And how to find the right keywords for your business

If you were searching on Google for your business without knowing the name of your business, what words would you use? Remember, you need to imagine you know nothing about your business – its name, it’s location, or the name of any of your proprietary products or services. Your brand is also an unknown quantity.

Now what words do you use? Whatever you choose to type into a Google search bar, those are your KEYWORDS: the generic – i.e. non-branded – words or phrases that describe your business or product to a total stranger.

Have you noticed that when you type something into Google that’s more than two or three words long, that Google tries to second-guess you? They call it “autocompleting”, and they are trying to assess your search intent and enhance your search experience by showing you what millions of other people who have searched for the same thing have already successfully found through Google.

And with their latest BERT update they are getting even smarter at interpreting search queries. This is probably the biggest change that Google has made in the last five years and the most important thing you can review and research right now is your keywords.

It’s not about you: An anecdote

The challenge is that they need to be the keywords your target audience uses, which may be different from the words and phrases you use. There’s no denying you’re expert at what you do, but there may be a language that’s specific to your industry or skill that people on the outside – i.e. your potential customers – don’t know about so won’t be using in Google searches.

I was once in the audience at a seminar for business start-ups when the subject of keywords came up. One of the delegates was a mortgage advisor who was fairly vocal in sharing his low opinions on keywords and was adamant that doing any research was a waste of his time. This was on the basis that as he was an expert people would naturally gravitate to his website.

The seminar leader gave us an exercise to prove (or disprove) his assumptions. She asked the aforementioned mortgage advisor to write down what he currently believed were his keywords, even if that’s not what he called them. She then asked the rest of us to write down the keywords we would use when searching online for a mortgage advisor.

Can you guess the outcome? The two lists bore no resemblance to one another. His list was full of technical and legal terms with not even the word “mortgage” included; our lists were all about buying a home and finding the right kind of finance for it.

Zen and the art of keywords

The lesson here is that you need to walk a mile in your customer’s shoes to discover what language they use when they’re looking for the products and services you provide. Indeed the whole tone of your website content should be focused on your target market and the problems that you solve.

If you’re not sure if your website content complies, take 5 minutes now to review the text on your Home page, specifically the pronouns you are using. What’s the ratio between First Person pronouns words like “I”, “Us”, “We” versus Third Person pronouns like “You”, “Your” and “You’re”. If there’s more of the former than the latter, then you need to change the focus, find out what your customers want to know and create content that appeals to them.

Keywords: Where to start

Keywords are key to being listed in search results (SERPs). Developing a list of keywords is one of the most important tasks in any search engine optimisation initiative. Keywords and SEO are directly connected and are foundational for all your other SEO efforts. So it’s well worth the time and investment to ensure your SEO keywords are highly relevant to your audience and effectively organised.

Remember that Google is interpreting a user’s intent behind a search which means that intent is now one of the most pivotal factors in your ability to rank well on search engines. Which in turn means going beyond lobbing isolated keywords and phrases into every orifice of your website just for the sake of it. You need to delve deeper into the meaning behind what your target audience is looking for.

So ask yourself this question: What is my target customer looking for and can I fulfil their search intent? Here’s a simple process to follow:

1. Write down a list of all the topics and ideas that define your business. Aim for at least five or six topics.

2. For each of those ideas write down a list of relevant keywords: these can be one word or phrases up to four or five words in length, so long as they are relevant to the topic.

3. Now start researching those keywords. There are several very quick, simple and free ways to do this. The first is to use Google itself.

Using Google for keyword research

Open up a new Google search page and type one of your keywords or phrases into the search bar. In this example, I used “how to find keywords for seo” and this is the result I got:

This is a typical SERP list, with Ads at the top (paid results), a summary in a box (called a “featured snippet”), followed by a set of organic results (natural, unpaid results). On your own SERP results scroll right to the bottom of the screen. You should see a list that looks something like this:

The legend starts with the phrase “Searches related to” followed by your original search term, in this case “how to find keywords for seo”. Google is telling me what millions of other users have searched for on the subject of “how to find keywords for seo”. If you then clicked on each one of the phrases in blue you would get a new set of results, and new list of “Searches related to” suggestions at the bottom. That’s keyword research!

Free keyword research tools

Here are some tried-and-trusted recommendations for other free tools that you can try when doing keyword research:

Wordstream: https://www.wordstream.com/keywords

Moz: https://moz.com/explorer

Wordtracker: https://www.wordtracker.com/

Small SEO Tools: https://smallseotools.com/keywords-suggestions-tool/

With each of these tools you enter a keyword and you will get a list of suggestions for alternatives, based on popularity, monthly search volume, Google Ad cost (the higher the cost the more popular the keyword), etc. You may get different results from each for the same initial keyword but you can always compile a consolidated list.

You can also check out what keywords your competitors are ranking for using this free tool!

Ubersuggest: https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/

By the end of the exercise you should have a long list of keywords and – even better – a great insight into what your target audience is looking for when they’re looking for a business like yours. You will have stepped into their shoes, learned their language, discovered their search intent and the problems that they need solving. I hope you’ll find it’s well worth the time and effort involved.

Your next task is to create the content that fulfils that search intent – but that’s a blog for another day!

If you need any further help with keywords or anything else SEO-related, please get in touch.