How to Do Keyword Research as A Small Business Owner?
Keywords are perhaps the most integral part of SEO. As an internet user, keywords are the means of receiving the desired information. For a business, keywords are one of the most (if not the most) important little helpers that make your business visible on the internet. To cut to the point, keywords are useful when your target audience is using them. You can build the most-optimized site in the world with a flawless, perfectly formulated article; it will be useless if nobody is searching for what you’re writing about.
This guide teaches you a proven keyword research framework that you can use without investing anything but your time. It was designed to be ideal for small business owners, who don’t have the resources to employ an in-house SEO expert.
The first step of keyword research is understanding how potential customers might be searching for products or services on the internet similar to yours. Having a good understanding of your industry or niche is essential, however, I presume you wouldn’t start a business in a field that you do not know.
You need to start with seed keywords. Seed keywords are short words or commonly used phrases. In the case of a marketing business, seed keywords might be:
- Social Media
It is almost impossible to rank for seed keywords, especially if you are a small business with limited resources. You want to use them to create long-tail keywords that you have a chance to rank for and are relevant to your target audience.
After you identified your seed keywords, it is time to look at which keywords work for your competitors. Your keyword competitors might not be the same businesses or individuals, who are your main competition offline, as they might not rank for your keywords at all. To narrow down the list of your keyword competitors, search Google for one of your seed keywords and note who ranks on the front page.
If you are selling your social media advertising services, you are not competing with businesses, who are ranking your seed keyword ‘marketing’ but offering an email marketing automation software. You want to find websites that are similar to your site. If there are no websites on the front page like yours, the next best thing to do is taking advantage of Google’s autosuggest function. Use the suggested phrases to do new searches and find your SEO competitors.
Another food for thought: if you are selling hamburgers and McDonald’s is ranking for the keyword you are looking for, you shouldn’t treat it as direct competition. You don’t want to waste time and resources trying to beat giant brands, find websites that represent businesses that you have a chance of overtaking in the ranks.
Research Even More Keywords
I also recommend using keyword analytics tools to find more keyword options. Normally, the ones with the most features and customization options are not free, but you can always make use of the free trial periods or opt for more simple but free solutions such as RankRanger’s site explorer. Use these tools to view what keywords your competitors are ranking for or what the industry leaders use to be on top of the SERP.
Of course, you don’t want to just match the competition, you want to beat your competitors. There are still tons of keywords your competitors aren’t targeting, and you can take advantage of these by identifying the right ones. The easiest way to do keyword research is to use keyword research tools. Your ultimate go-to tool is Google Keyword Planner. It is free to use and you can enter multiple keywords at the same time to find ideas with a high average monthly search count. It is designed mainly for advertisers but works well for SEO keyword research too.
So far, you have your seed keywords, understand what your competitors do, and picked a few potential long-tail keywords for your website. The next step is distinguishing yourself from the others, which can hardly be done by focusing only on the size and freshness of your keyword tool’s database. If you really know your industry or niche, this is your time to shine.
Pay attention to the latest trends (pro tip: visit trends.google.com frequently), spend time browsing industry forums, and engage with the community to find out about the latest points of interest. By doing this, you will understand your prospective customer’s behavior better. Knowing about their latest problems and difficulties, you will be able to find in-demand, fresh keywords to work with.
In the case of a marketing business, you might find that people search for ‘CRO’ much more than they used to. Now you can type ‘CRO’ into your keyword planner tool and enjoy your newest low-competition keywords.
I also recommend talking to your existing clients, asking about the problems they face or the latest trends they are excited about. Most of the time they point out something that you haven’t thought of, so do not think about this as a waste of time.
Analyze Keywords Like a Pro
At this point, you have your seed keywords, lots of long-tail keyword ideas, and valuable client inputs. Now it is time to decide which keywords to use and which ones to leave alone. We advise using the following metrics to distinguish relevant keywords from the whole bunch:
- Search volume
- Keyword difficulty
- Cost Per Click (CPC)
Search volume shows the popularity of a keyword. It tells you the average number of times a given keyword gets searched on a weekly/monthly/yearly basis. This metric is extremely useful for filtering out keywords that might be too competitive for you (meaning you don’t have the resources to rank for it). For starters, as a small business owner, you can exclude every keyword with 80k or more monthly average searches. You want to find lower-volume keywords where you can comfortably get ranked and drive relevant traffic to your website.
