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Keyword Research For A New Website
A new website gives you the advantage of a clean slate, but it can also make keyword research more challenging. Columnist Matthew Barby discusses his tips for conducting keyword research in the absence of historical website data.
Congratulations! You have a new website.
I have good news and bad news.
The good news is considerable: You have a modern infrastructure and research technologies you can use, and you don’t have to adapt to poor legacy decisions made years ago (homegrown CMSs, I’m looking at you).
Additionally, you can move fast without the fear of breaking things — after all, there’s nothing to break at this point.
The bad news, however, is that you don’t have any data. You’re starting pretty much from scratch. Consequently, much of the standard keyword research advice — analyze your current rankings and look for gaps, use your internal search data, look at your PPC terms, etc. — isn’t going to apply.
So, what can you do?
Well, don’t accept defeat. We’re search marketers after all, and there are lots of ways you can get good data for your new website.
Check Out The Competition
If you’re in any sort of meaningful revenue niche, then you’ve got competition — and that’s a great place to start.
Now, it’s easy to look at the competition from the outside and wonder, “How could I possibly compete with them? They have N resources and have been around for Y years!” This is especially true if they’re bigger or very well established.
Don’t let the façade of age or experience fool you, however — many of the big established players don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to SEO. Or their staff has really great ideas but can’t prioritize new initiatives over keeping up with the existing business. Or their legacy infrastructure makes them deploy on a quarterly basis. Or any of the other problems that size and legacy bring….
With that in mind, analyzing four or five of your top competitors is a great place to start when embarking on keyword research.
You can use a tool like SEMRush to find out what keyword phrases they’re ranking for in organic search — and what terms they’re bidding on in paid search.
Using that “Export” button across 4-5 of your direct competitors can help you build a really killer list of keywords very quickly.
Additionally, take a look at the phrases your competitors are bidding on in paid search. If you have several competitors bidding on the same keywords, that’s a good sign that it’s an important term — and likely a high value/conversion keyword.
Check Out Your Audience
What if you don’t have any direct competitors? What if you have a new offer, or are taking something into a new market segment? Or, what if you know your competitors have no idea what’s going on, meaning they can’t really provide any directional intelligence?
If you find yourself in any of these scenarios, it’s time to follow your audience.
You can start with the Google Keyword Planner. This will give you a good idea of what commercial terms Google is driving people to bid on — but beyond that, you’ll want to examine who you’re likely to be selling to.
One technique to do this is to use the Keyword Planner on some non-traditional sources like forums, Pinterest boards, and other sources of user-generated content:
Analyze Social Profiles & User-Generated Content
Taking that tactic a step further, you can go ahead and look at how people in your community describe themselves. What words and phrases do they use?
LinkedIn profiles are great resources for this:
These highlighted phrases are all great elements to start your seed keyword set.
Carefully Consider How You’ll Attack These Keywords
One big risk with all of these methods is that you’ll turn up with some terms that are blindingly obvious — for example, “car insurance.”
Now, unless you’re going to buy GEICO from Warren Buffett (in which case, feel free to stop reading this article and call me for a consulting proposal), targeting a competitive term like “car insurance” is simply not going to get you anywhere.
You’ll need to prioritize your keywords and work on developing a keyword opportunity model:
- What are the quick wins? These are lower volume keywords that will nonetheless drive revenue or organizational support you’ll need to keep going.
- What are reasonable goal keywords? These are keywords that have medium volume and will move the needle for the business, but won’t be immediately possible to rank for.
- And what are the “whale” keywords? These are keywords that will have an incredibly large impact on your business, but will take a long, long time to get traction on.
One key tool I use to get this level of competitive intelligence into keyword data is Term Explorer’s Keyword Analyzer.
This tool helps you pull keyword competitiveness and volume metrics in bulk, so you know what to go after and when:
Taking this a step further, the in-app report you see above gives way to a treasure trove of search engine results page (SERP) data when you export it to CSV. You can see a variety of metrics for every URL that ranks on page 1 of your selected search engine for a particular keyword:
Armed with this data, you can quickly sort to find the thresholds for the SERPs with the:
- highest monthly search volume
- highest contextual relevancy to your website or page
- least amount of indexed links
- lowest word count
…and many other edge case factors that you can use to prioritize which keywords you want to start targeting today, next month and next quarter.
With new websites, the good news is you don’t have any legacy cruft to fight your way through. The bad news is you don’t have any data.
By using smart competitiveness analysis and audience intelligence, you can start building your own keyword model for a new website.
Good luck and good keyword research.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.