By Dr. Kelli Criss

Detail Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Read Time: 3-5 minutes

This week, Growing your Business with Digital Marketing, dives into the nitty gritty of a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) basic practice . . . researching keywords. These keywords link you and customers.  We’ll also address the ways search engines function and the psychology behind online searching.  We hope today’s blog will inspire keyword research for your business.  Happy reading!

Search engines do what?

Let’s clarify what a search engine actually does before diving into keyword research.  Search engines are like live operators.  Remember the operators from a brick and mortar department store switchboard?  The search engine is like that phone operator who answers your call, listens to what you are seeking, and connects you to the answer.

By combing through the infinite content online and assessing myriad features, the search engine makes conclusions about which content best addresses your request or inquiry.  The combing occurs through all of the internet’s content, whether videos, web pages, images, PDFs, etc.  This combing process is “crawling and indexing” while the organizing process is “ranking.” The criteria for “ranking” is simply how precisely the gathered information addresses your particular inquiry.

How do I research keywords?

Critical for SEO is knowing what the public is looking for.  Once you know what people are seeking, you place that information in your site’s content. You don’t want to place the information in a haphazard fashion. In your site, you include the information people are seeking in a manner which the public and search engines can find.  You want to know: what information users seek, the number of users seeking the information, and the structure in which they want the information.

Using a keyword research tool is your best bet.  These tools work by typing in your “seed keywords,” which are several keywords you want to rank for.  The tool completes searches of these “seed keywords” and produces lists of everyday questions users search for, additional keywords related to your “seed keywords,” subjects to guide content creation, and the search volume for a particular keyword(s).  A few free keyword research tools include:  s,  ,  , and  .  Without employing the keyword research, many businesses would be ignorant of the data gleaned from these research tools.

Search volume, your competitors, and keywords

The search volume for particular keywords tells how much the keywords are used in a search.  As the volume increases, the more difficult it is to earn high rankings for the keywords because competition is stiff and it’s a big lift.  High-volume keywords are not the best to tackle first.  A better idea is going after “long-tail keywords” – extremely specific keywords that have less competition among users’ searches.

Long-tail keywords have their name because of their location at the end of a curve on a graph showing the demand for particular searches.  While keywords with the popular/highest ranking (top 100 to 10,000 keywords) get 18.5% of search traffic and up to 1 million monthly searches, the keywords with the less popular/lower ranking get 70% of search traffic and up to 1 hundred monthly searches.

Searching what keywords your competitors rank for is next.  Either you can target keywords your competitor doesn’t rank for or you can target the keywords your competitor does rank for.  Targeting keywords where your competitor lacks rank helps capitalize on unharnessed potential while targeting keywords for which your competitor ranks is a more hardline approach.  Another competitive angle is possible when you use your keyword research to focus upon a specific geographic location.

Why users are searching

Earlier, we mentioned knowing the customer.  Researching your customer’s reason or intent for searching online is possible through evaluating Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) related to your keywords.  How does the information your customer seeks align with how the information appears in the SERP? Five basic reasons or types of user intent are:

  • Informational – seeking information like how many feet in a yard
  • Navigational – seeking a particular location on the internet like a school’s homepage
  • Transactional – seeking to accomplish something, like watch a movie or buy a car
  • Commercial – seeking to conduct product comparisons to locate the product most suited to particular desires
  • Local – seeking a local place like restaurant or sports complex near me

Researching why users are looking for particular keywords by viewing SERPs enables you to know which content your intended customers’ desire.

My Apple watch is telling me to breathe so it’s time to strike my favorite yoga pose, but now you can keyword research and brainstorm to your heart’s content—or maybe just go have a beer.  LOL.

Stay tuned next week to learn more SEO basic practices!