A Simple Guide to Entry-level Keyword Research

At the very foundation of all SEO is your selection of words and phrases to target. Keyword research is vital in determining the ideal terms to try to rank on which will expose your site to the people looking for your specific product or service.

No matter how well your website ranks in search engines, if it’s not targetting the correct terms for your business – it won’t do much for you, and if you’re using pay per click advertising – it can cost you big!

There are massively varying degrees of keyword research, from simply looking at what your competition is targeting, to analyzing piles of data and hundreds of thousands of search queries to find exactly what is being searched, and by who (basically, the type of keyword research we do here at Top Draw).

The more time you spend on keyword research, and the more robust your data is, the more confident you can be in your optimization efforts. You also increase the chance of finding opportunities your competitors have neglected, which is a win waiting to happen. But every search campaign has to start somewhere, and before you invest hundreds of hours, or thousands of dollars, into your keyword research I recommend the following simple process.

Entry-level Keyword Research

1. Choose 5-10 words or phrases you think describe your business or website.

2. Visit the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.

This tool uses data from Google’s ad network to determine search frequency and competition, providing a general assessment for term popularity and existing competitors.

Another useful Google-based tool you can use is Google Trends. Trends will help you to guage the value of one phrase over another. This is especially useful for isolating search volumes from specific locations.

3. Plug in your selected phrases, one per line, to the “word or phrase” box.

If your terms are not directly related to eachother, it may make more sense to separate these and perform additional searches (Ex. pots, pans & cookware might go together where pots, spatulas & cooking oil might be separate). Also consider – using specifications like cities and countries.

4. Enter the captcha words and press Search.

You will be served with several variations of your terms which can be sorted by clicking Global or Local monthly searches.

Keep an eye out for the variants on how you refer to your products/services, often the people searching use very different, and often surprising ways of looking for things!

5. Review your results.

When you see a highly searched term (though perhaps not the highest searched, if you’re in a competitive market), do a search for that exact term in Google to take a look at what you’re up against!

Visit the 1st and 2nd result in the SERP and then maybe the 5th and 10th, getting a good sample of the sites that rank for the term on the first page.

6. Check your competition.

Assessing competition is rather complex. For our purposes we are going to use Page Rank, but it is very important to note that Page Rank doesn’t even come into consideration at pro-level SEO. Use of it here is purely for dirt-simple do-it-yourself purposes!

I repeat; do not interpret PR as something to aim for. This is only for new users to get a very rudimentary analysis.

I repeat… Ok, I won’t. I think you get the point.

Page rank is a very rough estimate of how strong a given page is in Google’s eyes, giving a score to each page out of 10 (10 being the highest). It’s by no means a reliable metric, but if two pages target the same term, and one has a PR of 6 and he other a PR of 2, the former is likely to win the higher ranking.

A few ways of checking PR for a page are by installing an SEO plugin in your web browser (I like SEO Site Tools for Chrome), or by simply visiting an online PR checker.

Keep in mind, these tools provide you with rough estimates only, and PR is not nearly the only factor considered in the rankings. The purpose of this step is simply to get a quick lay of the land.

7. Rinse and repeat!

After going through these steps a few times, you will begin to see a general but useful overview of the highest searched terms and the level of competition if you choose to target them.

The goal is to assess what terms, of those most relevant to you, have the largest volume of people searching for them – with the least amount of competition in the rankings. If you find pages with very low page rank on the first page for a highly searched and relevant term, great! You may very well be able to simply create a page targeting that term (by using it in the copy and using it in the title tag) and get good rankings for that page within a few weeks, even days!

So that’s keyword research?

This process is not a substitute for serious data mining and keyword research, but it is a quick and easy way to get the basic scoop and evaluate the search landscape for your business. It should be sufficient to at least get a few ideas for phrases you hadn’t considered  and to potentially reveal some low hanging fruit!

If you’d like to perform significantly more in-depth keyword research, drop us a line! We can take a look at all the search queries performed in the last year surrounding your market and show you hundreds, or even thousands, of the phrases people are using to seek out your products or services online right now!

Thanks for reading!

– Nick Pierno, Top Draw Search Analyst — Follow me on Twitter: @nickpierno