Keyword Research in 10 Minutes a Day

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 18, 2010 in: Tips in 10, Tools & Resources

For most businesses, creating any kind of online presence will usually end up with a discussion of search engines, search engine results, and keywords. More specifically, the conversation ends up talking about Google, Google search engine results, and keywords for Google.

Google isn’t the only search engine around but it is the biggest and most popular and that means it’s the search engine that 99.999999% of us tend to use in our searches and when we’re considering keywords for marketing. So when I say “search engines” I’m generally talking about Google (so if you use another search engine, be aware that there might be differences). Also, when I say “keywords” I could mean a single word or I could mean a phrase (which is sometimes called a “key phrase”).

When someone goes to Google to search for something, the words they type into the text box are the keywords that they are looking for. So you need to know what keywords you want to be searchable for and then you need to build your website and your external marketing to target those keywords. (Most of my readers know most of this already, of course, but I need to start somewhere).

Step 1: Imagine the possibilities (Duration: 10 minutes)

The first thing to do is to pull out a piece of paper or open a Word document and write down what you do in a couple of sentences. Write it the way you normally would, which is usually from your own perspective. (For example, I might write: “I am a coach who helps small business owners with productivity and social media and project management” or something along those lines).

Once you have that, try rewriting it a couple of times using different words. Bust out the thesaurus if you need to. If you can’t think of anything, imagine what your mom would write if she were to try to describe what you do to her friends. And, imagine what your top 5 customers would each write about you to a peer who they think might benefit from your services. You should end up with 3 or 4 total summaries (yours plus a couple of others). And it’s here that you can start to put together the keywords that are important for you.

Look over the list you’ve created and think about what an internet searcher would type in if they wanted to find your services online. It’s usually (but not always) a derivative of the words you used in the paragraphs you just wrote. For example, from the one sentence I wrote about myself earlier, I imagine that someone is going to search online for the keywords “productivity coach” or “social media coach” or “project manager”, so those might be keywords, as well as their synonyms (like “social networking consultant”).

Don’t worry if these don’t exactly describe your services perfectly. That’s not the point. The point is that you first need to find the possibilities; you can always narrow the list down later. Now that you have a list (hopefully a longer list than the few I’ve just listed as examples), you can move on to the next step.

Step 2: See what Google has to say about it (Duration: 10 minutes)

Go to Google’s keyword tool at: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. This tool lets you type in a keyword and see a bunch of information about it. Now, you can type in all of your keywords at once and do a single search, and that might work fine if you do one thing. However, many of us (myself included) might want to target keywords for slightly different audiences (i.e. project management, social media, and productivity) so I prefer to separate the keywords out into individual categories (i.e. I’d put “project manager” in one and “social media coach” and “social networking consultant” into a second one and “productivity coach” into a third one) because they can be downloaded to your hard drive and I like to keep them in different files based on what I’m working on.

So, type in one (or all) of your keywords, then type in the “I’m-a-human-being” security word and click “get keyword ideas”.

You’ll end up with a big list of keywords and key phrases that people use when searching for services that are similar to yours. Some will be relevant to you, others won’t be, and some will be somewhere in between.

In this list you’ll also see the number of local searches for the phrase in the past month and the average global per-month searches for that phrase. At this point, I like to choose a “top 10” keyword list for each of the original keywords I had found. There were 3 original “categories” of keywords – “productivity coach”, “social media coach”, and “project manager” so I have a list of about 30 (give or take) keywords – a top 10 preferred list for each one.

There isn’t a formula that will identify which keywords you might prefer. You don’t have to base it on search popularity: A keyword with hundreds of thousands of hits is obviously more popular and therefore might be more difficult to appear high on the rankings, but a small piece of a big pie can still be good. Likewise, a keyword with only a few dozen searches might not be as popular and will therefore probably be easier to get higher rankings, and a big piece of a small pie isn’t that bad, either.

Step 3: See it in context (Duration: 10 minutes per day over a couple of days)

Once you’ve found your top 10 keywords, start looking around the web at each one. (This might be a good project to outsource, by the way). Find out what the top 10 results on Google are for each of the 10 keywords. Yes, you’ll end up with 100 websites but you’ll also have a clear idea about where you fit. It’s not uncommon to find that a couple of the keywords just aren’t quite what you want to be searchable for. Or maybe the competition is so fierce somewhere that you don’t think you have a chance and therefore don’t want to bother trying to be searchable for that keyword. Or perhaps you see an area where the competition is fierce but you add real value.

This can take some time so break it up over a few days if you need to.

Step 4: Narrow (Duration: 10 minutes)

Now you need to narrow your list a bit. 10 keywords might be a bit much to be able to market effectively. Aim to narrow it down to a core list of 3-4 primary keywords that you want to be searchable for. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to ignore the other keywords, but it just means that you’re going to focus your energy on a few places where you can make the most difference rather than spreading yourself too thin and being ineffective at all of them.

Narrowing your list is pretty easy because of the information you collected in step 2 and step 3 but you may still need to do a bit more work to narrow further. Deepen your search to see what other search results there are beyond the first page of the Google search and expand your search to http://search.twitter.com to see how people are talking about your keywords there.

By the end of this effort, you should have a list of 3-4 (no more than 5, seriously!) keywords that you can then use.

  • Embed them in your website and blog content
  • Write articles about them and post them at an article distribution site
  • Write guest blogs and articles for online magazines
  • If possible, incorporate them into your URL
  • Make sure they are in your bios
  • Create a Google Profile with the information
  • … and the list goes on and on.

There! You’ve done keyword research in just 10 minutes a day that you can use to set the course for an aggressive and effective marketing campaign.

Heather Recommends:

I love working with coaches, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to help them become more successful. If you'd like to improve your business, find out how I can help.

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