values and purpose. It is what connects you with your customer.
Keyword research is important because it allows you to create better content for your customers.
When you write for a specific audience, your aim is to write content that is better than anything currently on the internet. If you are just repeating information that is already there, you are wasting your time.
Your content has to stand out by speaking to your ideal audience. It can be better in many ways: it could have beautiful graphics to explain the point better. It could have a video to show exactly how to do something. Alternatively, and this is what I am talking about in this article, it could use words better to explain your point.
People that use jargon can annoy us. Why? Because they use words that we do not know, which stops us from understanding what they are talking about, which makes us feel stupid.
However, if the person explaining is an expert in the field and we are as well, we understand that the jargon is a shortcut. The jargon term gives a name to something complex, and we appreciate that the expert saved us the time when they used jargon.
If we are novices the opposite is true; we want people to use simple words.
This shows that the words we choose are crucial. Our word choice needs to be not just right, but right for our audience.
If you have already started to write a blog, your potential customer can in theory find your blog posts and the useful information that you created. He can find it through Google. Or he can find it through social media or other ways.
For your potential customer to find you on Google, he must put words into the search box that are close to the content of your article. Google always tries to create the perfect match between what the searcher needs and information available on the internet.
If you can figure out what your potential customer will be searching for before he even puts the words into the box, you are on to a winner. You can create content that serves him better than anyone else on the internet. And that is what keyword research is: it’s a method to generate search terms that your potential customer uses.
Of course, keyword research is not voodoo. We can’t know what people will search for in the future. But we can make good predictions based on searches in the past.
Before I go into the step-by-step details of doing your keyword research, let me just tell you in a nutshell what we are trying to achieve.
The aim your keyword research is to find words and phrases that are:
- Relevant to things you want to write about to attract your ideal customer
- Highly specific to your customer
- High in search volume, i.e., many people use that particular phrase to find the answer
- Easy to rank for, i.e., competitors that created content did not use these exact phrases
So now we are ready to dive deeper into the steps we need to take.
1. Make a list of broad topics related to your business (no more than 5-10 topics)
It is important that your blog concentrates on one particular area that your ideal customer is interested in. The broader this area is, the harder it will be for you to carve out a space in your customer’s mind. Ideally, you want to become the go-to source for a particular type of information. So create a short list of 5-10 topics that your want to cover consistently in your blog and other content.
2. Think of real phrases or questions
For each topic write at least 10 real questions or phrases that your ideal customer may type into the Google search box.
I have written elsewhere about branding and appealing to your ideal customer. So now is the time to consider what your ideal customer may be searching for.
I have found it useful in the past to think of customers I don’t want to serve and to guess their search terms. You don’t want to use these search terms, but it may give you clarity on what search terms you do want.
3. Expand your word list by thinking of similar or related words
Thesaurus.com is your friend when you can’t think of words to express yourself, and you keep repeating the same phrases. It is also useful for finding variations of your keywords.
But an even more useful method is to check what words real people use. Forums offer a unique insight into the phrasing that your potential customers use when they engage in dialogue to solve their problem. Sometimes people don’t know the right words to use, and this offers a great opportunity for you to create content using their words.
4. Expand your list further by finding related search terms
a. The bottom of a Google search
When you are just starting your business, the main point of doing keyword research is to allow you to write better content. Better content creates trust in your idea customer, which allows you to build relationships, which will bring sales and referrals.
In contrast to this approach, many articles you will find on the internet on keyword research focus heavily on conversion. The central question in these articles is: What do I have to do to get the most sales in the fastest time?
However, selling is not your challenge at the moment. Your challenge when you are just starting up is to attract the right visitors to your site. The ideal visitor is someone that may buy from you in the future. If this is the first time the searcher has encountered you, your primary concern is to give a good impression.
If you fail here, the searcher may never return to your site. You need to provide incredible value so the searcher will interact with you and consume more content in the future.
A steady stream of traffic which consists of non-customers will not serve your business. The quality of visitors arriving at your site matters. Creating content with the right keywords will help attract the right visitor.
Here is what you can do to find keywords and phrases that are closely related to your customers. Open Google, put in a broad search term and scroll to the bottom to see what Google suggests as related search terms.
These suggestions should help you to discover what search terms people may put into the search box. The more specific the search term is to your desired audience the better.
A second method of finding related search terms is to use Ubersuggest. This tool creates lists of keywords that Google would suggest when you are in the middle of typing into the search box.
5. Find your keyword search volumes
Next, you need to identify search terms that have high search volume.
Creating good content is hard work. You therefore want to make sure that as many potential customers as possible can find it. You can do that by identifying search terms with a high search volume.
When I started my first business most guides on keyword research suggested Google Keyword Planner to discover search volume. I want to mention it here for completeness. However, I find this tool difficult to use and not rewarding. Also, Google recently made the tool much less useful by concealing the exact search volume. Instead, it now offers only broad ranges of search volume. You can only access detailed information if you spend a considerable amount of money through Google ads.
Given the recent changes and the fact that Google Keyword Planner is an unwieldy tool for newbies, I think you can spend your time better elsewhere.
KeywordsEverywhere is a Chrome and Firefox extension which turns ordinary searches into keyword searches that display search volumes. You can use KeywordsEverywhere in combination with many tools such as:
• Google search and the “Searches related to” section at the bottom of the search page
6. Determine your keyword difficulty
Unfortunately, there is one problem with keywords that have a high search volume. They are not just popular with searchers; they are also popular with people writing content.
Everyone wants the best results, the most traffic, for their content creation efforts.
The problem for a new startup is that you haven’t yet earned any credibility with Google to allow you to compete with the big players.
Understanding how to gain credibility with Google i complex and cannot be explained in a few sentences. It is the essence of SEO. But for now, just understand that newcomers cannot compete with sites that have credibility and authority.
