Ask the average business owner, and they’ll tell you the first step towards getting customers from Google or any other search engine is to start creating new content or adjusting your landing pages. They are usually eager to jump straight into the action in the hopes that it will lead to more qualified leads or sales.
For those of us who have worked on organic search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click advertising (PPC) campaigns, however, there is another step that has to come first. That step, of course, is keyword research. It involves looking at search patterns to see what customers want and is key to giving direction to your SEO and PPC campaigns.
To give you a sense of why keyword research is so important, and to help you to integrate it into your online marketing efforts, here are some things you should know…
Keyword Research is About Finding Buyers and Buying Intent
It’s easy to forget, but keywords and search rankings shouldn’t be the focal point of your search engine optimization and pay-per-click marketing campaigns. hey might be metrics you focus on, but they aren’t the point.
If that runs contrary to everything you’ve ever seen or heard about internet marketing, let us explain: when you’re picking keywords to add to page titles or run ads against (as examples), you don’t necessarily care about the search terms themselves. Instead, you are thinking about the actual real-life searchers behind them.
That’s important because good search marketing is all about identifying the likeliest buyers for your products and services and then giving them the best offer you can to win their business. Looking at the search terms customers prefer gives you an indirect idea of who they are and what they want. It’s much better if you think in terms of demographics or customer needs first and then translate those into search terms later.
A lot of business owners and marketers get this backward. They will select a group of search terms to focus on with the assumption that those phrases correspond to buying intent. If that’s not the case, they can easily end up wasting a great deal of time and money targeting searchers who don’t have an interest in what they are selling.
There is a big difference between someone who wants a piece of information and a searcher who is looking for an immediate solution to their problem. Be careful when selecting search terms for your online marketing campaigns because curiosity doesn’t always translate into buying intent.
The Best Keywords to Target Aren’t Always the Most Popular Ones
This point could be considered a corollary to the first one. Just because a search term is popular doesn’t make it a good one to target with your ads or organic SEO campaigns. In fact, you might want to avoid certain search phrases that get a great deal of traffic.
This runs counter to a lot of the advice you would read from many SEO and PPC experts. But, it just comes down to good business.
Many of the most heavily-search terms on Google have to do with general queries. They come from people who want simple answers to basic questions. For a simple example of how this works, consider that the majority of people who search a term like “baseball” probably aren’t looking to buy gloves, tickets, or memorabilia. Instead, a lot of them might be searching for current scores, articles about the history of the game, or even tickets for their local team.
The same thing likely happens in your industry, where searchers may enter general strings that don’t necessarily correspond to any particular business, product, or service. It can be tempting, when you see all the traffic being generated by these terms, to target them.
However, you’ll run into three big problems.
The first is that general search terms that get a lot of traffic also tend to attract a lot of competition. So, to rank highly on Google, it’s going to take a great deal of work (and possibly a healthy investment of money, too). There are a lot of competitors to climb over so your SEO campaigns are going to develop slowly and your PPC ads will be incredibly expensive.
Assuming you’re successful, though, you’ll run into the second problem: many of the people searching for that term aren’t serious buyers. That means the more effective your SEO and PPC campaigns are, the more likely you are to generate inquiries that aren’t coming from people who want to buy from you. Instead, you’re going to see an influx of basic questions that don’t relate directly to your products and services. That’s a big waste of time, not to mention money.
And finally, targeting general keywords or short keyword-phrases most likely will bring traffic with a high probability of not finding what they are looking for, resulting in a higher bounce rate for your website. Sites with high bounce rates for general keywords result in lower rankings. Learn about bounce rates here.
This is why you want to look for niche keywords that suggest an immediate need or buying intent, particularly when you’re in the beginning stages of your SEO and PPC campaigns. It’s nice to target heavily-searched terms and get a lot of traffic, but it’s not always a profitable strategy.
It’s a Good Idea to Build Your Keyword Lists and Landing Pages Together
Going back to something we noted a moment ago when you identify a specific keyword or search term your customers might use, you are also figuring out something about the person behind that search. What they’ve typed into Google reveals a little bit about what needs they have or the problem that’s occupying their mind at the moment.
When you know that, you can build landing pages that address the questions and concerns weighing most heavily on them. You could make educated guesses about what other ideas or resources they have already seen. You might even be able to make some assumptions about their budgets or buying criteria.
These insights can help you to build stronger landing pages that turn visitors into leads or buyers. When you can make educated guesses about the potential customers who will be coming to your website and the kinds of conversations they have going on in their minds, you have a strong edge when it comes to winning their business. You can speak directly to them in a way most of your competitors won’t.
A lot of marketers overlook these details and simply construct ads and landing pages that correspond to the search terms they are targeting – in most cases, repeating them again and again. That might help them rank on Google, but it isn’t a good way to engage real-life buyers.
You should never create a list of targeted search terms, ads, or landing pages without thinking about the bigger context of what customers want from you. They are clicking through to your website because they have something pressing on their minds. Make sure your content reflects that.
Your List of Targeted Keywords Should Change With Time and Experience
Ideally, your targeted list of keywords and search terms would begin with a healthy brainstorming session and then some intensive work (possibly by your web designer) on previous search patterns. No matter how great your initial list is, though, it should keep changing and evolving.
There are many reasons you can’t stay attached to the same keywords and search terms forever. For one thing, industry buzzwords are always shifting. What your buyers are looking for today might not match the things they are searching for tomorrow. New brand names could come along, and different trends could take hold. All of those will cause searchers to use different strings, and your strategy needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Likewise, the way people search is always evolving as well. A few years ago, voice searches weren’t that common. Now, almost everyone speaks to their phone or digital assistant in complete sentences. As these shifts have taken place, savvy marketers have had to adjust.
The biggest reason to keep updating your search strategy, though, has to do with your results. No matter how well-thought out your plans are, you will likely eventually run into a situation where you discover that some of the terms or phrases you’re targeting aren’t as profitable or effective as others. Some segments of the market will respond to you and others will not. As a result, adding new keywords to the mix – or even taking some away – can help you be more efficient over time.
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About Glenn Brooks
Glenn Brooks is the founder of WebWize, Inc. WebWize has provided web design, development, hosting, SEO and email services since 1994. Glenn graduated from SWTSU with a degree in Commercial Art and worked in the advertising, marketing, and printing industries for 18 years before starting WebWize.