One of the most important parts of SEO, as you may already know, is the content. But no matter how good the content, it’s not good enough for search engine optimization until you do some proper keyword research, and spread these keywords throughout your articles and your site.
The reason why keywords are important is that they’re the only thing making search engines come to your site and the most important thing when it comes to deciding your ranking in the SERPs. Therefore, proper keyword research is absolutely vital for a successful SEO strategy, and today we’ll take a look at the process – how to get it done best, which tools to use and what works at the moment.
Decide what your goals are and generate a list of keywords
The first thing you should do is decide what your goals are for the website and your content and generate a list of keywords you need to rank for in order to achieve those goals. You definitely don’t want to go in blindly, with just a niche in mind and money to spend for content and backlinks – that’s the worst strategy possible, and although it might work, you’ll have spent way too much money and time for results that are probably inadequate.
Usually, the goals are simple: get traffic for an affiliate offer or your own product, establish a brand and expertise in a certain niche for yourself or a client, get traffic for building an email list, and so on. The keywords you choose will vary slightly depending on the goal – for example, if you want to build expertise and become as well known in the niche as possible, you’d go for a wider range of general keywords, whereas if you only need potential buyers, you’d go for keywords that will bring you visitors already primed for buying (in this case, the keywords would also act as a filter for untargeted traffic).
There are plenty of tools for generating keyword lists, many of which are completely free – the best ones I know and can recommend are Google’s own AdWords Keyword Planner, YouTube’s Keyword Tool and ubersuggest.org (which is basically Google Suggest on steroids). With these three, you can be well on your way to finding and using the best keywords for your SEO campaign.
Targeting the right keywords
You should target keywords that have at least a thousand or more searches in Google, as there’s no point in going for anything less – the only exception being keywords are “purchase primed” – i.e. keywords like “buy Samsung Galaxy S4 online UK”, “where to buy Samsung TV with free delivery”, and so on. These are excellent keywords that convert very well, because the users already want to purchase that product (they’re not just browsing) and they don’t need convincing. The downside is that you’ll have to compete with Amazon and other large websites, plus these keywords aren’t good for brand/expertise building.
You should also look at the competition – use the “allintitle” search operator to see the actual amount of serious competition – you can easily take on keywords that have several hundred or even thousands of results, but anything more than that and it gets hard.
Don’t forget Bing and their tools
Most people overlook Bing since they’re practically following everything Google does in terms of SEO – if it works for Google, it will work for Bing. While that’s true, Bing still gets 30% of the world’s search traffic, and a lot of the times their traffic converts much better on account of the demographics, which tend to be older, more affluent and less tech savvy – the perfect combination if you have a good product to offer.
Microsoft also has some great tools for keyword research in Bing Ads – the keyword suggestions are more complete and the traffic estimates are much more accurate (in fact, they’re not estimates at all – they’re precise numbers). The tools only take into account the traffic and keywords on Bing and Yahoo (and other engines using Bing), but you can be sure that if it’s on Bing, it’s definitely on Google, and it’s easy to extrapolate the numbers based on what Bing’s keyword tool shows you.
Analyzing incoming organic traffic in the (Not Provided) age
Once you start ranking, there’s the matter of analyzing the traffic and optimizing for best conversions, which was easy to do back in the day, when search engines transferred all the keyword data to your analytics tools. Nowadays, with the switch to HTTPS, that became impossible and most of the organic search that shows up in Google Analytics (or any other tool) has “(Not Provided)” or “Direct” as the referral. Keywords from Bing, Yahoo and other search engines using Bing still show up, so you can extrapolate the numbers from there, but with Bing switching to HTTPS, that will soon stop.
It’s actually quite a big problem in SEO circles, but the reality is that it’s not that important. If you do proper keyword research before implementing your SEO strategy, you pretty much know which keywords you rank for, and although seeing them in analytics is great, you can do well without it.
Optimizing your conversions and monetization strategies is harder without that keyword data, that’s true. There are a few things that can make it easier though:
– Use heat maps. Heat maps are a wonderful invention that let you see exactly where visitors click on your site. Based on that, you can optimize your site’s design, decide where to place the ads and subscribe forms, adjust the position of the widgets and links, and more.
– Track your visitors’ steps on your site. As long as the users are on your site, you can still track them however you want. And you should definitely do that, then use the information to optimize your website for retaining readers. See which links people click on which pages, place and remove ads and widgets accordingly, make on-site search more prominent (and use HTTP, of course), and you can get a better picture of how visitors are interacting with your website.
– Perform extensive A/B testing. A/B testing is more important than ever – it’s absolutely vital that you test different ads, graphics, design options, landing pages, and anything else to get the bets conversions possible. Unlike paid traffic, I recommend starting later on with organic traffic, once you have a relatively large amount of visitors – starting A/B testing too early will skew the results and can actually make things worse.
Once you’ve got the keywords, start creating the content and getting backlinks
Once you’ve got everything set up (or even earlier – once you’ve got the list of keywords), you can start creating the content and getting the backlinks – use every trick in the book, get high quality content even if it’s expensive, because it’s worth it nowadays, and do backlinking right.
If the content is properly optimized and written and you get enough quality backlinks, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll start ranking – afterwards, it’s a matter of monetizing your site, which is much easier when you’ve already planned the keywords you’ll be ranking for in advance.