This is the second part of my three part series on understanding keyword research. If you haven't read the first part you can find it at Understanding Keyword Research Part 1. In part 1 we looked at, why we do keyword research, the importance of it and the different types of keywords we will come across. In this post we are going to move on and look at how to do manual keyword research, and introduce a couple of free tools you can use to speed things up a bit.
Topics covered in this post
Obviously the most efficient way to do keyword research is to utilise the tools that are available, there are many, some are good and some are a waste of space. But, your best tool is between your ears and unless you understand the process of picking the right keywords then the chances are you will still miss the low hanging fruit keywords. So lets learn how to get our target keywords
For this we are going to use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool. You will need a Gmail account and to have signed up to Adwords to access this, but don't worry you don't need spend any money to access it. There are a number of videos on how to sign up for the Keyword Planner if you just search YouTube, but I will create one in the near future and put it up.
Once you have signed into your Adwords account you need to hop over to the Keyword Planner. The first keyword you are going to put in wants to be a one that best describes what your business does or sells. Using my business as an example we will use the keyword SEO Agency. There are a number of options that allows you to filter the returned results by, such as language, location etc. I will go into them in another post.
The Google Keyword Planner will help you to find a number of keywords that you can target based on their keyword volume. The screenshot below shows you what the average monthly searches are for "SEO Agency" and "SEO Agency Leeds", note the big drop in search volume with the location modifier "Leeds" added. Unless you are paying for Adwords then the keyword planner will only show you a range that a keyword falls into, but it will still give you a good enough indication as to the search volume for the keyword and whether they would be worthwhile targeting. To be honest the search volume that Google does show you is never right. I have analytics on websites, both mine and clients that show keywords being searched, for instance the search term "Tree Surgeon Rothwell Leeds", you put that into Google keyword planner and it will come up as zero searches per month. However a site showed up for it over 40 times in one month, not bad as nobody searches for it, hmmmm. So take the numbers that Google gives you with a pinch of salt and just use them as a rough guide. Once you site is up and running the best tool to find keywords that you should be targeting is Google Analytics. If you site is not connected to it, you need to get it connected, it will give you so much data to work with. If you are unsure of how to connect your site simply check out my post on How To Connect Your Site To Google Analytics and Search Console
The main column to focus on is the Avg monthly searches column since that is really the only data which is relevant to what we are looking for, how many potential visitors can I get to my site. The Suggested bid column can be interesting as you will see just how much people are willing to pay to Google for a click on their Ads. SEO Agency has a suggested bid of £19.29, which means for any company bidding on that phrase, when someone clicks on their ad they pay Google £19.29. Lawyers can be paying into the £100s per click, which is why Adwords can become very expensive very fast.
Once you have sifted and sorted through the keywords that Google has given you another tool that you can use to get some more ideas for keywords to target is Ubersuggest.io. As with Keyword Planner you just enter your main keyword in the box, select your country and press suggest. To save any of the keywords returned from Ubersuggest simply check the box beside it and then choose "View as text" or "Download". This should now give you a good number of keywords that you might want to target.
Now we have our keywords we now need to see what the competition is like. Hop back onto Google and make sure you are in your country specific version of Google, so for me in the UK I would type in google.co.uk. Now enter your first target keyword and Google will give you what they deem to be the best sites that suit your search, which is obviously where you want to be in the future. Remember I told you Google will give you all of the answers well to get onto page one all you have to do is exactly the same as what these 10 have done, but do it a little bit better. Simples!
So all we are going to do now is to take each page and manually assess and analyse it, for what their on page and off page SEO is like. You can ignore the ads and any of the big authority sites like Wikipedia, Yell, NHS etc. Now going through 10 sites for each keyword is going to take some time, but to get a quick overview there are a number of tools you can use to speed the process up.
One of the tools I use is SEOQuake which you can get as both a Chrome extension or a Firefox add-on. You can see it in action here. With this tool you can get information straight on the search results page and then you can get even more data, keyword density, how many external links and internal links etc, when you go into the page itself. You can also export the data, enabling you to quickly compile a spreadsheet on your competitors.
You have now got all of the information that you need on you competitors, now the question is can you out rank them?
To be able to determine whether you can outrank your competitors or not you need to answer the two questions below:
Top of the list for all of the different factors that affect ranking is content. If you think that you are able to create content that is better than your competitors, is more useful and provides more value then go for it.
After content another important factor for SEO is backlinks. The backbone for every successful off-page SEO strategy is back linking. But back linking has changed. It is no longer he who has the most links wins, in fact having too many links could work the opposite. Google is now a lot smarter and you need high quality and relevant backlinks to your site for you to see any improvements in its position in the search engines. So to beat your competitors you will need a strategy that will get relevant links from a number of authoritative sites. Obviously if they are on page one then they must have authority backlinks that are relevant.
If you do create some high value and useful content it will become link bait for some of the high authority sites in your industry. But getting these links is going to be slow and the chances are you are going to be up against competitors that have been around awhile and have already built up a number links over time. So in reality you can't just sit and wait for links to come in, this could take months, years even decades and all the while your competitors will be increasing their links, pushing them further ahead of you. So what can you do? You have start building your links to your website more proactively.
One of the first things you can do is to take a look at the links that your competitors have and see if there are any authority and relevant links that they have that you don't, but could get yourself easily. if they are on Yelp and you're not then get a listing on Yelp. If they have a backlink on an industry authority website and you're not then work out how they got it and you get one.
The next step is to do what is called blogger outreach. With blogger outreach you basically go and look for the people in your industry who are the influencers, those with a big following. You then contact them and ask for a backlink to your page. Obviously just sending cold emails and asking for a backlink wont work. So you can either try to see if you can develop a relationship with them before you ask for a link back to your site, or you will need to get a bit creative when you are sending cold email proposals. Depending on how you approach it, blogger outreach can be one of the fastest ways of getting backlinks to your website, and pushing you towards your goal of getting onto page one.
So now you should not only have an understanding of why we do keyword research, the importance of it and the different types of keywords that you will come across in your research, but also how to do manual keyword research, and how to use a couple of free tools to speed things up a bit. So next in Understanding Keyword Research Part 3 we are going to take a look at another 3 tools that you can use to speed up your keyword research even more.
But before you rush on over to check out part 3 I would have a few goes at doing the keyword research manually so that you get an understanding of how it works and especially get an understanding of what are the buyer keywords in your industry. You have all that you need now to complete your keyword research and develop an SEO strategy to improve the position of your website in the search engines. Remember tools are just that they are tools to give you ideas. The best tool for keyword research is between your ears. Now take action!