In the world of search engine optimization, there are many phrases that get thrown around and have often become meaningless for the most part. Heck, even the term “SEO” itself has become such an overused term that web companies throw into their repertoire so they can draw in ignorant business owners. But one specific, and very important, task in the realm of search engine optimization has really just become a meaningless service for most agencies. As you can probably guess from the title of this post, this is the process of providing “keyword research.”

Most websites you come across that do anything remotely in the realm of internet services (to include web design, WordPress, graphics, marketing) will probably offer “SEO” as one of the services they provide. Why? Because most businesses have heard of the term and, while not knowing entirely what it entails, feel as though it is important (and yes, it is). Keyword research is synonymous with the “SEO” that most companies offer their clients. But what is this magical process known as “keyword research” and what is it supposed to do to help your business thrive in SEO?

What is keyword research

Keyword research when it’s related to search engine optimization is the process of determining which keywords to try and rank for in search engines. It is a process in which you must genuinely know who YOU are and who you are trying to reach out (or sell) to.

As a small example, a company selling speakers would want to rank for keywords related to “speakers.” This would allow them the opportunity to be a relevant search result when a potential customer searches the internet to buy “speakers.” We’ll dive into this example even deeper as we go along.

Why keyword research is important for SEO

A proper keyword research process will help you target the right keywords for the goals you have set. This means that you will be able to be front-and-center for a potential customer who is interested in the solution that you provide. The more often you can become front-and-center for relevant keywords, the more organic traffic you will be able to generate. And of course, you cannot gain new customers online without generating traffic.

Ranking for inaccurate keywords hurts your website’s overall SEO because it raises the bounce rate (the rate at which visitors come to your website and quickly leave) of your pages. This is, more often than not, due to the fact that your search engine listing was inaccurate about the contents on the page. If a visitor sees “Personal Security Team” in the search results, but your website actually sells “Personal Security Cameras for Teams,” then the visitor will likely leave and go back to the search results. Let me elaborate more on this idea below.

The problem is, most people do it wrong

Using the example above with the keyword research for “speakers,” many companies without an understanding of search engines may request to be “ranked #1 in Google for the word ‘speakers’.” This is, however, not a good idea. Here’s why:

First, you are choosing to rank in the top 10 results of over 370,000,000 results. Those are some pretty low odds.Google Search for: speakers

Second, you are competing with every company that sells speakers (Amazon, Bose, Home Depot). These companies have big budgets so you should be prepared to match their resources if you want to rank for a single word.

Third, and most importantly, you are not being specific in your chosen keyword. To have success in generating an ROI in search engine optimization, you must target specific keywords. Here, I’ll put that in a fancy blockquote so that, if nothing else, you will remember this single fact.

To have success in generating an ROI in search engine optimization, you must target specific keywords. Click To Tweet

Let’s imagine that you were somehow able to work your way up to the #1 spot in search engines for the keyword “speakers.” Now, let’s also imagine that a person was searching the internet for someone to speak at their public event and, in doing so, they searched for “speakers.” Do you really think they would click on your top-ranking result? Probably not. Even if they did, what do you think they would do once your page loaded? They would most likely close the window, or go back to the search results.

Search engines see this activity.

Search engines see that your top-ranking result was not relevant to what the searcher was looking for. If this becomes a trend, you will quickly drop in rankings because the job of a good search engine is to deliver exactly what the searcher is looking for. If search engines cannot deliver that to the searcher, then the search engine has failed. To be the best, search engines must arrange their results according to what searchers want.

This is how you can fail, hard, in keyword research. You must target the right keywords. Keyword research is the process of choosing the right keywords but many SEO companies fail to perform this process correctly.

How can I prevent doing keyword research wrong?

Doing something “correctly” is often hard to determine because everyone has a personal opinion as to what is “correct” and what isn’t. Even when information is based on studies and is “proven” to be true, there never is a clear “truth,” only that which we perceive to be correct based on evidence. When trying to determine how to do something correctly, I often find it’s best to start with realizing what is first “incorrect.” Besides, incorrectness is the exact opposite of correctness and if we can define things that are incorrect, and then flip them around, we wind up with very good insight as to what works.

So what is “incorrect” keyword research?

Far too often I see SEO agencies that start their keyword research by plugging in terms that they feel is relevant to a website. Let’s take a fictitious airline company, “Best Air,” for example.

Let’s say Best Air is a booming company in the industry of commercial air-travel. They hire an SEO company to help them rank better in search engines and draw in more traffic for an upcoming promotion they will be running which will cut the air fair by 50% for a weekend. The SEO company is excited about the opportunity and gets ready to work.

The SEO company begins their keyword research by plugging in multiple variations of keywords such as “low-cost air fair,” “discount plane tickets,” and “best flight prices.” The SEO finds a few good opportunities with these keywords and decides to pursue them.

Seems like a logical approach, right? But what this SEO company forgot to do was to develop a profile for the type of people that use this service: upper-class businessmen and women. Sure, people love cheap plane tickets, but to those established individuals that have had a financially successful career, they aren’t so worried about saving $100 on a ticket. From a high-level standpoint, it’s fair to conclude that they prefer comfort over price when choosing an airline.

As a result of the poor keyword research, the airline did not see much success in their promotion (in regards to attracting more traffic organically from the target audience).

So what did the SEO company do wrong? And what can be doing to prevent doing the same thing?

The SEO company failed to understand the searchers. Instead, they went with obvious keyword choices that matched their level of interest in air fair, and the overall idea of the airline company’s campaign: cheaper tickets. What they should have done was research who the customers were for the airline and develop search queries based on their interests and preferences. Doing so, the SEO company would have come up with long-tail keywords more along the lines of “first class tickets with extra leg room.”

What’s the advantage of doing it right?

Performing proper keyword research will result in:

  • Getting traffic that is actually looking for the solutions that you provide.
  • Increasing conversions by simply drawing in less junk traffic and more quality traffic.
  • Ranking higher in search as a result of lowering bounce rate and raising engagement.

Keyword research is not rocket science, but as with anything else, understanding the why behind a certain topic will go a long way in terms of success.

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Keyword research is one of the first steps in a successful online marketing campaign. Interested in learning more?

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