A keyword strategy is one of the first steps and SEO basics for any inbound marketing strategy. I could think of twenty different approaches to strategically choosing the most successful keyword strategy for a client – nothing is set in stone. Below I’ve outlined my thought process anytime I begin keyword research!
1. Goals: What are you or your client trying to achieve online? Are you starting from scratch and looking to gain brand awareness or simply build up your website traffic? What about lead generation or increase your online sales? What does your competition look like; are they ranking first page for keywords you want to rank for? I’d like to think you and I can have it all, and that very well may be true; however for an online marketing strategy, you can’t have it all at once unfortunately.
2. Metrics: Once you’re decided on what your goal is, think about how you are going to measure that particular goal. How will you know that you are reaching it, or have met it? See below for what I mean.
Increase Organic Web Traffic: If my goal is to increase organic web traffic to my website, than the keywords I choose should be lower-medium competition with large monthly search volumes. Think of researching industry terms or buzz words; remember shorter tail keywords are more informational with larger search volumes.
Grow Sales or Lead Gen: Trying to make more money or gain more qualified leads? Well, growing your website traffic astronomically with large search volume keywords is not the way to go! Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Analyze your Google Analytics and website data to identify which keywords driving traffic have the lowest bounce rates, highest time on site, or are already converting for you. Start your keyword research there.
Beat the Competition: Start analyzing your competitor’s websites for any keywords that jump out at you. Review their title tags and meta descriptions, what do you see? It always is good to manually check the keyword searches incognito on Google to see who and what rank they are coming up for that particular term. Is that page dominated by directories, forums and reviews? If so, that may not be the keyword for you, but if you find that a lot of your competition and websites are ranking first page of Google for that term, it may be a good idea to include that in your strategy.
3. Research: I could go on and on about the different approaches to keyword strategies but I’m not going to, I think you get the drift. Now, after you’ve identified a whole list of possible keywords – you need to research them. No matter your online marketing strategy, have it be SEM, SEO, or social I always recommend using the Google Adwords Tool. Type in each of the keywords that you want to research and not only will the tool spit out competition and volumes for your keywords, it will also recommend suggested keywords. Export this data into an Excel spreadsheet and begin organizing! Forget terms with little to no search volume and ignore terms with extremely low competition (below .10). The amount of keywords you’ll end up with varies; for extremely local clients I may only have a list of 20 keywords, and for enterprises I could have a list of 400. Use your judgment because you could conduct keyword research all day, I’m not joking you!
Once you have your final list of keywords, it is always best to identify if the domain you are trying to optimize is ranking for that specific keyword. Personally, I conduct keyword research with RankChecker by Seobook or Moz.com research tool. You can always check Google incognito if there are only a few terms, but I try to stay away from that due to local and personal search.
At times I have clients that rank on every term I search and others I have do not rank on a single term. Again, be strategic. I always try to attack low hanging fruit terms that the domain ranks on pages 2, 3 or 4 of Google first. Those are easy wins that we know will progress. If the domain is not ranking on anything, choose medium competitive terms with lower volumes. Start small – online marketing tactics don’t gain results overnight and it helps to win on small volume terms first and reap the benefits later.
4. Monitor, Analyze & Repeat: Keywords strategies begin to gain results or experience trends after the 90 day mark. I don’t even like to report on a strategy until at least the 60 day mark due to this. Make sure you monitor the metrics we talked about above, organic traffic, sales, keyword rankings, etc. After 90-120 days, if your keyword strategy doesn’t appear to be working in you favor it may be time to rinse and repeat. Keyword strategies are always a work in progress, they are never set in stone – businesses change, goals change, and so do strategies. There is no need to get discouraged or feel you wasted time if a strategy didn’t work for you. Just remember to be realistic and choose a strategy within your realm. If you’re a brand new site and choose a keyword strategy with volumes of 50,000 or 100,000, you need to re-evaluate your expectations. It could take 3 years to rank on those keywords!
I hope you found this keyword guide helpful. Just remember that identifying keywords is one of the first steps to a successful SEO and inbound marketing strategy.