Search queries have become one of the many staples of our society. Any question, thought, idea, or want can be found online. Every day, millions of searches are conducted online. Never before has the marketer had such an intimate look at what people are actively searching for. Think about it. You know longer have to guess about the actions, thoughts, and intentions of the world around us.
What is a search query, and how can you use search queries to understand your potential customers better? Search queries are real-world phrases and terms that people use to find information, entertainment, products, or services. The search query is typed into the search box on the Search Engine Results page. As you can guess, after a search is conducted, Google returns the most relevant results.
From the perspective of a marketer, search queries are known as keywords. Keywords come into play when you are conducting either Search Engine Marketing or Search Engine Optimization. The difference between these two digital marketing channels is quite simple. Search Engine Marketing is also known as “paid search.”
Paid search is the act of serving paid ads to users based on the searches they conduct. You pay every time someone clicks on your ad. Search Engine Optimization, as known as SEO or organic search, is the act of increasing organic traffic to your website via the search engine results page. SEM is paid. SEO is organic. I like to think of SEM as advertising and SEO as marketing. Regardless of which method you use, you will have to start with keyword research.
Keyword research is one of my favorite digital marketing tasks. Keyword research tells you what search queries people are using to conduct searches and how popular they have been over time. By finding keywords with a decent search volume, relevant to your website, and moderately competitive, you can identify the proper keywords to inform your search strategy.
Keyword research has slightly different outcomes based on whether you are using them for paid search or organic search. The goal of conducting keyword research for paid search is to find keywords worth bidding on when you serve ads on the SERP. With SEO keyword research, your goal is to find keywords and topics to inform your website copy, blogs, blog titles, and other content. By tailoring your website copy and blogs around your SEO keyword list, over time, you’ll start to rank organically. Of course, this is only one of many factors that influences your organic rankings within the SERP.
Below is my fool-proof way of conducting keyword research. The process is quite fluid based on your needs, so make sure you approach this research from the frame of mind that you will need to continually refine your lists.
Phase I: Initial Keyword Research
- Before you start: Think about your audience, customers, or clients and how they will search for your products or services. How would they phrase their questions? What is their intent? How would their intention be expressed in the form of a search query?
- Make a list of relevant topics based on what you know about your business: Think about the topics that describe your business or offerings, either directly or indirectly related. Create 5-10 buckets or topics you think are important and relevant to your business.
- Fill in those topic buckets with keywords – Identify keywords that fall into each bucket. These are the search queries you think are essential to rank for on the search engine results page. Expand on your lists by going to Google.com and looking at the related search queries that appear when searching.
Phase II: Use a Keyword Research Tool
Use a keyword research tool to get data on your initial list of keywords and expand your list. So we don’t get lost in the analysis, below is information you need to retrieve from keyword analysis tools. The most useful keyword research tools are Google Ads Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and the Moz Keyword Explorer.
- Search Volume – Keyword search volume is one of the most fundamental metrics you’ll need to inform your search marketing strategy. It would be a waste of time to optimize your website for keywords that are infrequently searched. Pay attention to keywords with search volumes in the hundreds or thousands.
- Competition – If you have a highly competitive keyword, it’s going to be harder to rank for that keyword. However, sometimes a keyword is so essential to your business, that you may want to use it anyway. Google Keyword Planner gives you detailed data on the competitiveness of a keyword.
- Search Trends – Take a look at how search trends have changed over time. Google Trends allows you to see how each term’s search volume has ebbed and flowed over time, whether that is the past 4 hours, seven days, or even the past 12 years. Google Trends also is an excellent tool for just taking a look at what the world is up too online just if you’re curious.
- Comparison of Keyword Variations – One of my favorite uses of Google Trends is to compare terms such as “Tshirt,” “tee-shirt,” or “t-shirt.” Google Trends allows you to see which term is more popular and accessible to your audience. Another useful feature is the related topics and related queries section. These sections give you more ideas and additional terms that are highly searched or in the “breakout” phase. Google Keyword Planner does a more thorough job of proposing new keywords. However, they can be a little overwhelming.
- Searches By Location – When analyzing keywords, Google Trends allows you to segment your results by geographic location as well as displaying maps and charts of how cities have searched that keyword, metro areas, states, and regions.
Phase III: Refining Your Keywords
- Search Intent: With our newly created lists, we want to take this a little bit further by creating “long-tail keywords. These terms are less likely to carry a large search volume. However, they do usually particular and niche. Ask yourself questions such as, Are they looking to make a purchase quickly, or are they looking to gather information? Or maybe they’re looking to watch a video? Think about the searcher’s intent. This is indicated with terms such as “free,” “buy now,” or location indicators such as “near me.” You can add these types of words and phrases to specific keywords to create long-tailed keywords.
- Value of each Keyword: Usually, keywords with a high search volume, low competition, and high relevance to your product or service are the best keywords for your site. With a proper prioritization of keywords, from the most valuable keywords to the least useful keywords, you’ll have an idea of how to focus your time and energy. For paid search, the most valuable keywords are more than likely your “head terms” and “Brand terms.” For example, if you sold the Air Force Ones, your head terms would probably be “Nike shoes.” A brand term would be “Air Force Ones.”