I see a lot of websites that make the same mistake time and time again:
They ignore keyword research.
They have a product and/or service that they obviously want to sell, But their website does nothing to help them in their quest.
As a minimum, you need to tell the Search Engines what your page is about so once indexed they can serve it up to potential customers via the search results.
A big part of this process is done by on-page optimisation and as part of this optimisation process, you need to include certain keywords or phrases on your page so Google knows what it is about.
This brings me on to the topic of Keyword Research.
The real jewel of any website…
What is a Keyword? – A keyword is a word or group of words such as “Car Insurance Ireland”.
There are three main focus areas for keyword research that we will look at today and I’ll try and explain each one in detail without getting too technical.
When you build a site, you’ll want to target specific keywords and rank for them. This will bring you traffic from the search engines. The main Search engine we look at is Google because of their dominating market share.
As mentioned above there are three main areas that I use for keyword research. Using two out of the three is pointless and you will miss out on lots of additional search traffic and sales. Done correctly this is very effective and will give you the strongest chance to grab the top position in Google results.
1. SEARCH VOLUME
How many people search for a particular phrase? Of the three areas, Search Volume is the easiest to explain because it simply relates to the number of people searching for a particular phrase or service in a search engine bar in this instance it’s Car Insurance Ireland.
Traditionally keyword research looked like this:
high search volume = high traffic to your site if optimised properly
low search volume = low traffic to your site and a waste of time
But things have moved on dramatically over time. Today we tend to look more at search intent. By this, we mean the quality of the search term and the meaning behind it.
Would you rather have 100 people visit your site or 10 targeted customers looking for the exact service you are providing? The chances of converting the group of 10 are much higher than the larger group.
GOOGLE KEYWORD PLANNER
Google provides a free-of-charge tool to check search volume The Google Keyword Planner. You do however need to set up a Google Adwords account to get started.
You have four options when you log in. I tend to stick with options one and two.
From the keyword planner, you can select ‘Search for keyword and ad group ideas’ and enter your keyword ideas.
After you enter the keywords, select the ‘keyword ideas’ tab and you’ll have a nice long list of keywords to go through.
Rather than going through all keywords, I suggest setting up filters, which can be done by using the ‘Customise your search’ box on the left side of the screen.
Because we are targeting the Irish market the number of searches and keywords/phrases are limited so we have to create content that captures as many of these terms as possible throughout the website.
There are a set of guidelines that must be adhered to or you risk getting penalised by Google for over optimisation of your website. Webmasters used to stuff their pages with keywords and use the same words multiple times and ranked highly for these terms in the Google results, but a series of Algorithms later and this is no longer the case.
There are other tools that I use to dig down a few more levels but for basic research, Google works just fine.
Long-tail keywords are something that also must be looked at.
I gave a talk a few months ago in Dublin and the example I used was the ‘Car Insurance’ market.
The phrase ‘Car Insurance’ generates roughly 84,000 searches per month in Ireland.
It is probably one of the most competitive terms out there and not something you can target without spending a lot of money to get results.
Go after it in a different way though and you get the same results with regards to the amount of traffic you can generate for your website.
Use terms like:
Cheap Car Insurance for under 25’s
Car Insurance for Driver with 2 penalty points
Male driver under 21 Car insurance
While these terms come nowhere near 84,000 searches per month use enough of them strategically in your content and you will attract the right traffic (Traffic with commercial value).
You will also be able to use the Google search bar to help identify keywords and phrases that are popular in your target market. You may have noticed in the past when you start to type something into the search bar Google will prompt you with additional words to finish your search term.
Another great feature built into the Google search page is the ‘Related Search’ box at the bottom of the page.
This is basically Google telling you the related terms for your search. If you are creating a piece of content on your site then you should incorporate some of these terms into the content and you will automatically attract more traffic to your site if your content is good enough.
This is a goldmine of information and you should use these terms to help identify terms for your content straight away. They show up because they are popular terms so make sure to include some of them.
You also need to look out for trends because seasonal fluctuations can be very deceiving if you are not careful. Not directly related to ‘car insurance’ but for other markets, it can catch you off guard.
Just check out the number of hits for ‘costumes’ coming up to Halloween and you will see what I mean.
Google have you covered here as well and you can check that out at http://www.google.com/trends/. Type in your preferred search term and hit search to see more info.
