July 21, 2016 by Diana Bocco

SEO & the Best Keyword Research Practices

Every optimization expert begins their SEO process by identifying the best keywords for every important page on the site. This part is known as keyword research.

SEO & the Best Keyword Research Practices

[guest post by Igor Kholkin]

The reason why getting this right is so important is because it is intended to match your relevant audience to your page. Remember that Google’s mission is to serve the most pertinent search results to its users. By selecting and optimizing for the right keywords, you are telling the search engine and its users what your site and its pages are about, creating the perfect match.

A few common mistakes made during keyword research:

  • Optimizing for keywords that don’t accurately reflect your on-page content will doom your SEO efforts from the very beginning. Search engines will interpret such a mismatch as woefully misguided at best and purposefully misleading at worst. Even if you somehow succeed at ranking well for a term that doesn’t match your page content, your visitors won’t be relevant. If you optimized for glossy paint but you only carry matte paint products, searchers will quickly leave your site after not finding their desired products.
  • Focusing on highly competitive terms is another common mistake. If your site is brand new or if your competitors’ sites have a lot of SEO value built up, you are paddling upstream while everyone else passes you by in a zippy motor boat. This usually happens when people forget to analyze the results page competition for the selected keyword.
  • Over-reliance on tools to help identify terms’ competitiveness. There are many keyword research tools on the market that grade the difficulty of trying to rank for any given query, but they are all automated and rely on their own proprietary scoring formulas. Careful manual review by a professional will show that these metrics may paint an incomplete picture of the opportunities available.

So how do you avoid these common pitfalls when it comes to selecting the best keywords for your site?


Best Keyword Research Practices

The best keyword research requires knowing your product, understanding your audience, and leveraging existing data. Below is a four-step plan to make sure you cover your bases when doing keyword research.

  1. Create a List of Head Terms. In this stage you should simply write down all the terms that describe your company and its products. Don’t overthink it. Feel free to use broad generic terms that naturally come to mind. You can even look at your competitor sites’ pages to see what terms they use to describe themselves. The goal here is to come up with a list of 20 to 30 terms that will serve as the base for more in-depth research.
  2. Research Related Terms. Once you generate your list of head terms, use them as a springboard to get more specific keyword ideas. The most common way to do this is to use Google’s Keyword Planner, which serves up ideas based on the core terms you feed it. Paste your list of head terms in the “Search for new keywords using a phrase” tab to see a wide variety of related terms. The great thing about this tool is that it is based on actual historical search data. Its suggestions also come with an estimate of how many times each query is searched for every month (its demand). Once you have the list of related terms, select the best terms that perfectly fit your page content.
  3. Check Keyword Relevance. After you identify your target terms, manually search for them on Google to see if the results page serves up pages similar to yours. Many search queries have multiple meanings. For example, search for “authentic italian pizza” and you’ll see results that include home recipes, local pizza joints, and a Wikipedia article on the history of pizza in Italy. This step is often overlooked by many people during their keyword research process, and it can lead to painful lessons. If there is any ambiguity in the query you are looking into, go back to the previous step and choose a different term instead.
  4. Check SERP Competition. Manually searching for each term also gives you a glimpse into the existing competition. This step is all about identifying if there is an opportunity or not for any given keyword. If you have a new site, you will not rank well for broad keywords that average thousands of monthly searches. People also mistakenly think that long-tail queries are the cure-all. Unfortunately these days there is stiff competition for those too. The best way to avoid this competition is to manually check to see who is ranking for those terms and go after the ones that aren’t dominated by big boys like Amazon and eBay.

Mindful keyword selection is a vital part of your SEO strategy. Make sure to follow these steps to get your campaign off on the right foot.

**About the Author: Igor Kholkin is a digital marketing expert in Los Angeles. His passion is tying together SEO, PPC, and social media into a cohesive strategy that drives companies’ growth online. You can follow him on Twitter or add him on LinkedIn.

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