Business development 26 January 2018

Three easy steps to effective keyword research for small businesses

Keywords are crucial to making a small business visible online

Writing for Business Advice, search engine optimisation (SEO), specialist at online firm WooRank, Greg Snow-Wasserman, explains keyword research for small business owners and independent retailers, in three easy steps.

If your business is just starting out with SEO, it’s likely you’ve encountered the phrase “keyword research”. Keywords are crucial to SEO because they make a business visible to its target audience.

The right keywords will drive your organic online traffic and (possibly) your conversions. But, the wrong keywords will make your bounce rate skyrocket, and negatively impact your search ranking.

While there are hundreds of guides out there about how to do keyword research, you need to first consider your business’s site and your own objectives.

Here, we are focussing on smaller, independent retailers, breaking effective keyword research into three major steps that you can easily achieve on your own.

Step one: Keyword discovery

Your first step to effective keyword research is to create a list of keywords centered around both the topics your site covers and those that interest your target market. The following example is of a small shop that sells garden supplies.

First, check your analytics to see which keywords are currently bringing visitors to your site.

When creating your keywords, look at your site’s categories. Our garden supply shop probably has categories for seeds, plant food and gardening tools, for example.

Once you have discovered the main keywords based on your organic search traffic and your site’s categories, you should expand your keyword list.

Keywords should be phrases that would direct a search engine to your site. If you are a small, local business, consider adding your location. For our example, “gardening supplies manchester” or “garden tools manchester”.

There are various tools available to assist in creating a list of relevant keywords. Google offers the Adwords Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest can also help you find potential keywords.Mergewords is another useful tool that will combine keywords to create all possible options.
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Step two: Refine your list

Your next task is to decide which keywords will create the most traffic, will be easiest to rank, and will bring users to the content they expect.

If a keyword has a low search volume, like “Best Planters for Peonies” for example, it might not be the optimal for your website.

A keyword no one is searching for isn’t going to help you gain organic traffic. If a certain keyword’s search volume is really high, though, it might make sense for a smaller business to compete for something more attainable.

An easy way to check the average monthly search volume is by using AdWords Keyword Planner and Bing’s Keyword Research Tool.

Another option is to use an advanced Keyword Tool that will not only track monthly search volume, but will also suggest relevant keywords and track competitors.

However, it is not just about search volume, as high-volume words tend to be very broad and much harder to rank for smaller sites.

Try to use long tail keywords (search terms with three or four keywords) which have lower volumes but are much easier to rank and convert. To see how competitive a keyword is, you can again use the Keyword Planner or Keyword Research Tool.

Search intent is another factor you can use to decide on optimal keywords during your keyword research. There are four main keyword types to focus on for an ecommerce site.

  • Informational keywords 

They’re least likely for instant conversion, but they make up the bulk of Google searches. These queries typically include phrases like “how to”, “what is” or “where to find”.

  • Product keywords 

Used when deciding what to buy. These queries can include keywords like “comparison”, “cheap” or “best”, for example

  • In-market keywords

These have relatively low search volumes, but the highest conversion. They’re mainly used by people looking to buy, and include the words “discount”, “free shipping” and “deal”. 

  • Freemium keywords

Used by people looking for freebies, and who are unlikely to convert. Avoid these keywords unless you operate a freemium business model.
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Step three: Competitor keyword research

Now that you have a refined and comprehensive keyword list, you need to have a look at what your competitors are doing.

It is not necessary to target all of your competitor’s keywords, but it helps to know which keywords they use and how they target them.

One way to do this is to use a Keyword Tool that allows for competitor analysis. Free tools such as KeywordSpy or SpyFu can also give you insight on what keywords your competitors are targeting.

KeywordSpy lets you research keywords and domains, so you can see what keywords your competitors use and how competitive the keywords are. SpyFu also allows domain research, which can be useful for comparing your site to competitors.

Keyword lists are unique to each website, making keyword research vital for business. Owners need to find what works for their site and find out what their target audience is searching for online.

For smaller business owners, keyword research is important to get your venture on the map and increase its visibility. Knowing what keywords your target audience is using will help you to get in front of them!

Like every aspect of SEO, keyword research is an ongoing process. Your keyword list will need to be updated but remember that it takes time for changes to take effect online, so don’t change your strategy too frequently.

Greg Snow-Wasserman works at WooRank, an easy-to-use SEO audit and digital marketing tool.

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