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What Keyword Research Looks Like in 2014

Just last week we made mention of the ever-evolving past of Google's search engine algorithm, which has ultimately been structured to provide searchers with relevant, interesting, and high-quality answers to their questions.  While SEO is no longer entirely based around keyword usage, keywords nonetheless continue to hold a high importance for small businesses owners everywhere.

Should you invest time and energy in keyword research? Yes.

Is keyword the same research as it was 5 years ago? No.

Luckily, there is a great process delineated by our friends at HubSpot that allows small business owners to saturate high-quality content with keywords, optimizing it for search engines.  We've broken it down into our own words here.

1. Make a list of 5-10 important topics that pertain to your business.

The first step involves discovering your "umbrella terms" - that is, overarching topics that your keywords will ultimately fall underneath.  If you're a blogger, you may think of these as your 5-10 categories that you usually write about.  Geek | Chicago might use topics such as -- business consulting, website development, Social Media, SEO, blogging, hardware, software, marketing -- just to name a few.

2. Add key phrases (keywords) to each category.

Now that you've established your blanket terms, you'll want to create lists of phrases for each individual topic that detail some of its finer points.  This means a word or combination of words that you feel are important to you, and are phrases that your target customer will search for.

If we were to outline a few phrases that would fall under "blogging" for example, we might write down:

  • How to write a great blog
  • Blogging and search engine optimization
  • Frequency of blog writing
  • Marketing a blog on social media
  • Compiling a blog newsletter
  • Beating writers block for bloggers
  • Blogging leads

Really, the more phrases you develop the better.

Will you be plugging these phrases in your content to help boost SEO?  Not exactly.  This list of phrases serves to focus your content in a direction that will attract potential customers - a "thesis" statement, if you will.

3. Make sure short- and long-tail keywords fall under each category.

What are short- and long-tail keywords?  It has entirely to do with the length or specificity of your phrases, as one would expect.  Short-tail phrases are typically, well, short - meaning one to three words in length.  Long-tail phrases are usually 4 or more words.

The importance of having a mix of both lengths of keyword phases has to do with your ultimate success rate on search engines.  Short-tail phrases are usually much more competitive than long-tail phrases.  For example, "blogging" is going to pull in a good deal more results than "how to defeat writers block for bloggers."  The second is more specific, and will be more useful for those searching for a more specific phrase like that one.

4. Research search terms that relate to your search terms.

You may have experienced the "searches related to ______" suggestion that Google will prompt you with at the bottom of their first results page. (Aka, the image on the right)

After you've done your own brainstorming session on keywords and phrases, you'll want to take these phrases to Google and see their own suggested results.  This can help augment your list, and maybe even spark new ideas for new keywords.

5. Check out they keywords of your competitors.

Your keyword adventure doesn't have to be a shot in the dark.  Take a look at what keywords your competitors are using, even if only to have the information.  Whether you choose to use similar keywords or use the information as what to avoid using, it will ultimately help inform your own decisions with knowledge of what your content will be competing with.

This will also help you maintain a balance of similar content and unique content.  While competition may be difficult to mount in those popular keyword categories, go ahead and give your content both quick wins, and make progress towards the more difficult goal of being recognized in the broader categories.

6. Use Google's Keyword Planner and Google Trends to cut down the list.

Now that you've established some (hopefully) rather bulky lists by this point, it's time to bring in tool that will provide you with some qualitative data to help you narrow down your list to the most effective keywords.  Google's Keyword Planner and Google Trends tools are fantastic for this.

Keyword Planner provides you with search volume and traffic estimates for your keyword phrases.  It will flag terms on your list that have too little (or too much) search volume and aren't effectively contributing.

Before you go deleting these terms, however, you'll want to check this information with Google Trends.  Google Trends will check out the trend history and projections of your keyword list as well, which may indicated some of your low-volume search terms may still be valuable to invest in now (as it is projected you could likely see results later).

Feeling a bit overwhelmed?

Keyword research can seem a bit intimidating.  It will, however, pay big dividends down the road in your content development.  Think of keyword research as the focusing of your perspective.  The more focused, direct, and relevant your content (and keywords) register to search engines, the greater reach you will have.

If it all seems like too much to add to your workload, consider budgeting for a content creation specialist to come in and take the reins.  They'll know how to take this keyword research strategies to the next level, and can also readily take the next step in developing search engine-friendly content.

Thinking about a strategy for your company?  Questions on getting started, or looking for a second opinion on your current strategy?  Don't hesitate to send us an email or give us a call.  We'll be happy to help!

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).