Welcome back to the world of Search Engine Optimization. This time around we're going to dive into the art and science of keyword research. Yes, that's right, by the time you're done with this 3 part article you will be a Keyword Research Ninja... OK maybe not quite a ninja, but you'll be a lot closer to ninja status by the time we're done.
So what does it take to master keyword research? It's simple... research. Well... research and management. These are the two main factors that comprise any keyword strategy for targeting the search terms you desire to rank for in the search engines. While it's true, the majority of keyword research you do will be up front; you still shouldn't think of it as something that you'll only do once. There are numerous scenarios where it it will be beneficial to do keyword research. e.g. Optimizing blog posts to maximize exposure, determining optimal keywords for new products or solutions pages for higher traffic, or perhaps even targeting a more niche or specific demographic.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, we'll just take some time to review the basics of keywords in this post.
Whether you're doing research for SEO or for Paid Search; you need to be able to make the distinction between the different types of keyword match types that are out there and what they mean for search volume.
Exact Match - represents the search volume for your exact keyword, as well as close variants of your keyword, but does not include search volume for any other terms within a search.
Broad Match - is the search volume for any search term that contains any order of your keyword as well as terms that are synonyms, related search terms, or some other relevant variation of your keyword.
Phrase Match - is similar to exact match, however, in this case phrase match shows search volume for your exact keyword with additional words before or after it, as well as, close variants of the keyword with additional words before or after it.
Note: According to Google, close variants include misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings, abbreviations, and accents. For more in depth information on Match Type please visit this resource.
When performing keyword research exact match is going to be your best bet to determine whether the keyword is any good. However, don't forget to check out phrase and broad as well, as these will still give you an idea of what the additional potential could be in targeting that word.
Long Tail vs the Short Tail
Two terms you need to become familiar with are "long tail" and "short tail" keywords. Short tail keywords refer to a short phrase of one or two words. e.g. "shoes" or "running shoes". Long tail keywords on the other hand refer to longer phrases of words e.g. "nike running shoes", "women's running shoes", "running shoes for over-pronated feet". In this example you can see that short tail keywords are very general, and as a result they have a lot of traffic volume. But if you're looking to optimize a women's running shoes page to try to rank for "shoes" you're probably not going to be too successful in ranking well for it. This is because "shoes" is a very popular term that large retailers who offer a larger variety of shoes will most likely rank better for. And even if you do rank well; you'll probably wind up having a bigger bounce rate because the people looking for" shoes", may not be looking for "women's running shoes". Relevancy is always important in picking your keywords for a page.
Tip: Sometimes you can capture and optimize for both the short and long tail keywords if the short tail version is contained within the long tail. e.g. If you're a shoe store that carries running shoes, you'll still be able to capture some of the "shoes" traffic if you optimize for "running shoes" on your page, because "shoes" is contained within "running shoes".
Optimizing for your Brand
Remember how in the first post: SEO 101, that the title tags format recommended was as follows:
keyword phrase(s) | brand name
The reason for this is it's a great way to help with branded SEO, if you include your brand name at the end of your title tag. The same is true for a branded product. If people know your product by name, you want to make certain that it's going to show up in the search result. New websites, companies, and new products are all critical places where including your branded terms could definitely pay off. Including your brand in your title is a sure way to ensure that your page starts showing up for branded searches.
Alright that's all your ninja training for now. Stay tuned for part two of this post where we'll dive into conducting keyword research and for part three where we'll wrap things up with keyword management.