Keywords are everything to a business. For those starting out, they may seem miniscule when compared to things like lead generation, or social media follows, but… there’s none of that if no one even knows you exist.
If you want your SEO to soar, and your digital marketing campaigns to make a difference, you ensure you select the best possible keywords for your business.
And to do that, you need to use some helpful tools, and implement some smart tricks of the trade. It’s how you separate yourself from the amateur keyword pack.
This guide will help you do just that. It’s a one-stop shop for all things keyword research, so if you’ve been looking for a way to improve your numbers, you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s get started.
How to Use Google Keyword Planner
Even if you’ve been using Google Keyword Planner, chances are you’ve been doing it all wrong. This whole time!
Here’s what you’re probably doing…
Coming up with keywords you think work…
Plugging them into the planner…
And then choosing one based on intuition.
But here’s what you should be doing…
Use niche topics to start your keyword research. Think list form.
Analyze your buyer personas.
Select three different types of keywords: head, body, and long tail.
Then use Google Keyword Planner to find related words and develop a plan.
Here’s what I mean: GKP isn’t meant to be used as a way to come up with new keyword ideas. It’s designed to show you related words. Closely related, as a matter of fact. Type in any word right now, and you’ll get a list of results with that same word in it. It could even be “football” and you’d get results like “football games” and “football rules.”
This doesn’t amount to stellar keyword ideas.
So, instead, follow this simple process. It’s a little more time-consuming, but you’ll only have to do it once. And you’ll have built a solid foundation in the process, which is always a wise move.
#1 Niche Topics
Think about what your average customer is interested in. Say you sell clothing… Think about the type. Maybe it’s very California, laid back, minimalistic in style? What would someone dressed in this manner be interested in?
Someone interested in buying laid back, yet put together CA clothing would probably search for:
Living the California lifestyle
How to dress for events without sacrificing your CA style
How to achieve a very laid back, California aesthetic
Tricks to making your home feel more California minimal
In other words, you may think that you’re selling clothing, but in reality, you’re selling a part of a bigger picture. Your customers want to look and feel a certain way, because they want that to project into everything they do and touch. They want to live the part, not just look it.
#2 Buyer Personas
Speaking of your customers, you probably (hopefully) created buyer personas when you were first starting your business. These buyer personas were the ticket to figuring out what to sell. Maybe you determined that you are very creative and artsy, so you wanted to sell handmade local goods in your very own giftshop.
Who would buy from here?
Well, perhaps tourists coming in from all over the world. People looking for locally-made goods to take home for family and friends. Or even locals from the area with long distance family and friends. They may want to send off little local gifts from the area, especially if they’re not from the area originally.
That’s a start. But what would they be like?
Many different takes here. Maybe they’re in their 20’s or 30’s primarily, because it’s a hip part of town. The area itself is known for being filled with people who take pride in the local art scene, so you know they would pay top dollar to support a local artist.
And that’s not even touching on demographics, really. Consider the price of real estate and rent in the area. Consider what other stores are nearby. What do the advertisements and fliers outside say about where you’re located?
Only by having a very clear, detailed definition of your target audience, will you know which niche topics truly fit.
Forums are great first-person insights on opinions, tastes, beliefs, and more. People use them to share insight, ask questions, post some newfound knowledge, you name it. That means it’s a goldmine of information.
Find the right forums, and you may find a lot of insider knowledge you didn’t know you needed. To do this, plug in your broad keyword, and the word forum (e.g. “California style” + “forums”).
And use variations. Forums, forum, board. Even “California Style Forum”, without the plus sign in the middle.
Next, browse threads. Where would your audience likely hang out? Maybe under the ones titled:
#4 Three Types of Keywords
Once you have a list of ideas, you have a lot of information to draw from. You’ll need three different types of keywords.
Single-word keywords with high popularity, and therefore, competition. These don’t convert well by themselves.
2-3 word phrases that are decently searched for, roughly 2,000 searches per month. They’re more specific than the broad “head” keywords.
4+ word phrases that are very specific to your niche/industry/audience. The words that make up these phrases don’t get high search volume, but when added together, they get a ton of attention.
But… where to find them?
“Searches Related To,” located on the very bottom of any relevant Google search result page.
Answer the Public, because if you type in a broad, yet relevant keyword into it, you get questions people tend to ask about the topic.
Soovle.com, where you can mine these keywords.
Forums and boards, as previously discussed.
