Let’s face it, as a small to medium size business, when you think about investing any time or money it’s almost always for immediate demand generation and sales. While demand generation should be the first priority for a start up or small business, investing a little bit of time and money into keyword research and SEO strategy will not only save you money in the short run, but also increase your chances for qualified traffic, and future demand generation.
Let’s start by examining the fact that customers go through a sales cycle , and your goal is to create a website on marketing strategy, that reflects that cycle and create a user funnel that will bring them down from whatever stage they are in, whether it’s the awareness stage or the learning and shopping stage, to buy from you.
While there are many tools for keyword research you should just rely on your power of research and not necessarily on the tools. Here is a list of tools you can pretty much build a world class keyword list and guide your understanding of the SEO process:
Excel is a phenomenal tool and even if you don’t think you are proficient in excel, the majority of activities you will perform you have probably done before. If you have never even touched excel, you can pick up an excel book from the library or sign up with a service like Lynda.com that has great beginner to intermediate lessons that will put your mind at ease.
Google Adwords (Keyword Tool)
Sign up for a free Google Adwords account. Since the majority of searches are done on Google anyway, why not use their enterprise level free tools such as Google Analytics as well. The keyword tool in Adwords is very simple to use and can help you in several ways:
-you can type in your keywords that you feel are appropriate for your products and services
-you can type in your competitors’ websites and get a list of keyword variations Google thinks are important from their site.
-The keyword tool gives you an insight (although not 100% accurate) towards the average number of searches that keyword receives, and the competitiveness of the CPC market for that word.
Even though Spyfu is a tremendous tool if you want to advertise (SEM) and spy on your competition, Spyfu gives you tips and ideas as far as keywords your competitors are bidding on. This will give you an insight into keywords you may not have thought of before. Spyfu has limited free functionality and a premium full feature option.
In 2003 Google purchased Applied Semantics, and has increased its capability to distinguish relationships between words, synonyms, and common phrases. It can determine for example, that a search query for “man’s best friend” should return results with “dog” in them. Use the thesaurus to find synonyms and related terms to your keyword research list and determine which are relevant and which are not.
Starting your Keyword Research:
-In your excel sheet, have the columns labeled keyword, search traffic, competition, current ranking, user funnel, and webpage you will optimize that keyword for.
-Begin your keyword research on Google, visit Spyfu, use the thesaurus and determine which keywords are your most relevant keywords.
-Next, in the competition column, for each keyword, do a Google operational search: allintitle:”keywords here.” The number of results is the actual competition. Put that number in the competition column. Know that for results that are under 500 you will be able to rank organically fairly quickly, but for results over 1500 you will have to wait a while, and for results over 5000 you best hire some help.
-The search traffic you can get from Adwords, and use a ranking tool of your choice to see where your website currently ranks for that keyword.
-In the User Funnel page, you will write where you think that keyword belongs in the user funnel (that will make it easier for building the web pages)
-Lastly after you have filled all the columns, group the keywords together based on similarity such as plural versions etc. Google ranks web pages not websites, and it is best to stick with 2-3 keywords optimized per page.
At this point you would have done more than 90% of people that get websites created for them in terms of research, but more importantly, you have a better insight and are more prepared to build a solid website targeting all of your terms. This will get you better rankings, more long tail search traffic, and in the long run generate you more business than someone that just ordered the 5 or 10 page website. The number of pages and the website architecture will be based on your keywords list.
Next you can prioritize your SEO activities based on the keywords you can rank the fastest (least competition) and build a solid foundation for qualified traffic.
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