Part 1: SEO Success Starts With Keyword Research

Travis Van SlootenSmall Business SEO

Keyword research is the first step in the SEO process.  It is also one of the most important parts of the search engine optimization process. If you target the wrong keywords, you’ll be wasting your time and money.

Remember, SEO should be an investment in your business – not an expense. You want to target keywords that will give you a return on your investment!

3 Keyword Selection Considerations

When doing keyword research, there are three components to consider before selecting the keywords you want to target. They are:

  1. Number of Searches
  2. Competition
  3. Search Intent

You want keywords that get a decent amount of searches without a lot of competition where the intent of the search matches the goals of the web page you are trying to rank for. With this combination, you’ll be able to rank more easily and much quicker and you’ll have better conversions.

How Many Searches? More Is NOT Always Better

If you are a chiropractor in Minneapolis who has just started your own practice, what keyword do you think you should target – “chiropractor” or “chiropractor minneapolis”? Let’s use the Google Keyword Tool and see how many exact searches each one gets every month. Here is what we see:

keyword research minneapolis chiropractor

“Chiropractor” gets 110,000 searches while “chiropractor Minneapolis” gets 320 searches. It’s obvious “chiropractor” is what you should target, right? Not so fast.

“Chiropractor” gets significantly more searches but which one is more targeted to your potential customer base and which one is likely to be easier to rank for? I’ll give you a hint: “chiropractor Minneapolis”

If you have a lot of money and time to commit to getting ranked for “chiropractor” it could be done, but would it be worth it? Sure you might get a lot of traffic but what kind of conversions would you have? After all, how many people searching for the generic term, “chiropractor,” are actually looking for chiropractic care? And how many of them live in the Minneapolis area?

When using the Google Keyword Tool there are three different keyword match types that Google returns data for. They are broad, exact, and phrase match. You want to look at the exact and phrase match data when selecting keywords to target. That is why we looked at the exact match data in our example.

How Much Competition Is There?

There are several things to look at when sizing up the competition, but the primary things you’re looking at are domain age, page rank (PR), and the number of backlinks to a site. The older the domain, the higher the PR, and the more backlinks – the stiffer the competition.

Using our favorite SEO tool, Market Samurai, we search for “chiropractor Minneapolis” to see what the SEO competition looks like for the websites on the first page of Google for that keyword. Here is what we see:

Keyword Analysis Minneapolis Chiropractor

The results are a little hard to see but the average age of the domains is 7 years and most of the sites have a PR between 1 and 3. The website with the most backlinks has 2,149 backlinks while the website with the least backlinks has 0! Just looking at this data, the competition isn’t that bad at all.

If you properly optimized a web page for this keyword and did the monthly SEO required (i.e. obtained backlinks every month), you could rank on Google (the first page specifically) within a few months. Contrast that with the competition for just “chiropractor”:

Global Chiropractor keyword research Market Samari

There are a few websites that are 12 years old with a PR as high as 5. A handful of websites have more than 10,000 backlinks with one having as many as 62,619 backlinks! As you can expect, a very broad keyword like this has lots of competition. It would take several months and a lot of time and effort (and money) to get ranked for this keyword!

Search Intent

Another consideration of the keyword selection process is the search intent. You want to make sure that the intent of the search matches the goals you have for the web page you’re trying to rank for. If the intent matches the goals, you’ll get better conversions.

For example, if you are trying to get a page on your website to rank for “sports chiropractor” and your practice is located in Minneapolis, then you want to research and target keywords specifically about “sports chiropractor” and not “family chiropractor” or “child chiropractor” etc. In addition, you want to rank for those keywords with Minneapolis as part of the keyword. Instead of “sports chiropractor,” you’d want to consider, “sports chiropractor Minneapolis” instead.

Bonus Tips on Keyword Selection

Here are a few bonus tips when doing your keyword research and selection:

Think like your customer! Just because you know your industry, don’t assume everyone else does. Don’t just think of the keywords you’d use to find your products or services. If this is difficult for you to do, just ask a family member or friend who’s not in your industry what they’d search for to find your products and services.

Think like an industry expert. O.K, this totally contradicts the first tip but there are people in your industry that may be looking for your products and services so consider keywords that are specific to your industry.

Don’t target too many keywords for each page on your website. This is a common mistake. Keep your keywords laser focused. We like to target no more than 1-3 keywords per page and we keep the keywords closely related.

Links To The 10-Part SEO Series on How To Rank on Google

Part 1: SEO Success Starts With Keyword Research
Part 2: Why Producing Quality Content for SEO Is Important
Part 3: Structuring Your Website For SEO
Part 4: Content Optimization for SEO
Part 5: Internal Linking Strategies for SEO
Part 6: Human Testing for SEO Success
Part 7: Search Engines Submissions for SEO
Part 8: Link Building for SEO
Part 9: Monitoring Your SEO Efforts
Part 10: Extra Tools & Resources for SEO Success