Strategy first. Keyword research tools later.
Website owners, regardless of what they’re trying to sell, have to understand that regular search behavior differs from their own. This means that users will often times be tempted to begin their online search with the description of their problem, instead of looking for its solution.
Let’s take this example, as I know it’s more than common among all users of the internet. Especially among those suffering from hypochondria, such as myself.
Joan is a 30 year old woman who woke up one morning and realized she had a black tiny round creature attached to the skin on the back of her neck. Since she doesn’t have any medical expertise, she goes online before finally driving to the hospital. She might be tempted to look for “black round thing that’s on my neck”, but since she knows that this search won’t get her anywhere, she’ll turn it into “black round insect on the skin”. If she’s really brave, she’ll click on Google Images and see a bucketload of scary photos, of people who have been bitten by various bugs. She’ll refine her search after realizing she’s suffering from a bug bite. She’ll look for “common skin parasites”, since she now knows that’s the name they go by. She’ll quickly find a short list (5 common skin parasites – How Stuff Works) and realize that she unfortunately is the carrier of a tick.
And even if the query wasn’t particularly useful for setting a diagnosis, because Joan still has to go to the hospital in order to get treatment for her issue, at least she got to find out what that bug was.
But let’s take a look at her two queries:
- black round insect on the skin
- common skin parasites
They’re really different from each other, aren’t they? The second one even suggests that Joan is some kind of a doctor.
I thought of this example to make you better understand that user behavior is sometimes truly difficult to predict or comprehend. Not only this, but it also changes continuously and the more info people come in contact with, the longer their queries become.
So how about long tail keywords? What are they, exactly?
If you sell cars, you want people to look for cars and reach your site. So will your preferred keyword be “cars”? NO.
I can only presume that you don’t sell a single type of car. Maybe you even offer new and used cars. How about Asian or European brands of cars? Do you sell those, too?
So ignore everything you’ve ever thought about keyword search and understand this: sometimes, long tail keywords are significantly more important than short ones. Because guess what? You’re not the only person in the world that sells cars. Your competitors could be on the market for decades, and thanks to great websites and to great content, they’ll always rank higher than you will, at least for the generic term ‘cars’.
What you could do, though, is set up a blog and start writing about the models you are selling. Perhaps make it popular with a set of posts about why they are so acclaimed. Forget the specs for a moment and focus on what people enjoy reading. Such as the history of Ford automobiles or maybe the famous cars of country singers. And don’t ever forget to mention a model you’re selling.
So if you want to write a viral post, instead of cars, use “famous cars of country singers”. People will visit your website, like it, check out the models you’re trading and if you’re really lucky, even make a purchase. If not, they’ll at least remember the name of your brand, because they read that nice article on your blog. And during a casual talk with a friend who wants to buy a car, they’ll suddenly realize they know about a website that sells these things.
Competition is everything. Even in keyword research.
Hey, I’m not saying you should copy every move of your competitors.
It would seriously not hurt if, once in a while, you wrote down the answers to the following questions:
- What are the most common search terms used by your competitors?
- How about their websites? How do they organize what they write? How about the way they describe their brand or their products?
- Do their slogans contain any words that don’t seem to have anything in common with their brand? Why do you think they use them?
- How often do they guest blog? If they do, make sure you read everything they’ve published on other websites and read their posts as if you were a machine, not a human being.
- Do they have a PR department? Is that visible from the frequency with which the brand comes up in publications?
- And lastly, what’s the public opinion on their services?
3 ways to understand the value of your keywords
- Estimate their relevance. Remember, the Google search term you’re trying to focus on should reflect your brand, your company values, and the services you’re marketing. However, targeting this excessively can easily lead to the deprecation of your content, so sometimes it’s healthy to aim at low-relevance terms, as long as they are somehow related to your services or your business.
- Bounce rate. A higher one will make you understand people are trying to discover something and, instead, they stumble upon something else.
- Conversion rate. The way you express your ideas about what you do is not only important for organic search, but also for defining a tone of voice that sets a bond between you and your customers.
7 tools that help you in discovering better search terms
We’ll wrap things up with a short list of keyword research tools that can turn a tedious research into a no-hassle task. Some of the following are completely free of charge, while others are complimentary for a limited amount of time. Check them out if you want to perform a free keyword research.
- Google Trends
- Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool
Thought this article was helpful? Check out another one we wrote on the topic: SEO tools for content marketers – Market analysis and keyword research.
*All images used in this article belong to The Commons by Flickr