Finding the right keywords

Obtaining high ranking in search results is important, but it doesn’t have to be your ultimate goal. Rather, you should aim to be at the top of the list for relevant keywords that provide the greatest individual value for your business efforts. This requires thorough keyword research, not only before you begin your campaign, but on an ongoing basis.

A number of tools, including your own website analytics data, can be used to ensure that you optimise for the most lucrative and beneficial keywords.

Vanity keywords with lots of competition may not always offer the best returns.

Keyword value

Not all keywords are created equal. Some will have very little competition from other pages, while others will have millions of pages competing for traffic. Similarly, while some keywords may only attract a few searches, others may result in thousands of searches every day. Finding the right balance will help you to achieve the best all-round SEO results.

Competitive keywords

Competitive keywords

Some keywords will prove considerably easier to rank for than others, depending upon the level of competition you face from other websites. Keywords that have little or no competition may not yield much traffic, but if they are highly targeted and easy to rank for, they could prove extremely beneficial.

More difficult keywords will tend to have thousands or even millions of pages competing for the top position. These can take months or years to rank well for, and in some instances, it may prove impossible to achieve a top ranking. You should consider whether these keywords are really worth the investment of time and money.

Generic keywords

Generic keywords tend to have the highest level of competition, and will require the greatest amount of work. Generic keywords consist of only one or two words that make up a phrase, and will usually have the lowest conversion rates. Examples of extremely generic keywords include terms like “internet marketing” or “SEO”.

Generic keywords bar

Niche keywords

Niche keywords are specific to one particular area of a market. They may attract fewer competing sites, and tend to have better conversion rates because visitors are looking for specific details on products and services rather than general information on a topic. Identifying niche keywords can prove highly beneficial. “Local SEO” and “rich snippets” would be considered niche keywords.

Niche keywords bar

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are natural keyword strings and phrases, usually considered impossible to specifically target. Most websites claim that they receive between 70% and 80% of their search engine traffic through long-tail keywords. While an individual keyword of this type may only provide one or two visitors, it will also attract the best conversion rates. “Beginner’s guide to long-tail keywords” and “using Twitter Cards to improve local SEO results” would be considered long-tail keywords.

Longtail keywords bar

Using analytics data

You can use your Google Analytics data to help formulate the basis for your keyword research strategy. You will be able to identify some keywords that already generate traffic, and also highlight niche or long-tail keywords upon which you can build.

Unfortunately, changes in Google’s reporting methods have caused large holes to appear in the data provided. In the space where your list of keyword data would once have appeared, you are increasingly likely to see the words “not provided”. This has made it much more difficult to use Google Analytics as the basis of a keyword research campaign.

To learn more about Google Analytics, head over to our guide here.

Google analytics and “not provided” data

In an attempt to make searching the internet safer for the end user, Google has introduced SSL search (Secure Sockets Layer). When someone searches the Google index, however, keyword data may not be displayed on your Google Analytics dashboard. Initially, this impacted only a small number of searches, but the total number has continued to increase. Reports by numerous users claim they are seeing more than 50% of their Google Analytics keyword data being listed as “not provided”. This trend looks set to continue as Google seeks to expand its SSL search service.

Google Analytics not provided data

Keyword tools

A multitude of keyword research tools have become available that enable you to use analytics data to build your own unique list of relevant keywords. You can use Google Adwords Keyword Planner, Wordstream and others to help you build a list of effective keywords.

Before using a keyword tool, you will need to brainstorm ideas. Use data you have collected from your analytics software, whether from Google Analytics or another package, in addition to keywords you believe to be relevant to your site and visitors. Your keyword tool will provide you with alternative keywords as well as niche (and other specific) results.

Ask real people for ideas as part of your keyword research; you’ll often get some great results.

A good keyword research tool will show you the expected number of monthly searches, level of competition, and related keywords.

Try to choose a selection of keywords that is highly targeted to the service or products you offer. Choose niche keywords along with a few of the less-competitive generic keywords, and build a framework that incorporates all of your pages and chosen keywords.

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