Quora, because you see people’s relevant questions, much like with Answer the Public.\\
GKP gives you value based on the level of quality you put into it. Lucky for you, if you followed the last four steps, you’re going to get some top results.
The Enter Words should describe your business. Think “weight loss” or “content marketing.” This is the Head. Next, the Phrases is where you add in your Body keywords. Finally, add in a URL related to your business, if you use Google Ads.
The results will give you metrics and forecasts for your keywords. This, of course, is without typing in long tail keywords. So, consider this a hyper-targeted, researched keyword list. A combination of GKP’s results, long tail keywords, and even filters such as location, will provide you a better picture of what you have to work with.
In other words, GKP isn’t the end-all keyword solution most entrepreneurs use it as. It’s a research tool. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to use every possible tool at your disposal to gather information, insight, and ideas.
Imagine for a second that you work retail. You are organizing t-shirts on a shelf, and greeting customers coming in the door, letting them know about sales and promotions going on.
Well, two customers come in around the same time, so you talk to one of them first. The person seems… uninterested, to say the least. He nods slowly, but continues looking at the items on display, and doesn’t ask any questions. When you ask him if you can help him find anything, he say he’s “just browsing for now.”
So, naturally, you walk up to the other customer and begin talking about the current promotions. You ask if you can help her find anything, and she looks at you and says “Actually, yes!” So, the next five minutes are taken up explaining what it is you have in the store that’s relevant to her, and you point out that the sale works on the item.
Notice, the clear difference here. One customer was there to browse, out of curiosity perhaps, and didn’t bother to even really look at you while you were talking. He kept browsing, and didn’t have anything specific in mind. But on the other hand, the other customer had something she was looking for already, and when she heard about the sales, she had even more incentive to buy it.
The difference wasn’t in communication, however. It was in commercial intent.
And the same applies to keywords. If you settle for keywords that up your search volume, you’ll have plenty of organic traffic thrown your way, but you won’t make much money because you ignored commercial intent.
This happens when your keywords are informational. Anything that focuses too much on informational searches will be difficult to convert into paying customers, because they’re used to getting free information without ever spending a dime.
So, let’s learn a little about commercial intent. There are four categories:
Buy Now - Buy, Discount, Coupon, Deal, Shipping.
Product - Review, Best, Top 10, Affordable, Comparison, or even specific brand and product names.
Tire Kicker - Free, download, torrent.
Informational - How to, Best way to, Ways to, I need to.
Usually, these keywords reflect buyer intent well, but not always. That means you could be putting all your eggs in one basket, using keywords with buyer intent in mind, only to convert a few cents per visitor.
The good news is that you can get some insight on the monetary value of a keyword before you use it. Using suggested bid in Google Ads, you can get an idea of how much people are actually spending on these keywords. If someone is paying $12 per click, then that traffic must be turning quite a profit.
Now, does that mean you have to spend a ton of money per click in order to make a decent revenue from your website traffic? In some cases, yes. But that’s not always the case either. As with anything in life, there are exceptions to the rule.
In fact, you may be surprised to know that you can find keywords that have amazing search volume, a good promise of monetary value, and little to no competition at all. We’ll touch more on this coming up though.
For now, how do you get a sense on the bids?
Login to your Google Ads account and go to Keyword Planner.
Next, click on the “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category,” option.
Enter a single keyword, or list of them, into the field to get ideas.
Notice in the results, you’ll see a suggested bid on the far right of the table.
Some will have high competition, with $12+ in suggested bids. Other results will have low competition, and cost you roughly $1.
There’s something else to notice here: depending on the keywords, some are worth the investment, but others aren’t. For example, keywords like “website hosting” are not worth the money. Anyone typing that in is early in the buying cycle. And remember, anything too focused on informational value will be difficult to convert.
We lightly touched on keyword competition in the last section. Competition is comparative to monetary value, meaning the higher the competition is for a word, the more you’ll have to pay per click.
That means if you check out the competition on Google’s first page, and see a much of big brand results, you may want to move onto other keyword ideas. That’s very difficult to compete with unless you’re also a big brand, with the large staff numbers, long-standing reputation, and experts running all of your marketing.
The good news is that you can find rank-worthy keywords that have little to no competition. And that translates to requiring less content, links, and marketing to claim a number one spot on the list of Google search results. Putting in less effort, for the best reward.
Why work harder, when you can work smarter, right?
