How do I know what keywords I should target?
When it comes to SEO or PPC, one of the most important tasks is selecting the right keywords you would like to target. If you put the work in at the beginning to find terms which you can rank well for and bring in a good amount of traffic, your business will thank you for it. Get this crucial stage wrong and you can end up fighting for positions you can never realistically achieve due to high competition/budget restraints, or ranking highly for a position nobody searches for!
So, where to start and how do you know which terms are going to bring you business? The first step is to make a long list of all the relevant and important topics surrounding your business, and then list out what you think potential customers will be searching to find that specific service or information in a search engine.
If your list is looking extremely long, don’t worry! Now comes the important part: researching and refining your keywords. Get all your ideas out on paper, open up your favoured keyword research tool (we’ll be using Google Ads Keyword Planner to demonstrate) and put aside some time to get stuck into some serious keyword digging.
Although this is obvious, you’re going to need to choose keywords that potential customers are actually searching for – so you’ll want to keep an eye out for ‘Search Volume’.
Search Volume is the average number of searches a term receives a month, giving you a good indication of whether that keyword has the potential to bring you in a lot of traffic. If the term you are searching for receives no searches, then there isn’t much point spending your valuable time and money trying to rank for that keyword, as no one will find you.
Let’s take a look at an example. If you had an eCommerce site selling party decorations, you may have a keyword of ‘party balloons’:
We can see here that the term ‘party balloons’ gets 6,600 monthly searches (based on searches on Google UK), which means there is potential to draw in lots of traffic – but let’s check a couple more things before we add this to our finalised keyword list.
Pay very close attention to this point: make sure your keyword has the right search intent. A search term could have thousands of monthly searches, but what is the reason or intent behind their search? Are they looking to buy, learn, research or find a specific website (such as a brand)? If you’re trying to rank a product page purely for a sale for a term where users actually just want information, not to make a purchase, the search engines are not going to rank you well at all.
A quick search in Google tells us that the term ‘party balloons’ does bring up online shoe stores, so has the correct intent, but what happens if we searched for another potential keyword, ‘best balloon decorations’?
As you can see, ‘best balloon decorations’ brings up informational blogs and images about decoration ideas, rather than eCommerce stores. This means that Google’s algorithm has learnt that users searching this term are usually looking for information, rather than to make a purchase. Therefore, unless you are trying to rank an informational blog or article, cross that one off your list!
What you’ll also need to look out for is the competition against your chosen keyword. With any term that receives a large number of searches, it’s not surprising that you’ll find all your competitors fighting to rank in the #1 position for that keyword, making it extremely hard to work your way to the top.
Our ‘party balloons’ keyword has ‘High’ competition, and looking at the search engine results page, we can see that the first page is full of well-known brands. Unless you have an unlimited budget and are willing to invest in SEO for a long period of time, it’s going to be difficult to achieve any success from this keyword.
Consider looking at long-tail (more specific) keywords that aren’t as broad. For example, you might want to look at ‘girl’s birthday balloons’, ‘balloons for baby showers’ or ‘gold balloons with helium’. With long-tail keywords, you have to be a bit more specific which can often lead to a lower search volume, but you will be in with a much better chance at hitting those high ranking positions.
Top Tip: Long-tail keywords are a great way to reduce competition, meaning you’ll have a much better chance at ranking highly for that term. As long-tail keywords also tend to be more specific, you will probably also find a higher conversion rate. On the other hand, you’ll often find as competition decreases, as does search volume, so be careful.
Taking into account your budget (both monetary and the time you have available), you’ll need to strike a perfect balance between high search volume and low competition. That will give you the best chances of success. Once you’re happy you’ve found that balance, repeat with all your potential keywords until you have a strong list of terms to optimise your site for.
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