Keyword research is absolutely essential to the success of any website because keywords are what people use to find websites and are what search engines use as the basis for their rankings. Good keyword research increases the probability that search engines will rank the pages on your website high for your target keyword; and bad keyword research (which often means no keyword research) will doom your website to the search engine cellars.
Since search engine visibility is a key factor in attracting targeted search referral traffic, the higher you rank, the more traffic your website will receive. Clearly, keyword research pays off.
In order to ensure you get the most out of your keyword research – and, in so doing, increase the volume of targeted traffic to your website – make sure that the keywords your research identifies meet the following four key criteria (work through them in the order in which they appear):
Your keyword research time and effort must focus on identifying keywords that are relevant to your niche because relevance is critical to both search engine rankings and to the satisfaction of your end users (which, in turn, is obviously good for conversions).
If the overall theme of your website or blog focused on golf, you won’t be doing yourself any favours if you target keywords that are not related to golf.
2. Probability to Convert
Your keyword research time and effort needs to ensure that the keywords you target are used by people who are highly motivated to take some form of action:
- Click on a link
- Download a report
- Subscribe to a list or a fee
- Request more information
- Call or visit your business
- Buy something online
As a rule, research has found that “long-tail” keywords – keyword phrases that consist of two, three or more keywords – tend to lead to higher conversion rates. The reason is simple: long-tail keywords are more specific than single-word keywords and often reveal a “probability to convert.”
For example, a long-tail keyword phrase such as “download free keyword research software” is obviously more likely to lead to a conversion than a shorter keyword phrase such as “keyword research.”
So even though search volume for long-tail keywords/phrases is lower than for more general keywords/phrases, people using them in their search queries are generally motivated to take action.
3. Search Volume
Unless, for some reason, you don’t want or need an audience for your website or blog, your keyword research time and effort must focus on identifying keywords that have a satisfactory number of people using them in their search queries every month (what constitutes “a satisfactory number of people” is, of course, up to the individual and depends on his/her objectives).
To determine raw monthly search volumes for the keywords you’re researching, head on over to Google’s Keyword Selection Tool and do the following:
- Specify the country or territory you’re targeting
- Select a language
- Enter the keywords you’re researching
- Enter the Captcha
- Click on the “get keyword ideas” button
After Google serves up the initial results, you’ll want to narrow the keyword ideas by specifying “phrase match” for match type because it will produce a much more useful number – for our purposes – than the default “broad match.”
Eliminate any keywords whose “phrase match” search volume falls well below the “satisfactory number of people” your keyword research says you need.
The final criterion your keyword research must focus on is whether or not there is a reasonable probability that you can achieve a high ranking for the keywords you’re planning to target because the only way you’ll attract search referral traffic is if you rank at or near the top of the search results. Period.
While there are some fairly advanced ways to determine the “rankability” of the keywords you’re researching, in the interest of simplicity we’re going to go with a quick-and-dirty method that many people commonly rely upon: the number of other web pages that are “competing” for the same keywords that you’re researching. To do this,
- Navigate your browser to Google’s homepage
- Enter one of the keywords you’re researching into the query bar (make sure you do a “phrase match” search by enclosing the keyword in quotes)
- Click on the search button
If the total number of “competing” web pages – which will be displayed just below the query bar on the search results page – is less than 30,000, you’ve got a good chance of being able to capture a top ranking for the keyword for which you ran the search (it goes without saying that the lower the number of competing web pages, the better your chances are of achieving a top ranking for a particular keyword).
While this level of keyword research may require you to invest more time and effort than you’re used to, your investment will pay off in the form of consistently higher search engine rankings for popular keywords that are used by people who are generally more motivated than most to take some kind of action after their search leads them to your website.