Now, before we go on, let me just point something out really quickly here: yes, it’s smart. It’s smart, requiring less content to rank top. But just because that’s something you can certainly do, it doesn’t always mean you should.
We know that blogs flourish when there’s regular content being published, perhaps 1-2 times per week. We know that high-value content is in-depth, and teaches people something actionable. And we also know that that kind of content just doesn’t come from 300-word posts.
Translation: if you’re going to go for less content, make sure that content meets the mark. You can’t sacrifice quality when you don’t even have quantity in your favor anymore. When you have a blend of both, however, you can grow your blog, you can help more people in the form of actionable information, and you can still rank at the top.
When competition comes along, nipping at your heels, as it always does eventually, you’ll be much more prepared if you have an array of content under your belt. It’s stiffer competition, giving you a fighting chance. Otherwise, you’re left at the mercy of their content creation team, and how often they decide to publish. After all, Google loves busy blogs that regularly publish new content.
If you can’t compete due to lack of copywriting knowledge, or if you don’t feel you have the time, feel free to outsource work to freelance writers. If you’re working with
But, I digress. Let’s see how you can select valuable keywords without blowing through your entire advertising budget.
Click into this page and download the free MozBar, which allows you to conduct your SEO research on the go. That includes custom searches by engine, country, region, etc. It shows you metrics, highlights the words on the pages, and even has pay overlay for markups.
Once you’re done activating it, you should start to see something like this in search result pages.
Weigh the PA Score
Now, contrary to popular belief, Google doesn’t rank websites, per say. It ranks the authority of a page. That’s the number on the far left of the MozBar, shown by a seafoam green bar. It’s normal for most medium or high volume keywords to have some high-PA results on the first page of search results.
But what you want to watch out for is those low-PA pages. They are perfect to beat with a very nicely designed, on brand, quality content-filled webpage. Even a landing page, if you so choose. If you’re seeing many of the results have low-PA pages, you could go ahead and use that keyword. It’s perfect, without any stiff competition.
Weigh the DA Score
The DA score is all about domain authority, which is one of the major factors that Google considers when ranking a page. Think of pages like Etsy, or Amazon. They have high domain authority, because they’re popular names. Google knows this, and ranks them accordingly.
That means that although a lot of the pages within these websites are ranking due to authority, and top content, everything from that domain gets a boost just for being on an authoritative domain.
Hence, this is displayed by the blue on the MozBar. The higher that number is, the higher the authority, amounting to some pretty stiff competition.
If both the PA and DA scores are low, it means you can easily rank for that keyword. But otherwise, you may want to consider other keyword ideas from your list.
Why Not Compete?
If you’re wondering why you can’t simply compete with big brands, you’re in for a world of explanation. The list of reasons not to is seemingly ever-expanding.
Here are some reasons:
Big brands have a whole department full of people dedicated to marketing, content creation, and advertising, making them fierce competition. One look at their Facebook Ads budget alone should tell you a lot, let alone their PR tactics.
These brands have big budgets, so they can afford to hire on SEO experts who know how to detrone you overnight, so to speak.
Because of their numbers, they can put out more content regularly than your average small to mid-sized business.
More eyeballs on the page, more proofreading steps prior to publication ensures that all content being published is as polished as can be reasonably expected. This lead to highly-scrutinized, highly-valuable content that people eat up.
Now, all of this doesn’t mean you should just give up. After all, if we all quit when the odds were against us, none of us would be in business right now. The spirit of entrepreneurship was built with these types of situations in mind.
What this does mean, however, is that even if you do rank pretty high up there, you’ll still rank after the bigger names, just because of how Google prioritizes those big box names over smaller businesses. It’s inevitable.
That being said, you can still rank at the top of all smaller, or even mid-sized business results. Right after the big names. And that’s pretty good, to be essentially paired with them, following close behind, only hindered by Google’s ranking protocols.
There’s an element of charm to this as well. For those living on the west coast, for instance, we know that local shops rank pretty high in popularity versus the east coast, where everything small time goes to die.
West coast has shops no one else in the country has heard of, hole-in-the-wall locales that are passed down the family line, and remain in existence with only one location in the world. And people here shop at those places. They raise their children to shop there too. These stores stay in business because they have products and a sentimental value, that no big box store can compare to.
And depending on your location, you can use that to your advantage.
Maybe you sell jewelry and live in Arizona. Maybe you run a mom and pop donut shop and live somewhere in Washington. Or maybe you specialize in family style food, and have a little shop somewhere in the south. Use that to your advantage. Not only are you a direct part of the culture, of the community, you’re also offering something that no big named store can compare to.
