Doing keyword research for your online content is kind of like being a gold rush prospector. You’re trying to “stake your claim” in the vast territory of the Internet, hoping it will pay off. The “nuggets” you’re after are #1 SERP (search engine results page) rankings. Here are my 4 SEO research strategies for better SERP rankings.
Ideally you want each page or your website and blog to have a keyword so distinctive, so special, that it’ll go straight to the top of Google’s search results. And if you’re, say, the only establishment in the Berkshires selling Nashville hot chicken, then “berkshires nashville hot chicken” (or some variant) is likely going to be a winner for you.
Now, that’s a super-specific example. But it holds a vital lesson for SMBs: Know and amplify what makes your business unique—and how you meet your customers’ needs. This is where keyword optimization starts.
With that idea in mind, let’s get strategic:
SEO Keyword Research Strategy #1: Know your competition.
It’s been a cardinal rule of business since forever. For SEO purposes you want to know your competitors’ keyword strengths and vulnerabilities.
The first tool I reach for is SEMrush. (It requires a subscription, but a free trial is available.) Type in any domain and you can see where it ranks for ALL relevant keywords that searchers have used. Start with yours. (I also use SEMrush to regularly update customers on their keyword results).
Another great tool for competitive analysis is the mighty Moz Bar, a Google Chrome extension. Activate Moz Bar on any page and you’ll see at a glance how well (or poorly) that page optimizes essential SEO attributes that I’ll discuss shortly.
With these tools you can sniff out your competitors’ SEO vulnerabilities (not to mention your own) and strategize to end-run around them with your own strengths.
SEO Keyword Research Strategy #2: Improve your odds.
HubSpot’s Justin Champion turned me on to Keywords Everywhere, a powerful Google Chrome extension that reveals telling data about keywords you may be considering.
The critical number I look for is monthly volume. If a keyword you’re considering is getting tens of thousands of queries each month, your odds of ranking high with it are pretty low. On the other hand, if no one uses that keyword, then optimizing for it is the equivalent of shouting into the void. A keyword that gets between 1,000 and 5,000 queries a month strikes the best balance of “unique” and “attainable.”
Do You Know The 10 Critical Questions You Should Ask About Your Website?
SEO Keyword Research Strategy #3: Grow longtails.
Longtail keywords try to anticipate searcher intent in order to meet customers where they are, faster. Here’s how they can work:
I recently optimized a customer’s blog post about doing sales-to-service handoffs better in tech companies. So far we’ve gotten good SERP results with “sales to service handoff.” I feel good about this post’s chances of rising in search rankings given the customer’s content strategy around this topic.
But type “sales to service handoff” into Google and it suggests autofills including “sales to service handoff process” and “sales to service handoff template” (the latter with double the search volume). PLUS Keywords Everywhere offers “sales to customer success handoff template” as a related keyword with more than 5X the search volume — but still attainable. (By the way, Keywords Everywhere can serve up long-tail keyword suggestions.)
How can we use this information? Two options include:
- We can revise and re-optimize the existing content to leverage the new long-tail keyword. However this might jeopardize any SEO juice we’re squeezing from the post.
- We can create a new blog post — perhaps with an accompanying downloadable content asset — that introduces a literal proprietary sales-to-customer success template.
If you chose #2, well done! Creating new, unique, related content is always a strong move. We would link to this new blog post, where relevant, from existing blog posts and website pages. This internal linking builds perceived authority on the topic of sales-to-service handoffs, which over time can boost your SERP results.
SEO Keyword Research Strategy #4: Act locally (if it makes sense for your business).
Remember our “berkshires nashville hot chicken” restaurant? Google “nashville hot chicken” and you’ll mainly get a bunch of recipes and perhaps a restaurant or two near you (or in my case, not at all near you).
Add “Berkshires” to your query and you can expect a map with the closest restaurants, Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews, and local media coverage. All to help customers home in on their dinner decision. So if that’s your chicken shack, you’d better optimize your site for location.
Two final thoughts on SEO keyword research strategy:
- I’ve barely scratched the surface telling you about the capabilities of SEMrush, Moz Bar, and Keywords Everywhere. I encourage you to learn more about them and be blown away by the data available to you at little (or no) cost.
- Digital is not etched in stone. It’s best practice to audit your SEO data regularly. If new SEO opportunities appear, you can change keywords and re-optimize any page at any time.
Learn more about how to do better in search:
Blog post: Google Ads vs. SEO: Which Is Better For Search?
Blog post: The 6 SEO Basics Your Website is Missing (and How to Get Them Right)
Blog post: What is Technical SEO? The Essential Basics for SMBs
Blog post: Website Authority: What it Is, Why it Matters, How to Get it
Blog post: Page Authority: A Quick Primer for Your Website
Blog post: Link Building: An Introduction for SMBs
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