If you google your keyword and find a search results page which is populated with pages from Amazon, or comparison sites or large media companies you have no chance of competing.
The best strategy you can follow when you are starting up is to choose battles that you can win. You can only reach the top of Google if your opponents (sites that also want to rank for the search term) are roughly on a par with you on authority.
There are two important types of authority, page authority and domain authority. Domain authority is the most important measure for Google to decide whether to place you near the top of the search. The domain authority is a measure of how credible the entire website is.
A great free tool that is available to give you page and domain authority is the Mozbar. You need to register with Moz to access this tool which is a chrome extension.
The most useful application of the Mozbar is on the search results page of Google. It allows you to gauge how difficult it would be for you to compete for a keyword by seeing the domain authority figures that you are up against.
Apart from the Mozbar, other tools can help you determine if you have a reasonable chance to rank.
The first tool, I already introduced to you. It’s KeywordsEverywhere which gives you not only the search volume but also a measure of difficulty for ranking, called competition.
The figure for competition is between 0 and 1, the lower, the better. Realistically you should try to find keywords that have a value below 0.3.
Two other great tools that offer free searches are SEMrush and Keyword Finder.
SEO tools are generally expensive because of their direct link to generating money. Unfortunately SEMrush and Keyword Finder only give you a very limited number of free searches for that reason. Still it is worth making use of these to see the incredible insight these tools provide.
As a new starter, you will not have much use for all the complex data these tools produce. They become more useful once a site becomes more established and starts ranking well for some search terms.
7. Use your valuable keywords in the best way
By now you should have lots of phrases that your customers search for which have a good chance of ranking well. The next question is what do you do with the keywords?
You use them in your content of course, but not just anywhere in your content.
The best places for your keywords are (in order of importance):
a. the article title
b. the subtitles
c. the content
d. the image
e. the meta description
Make sure you use your most valuable keyword in the title of your article. The subtitles are still important sites for your keywords, but less so. You can also use your keywords in the content, but beware that Google penalises pages that have the same keyword many times in the same post. This is known as keyword stuffing. The best way to avoid this penalty is by varying your writing. It is what you would normally do when you try to create a good article.
Using your keyword in the meta description has no direct effect on your ranking, but may help you because Google bolds the text that matches the searcher's query. It therefore stands out and may lead the searcher to click on your page.
If you have visuals to help your content, that’s great. You can use your keywords to tag your images.
Using your keywords correctly will help your content rank higher in Google searches at the beginning.
However, it is important to realise, that the position of each page in the search results is changeable over time.
It is the signals that your readers send to Google that make all the difference. If a searcher lands on your page and slowly scrolls through it, Google will see this as a sign the searcher is reading the content.
If the reader stays and clicks on a few links to learn more, that is a great sign for Google. If he bookmarks your page and returns later that is also helping your ranking. If your readers share your content with others through social media or by linking from their website, that’s even better.
Creating content the reader loves is best for your business and SEO. The days of being able to cheat Google are long past. The best result you could hope for if you cheated would be to reach the top of page one of Google for your desired search term.
However, if that meant many people would click on the search result to arrive on your awful page that shows nothing of value to them, it would reflect badly on your brand.
You may miss the only chance you ever had to connect with that customer.
8. Plan better content
Keyword research can be carried out to optimise each individual blog post to give it a better chance of ranking highly in Google.
But keyword research doesn’t just help you rank higher in search engines, it also helps you to create of a stock of content topics and ideas. Let your keyword research allow you to find areas that have not been covered well by the competition. You could try to create a mindmap of maybe 50 article titles that would be of interest to your ideal customer. Having a clear outline of your future posts may also lead you to other ideas to serve your ideal customer better.
It helps to carry out keyword research on a regular basis and use it to plan and guide your blog strategy.
9. Analyse how keywords are performing
At some point in the future, you will have written many articles, and hopefully, they will have led to some sales. At this point, it makes sense to analyse which keywords are performing well for your site.
The best tools to analyse which keywords are driving traffic to your site which are responsible for conversion are Google Console and Google Analytics. It makes sense to activate these free tools as soon as you start your business so you can capture data right away.
In the future, there also may come the point at which you decide to check out the competition to see which keywords are performing for them and what strategies they are using. The beauty - and pain - of working in the digital world is that data is easy to analyse for everyone, including your competition. However, this is advanced SEO; you will not need to understand this for some time to come.
10. Create links to your best content
You will often read that link building is the most important part of SEO. And it is, because nothing affects your ranking more than backlinks to your site. But don’t worry about link building until you have some great content that people want to link to.
When I started my first business, I had all my SEO efforts the wrong way around. I tried to start with link building because people were telling me backlinks matter more than anything. But that’s not correct. What matters is that you create something useful first. Otherwise, people will not link to you. Once you have created great content the final step is to reach out to other website owners and seek backlinks to your articles.
You will not be able to produce link-worthy content without effort. You need to create your body of work one piece of content at a time.
And you need to give your content the best chance to be found. Starting with the right keywords is one important activity. It’s also one which will pay off long-term.
Connecting through search is important today. But it is likely to become even more important in the future. That’s because of the growing backlash against social media. People are beginning to realise that they get sucked into the social media vortex every day. They are losing hours of valuable time, zombified by meaningless information.
The same applies for email, which has become a nuisance that hampers productivity.
Search is different. It never interrupts. If someone needs information, he will seek the right answer. Your content, therefore, has much higher longevity in search than social media. Most tweets are gone forever after a minute. Facebook posts will be forgotten within a day. An email received at the wrong time may never be opened. But your great content can live for months or years on the internet. People can find it and it will create opportunities to connect with your business indefinitely.