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 helps 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 review their HTML code, specifically the title tag, the meta description, and if possible the meta keywords.
The first thing you want to do is go to a competitor’s site and click on MozBar’s Page Analysis tool which has an icon of a magnify glass over a page.
Once you’ve expanded the Page Analysis tool there are three areas you’re interested in:
- Page Title: This tag is an 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 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.
- Meta Keywords: This is a 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. NOTE: It is not advisable to use this meta tag on your own website. SEO folklore has it that Bing uses it to see if you’re over-optimizing your site and to penalize you.
In the above image you can see a marketing agency website that has put in all its keywords into their meta keyword’s section. To be honest, I was surprised to find this since it has been several decades that the search engines stopped using the meta keyword section as a ranking factor.
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.
Using Google For Keywords
Something that often gets overlooked is Google’s “Searches Related To” that you can find at the bottom of every search. Google literally is telling you that these keywords are related to the one you are currently searching.
Search Engine Mind Reading
When you type in a keyword into the search box, you know how you get a list of keyword predictions? This is called Google Suggest or 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 Suggest, it acts as a wild card and provides different words to help you complete the query.
Yet, you don’t need to stop with Google Suggest. You can also find keyword suggestions with YouTube, DuckDuckGo, 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.
SeedKeywords.com – The Power Of Your Network
We live in an amazing world that has lots of tools to help us out. We also are highly connected to hundreds and thousands of people through social media. When you combine those two elements you get a wickedly cool tool called SeedKeywords.com.
This tool encourages you to have your network share the keywords they would use for a specific search term. It takes less than a minute to setup the tool and then you just share with your friends a link.
I created the below scenario question and shared it in an active marketing group on Facebook. In literally a day this group gave me some seed keywords I had never thought of.
Here is my scenario:
Here are some of the great keywords I was able to get from this marketing group:
Wikipedia’s Keyword Gold Mind
This is one of several keyword research tactics I’ve stolen from Brian Dean over at Backlinko.com. In fact, it’s one of my favorites because it gives you so many new ideas for keywords that you may have not considered.
Enter in the keyword you’re interested in exploring. For this exercise, I’m going to use video production.
First, and foremost lets look at Wikipedia’s “Contents” box aka Table of Contents.
This is extremely helpful, particularly if I’m not familiar with video production (which I am not). The site I’m doing this for has online education courses and I would have never thought of the “Video production for distance education.”
Wikipedia is using this term differently than I would but it already provided me with some additional keywords to use.
Other helpful keywords are “corporate event videos,” “shooting styles and techniques,” and “Internet video production.” All keywords I hadn’t considered.
Three other great areas to look at on Wikipedia are:
Callouts and sidebars:
And “See Also” sections:
You really can go much deeper down this rabbit hole by reviewing the references, external links, and even clicking on the internal links and going through the same process again.
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.
A forum is like having a 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.
Reddit – Reading the Internet’s Mind
I really can’t finish this article without discussing Reddit. Many might argue that Reddit is just a forum and in truth it is. However, Reddit is one of the most powerful forums on the Internet and can really help you see what people are talking about concerning your industry.
You can use Reddit for your seed keywords by typing in its search the main keyword you’re interested in. I typed in marketing videos and was given several groups that are discussing marketing videos.
These groups are definitely worth checking out. However, if you scroll past these groups, Reddit will show you discussions all around Reddit concerning your search.
As I was looking through these Reddit posts I saw a very popular theme and that was people were looking for software solutions to make their marketing videos. This wasn’t something I had previously thought of and will definitely look to see how I can use software with my video production project.
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.