We’ve all been there: we work on a piece of content that we think is dynamite only to hear crickets when it’s published as it seems no one is interested in what we had to say. Was it our tone? Was it the title? Was it bland?
Did we remember to tell people the content was there to begin with?
Distribution of content and the things we do to get our content in front of people is just as important as the content itself. Because unless someone is constantly refreshing your website or setting reminders on their phone to check in on your latest blog post (do people use RSS anymore??) then we need to be proactive in our process for creating the content and doing what we can to distribute it effectively–to gain organic traction.
Enter keyword research and SEO (search engine optimization).
Getting started with keyword research and SEO
While we’d love for everything we put online to rank #1 on Google and reach ALL. THE. PEOPLE. the reality is, search engine optimization takes time. If you’re looking for a quick fix, this isn’t the post for you. If you’re looking for helpful methods so that you can continue to build on keywords and write in a way that will better equip your site, your content and your digital channels to rank higher as you move through the process, I have solid tips to get you started.
First, set goals
Define your why. Are you looking to boost revenue and drive sales? Do you want an increase in downloads or free trials offered on your site? Maybe you’re looking to increase the sentiment of your brand or reach a specific niche of people. More traffic, higher rankings or just to be “first” on Google are not goals; while they’re awesome, they don’t define a ‘why’.
Start with a solid base and work your way up. I really like Mozlow’s Hierarchy of SEO Needs (see what they did there?) put out by Moz. It’s a great visual and place to start if you’re new to building SEO. You want a solid foundation first and then you can work your way up to improve competitiveness overall.
Be reasonable with expectations
SEO is not a quick fix and keyword research to support this endeavor takes time. It’s a process. Be realistic with expectations. Things that will help:
- Set up Google Analytics and Google AdWords accounts
- Enable on-site search on your website and use that data to guide your decisions
- Use keywords to foster ideas for
- Blog posts
- Website content
- Video content
- Social media content
Rather than thinking in days or weeks, think months. You’re likely looking at 6-12 months to see significant change or results. The longer you work on it, the better the results.
4 starter steps to conduct keyword research
I talk about keyword research and SEO in the same context because they go hand in hand. Starting with a list of keywords will help you create meaningful content for your audience and increase the likelihood of being found.
You can spend a lot (or a little bit) of time on keyword research, so it will be a different process for everyone. If you’re new, start small and expand from there.
Build your keyword list with head terms and long-tail keywords. Both are important. A head term is 1-3 words; a long-tail keyword is a phrase (think 4+ words). For example: ‘lawn care’ is a head term whereas ‘tips for summer lawn care’ is a long-tail keyword. Think about how and what your customers search for to help you get started.
Use listening tools to conduct your research. As you become more comfortable with the tools, expand on these steps.
- Think about 5-10 topics that make sense for your business. What do you want to be known/found for?
- Make a list of the words already driving traffic to your website. Review Google Analytics, view organic traffic results and current website keyword clicks.
- Research keywords by using search console date, Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush or other platforms as support tools.
- Use a spreadsheet to export/import data and keep track of your keyword research. Here’s one simple way to visualize what I mean:
Additional keyword research tools
Think about how you use search engines to look for information. This same method that you use to search for information can help you build credible keyword lists. For example, let’s say you’re a CPA and you’re interested in developing content that aligns with questions your clients may ask during tax season. A simple start to a Google search that includes the phrase “how to file tax…” will auto-generate additional ideas based on the top searched phrases from Google’s algorithms. You’ll also be able to see additional questions related to that topic that people ask and, at the bottom of the Google search page, you’ll see related searches. This is an easy way to populate keywords and ideas organically.
- Bulk Keyword Generator from highervisibility.com which populates keywords based on local and industry
- Answer the Public which provides consumer content based off search engine phrases and questions people are asking around certain topics
- SEMRush which is a full-scope marketing toolkit (for a fee) and provides solid SEO research and support
- Keyword Tool Dominator which has both free and paid services
What to do with keywords
After you’ve dug into the research and established your lists, how can you use your keyword research to optimize your content?
This goes back to your goals from above, but ultimately, you want to use these keywords in your content (blog posts, website content, social posts) and in the meta tags, descriptions and H-tags on the back end of your website or publishing platform. Doing so will help drive higher, relevant traffic to your site and improve overall visibility.
Ultimately, your keyword research drives your content. It helps you understand your customers, your audience’s needs and how to solve pain points. Use your keyword research and lists to optimize, plan and organize:
- Blog content calendars and social media content
- Meta data (which can influence click through rates)
- Video descriptions, images and uploaded content
- H1, H2 and H3 tags (headings) and bodycopy on your website or blog
Write your copy to your keywords and pain points. Your content will drive optimization.
Test, research and keep learning
Start small and grow your presence as you’re able. You do not have to work through all of the tools available; choose one that you can adequately monitor, work through and build. If that’s Google to start, great! A few other tips to keep in mind as you continue to grow in SEO:
- Social media channels are search engines, too. Consider using keyword phrases in your organic social media posts so you begin to appear in search there
- Don’t discount Bing. Though we focus on Google a lot, there are other search engines out there that can be relevant to your audience.
- Social media sharing adds up to more content visibility; Google rank isn’t the only determining factor of your success.
- Optimizing images is just as important as optimizing content.
- As of late, long-form content (think 3,000+ words) ranks better on Google than short-form content. Don’t be afraid to write what you know, but make sure it’s relevant and isn’t all ‘fluff’.
How can I help? If you’re still feeling stuck or overwhelmed in building a solid keyword and SEO program to grow your business, send me an email. Sometimes all you need is a plan to get started and support along the way. I’d be happy to work with you to get up a program that works for you.