At the heart of SEO are keywords. If nobody is searching for what your website has to offer, traffic from the search engines won’t come to your site—no matter how hard you try.
At the very beginning of all keyword research is your seed list. Or the foundational keywords that help you grow a much larger list. In this article, you’ll see some quick and easy ways to establish this list.
Yet, before you start creating this list, it’s essential to understand exactly how keywords, or search queries, work with the search engines.
One way to describe them is head, body and long tail keywords:
- Head keywords are usually just 1 or 2 words and have a high search volume.
- Body keywords are 2 to 3 word phrases with a good search volume, not high, not low.
- Long tail keywords consist of four or more words strung together with a low search volume. These account for the bulk of web traffic.
You may also see the terms head, modifier and tail keywords or short, medium and long tail keywords.
The important factor here is specificity. The longer the phrase, the more specific it is, and the fewer search results there’ll be when people type it in.
You can see how it works in this graphic from Backlinko:
Brainstorming your Keywords
The easiest step in creating your keyword seeds is capturing what you already know. What are the keywords you’re familiar with? What keywords do you think people should use to find your website? And, what keywords do you feel best describe what you’re doing?
Just create a list of all the keywords that come to mind. You’ll definitely grow this list (and probably change it as well) but right now we want to create a list of all the terms/keywords you’re familiar with.
Digging into your Competition
The easiest way to find out the keywords your competitors are using is to visit their website and then view the Page Source—or the underlying code—for their home page.
In Google Chrome, when you right click on your mouse you’ll see a drop down and you can select “View Page Source.” This works for both PCs and Macs, but PC users can also just do ctrl+U.
A new page will open and you can then do a ctrl+F or cmd+F to search for the below tags. This will help you better understand the keywords your competitors are using on their website.
- <title>: This tag is a overall description of the page and is the way search engines display your site in their results. The title tag typically contains the primary keyword that a page is trying to rank for.
- <meta name=”description”>: This is the snippet that appears underneath the title tag on search engines’ results. While not a specific ranking factor, many websites incorporate the target keyword into their meta descriptions in the hope of reinforcing what the page is about—which could potentially help lead to a higher click through rate to the site from search results. Note: If you can’t find anything in the source code with this query, just search “description” (without the quotations marks).
- <meta name=”keywords”>: This is an deprecated meta tag that many sites are no longer using, but it’s worth checking to see if your competitors are using it. In some instances, websites may use the meta keywords tag to keep track of what keywords a page is specifically focusing on, which can provide excellent insights to their strategy.
From the above tags you can get a fairly good feel for the type of keywords your competitors are using to promote their website, and specifically what they’re trying to rank for.
Autocomplete – Reading Google’s Mind
When you type in a keyword into the search box, you know how you get a list of keyword predictions? This is called Google Autocomplete. Its purpose is to save users time. In fact, according to Google, it lowers typing time by 25%. There’s no doubt that this feature makes our lives easier, especially when using Google Search on mobile devices.
When brainstorming in your keyword research, simply type in a keyword that is relevant to your niche and look at the predictions. These are great keywords to add to your list. Why? If Google suggests a keyword, you know that lots of people are searching for it.
If you type an underscore ( _ ) in Google Autocomplete, it acts as a wild card and provides different words to help you complete the query.
Also, at the bottom of your Google search is the “searches related” to your keyword. More great keywords that Google feels are important.
Yet, you don’t need to stop with Google Autocomplete. You can also find keyword suggestions with YouTube, Bing, and Yahoo. They should create a tool that searches all of these.
Oh wait, they have, and it’s called Soovle.
Soovle is a very handy tool for comparing multiple results. It shows search suggestions simultaneously from Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, Answers, Buy, Overstock, and Wikipedia.
Forums – Reading your Audience’s Mind
To be successful at SEO, you need to look closely at what your audience is thinking and talking about. The more you engage with your audience the more you understand their needs and the easier it is to provide them the solution they want.
Forums are like having live focus groups at your fingertips all the time. It’s one place where your audience interacts and shares their opinions..
The easiest way to find forums where your target audience hangs out is to use these search strings in Google:
- “keyword forum”
- “keyword” + “forum”
- “keyword” + “forums”
- “keyword” + “board”
- “keyword” + “powered by phpbb” inurl:/forum
- “keyword” + “powered by vbulletin” inurl:/forum
- “keyword” + “powered by smf” site: /forum
- “keyword” + “powered by phpbb” inurl:/community
- “keyword” + “powered by vbulletin” inurl:/community
- “keyword” + “powered by smf” inurl:/community
Once you find a forum, note what topics are being discussed and even how the forum is structured. Often you’ll find keywords part of the navigation.
When I searched Hawaiian attire the first forum was TripAdivisor. In our last article we discussed how many people buy the popular Hawaiian sandals as a memento from their vacation. So, it’s not surprising to see this as a top result.
There are literally dozens of ways to pull together your keyword seed list and find the gems that will drive the right kind of traffic. As you follow the above tactics, hopefully you’ll begin to see a pattern of what people are wanting and searching for. Shortly, we’ll take a look at exactly how profitable these keywords really are.