You must consider the geographical aspect of search volume as well. The best is to monitor search volume from countries and territories where you operate or sell products/services to. People often forget to consider the buying power of users who google specific keywords. If you find a keyword with the desired volume of monthly searches, but the majority of them come from a populous third-world country where you don’t operate, you won’t see any results. These keywords have a low business value regardless of the high search volume.
Lastly, note that search volume is the number of searches, and it is not equal to the number of people who searched. I have a friend who googles the same song each morning and listens to it while making breakfast. If you don’t understand how search volume works, you could falsely believe there have been 365 more people interested in that same song last year, while all these searches were actually done by one person, my friend.
Keyword difficulty shows you how difficult it is to rank for a specific keyword. The formula to calculate this metric is not set in stone, as there are too many varying factors to consider. To understand the difficulty of your chosen keyword, take a look at the top-ranking pages and assess what it takes to beat them for one of the top spots. When analyzing these pages you should pay attention to the following:
- Domain Rating (shows how authoritative the website is)
- Number and quality of backlinks
- Quality of content
- Level of direct competition (as a business you might not want to try outranking Wikipedia for a specific keyword)
Use these factors to understand what it’ll take to rank for a given keyword. A properly done analysis can save you a lot of time and you can go all-in with the keywords you have a good chance to rank for.
Search clicks are also extremely important as a metric, especially in contrast with search volume. There is an inevitably higher volume of searches than link clicks for any keyword as people might search Google for something, but decide not to click on search results. Google SERP has evolved through the past years providing more and more information straight on the result page. Just try googling your favorite dog breed or calories in a Big Mac. I’ll bet you will find detailed information on both without having to click on any of the results.
Consequently, search volume and search click metrics go hand-in-hand. You need to review and analyze both to get the complete picture of the keyword you’re researching.
Cost Per Click
Cost Per Click (commonly abbreviated as CPC) shows the average amount of money advertisers are willing to pay for each ad click from a keyword. If you are running Google Ads besides doing SEO you can kill two birds with one stone by focusing on CPC metrics.
A high CPC keyword indicates high demand from advertisers and a high search volume from an SEO perspective. However, it is unwise to treat CPC as the same indicator as search volume. Google Ads are extremely sales-driven, therefore you will see higher CPC for keywords that are directly connected to buying/selling products, services, or subscriptions.
To give an example, by searching “pokemon cards” you will most likely get high CPC results trying to get people to buy Pokemon cards. On the other hand “how to store pokemon cards” will most likely result in results with a lower CPC, as people searching for this don’t necessarily look to buy something.
Please note, we only recommend using CPC data, if you get it straight from Google Ads. Google’s platform is the only source of real-time CPC data and you don’t want to see outdated information with a volatile metric like this.
Target and Execute!
If you’ve put in work and followed this guide, at this stage, you have a shortlist of long-tail keywords, that remained after eliminating many others via keyword analysis. The next step is to incorporate these keywords into your website in the most optimal way. When it comes to keywords, most people automatically associate them to blog posts. In reality, blog posts are one of the most efficient ways of keyword placement, however, there are instances when a store landing page or a product description generates better results.
It is recommended to view the top-ranking results for your chosen keyword and note the type of pages it appears on. The placement of a keyword strongly correlates with search intent. You want to try ranking for something searchers want to see, therefore, if you take the top-ranking pages’ example, you won’t go wrong.
Once you identified the type of page you need to use to place your keywords, it is time to decide which keywords can be put within the same blog post or product description and which ones are better off alone. Apart from rare and specific cases, you don’t need to build a different page for each keyword.
Google a pair of keywords that you would target in the same post and compare the results. If you find the majority of top results are the same, it indicates that Google also thinks these two keywords are about the same topic. This also means it is safe to use these keywords on the same page, it won’t hurt their efficiency. On the contrary, if you see relatively dissimilar results, it shows your keywords have different parent topics. In this case, you’re better off targeting them on different web pages.
If you liked this guide about keyword research, check out our article on keyword placement to read about Bitbooms’ best practices for keyword-optimizing your copy.