There is so much more to keywords than traffic.
They're the biggest descriptor of your business, your self-identifier, and you don't just use them in search. When you have those uncomfortable "So, what do you do?" conversations with the person next to you on an airplane, a keyword is one of the first things out of your mouth.
My point is that keywords are how people remember you, so you need to think more about how they reflect what you do rather than how much they're searched when choosing the right ones for you.
My digital agency is rebranding, which means a new website, new logo, new target audience and new marketing messaging. That also means a whole new set of keywords. Here's how we figured them out.
Who Are You?
Many dive into keyword research without first taking a hard look at the business itself. That feels backwards. Before you can know how you want users to find you, you need to know how the company positions itself.
You may already have a good idea if you're working with company that's been around for a while, but since we're rebranding, we started from scratch. During our branding discussions, we asked questions like:
- If your company was a car, how would you describe it?
- How would you describe your company culture?
- What are your company's core values?
- What's your company's mission? The vision?
- Who do you want to buy from your company?
- Who are the decision makers? Decision influencers?
The first place to start in doing keyword research is with your users. Don't get me wrong: Google's Keyword Tools is great for brainstorming variations and validating your opinions with numbers, but you should never rely on a bot to tell you what your users are doing.
By putting together a simple survey in SurveyMonkey – or simply asking people in your local coffee shop if your target audience is more broad – you're able to glean a lot about how users actually search.
How many of you have had the "you really don't know what keywords your users would use to search for your business" conversation with a client?
Ask them questions like:
- How do you find a company for XXXX?
- What would you type into Google to find these companies?
- If you were looking for advice on XXXX, what would you do?
- What's the most important thing you look for on a XXXX company's home page?
When we did this, we sent out the survey to existing clients who fit our new target, CMO and marketing organizations and promoted through social media to garner feedback.
Informational vs. Commercial Searches
Your user research will tell you a lot about how people actually search, but you do ultimately need to run what they gave you through Google's Keyword Tool to get an idea of traffic and Moz's Keyword Difficulty to get an idea of what it's going to take to see the fruits of your labor.
Traffic isn't the last stop in the vetting process, though. Next, think about the type of query your keyword triggers. Users search because they're looking for an answer to a question, and that comes with some sort of action. The two biggest are:
- Informational: Your user is still researching and just wants more information about a topic.
- Commercial: Your user is looking for a business and ready to buy.
You don't want a commercial-based page ranking for an informational-based keyword because you're failing to reach people at the right phase of the buying process.
Lastly Go To Google
Ultimately, you want to ensure you're comparable with the company you keep, meaning the companies who are using your potential keywords should be your actual competitors, not just your search competitors. So, search for your keywords and see who's ranking.
Look for similar things that your company and these share, like:
- Target audience
- Services or products
- Price points
- Messaging and positioning
For example, "web design company" has much more traffic but "web design agency" brings up a higher quality of businesses. This was further validated by our market research when we found more C-level marketers use agency over company or firm, and those are the people we are trying to reach.
Even if you aren't going through a complete rebrand, you need to keep an eye on your keywords and ensure they still fit with how you do business. Users will continue to get savvier, search engines will become more sophisticated, and your company's priorities will change, and making sure your keywords bring more to the table than just a high search volume will make sure you're always positioning yourself right to your users.
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