You’re meeting someone you don’t know for the first time in a crowded public place. How do you find them? Any sort of description - blue shirt, brown hair, walks like Jay-Z - words and phrases that can help you narrow down who you’re looking for is massively important for finding them.
It’s the same with keywords. You’ll never be able to find what you’re looking for on the internet until you start asking a search engine for something specific - and knowing what those specific words are? That’s how you help your future customers find you.
Search Engine Optimization is the process of helping search engines like Google guide people to your website more easily. There are quite a few things that help SEO, including optimising design, speed, images, etc. But the real kicker for nailing SEO is understanding what keywords to use.
Once you identify what keywords you need, you can incorporate them more strategically into all of your content - product descriptions, URLs, meta details, blog posts, general page copy, image captions, Facebook posts, etc.
Why should you research keywords?
Keywords are the basis of SEO
Because so much of the internet is written content, and written content is the easiest for algorithms to pick up, one of the most core parts of search engine optimisation is the words you use when writing your content.
It is incredibly important to give SEO some serious time and thought, because ranking poorly in search results (not showing up in the first few spots when someone Googles) means very little traffic is coming your way. See how big of a drop-off there is?
Think more strategically
It can be really difficult to run your company’s online marketing without a strategy. Instead of just rolling with it, posting when inspiration hits and blogging whatever’s on your mind, doing some keyword research can help you test and make incremental progress. Think of it this way - even mapping out what keywords are important now, and regularly checking if they are still important every couple of weeks, will allow you to shift the way you write your content to stay ahead of the curve.
Your Keyword Glossary
Before we get too far into the weeds, here are a few terms and concepts to familiarise yourself with.
Short tail vs. Long tail
This is an industry term that basically just describes the spectrum of long-and-targeted vs. short-and-general. A short tail keyword would be “snacks” and a long tail keyword would be “organic non-GMO crisps”.
Search Volume / Average Monthly Searches
How many times people searched for a particular keyword in a month. Of course, you want to choose keywords that have high search volumes. Try being more specific by looking for AMS within a particular SEO location (or even within a country).
Organic vs. Sponsored Competition
Competitiveness refers to how many companies are using a keyword (as opposed to search volume which is how many users are looking for a keyword). The dream is to find keywords with high search volume and low competitiveness, but that’s nearly impossible. Organic competition is just all of the companies out there who are using a keyword in their content, while sponsored competitiveness (what comes up on Google Keyword Finder) refers to the companies that are paying to use ads on those keywords.
Keyword Clouds and Latent Semantic Indexing
Google has shifted toward semantics over keyword stuffing with their Hummingbird algorithm. That means they’re looking for the intent of the searcher, and their algorithm preferences high quality written content over just a bunch of “buy now car cars autos vehicle” strings.
In other words, Google not only looks to see if your website is meeting a bunch of keywords, but it’s checking that you’re also using synonyms and phrases that are often associated with those keywords. If you are, you’re likely writing about something actually relevant to the reader. If you aren’t, you’re likely just choosing top keywords and throwing them in.
Often people won’t know exactly what they’re looking for, and instead will form questions that could lead to products. For example, they might ask Google “How do I get better at adulting” when they need to find out more about registering for a dentist and opening a superannuation account. Keyword modifiers are the “how do I” and “where can I find” kinds of phrases that could change what keywords you’re looking for.
Keyword Research Methods
You know why it’s important to research keywords - so how do you start? Here are a few approaches.
1. You go first (free)
Start by brainstorming a list of keywords you expect would be associated with your product. Think about how many of those keywords pop up on your landing page and in your headings.
Next, map out some associated keywords and synonyms. Are they laced throughout your content? Pop some of those keywords into a site like ubersuggest, which gives you a list of commonly-searched keywords related to your own keywords, sorted alphabetically. It can be a really easy source of inspiration (as, too, can the R&B jams of Usher’s album Confessions).
2. Get keywords from users themselves (usually free)
There are lots of ways to brainstorm keywords that are actually being used by your customers, including reading customer support emails, reading product reviews, and dig through posts and comments on social media. You can also conduct customer surveys and focus groups if you’re ambitious.
3. See what your competitors are using (free)
This is of course one of the most straightforward ways to do research. See what your competitors are writing in their product descriptions and headings, and notice which keywords stand out.
4. Amazon search bar (free)
One of the advantages of starting with Amazon over Google is that the purchase intent is way higher. People go to Amazon to buy things, so the keywords they’re using are likely to have higher conversion rates. Do a simple search in the Amazon search bar and get some ideas.
Hack: Use the Keyword Tool Dominator to do up to three free searches that will scrape through Amazon for you.
5. Google Keyword Planner (paid)
Alright. You’re ready to get fancy and see lists. Built into Google Adwords is the ability to research the right keywords. If you’re paying for Google Ads, you should use their Dynamic Search Ads keyword planner, which shows you the volume of searches and the competitiveness of each keyword. It will also give you associated or secondary keywords which are often used in conjunction with the headline one.
Keyword planner has some cool other features, too. For example, you can put in your competitors’ URL and see what keywords people are using to get there.
Alternatively, there are paid keyword finder tools that return results that aren’t based on what keywords other companies are paying to use, such as Ahrefs, KWFinder or Keyword Explorer.
6. Those suggested entries at the bottom of a Google page (free)
Here’s an easy one - search for your keywords in Google, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and see what other related phrases are coming up. Bam. Keywords galore.
Elkfox is a Shopify Expert, meaning we help companies using Shopify e-commerce platforms do better. Better in the way they look, run, and sell. Get in touch to learn more.