Search engines help would-be customers find your business by scanning your website for relevant keywords. But that doesn't mean you get to sit idly by: In fact, it's your job to make sure you use the right keywords on your website so your company comes up in people's search engine results.
The name for this process is search engine optimization, or SEO.
It sounds easy enough -- and it can be -- as long as you identify the right keywords to optimize your website.
While there is no one right answer to how you determine which keywords to use, there are keyword search strategies that can help you figure it out. At My SEO Sucks, we’ve learned that comprehensive keyword research is the backbone of every campaign. Here are four of my favorite methods. Try one, or all four.
1. Focus on your niche
Find out what interests your current audience, then go further. Look at your brand and the products or services you sell to identify some of the keywords your customers use to locate your company or its offerings. Search for the most common terms in your niche (or what you believe are the most common). Tools like Moz make it easy to research and find derivative keywords around these terms. You can also see which has the most traffic and how competitive each keyword is.
From there, consider the value of each one. Many business owners are fixated on one or two of the high-value keywords, whereas there could be 10 to 20 derivative ones that do more volume per month and are of a lower keyword difficulty. The latter gives you the opportunity to stand out from the pack.
Why play in the sandbox with your competitors when you can carve your own path?
2. Content gap analysis
Keeping an eye on the competition helps, too. Your rivals may have stumbled upon some keywords that work well for your target audience, so do your research. Compare what your competitors rank for, but you do not. In Ahrefs and other tools, it's possible to find keywords that rank your competitors in the top 10 but that your site currently doesn't rank for at all. Map out where your website stands now and the keywords it's missing. This is a type of content gap analysis.
The Search Engine Journal defines content-gap analysis as “the process of mapping out your customer’s primary questions, goals and concerns throughout their purchase journey and then measuring against your current content offerings for holes.” You can perform content-gap analysis on your website and its pages, but also look at your other content -- even pieces that aren't on your website.
This process can help ensure you are keeping up with your competitors and give you an opportunity to piggyback on those keywords. You might see a boost in your SEO ranking by adopting a few of those search words.
3. Financial return measurement
Next, make sure you understand converting keywords and build a content strategy around them, then analyze and adjust. Despite your best efforts, all your keywords won't perform equally well, but you won’t know how well they do perform if you aren’t analyzing their success. While you could look at the conversion rate for each keyword, and that information does matter, the bigger question isn’t which keywords generate the most traffic. You need to look at the value of each one.
Take time to understand how much of a return on investment (ROI) specific keywords provide. For instance, you can examine how much it costs for an ad featuring a specific keyword. If one keyword costs $0.90 and delivers 100 visitors while another costs $0.30 and delivers 500 visitors, the latter is the better value. In addition, examine what happens once those customers reach your site. Some keywords might attract lots of visitors but not as many leads, sales or subscribers as others. Google AdWords works best for this.
4. Upward keyword trends
Finally, stay ahead of trends in your keywords and your content. Nothing’s better than keeping in front of the pack by identifying upward-relevant keyword trends before your competitors do. “One of the key success factors in marketing is the ability of a marketer to seize a certain moment -- jumping on a trending item that will resonate with their audience, and repackaging it so it’s relevant to the reader,” explains Problogger. “If people are interested in your blog, they are interested in you, and what you’re interested in. If something is trending that you know they will love, it’s easy to capitalize on that for the benefit of your followers.”
In other words, trending topics get noticed. They attract attention, and they help your company appear relevant. However, you have to do more than read the headlines. You need to see what terms and subjects are trending and understand why it's happening, so your content makes sense with the subject. For instance, you could make a reference to “March Madness” or joke about brackets, but make sure you understand what March Madness is and why people are talking about it.
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