Picking the right keywords for your business can be tricky. Most business owners miss out on a lot of opportunities because they don’t choose the right keywords, or worse yet, they don’t put any thought into their keyword strategy at all. Here are some tips to help guide you down the path to choosing the best keywords for your business.
Before you get started, create a system to capture your keywords. I like to use a Google spreadsheet because it’s easy to share and you can create multiple sheets if needed. You can start with a whiteboard or notebook, but eventually, you’ll want to migrate into a digital format that you can easily sort, delete, copy and paste.
A good place to start is to write out a list of all the keywords you would use to search for a business like yours. Try to put yourself in your customers' shoes and think of how you might search. Your intimate knowledge of the business gives you an inside track on behavior.
Be careful not to trust your own instincts too much, though. Sometimes you’re too close to it to see some big opportunities that “normal people” are searching for. Get input from your employees, friends, and family. Be sure to ask people who aren’t as familiar with your industry to make sure you get a balanced view.
Your customers are another great source of keyword ideas. Ask them what keywords they searched to find your business. The sooner you can ask them, the more likely they’ll be to remember the exact search phrases they used to find you.
While I recommend that you don’t obsess over your competitors, you can get some good ideas on keywords by watching what your competitors are doing. You can identify which competitors are worth emulating by seeing who shows up in Google.
Search your top keywords and notice the specific phrases that the top sites include in their page titles and descriptions. Click through and look at page headings and content. Look at their blogs and other content pages to see the topics they are writing about. Look at which companies have ads for your keywords.
There are several competitive analysis tools that will show you both organic (unpaid) and paid keywords that your selected competitors are showing up for. Some of those tools even give an estimate of how much they are paying per click for specific keywords and their total ad budget. A couple of these tools include SpyFu and SEMrush. Just enter your competitor’s domain name and they’ll show you a list of paid and organic keywords for that site, rank ordered by popularity.
An often overlooked source of good keyword ideas is your existing keyword traffic. Unfortunately most Google searches are encrypted, so you can’t get a lot of data on those searches from Google Analytics, but it’s worth looking at the referring keyword reports to see what’s there (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Organic Search).
Your best source of insight into your organic keywords is Google Search Console. Sign up for an account to see your top keywords along with a bunch of other handy tools for optimizing your organic Google rankings.
If you’re doing any Google keyword ads, Bing Ads or any other keyword ads, the keyword reports from your campaigns can give some good insights into keywords that are most popular. If you’re tracking conversions from your campaigns, you can focus on the keywords that generate the most leads or calls, rather than just the highest traffic keywords.
Once you have a good list of keywords you can start plugging them into keyword tools. The purpose of running your keywords through these tools is to help validate your assumptions about which keyword phrases are most popular. You will also find additional keyword phrases that you didn’t already think of. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great place to start.
This is the tool that Google uses to sell its keyword ads. Since Google gets 90+ of all of the billions of searches every day, you could say they have a decent database of search behavior. Other keyword research tools to try are Wordstream, Moz Keyword Explorer, as well as the two mentioned above for competitive analysis, SEMrush and SpyFu.
Google also offers some good keyword ideas through their search suggestions that show up at the bottom of each search results page, and the autocomplete suggestions right in the search box. Those suggestions are based on actual searches, so make note of those and add any relevant ones to your list of potential terms to target. Google Trends can also give some good insight into localized keyword search popularity as well as related searches.
Once you’ve done your keyword research and prioritized the words and phrases you want to show up for, you need to know where to use your selected keywords. There are several different ways to use keywords, and the approach for each should be a little different, depending how keywords are used in each application.
Your keyword strategy will likely evolve over time as you see what works and what doesn’t work. Keep an eye on which keywords are driving the most traffic and leads. Repeat this process occasionally to find new keyword opportunities as they emerge.
To learn more about how it all works, check out our local search guide.