Keyword Research is the Most Important Part of SEO

Written on March 14, 2013

If your business or organization has a website (call us immediately if you don't ;), you're most likely at least familiar if not somewhat educated about the need for your site to be properly "optimized" for search engines and how SEO works.

In fact, Google alone fields over 100 billion (YES BILLION) search queries per month, worldwide from users searching for everything from "gummy bears" to "Orlando advertising agencies". And in order for your website to have a chance of showing in the "free" or "organic" results for these searches, your site's pages have to be properly optimized for the "keywords" that are most important to and relevant for your business or products.

So, What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of researching and choosing words and phrases users will likely search for (at any given search engine) that directly relate to your business, product or services.

So, if you're an advertising agency located in Orlando Florida - it would make sense that someone searching for "Orlando advertising agency" be able to find your site in Google's organic search listings. But it's not quite as easy as simply choosing appropriate keywords for your site. Without properly "optimizing" your site and its content around this keyword phrase, your site has little chance of being presented by Google to a user performing the search. Since overall SEO tactics are for a different post, you can learn a little more about actual page optimization in this previous post related to on-page SEO. For this article we'll stay on the topic of keywords and keyword research.

Why is Keyword Research the Most Important Element of SEO?

Simply put - until you know what words and phrases are most important for your website to rank for - you cannot properly optimize the pages in your site, nor your content strategy to help draw qualified traffic and leads to your site.

And if the wrong set of keywords is chosen for your website and the site is optimized for keywords that don't directly relate to your business and its offerings, you may very well get traffic to your site - but unqualified traffic at that. This of course is not only frustrating to you as the site owner (lots of traffic with no leads) but is frustrating to site visitors as well - that landed on a website that didn't match what they were looking for. For these users, the "back button" is a short click away and a high "bounce" rate is almost certainly guaranteed.

Conversely, when a user's search yields a website with content that closely matches the product or service or information they were seeking - they are obviously much more likely to stick around, dive deeper and in best case convert to a customer.

"Popular" vs. "Long-Tail" Keywords

Generalized or high-level keywords or "popular" search terms (such as "advertising agency" or again "gummy bears") make up close to 30% of users' searches and while important to target for your niche might also have a great number of other websites competing for the same search phrases and traffic. So while ranking #1 for a "popular" search term like "gummy bears" might sound great if that's your business, the reality is that only one website out of 3,960,000 results will ACTUALLY be number one (yes, that's the actual number of pages Google returns for that search).

So narrowing down and making your keyword list more specific is critical in the process, say changing "advertising agency" to "Orlando advertising agency" would greatly narrow down the number of competing websites for that keyword AND if the majority of your business is done locally, in that city - will actually help you better qualify your traffic and leads.

"Long-Tail" keywords, on the other hand, are responsible for the other 70% of searches. These are searches users perform, typically closer to the end of their buying cycle and closer to making their decision or purchase and are a bit longer with more specific terms. Examples would be "advertising agency in Orlando with website expertise" or "red gummy bears best price per pound".

Obviously these "long-tail" searches are being performed by users who have already begun to narrow their decision making process and are actually closer to pulling the trigger. These users make better leads and convert more easily if your product or service closely matches their search.

How Keyword Research is Done

While giving a lengthy tutorial or "how-to" about performing keyword research is not in the scope of this article, a bit of high level info regarding the subject is in order. Keyword research is generally performed fairly early in the website development process (for a new site) or at the beginning of an SEO push for an existing site.

Because search engine optimization techniques should be built into the content and structure of any given website, without doing the keyword research up-front - it's like putting the proverbial cart before the horse. That being said, the bottom line is that keyword research should occur early in the development or SEO process.

Typically, several keyword lists will be researched and generated for any given site. These might include a list for the overall purpose or industry of your website and then there will likely be separate keyword lists that revolve around each product or service offering your business has.

And because each page in your website can only be optimized for 1 to 2 (max) keyword phrases it may be necessary to generate additional pages of content centered around particularly competitive keywords that you're gunning for.

There are a number of tools you or your SEO professional will leverage when researching the appropriate keywords for your site.

Tools for Keyword Research

It might be worth noting a few tools for performing keyword research. These might be leveraged by yourself, if you run and manage your own website or your SEO who is responsible for performing your keyword research.

Measuring the Success of Your Keywords

There are a number of factors that play a role when measuring the success of your keywords lists and ultimately the overall optimization of your website.

  • Are you receiving organic search traffic for the keywords you defined?
  • Is the traffic you're receiving from these keywords converting to sales or completed goals?
  • Is your site ranking highly enough in organic search results? Or is competition too stiff?
  • Does your content strategy support your keyword, traffic and conversion goals?

If you answered "no" to these questions or don't have a solid answer to them - give us a call. We'd love to talk about your site, search engine optimization and of course your goals as a business!