In Part I of our series on content marketing and SEO, we explored how SEO and content marketing got to where they are today.
For Part II, we’ll show you why SEO keyword research should be an integral part of your content marketing efforts, and how to do it.
Introduction to SEO Keyword Research
One of the most valuable techniques that come from search engine optimisation is keyword research. Researching, identifying and analysing keywords and key phrases that are relevant to your business can give you an invaluable insight into what solutions your audience is searching for.
Since a search engine’s intention is to match the user with the most relevant content to their search query, it makes complete sense that you should first research the keywords and phrases that your audience is using to search for answers before writing another blog post.
If you’ve done little or no work towards defining who your ideal audience is, then I recommend that you have a listen to our introduction to attracting, engaging & converting more customers on your website podcast and complete the accompanying worksheet.
To give more context around the subject of keyword research, let’s pretend that your business provides home loans to Australian families.
Your overall objective is to get your website in front of more people who are looking for a home loan to generate more sales leads.
How to identify keyword volume
Before proceeding, I recommend that you check if there is enough search volume for phrases relevant to your industry by using the free Google Keyword Planner tool.
If you are just getting started with keyword research, Google’s Keyword Planner tool is the perfect free tool to start out with.
Once you have logged into Google’s Keyword Planner tool using your Google Account, complete the following steps:
Hit the save button to progress to the keyword data screen. Follow the steps in the image below to get the average search volume for your keyword:
From here your decision is pretty straightforward.
You want to target keywords that have search volume.
Targeting keywords that no one is searching for is pointless. As as a general guideline, we recommend targeting keywords that have over 900 average searches per month. The caveat to this guideline is keyword competition, which we’ll cover next.
In this example, we can see the keyword ‘home loans’ is searched over 8,000 times per month in Australia. This is great, however it would be very unwise to target this keyword phrase in our content marketing efforts because it is too competitive.
Understanding keyword competition
Keyword competition plays a very important part in deciding which keywords you should target. Overall, there are two important areas you need to know when understanding keyword competition:
- Strength of Competition: Using our example above, the phrase ‘home loans’ has a large amount of monthly search volume. However, plugging the term ‘home loans’ into Google Australia, we can see the first page organic (non-paid) search results are dominated by Australia’s biggest banks and publicly traded home loan corporations.
It would be insanely difficult, if not impossible, for a young upstart Australian home loan company to get onto the first page of Google as the search position listing competition is simply too strong.The key outcome here is that you should target the keyword phrases that have low levels of competition strength as you’ll have a much better chance of achieving a first page search results ranking.The best way to do this is by targeting long-tail keywords, which we will cover in Part III.
- Competition Volume: How many websites are competing to rank at the top of Google for your keyword phrase? This can be identified by the number of results listed when searching the keyword phrase. Additionally, the Google Keyword Planner tool will display the amount of companies paying Google to have their websites visible on the specific keyword phrase. The Google Keyword planner tool will display this information in three levels of competition: low, medium and high.Overall, it is important that you assess the competition volume and strength as part of your process in identifying keyword phrases. In our case, we go into a lot of micro detail here in analysing domain age, authority rankings, page title and URL competition levels, however the steps above will get you moving in the right direction.
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Choosing keywords that are relevant
Relevancy is a vital aspect to understand when conducting quality keyword research. If you identify a keyword that ticks all of the other boxes regarding what makes a quality keyword, but the keyword isn’t relevant to your business and target audience, then it is a pointless exercise.
Fortunately, Google’s Keyword Planner Tool can quickly generate a list of keywords that it thinks is relevant to what your business does.
If you look at the results in the image above, you will notice keywords such as ‘car loans’ and ‘cash loans’ appear in the results.
As the goal of the home loans business is to rank well in the search engines for home loan related keywords, creating content around the keyword ‘car loans’ would not make sense if the home loans business does not provide car loan services.
In short, focus on identifying the keywords that are relevant to your business from a product/service level, and ignore the ones that are not.
Defining the commercial value of a keyword
Assessing the commercial value of a keyword will help you understand how profitable it is. Let’s put it this way, imagine that you have completed the following steps:
- You identify a keyword phrase that is relevant to your business’s products and services
- The keyword phrase has high levels of traffic
- The keyword phrase has acceptable levels of competition volume & strength
- You create content around the keyword phrase, and manage to achieve the top search position ranking in Google
- Your website gets smashed with heaps of traffic every day as a result
Sounds like the image of success right?
Well, not quite.
Even if you manage to achieve all five steps above, the increased traffic coming to your website may not result in more enquiries, purchases and overall conversions.
One of the primary reasons why this happens is you may have targeted a keyword phrase that has low levels of commercial value.
Therefore, it is really important that you assess the commercial value of a keyword phase before taking steps towards creating content on your website for it.
One of the simplest ways to assess the commercial value of a keyword phrase is to see the average amount of money people are paying Google Adwords to have their website rank for the particular keyword phrase.
The commercial side of Google Adwords works like an auction house.
The average cost per click (CPC) dollar value of a keyword phrase increases depending on how much people are prepared to bid for it.
So, if a law firm is paying $30 for someone to click on their Google Adwords ad targeting the keyword phrase ‘family law’, it is because the law firm can, as an overall average, obtain more than $30 from each website visit.
Inside the Google Keyword Planner Tool, you’ll see the column titled ‘suggested bid’. The dollar values listed in this column suggests an estimated cost per click. The higher the suggested bid value is, the more money people are prepared to spend for a click.
How does this relate to choosing good keywords? Well, let’s say that you are trying to decide which one of two keyword phrases to create content around when both phrases are relevant to your business, have high levels of traffic and reasonable levels of competition.
If one of the keyword phrases has a significantly higher cost-per-click dollar value than the other, there’s more of a chance that the keyword will result in more profitable traffic coming to your website from the search engines.
You should always adopt a quality over quantity approach when it comes to the content you produce and the types of keywords that you target.
That’s why it’s important to differentiate your content marketing strategy by not just targeting high traffic keywords, but keywords that will drive high quality, profitable traffic to your website and your business.
Now that you understand the fundamentals of conducting quality keyword research for your business, it’s time to learn how to put this all together.
In Part III of this series, we will walk you through the steps in combining your keyword research together with your website and content marketing strategy to increase website traffic.
What’s your favorite way to conduct keyword research? Please share with us your keyword research strategy by leaving a comment below.