So that is Search Volume covered off. You have found your desired set of keywords and phrases and you are good to go not exactly. We still have two more areas we need to address before we can proceed with content.
2. COMMERCIAL VALUE
Finding a list of keywords is one thing but you need to understand commercial intent if you are to ever make any money from them.
An example I always use to explain this is: If you create a website around keywords like ‘free, advice, info, plans, demonstration’ or anything like that you may get a lot of traffic but nobody will buy anything because although they are looking for something, it is how they are looking that is the problem.
Somebody looking for ‘free house designs’ is potentially not going to pay for a service to design their house layout.
But if they searched for ‘house design experts’ or ‘best house builder Ireland’ then that’s a different story. They are in search of an expert designer or builder for their house and you have a much greater chance of converting this browser into a paying customer.
You also need to be aware that some SEO companies will rank you for these low commercial value terms because (a) there is no competition and (b) because it is easy to do it and they demonstrate to you that they can get you to number one. If you do not understand the commercial value of the terms you are trying to rank your website for then you may struggle to make any money from it. You also need to understand the volume of traffic that can be generated from such terms to see if it is worth the effort in the first place.
A live example here is my own website:
I currently rank number one for ‘SEO Service Carlow’. That’s great, but it gets zero searches per month. Incidentally, this phrase is only mentioned on one page within my website but Google is smart enough to know it’s there and it’s relevant to a search for this phrase. We also rank for Web Design Carlow and that brings a steady flow of traffic to our website every month.
On the other hand (at the time of writing this) I am sitting nicely on the first page for terms related to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and these highly competitive terms attract a solid flow of traffic every month in Ireland.
I also rank well for hundreds of other search terms because of the content I created to capture this traffic.
This information is available via Google Webmaster Tools which is another great free tool provided by Google to help webmasters get the best from the sites.
3. COMPETING WEBSITES
The final thing to do is research your competition. For each of the keywords, you need to analyse the top ten results in Google for each phrase. These websites are deemed by Google to be the most relevant to display for your search query and you need to know exactly why they show up so you can beat them.
I use about 6 different tools to do this and will cover most of them off in other pages on the site.
STUDY THE TOP TEN
(a) Quality of website overall, including popularity
(b) Content style number of pages, length of articles, keyword density, social shares
(c) Backlinks to the website or page Google traditionally used backlinks (the links from other websites to yours) as a key identifier in ranking your website. While still critical it is not the deciding factor and they favour quality over links.
(d) On-Page quality Titles/Headers, Tags, and Meta Descriptions for your pages. keep it relevant to your keywords and don’t over do it.
There are around 200 different things that affect your website that Google uses to rank but the above are some of the key points to look for.
What else to look for:
Some things I look for if I think I can beat the competition:
Relevancy of content in the results. If I find a website in the top ten and the web page displayed is not really relevant to my search then I will go after it, purely because if Google is displaying it they do not have a better option. Create a web page that is better and more relevant and over time you will beat this website and get your page into the top ten.
Backlinks. When another website links to yours it creates a backlink. Think of backlinks as votes for your website. The more votes your website gets the more popular it is in the eyes of Google, but not all backlinks are equal. A backlink from a high authority website that has been around for some time and generates lots of traffic can be better than 1000 backlinks from new or spammy websites that add little or no value to the internet.
I have a dedicated tool I use to check out the backlinks of websites I am researching. In some cases, the website may only have rubbish links and ranks because there is no other option for Google but an in-depth review will highlight this.
BUT WAIT, THERES MORE…
You need to start associating your brand with your services. An example here would be SEO by yourweb.ie. I want to promote the fact that yourweb are a provider of market leading SEO services in Ireland and when people search for these particular set of services and skills we want our company to show up in the results.
This can be the same for any market. It could be Jimmy’s fishing rods or Janes Beauty Salon. The possibilities are endless but make sure you seize the opportunity every time you can because it will pay off in the long run.
As part of your brand strategy, you will need to look outside of just your website though. Social media strategies play a big part in website and service promotion so make sure you have a good plan of action to cover this. The more outside signals that point to your website the better.
This post is just to give you an idea of what is required to get your web pages to feature in the results. There are many more things you must do but without quality Keyword Research nobody is ever going to find your website in the first place.
We offer a keyword research service and are happy to talk to customers about this process in more detail. Each website and market vertical is different so an initial consultation is required to make sure you get the best from the service.