There are a plethora of tools online that claim to help you find the “best” keywords, but the most effective tool you could ever use is completely free: your brain. Tools are great to help you find keyword possibilities that you never considered, but at the end of the day, there’s still nothing that beats taking some time away from the computer to think through your (or a client’s) business, and what are the most important keywords for that site’s content.
Think of it from a searcher’s perspective: users want to find the most relevant content to their query as fast as possible. They’re not interesting in hanging around on a Google search results’ page, they want to get somewhere, and optimizing a site on the most relevant keywords (which are not necessarily the one’s that will make you the most money in the short term) is a winning strategy that will build customer trust and loyalty in the long-term.
What does this mean for keyword research day-to-day? Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve found effective:
1. Understand the business.
Dive deep – as deep as possible – to unwrap what the business does every day, how it makes money, and what success looks like. If you never understand how the business operates then you can never hope to target the right keywords.
2. Summarize what the business does in one paragraph.
And don’t make the paragraph some corporate-speak nonsense about “synergizing thought supply leverage.” Write it like you have to explain it to a 5th grader. (This is really part 2 of step 1)
3. Go through the top 100 pages of the site.
Some sites are going to have fewer than 100 pages, which means you get to go through every page (yay!). Slow down as you browse these pages and read, really read, the content on the site. Don’t understand a term or an acronym? Ask someone. Make sure you understand it and jot down keyword ideas as you go.
4. Enter your ideas into the Google Keyword Tool to expand the list.
Get lots of suggestions that you might not have thought of right away, and start to get a general sense where there’s search demand.
5. Turn off the computer.
This is the scary bit. Minimize the distractions and go through your keyword lists to figure out which keywords stand out as the most relevant to different pages on the site. Don’t worry if you can’t do this all at once, take your time and think about it over a couple days.
6. Layer on data.
Once you’ve taken time away from the computer, come back to the keyword research tools and layer on top data to figure out which keywords have the best search demand, are the most relevant, and that are relatively easy to rank for. There’s hundreds of articles online for how to do this step (many of which are excellent), and each person has a slightly different way they like to use keyword data to find opportunities.
7. Don’t be afraid to revisit your keywords.
All the work up front and it may turn out that you were wrong. Be willing to track your keyword optimization efforts and the analytics data, and admit when you didn’t get it quite right. Keyword research and targeting is an art that incorporates data, not a hard science.
We can often get caught up in the latest tool or set of keyword data and forget sometimes that we’re targeting other people who are just looking to get their search done as quickly as possible. Make sure you think like a person when conducting keyword research, and not like a machine.