A beginner’s guide to choosing keywords for your website’s SEO strategy
Get started identifying high-functioning keywords to boost your search ranking and the number of visitors to your website.
February 27 · 8 min read
When you have a stunning new website but you don’t yet have loads of visitors, it’s time to look at your keyword strategy. Finding new keywords to complement your site’s SEO is a process that’s certainly worth your time. Lucky for you, this is an area of SEO that yields a lot of rewards once you put in the required effort.
At B12, we create user-friendly websites that don’t require heavy amounts of input. With our humans + machine model, each B12 website benefits from web experts and metrics reporting that continuously monitor performance. B12’s SEO plan can assess and analyze untapped keywords that will likely work well for you. Should you choose to start identifying high-functioning keywords yourself, here are some of our tips.
Get inside your customers’ minds
Getting inside your customers’ minds doesn’t have to involve extensive amounts of market research. Instead, you can use your knowledge of your business and information that’s already out there to generate an idea of how they’ll try to find you.
Think about the search terms your customers may use
The first step to getting inside your customers’ minds is to consider the search terms they’ll use when looking for you. For example, if you’re a criminal defense lawyer in Sacramento, they may search for “criminal defense lawyer Sacramento”.
Don’t let your thought processes end there, though. Your customer may want to look for the best criminal defense lawyer in their region. Or, they may want to use search terms such as “criminal defense lawyer near me.” Taking a little time to consider what your customers will search for and the variants that come with it is an excellent starting point for finding useful keywords.
Use tools that reveal what your customer want
When you enter certain search terms into Google, scrolling to the bottom of the results page will reveal what else people search for. These results can provide long-tail keywords for you to prioritize. As long-tail keywords tend to have less competition, you may find they’re useful for your short-term SEO strategy.
Careful, choosing the wrong keywords means you won’t rank for either. If you look at the search results for both “hiring writers” and “writers for hire”, you’ll find that both sets of search results are optimized for one keyword, or the other, not both. This means you need two pages of content to rank for both keywords. Learn more about choosing the right keywords here.
Consider customer actions
Getting inside your customers’ minds is an excellent start when it comes to finding keywords for SEO. But if you’re going to strike a seriously successful approach, you’ll need to consider what your customers’ actions will be.
Some of the actions you might want to consider include:
- Making a purchase. If this is the case, your customer may use search phrases such as “buy ‘product’ online.”
- Learning more about a business. If you work in an industry where your business could have a significant impact, such as medicine, your customer might be conducting research before they make a decision.
- Booking an appointment. If you offer services that require appointments, consider the terms your customer would use if they wanted to get straight to that point.
- Visiting your store or office. If there’s a chance your customer might want to visit you, localizing your keywords becomes crucial.
Understanding the actions your customers and clients might take will also help you decide where to use certain keywords. For example, if you’re a personal trainer who also sells fitness guides, you might want to try the following actions:
- Using your buying keywords on product pages
- Using your booking keywords on service description and contact pages
- Using keywords that provide more information about who you are and what you do on service pages and your about page
- Using localized keywords almost everywhere
Creating a successful approach often requires a little trial and error. At B12, our web experts and metrics reporting make sure your iterations result in a solid customer-reaching plan, without too much effort on your part.
Take a peek at your competitors’ keywords
Unless you work in an extremely niche industry, you’ll probably have some competitors that you can use for inspiration. If you’re competing against businesses in a locality, take a look at their websites. Reading through their content will give you an idea of which keywords they’re targeting. Looking through several competitor websites and seeing repeated trends may indicate that they’re the keywords you want to target too. Alternatively, if you’re trying to reach a broader audience, you can look at the sites of key players in your industry and see what they do.
Regardless of which tactic you use, don’t blindly dive into using a keyword just because it’s a regular feature on competitor websites. You need to determine whether people search for that keyword on a regular enough basis for you to justify using it throughout your content. Google’s keyword search tools offer a rough insight into the number of times someone searches for a keyword, but it isn’t always possible to narrow it down to a precise locale.
Create a master list of keywords
Once you’ve assessed what your customer may search for when trying to get to your site and have identified your competitors’ target terms, it’s time to create a list. Your list should start with short keywords that could act as the cornerstone of your content. In most cases, a lot of people will be trying to rank for these keywords, which means they’ll form part of your long-term SEO strategy. Convincing Google to rank you for them may take a few months, but using a consistent effort will help you reach your goals in time.
Let’s say you’re running a beauty store. Your short keywords may be beauty store, makeup store, or cosmetics store. From there, you need to focus on long keywords that are easier to target. These keywords are often slightly more conversational, but they have less competition so you may find that your site ranks faster when you prioritize them.
One useful tool for generating long keywords comes from Moz. Entering your short keywords into the tool will give you ideas for longer ones. For example, “beauty store in San Diego.” Use this tool to create a master list of short and long keywords that you can either choose to include on your site or not.
Using the Moz tool also gives you a chance to discover the percentage of traffic that comes from organic searches, which will give you a great insight into whether it’s worth making certain search terms a priority. The same tool also tells you how difficult the keywords are to target. Using both figures, you can turn to your master list and cut out the ones that won’t prove effective.
Using a combination of difficult-to-target and easy-to-target keywords
There’s no set formula for balancing your SEO efforts between difficult- and easy-to-target keywords. But it’s possibly worth arguing that placing all your focus on challenging keywords might yield slow results. When there’s a lot of competition for certain words and phrases, you’ll need to spend a little while convincing Google and other major search engines that your site should rank highly for them. As far as non-organic traffic goes, you’ll also find that your PPC costs will skyrocket if you focus on challenging words only.
It’s okay (and definitely advisable) to use challenging terms. However, you need to provide some balance by picking some easier phrases. When there’s less competition you can rank higher faster and your PPC costs won’t be as high. If you have greater punching weight with certain keywords, creating content that helps you rank for them will generate rapid results.
At this stage, your master list of keywords might still seem too long to fit onto your site. That’s okay because whatever you don’t use now can be stored away for later. If some of your target words and phrases don’t generate the results you want, you’ll have a backup plan.
Experimenting with keywords to refine your approach
When your time is limited and you don’t want to waste it on keywords that don’t work, experimentation and ongoing analysis are both important. There’s no way of predicting exactly how well your keywords will work but you can assess their performance over time to focus on the ones that do well for your business.
If you don’t have lots of time to dedicate to this process, consider signing up for our monthly SEO plan. In addition to assessing how well you rank for certain SEO terms, we can look at whether your targets are having the desired approach. For example, if you want certain SEO keywords to result in sales, we’ll tell you whether that’s happening or not.
Another way to approach this is to use Google Webmaster tools to determine how customers are arriving at your site. Google’s tools highlight which search terms are bringing customers toward you and how long they remain on your site once they get there.
If you find that a certain term results in visitors bouncing straight back off after one or two seconds, you could safely assume that it’s not the right keyword for you. Or, your other option is to reshape your content so that customers feel as though they’re arriving at where they need to be.
Again, B12 can help you with this process. We’ll identify what is working and move toward prioritizing something else if your current approach isn’t effective.
Finding a selection of SEO keywords for your site is easy when you have the right tools on hand. Sifting through them to find the ones that are relevant requires a little work, though. If you want to sharpen your approach to SEO, consider using our monthly SEO plan so our experts can handle it for you.