And as long as you celebrate that, you can earn that spot right below the big box stores on Google’s search result page. You could even surpass them, if you incorporate location into your keywords.
Think outside the box, and really consider what you’re offering, to who, and where. What makes you unique?
Oh, and if you want an extra edge, and insider knowledge to really compete seriously, try hiring a marketing consultant. They work with big and small brands alike, and can show you the ropes, regardless of your experience level.
Once you’ve dwindled down that extensive list of keywords, and selected the best options for your business, it’s time to turn them into something really special.
But it’s not as simple as it sounds. Many entrepreneurs make three mistakes at this point:
They assume they can handle it all by themselves, and begin publishing mediocre content stuffed to the brim with keywords.
They outsource their content, but instruct the writers to stuff the content with keywords, so much so that it all becomes a hassle to read.
Or they do everything right up until they begin relying on outdated SEO tactics.
Consider these the most common, yet most avoidable mistakes you could ever make in regards to SEO. Don’t fall into these traps, and you’ll be just fine.
Let’s dive into some of the tactics you can implement to make your webpages shine.
This convers a few elements at a time. When we talk about optimization, we’re talking search intent, speed, and images.
For instance, with search intent, we are considering what people want to see when they type in your specific keywords. So, go ahead and type those in again and really analyze the results. What do you see?
Maybe your keywords are related to snowboarding, so you’re seeing a lot results about local snowboarding in your area, maybe some snowboarding gear to shop for online, etc. Nothing educational though.
What does this tell you? It should alarm you to the fact that people typing in your keywords aren’t really looking to learn anything about snowboarding. They’re probably expert, or at least fairly decent snowboarders who know their way around a slope.
No, instead, they’re looking for equipment and places to go snowboarding. That means you should be spending your time and energy on product pages, descriptions, reviews, videos and images. You should also ensure your blog takes on a very “ranking” mentality, regularly posting about products you offer, and ranking them based on common characteristics.
Now when it comes to speed, we’re talking about website speed. For every second that goes by, your bounce rate skyrockets. It’s not an exaggeration either, as its been proven that a website that takes no more than 3 seconds to load has a 32% bounce rate. If it’s 5 seconds, it goes up by 90%.
This means you need to optimize everything, including image sizes, so that your webpages load in no more than 3 seconds, ideally.
Speaking of images, feel free to use alt tags and to clearly label images. It may seem pointless, but when you consider that there are millions of people out there with a disability who use things like screen readers to browse the internet, it starts to make sense.
No, seriously, remember when I said you can’t get depth, or value, from 300-word content? That’s true, and you should steer clear of it as much as you can.
People don’t get any real value from this content, and so it doesn’t set you up for industry leadership. If anything, it tells people you know very little, and it makes them not want to come back to your blog.
And if Google notices that your blog isn’t particularly popular or anything, it will let you know you need to fix it by giving you a rank you really don’t want.
That means you should be aiming for blog posts that are over 1,500 words. Most people are either lazy, or lack the time to write this type of content on a regular basis. That means you’re only really competing with people who are outsourcing their content to freelancers.
Sure, competition is fierce when you’re up against professionals, but it’s better odds than competing with everyone while donning a very short, very uninspirational 400-word blog post. It’s like going into battle against a dragon, armed with a tiny dagger.
Google measures short clicks and long ones. Short involves a high bounce rate from page to page, and then back to search results. It tells Google there’s not of value to be had. Long clicks means you spend a lot of time on a page, because you find it provides what you want and need.
If you notice a lot of short clicks pay attention to where they’re coming from. Really dig through those metrics. Find the culprit pages, and you’ll know what to reassess, design, and write.
The good news is that as long as you know who you are as a brand, you have what it takes to figure out ideal keywords. Think about your audience, what you’re offering them, and why. Having a full picture of what it is you’re doing gives you a clue as to which direction to take your keywords in.
It gives you a point of origin, so when it’s time to research keywords using tools of the trade, you’re not going in blind.
But remember, if you’re still unsure about any of this, or better yet, if you feel like you lack the time to dedicate to this, there’s always the option of hiring a consultant to take a look at things for you. They are professionals, trained to help brands large and small setup for success.
So, which of these tips and tricks caught your attention the most, and why?
Don’t be afraid to let me know in the comments section below, I love hearing from you all!