If you’ve been following the series on Keyword Seeds and Keyword Research over the last couple of months, I’ve been writing about how to perform really good keyword research through a series of tactics that I call the “Keyword Seed Method”.
Don’t bother to go look that up in Google, as I think I’m the only one in the world who calls it that. But it helps me to think of keywords as “seeds” of information that will eventually grow into a “garden of possibilities”, if you will allow me the artistic license. I’ve been reading a lot of classic literature lately.
I received many emails from readers (Thank you!) who didn’t exactly follow my logic, so I wanted to wrap up the process as clearly and briefly as possible… and brevity is not my strong suit, nor is good keyword research ever brief.
Understanding The Questions To Ask
To begin with, you need to make sure you understand the industry you’re working with. If it’s your own site you are researching, what you need to focus on is getting past the jargon and trying to determine how your site appears to someone outside the industry.
If you’re working for a client, chances are that you can provide a lot of insight into the layman’s terms, but may not know the jargon. You need both in your research, so working with someone in this stage can be very helpful. See 5 Questions to Streamline your Keyword Research.
Identifying The Top Level Topics
Once you start doing research, you’ll probably discover that the “keyword universe” is broader and more diverse than you ever realized. Your job at this point is to identify the primary topics or “seeds” of research. See The Keyword Research Rabbit Hole for an example of how to do this.
Expanding & Growing Keyword Seeds
For each topic you identify, you’ll need to conduct the entire research process defined in Tips for Growing Keywords with Excel Formulas. An important point of clarification here is that this article goes through an example of just one keyword seed (deck) and how to expand it.
You will need to repeat the process for each of the topics you defined in the previous step. Some topics will expand to a list of hundreds of keywords, and some will expand to only a few dozen keywords. The “deck” example is one that can expand astronomically (I ended up with over 1000 keywords for that one), but not all of your topics will expand that much.
Planning & Mapping Keywords
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, once you’ve expanded the keywords to the point where you think your head might explode from all the pressure, you have to contract them again.
The goal is to understand the entire universe of keywords around a topic so that you can identify which keywords are most valuable to you. The most important part of this step is the mapping; you’ll quickly be able to see where you have content that matches and where your content is lacking. See How to Develop a Keyword Plan for more on this.
By the time you finish this last step, you should have a “tree” (there I go with the seed metaphor again) of information that conceptually looks something like the below.
In reality, it will probably be an excel spreadsheet full of categories and keywords. I personally put each category on a separate tab, but whatever works for you is fine.
Time, Averages & Other Arbitrary Numbers
One question I got asked a lot in the reader feedback was how long it takes to do keyword research like what I’ve outlined. The real answer is that it’s up to you, but I spend about 10 hours on average for an average size site.
That number can change of course, if you have a site with thousands of products, or if you have several different target markets you need to appeal to. If you have an overwhelming number of products, it may help you to work on a few categories at a time, rather than trying to cover the whole spectrum at once.
What Tools Do I Use?
I personally use the Google Keyword Tool more than anything else available, but there are dozens of good keyword tools (paid and free) as well as different strategies that you can use to decide what keywords to target.
After Google’s recent announcement of match type changes, I’ve decided to demo several tools I am not as familiar with, so that I can do a review of those along with the ones I already like using. Stay tuned, and let me know in the comments if there are any you want me to consider demo’ing.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.