The importance of keyword research
Every good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) campaign should start its life with keyword research. In addition to assessing opportunities within a market from a search volume point of view – i.e. seeing how many people search for a particular product/service via search engines and judging whether it’s worthwhile to pursue – this research is important to ensure you’re targeting the right keywords from the very beginning. From Day 1 up until ROI time, SEO can be a long-term process, and you don’t want to realise weeks or even months down the line that you have started off on the wrong footing and targeted the wrong keywords.
But surely most of the time it’s obvious: a keyword is a keyword is a keyword, right? Well, not necessarily…
One of Box UK’s very own products, FleetSuite, is a suite of online collaboration tools that help with managing business processes. It currently includes scheduling and time tracking tools, with estimation functionality launching soon.
I was given responsibility of conducting keyword research for the product; while internally people had already attached certain keywords to it, this phase was vital to find out what language our target audience actually used and define a list of phrasing and terminology so that all marketing activity could be closely aligned with these keywords.
As with any new site launch, we first had to consider all the possible terms our product could be referred to as (this is equally applicable to service providers, information sites etc.). We thought about what customers would consider calling it, or more precisely, what customers would type into Google or Bing when searching for it. One of the key target markets is Project Managers who are currently struggling to manage projects effectively and are therefore looking for a solution. Fortunately for us, we have plenty of Project Managers here at Box UK, so we were able to ask people internally for their thoughts and suggestions.
The list that came back wasn’t exactly short, featuring everything from the obvious to the highly niche. In addition we had to consider variations including alternative spellings, acronyms vs. full phrases and singular vs. plural, just in case one version of the wording was more popular and more searched for than the other.
It’s not just about the basic words and phrases either but establishing a searcher’s intent too. In this case, we paired all of the possible keywords with a collection of nouns (tools, solutions etc.) that highlighted that the searcher was after a product rather than simply searching for information.
Again, with each of these we had to consider singular vs. plural forms (just in case more people search for a “Tool” than “Tools”) as well as variations on a word such as “App(s)” vs. “Application(s)”. We also went through the same process for each individual tool within the suite, to be certain we could tailor our optimisation of each page on the site.
Volume, competition, rankings and trends data
Once all the possible variations were down on paper, we looked at their search volumes using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Search volumes for different countries and regions can vary drastically, highlighting the importance of clearly identifying your target market and researching accordingly! Even when terms turn out to have little or no volume at all, you’ll be glad you checked because you never know… with keyword selection, you should leave no stone unturned if you can help it. I have conducted keyword research on a variety of websites in a variety of industries and I still get surprised sometimes. Don’t ever assume that an area might be unpopular and not worth checking – it doesn’t take long to have a look, and you might end up unearthing a very worthwhile opportunity.
However, generally speaking, with popularity comes competition; running the keywords through a number of tools that assess SERP (Search Engine Result Page) competitiveness gave an idea of the difficulty we might face with each keyword area.
It’s worth noting at this point that if FleetSuite had not been a brand new website we would have also needed to consider current rankings data. After all, if a company is considering keyword research and they find that their website is already on page 2 of the SERPs for a number of relevant keywords, then that might be more of a consideration than opting for keywords where there is no sign of the website in the top 100 results, even if those keywords are possibly more desirable.
Finally, we also took a look at trends data for some of the terms. The last thing a business wants to do is target keywords that are on a sharp downward trend if it can be helped, so we checked the keywords and/or keyword areas in Google Trends (which recently merged with Google Insights for Search).
Choosing your keywords
While having all of this information can leave you better equipped to choose keywords (and maybe also slightly overwhelmed!), one should not simply choose keywords based off figures alone. Sure, there might be a great keyword with high search volume, low competition and you might already be ranking for it, but is it the right keyword for your customers?
There is little point targeting a keyword, ranking for it and driving traffic to your website through it if the searcher does not feel that it fulfils what he/she is looking for. There might be a keyword that has less search volume but aligns perfectly with what your searchers have in mind – it might mean that less people end up visiting your site, but those who do are more likely to convert and become customers.
For example, it could be that someone searching for “Software” might be looking for a program that can be installed on their machine, while “Tool(s)” might suggest something that is accessible and available online – so if you offer the latter as part of your service, you may want to consider ruling out the former. Take some time to think about the psychology of the searcher.
Ultimately, pages should target a mix of related keywords and one option is to break down selected keywords into short-, medium- and long-term (ranging from least to most popular/competitive). The risk with targeting just long-term keywords is that it might be a long time until you see ROI from your SEO efforts - targeting a mix will mean that you will at least gain some momentum in the meantime.
Of course, you could also support your organic search efforts with PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising in the early days, in order to drive traffic in the short term. In fact, if you are struggling to decide on what keywords to choose for SEO purposes, you could even consider trialling them in Google AdWords first in an effort to monitor their click-through rates and conversion.
Keywords for FleetSuite
In the end, for FleetSuite, the keywords we chose for the main suite of tools (and therefore the homepage) were not far off the original terminology that was being used pre-SEO. However, our research did uncover some pertinent insights, (that we won’t reveal here!). Suffice it to say that we did find some marked differences between very close variations of particular words and phrases so we were glad we’d taken the time to conduct our research thoroughly.
While it may seem complicated, keyword research is vital to help you get the most out of your online strategy, as when done right it provides insight into the most effective and popular keywords in your market. It may take a bit longer to rank for these kinds of keywords, but it can be exponentially more valuable when you do!
Find out more
Tell us about your experiences with conducting keyword research and implementing your selections using the comments box below. Did you see measurable results, or even find out things you weren’t expecting? You can also learn more about how we conduct research activities and other aspects of search marketing on our SEO and PPC pages.