Identifying the right keywords for your website is the first step in working to improve results with search. Sometimes the right keyword is obvious: you sell organic vegetables, so use “organic vegetables.” Sometimes, however, it isn’t obvious at all. That’s when you need to work on keyword development strategies.
Maybe you don’t know what terms people are using to search for companies that do what your company does. This often comes up when the terminology that you use is different from what your clients use — a common situation. Medical keywords in particular can be a challenge. Prospective patients probably don’t use the same terminology you do. But all kinds of organizations face that terminology gap.
We’re working right now on content for a firm of structural engineers. That’s what they call themselves: structural engineers. If you go to your favorite search engine and type in “structural engineers,” however, you are not offered all your local firms of structural engineers; not every profession works the way “hair stylists” does. In my neighborhood, you’ll be offered things like the geomatics field school, which might be quite interesting, but that’s clearly not what we need.
We have to find out what people who want to hire a structural engineer type into the search box of a search engine.
Here are some ways to identify good choices of keywords if you’re starting from scratch:
- Google’s Keyword Suggestion Tool will tell you what Google thinks your website is about. In this case, the keywords Google suggests are the names of buildings the firm has engineered. I’m pretty confident that a person looking to hire an engineering firm will not begin by typing “school” or “First Baptist” into the search box, so this tells us that the content needs fixing, but it doesn’t tell us any good possibilities for primary keywords.
- We can also type in our guesses at the keyword suggestion tool and see whether people actually search for the terms we think might work for us. Then we can type those terms in at a search engine and see whether they get us to the kind of results our customers will use, or just to a results page that will make them reword their search query.
- Google’s Search Console will tell you what keywords people are currently using to find your company’s website. If it’s just the name of your company, you need to work on extending the terms for which Google offers your site. If people are arriving at your website using keywords that aren’t a good match for your company, you need to change your content. The terms where you show up on page 2 or 3 are a great starting point.
- Google Trends will tell you the most popular keywords overall for the products and services you offer. The chart below shows comparative search volume over time for different keywords a woman might use to look for an ob/gyn:
Ask your customers.
- Looking at your keywords in analytics is a method of asking your visitors what keywords they used to find you. You can literally ask your customers, too. When I was working on keyword development for a company that sells animal biologicals, I asked animal scientists how they would search for such things, and discovered terms like “blood fractions,” which hadn’t popped into my mind at all when I was thinking about it.
Ask your competitors.
- If you’re friendly enough, you could just ask. However, there are other ways. You can ask keyword suggestion tools about competitors’ sites just as you asked about your own. There are even some tools that are specifically designed for spying out your competitors’ keywords, such as Spyfu. When I’ve looked at tools like these for companies whose information I know, I have found that they tend to be inaccurate. However, they do provide suggestions. There are similar paid tools as well, including Market Samurai and SEO Spyglass, both of which I use but neither of which seems to me to be worthwhile for a business owner doing occasional keyword research.
- You can look in the source code for the meta keywords lists your competitors are using. Meta keywords aren’t often used nowadays, since Google ignores them, and often they just tell you that your competitors aren’t good at keyword development, but it doesn’t hurt to look.
By the time you’ve done all these things, you probably have some good ideas. You can try them out and then adjust according to how well they work for you.
A different keyword development problem arises when there are just a few very obvious keywords for what you do, and they’re the same for your competitors. We’ve been working with a dental practice that offers dental implants. Checking with all the tools and strategies listed above makes it clear that our client and all their competitors are using the term “dental implants” as their primary keyword. That makes sense: people are far more likely to use that term than to search for “endosseous fixtures.” However, Colgate and WebMD tend to show up at the top of search for “dental implants.”
Here are some possible strategies:
- Go for it. Even when the sites that compete with you for a given keyword are larger, older, and have deeper pockets than you do, you will still probably get a reasonable amount of traffic for that primary keyword. Don’t put all your eggs in that basket, but don’t avoid it, either.
- Use the long tail. You might not be top-ranked for “ob/gyn,” but Google Trends tells us that “doctor for pregnancy” is almost as popular. Terms like “doctor for early pregnancy” and “when to visit doctor after positive pregnancy test” don’t have as much search volume, but they’re still showing up and they’re much easier to rank for.
- Get local. Our client doesn’t need to rank for “dental implants” on a global basis, because his practice serves a specific geographic area. We can work to make his company show up when people in his region search with those terms. Learn more about strategies for this: “Web Content for Local Search.”
When your potential patients, clients, and customers search for the goods and services you offer, you must show up. Keyword development helps you do that. We can help you with keyword development, too. Let us prepare our custom SEO Strategy Document for you — it includes the best keywords for you to work on, or to have us work on for you.