Keyword Research Basics: SEO

By Lauren Kade | Jun 21, 2011
More Articles by Lauren


So you’ve heard about SEO, you want to dive right in, but have no idea where to start?  Welcome to the world of keyword research!  It can be long and tedious (or hilarious when you read some of the keyword suggestions), but it is absolutely essential to starting or building out an SEO campaign.  Let’s get started.

Step 1: Gather a Base List

Open up a spreadsheet or write down every single thing you can think of about what you do.  What would people search for?  What are the different products or services you offer?  If you’re having trouble, go through your website.  Pick out industry terms, brand names of your products, more general terms, etc.  You don’t need every single term someone could possibly search for at this point, but make sure that you at least cover all the areas that you cover in your website.  Make sure you don’t leave anything out, even if there are services you don’t want to make your primary focus.

Step 2: Expand Your List

The Google Keyword Tool is your friend.  Use it!  I like to set up my base list in a spreadsheet, and then go through the list, entering one keyword at a time into the keyword tool.  Make sure you check [Exact] under match types on the left hand side to ensure that google doesn’t include the search traffic for other words or synonyms.  If the terms are exact match, the search traffic it shows for a specific keyword is the traffic for that exact phrase, no more, no less.

When you enter a keyword into the keyword tool, it will spit out several keyword suggestions that all (more or less) relate to the keyword you entered.  Scan through the list and check the box next to keywords that are relevant to your products or services.  When you’re finished going through the list, click “download selected” and it will download the keywords and their search traffic numbers.  Now enter the second keyword from your base list, and so on.

If you find the keywords the tool finds are too broad or irrelevant, check the box “only show ideas closely related to my search terms” and it will give you less options, but keywords that are more relevant.

Step 3: Organize

You should now have a pretty substantial list of keywords!  Now you just need to organize them.  Split up the keywords first by common sense – products or types of services, or different terminologies, whatever makes the most sense to you.  Then sort by traffic numbers so you can easily spot the highest searched terms.  Do any of the top keyword phrases have terms in common?  Those longer tail keywords with several secondary phrases included are the keywords you want to track and optimize for.  For example, if you optimize for the phrase “seo search engine optimization keywords,” the phrase also includes the keywords “seo search engine optimization,” “seo,” “search engine optimization keywords,” and “search engine optimization.”  Optimizing for longer tail keywords will make your SEO campaign more effective.

Special Notes

Search Traffic

Keep in mind that the search traffic numbers are by no means exact.  The numbers are more comparitive – to show you which keywords are very highly searched, or not searched very much.  So a search traffic number of zero could really mean that a handful of people are searching for that keyword each month.

Global vs. Local

When you download keywords from the keyword tool, it will give you both global and local search results.  What’s the difference?  Well global is what it sounds like, how many people search for that term within a one month time period all over the world.  Local search traffic generally depends on the location targeting you have set when you searched for the term.  If you leave it at the default, it will be set to English speakers in the United States.

Trying to start a PPC campaign?  Never fear – my Keyword Research Basics blog post for PPC is coming soon!

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