Keyword research, although the phrase itself sounds technical, you can do it yourself for your small business. But it’s important to note that it is a process that is time-consuming but rewarding for your business.
As defined by Moz:
"Keyword research is a core SEO task that involves identifying popular words and phrases people enter into search engines -make in an attempt to figure out what to rank for. Researching keywords gives marketers a better understanding of how high the demand is for certain keywords and how hard it would be to compete for those terms in the organic search results, offering some direction to optimisation efforts."
Why you should keyword optimise your site NOW
I have attended many networking events, and the running theme with small businesses is they’re receiving many word-of-mouth referrals and aren’t struggling for business leads right now.
Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is not for failing businesses.
It’s the opposite of that. A good content SEO and keyword strategy are what sets good businesses apart.
If you wake up tomorrow and your referrals aren’t as free-flowing as they used to be, what are you going to do? Magic up some leads?
Keyword research is the backbone of a solid content SEO strategy, and it’s something that takes time and effort to build. But the results, over time, are worth it.
How to find out what your audience is searching for
If you don’t have any SEO tools, it might be worth investing in a tool that can help you keep track of your website progress. A tool that can monitor rankings and help you identify new possibilities when it comes to creating content your audience will enjoy and will help you rank.
To manage my website, I used a tool called Ahrefs. This tool quickly helps me understand my website and my competitors’ website. It’s helped me on my journey to building quality links by identifying fantastic guest posting opportunities, and it gives me both a basic and in-depth view of my site and how it’s ranking.
Creating a site that ranks for relevant keywords and drives traffic is a time-consuming and ongoing process. But done correctly, it can generate relevant organic traffic without you spending a penny! Google paid ads are only going to generate you leads for as long as you’re willing to keep topping them up with money. Organic traffic is traffic your business has earned through SEO strategy.
Ahrefs offer a seven day trial for $7, so if even if you’re a little bit curious, you can sign up and cancel your subscription before being charged the full amount.
Within Ahrefs, go to the keyword explorer. In here, typing the core keyword your industry is part of - for example, mine could be ‘content marketing.’ But, let’s say you’re a business consultant, let’s type in ‘business consultant’ - this is just to start the ball rolling.
You’ll notice, at the top, it’ll say how hard it would be to rank in the top 10 results in the search engine, and how many backlinks you might need to get yourself there. Although ranking for these keywords would be great exposure for your business, it’s not necessarily going to generate relevant traffic.
The person searching for ‘business consultant’ might want to look for business consulting jobs, for example. There is no search intent in this phrase.
You’ll notice further down the page in Ahrefs there’s a ‘questions’ section. This section shows you what users are searching for around this keyword so you can generate relevant ideas for your content (below).
From this ‘questions’ section, you can see what kind of search queries, and therefore the intent behind the search ‘business consultant’ is. If you are a business consultant, it would be worth creating an FAQ section on your site and creating in-depth answers to some of these questions. Questions including ‘what is a business consultant?’ and ‘why hire a business consultant?’could be a good start.
You can repeat this exercise with other keywords relevant to this main keyword; they can be found and clicked on by scrolling further down this page on Ahrefs.com.
Why you shouldn’t focus on generic keywords
Let’s say you’re a new business consultancy. Ranking for the keywords ‘business consultants’ is the dream. With 9,300 searches per month in the United States alone, that’s a pretty hot keyword. Now, let’s back up a minute - what are your chances of actually ranking on the first page of Google for this page? Pretty slim.
My good old trusty tool tells me that to rank on the first page of Google; we’d need at least 27 backlinks. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but with little spare time when getting your business off the ground, it’s a lot of groundwork to put into ranking for one keyword without direct search intent.
Even if you did put the groundwork in, you can see from the graph below that the top five ranking positions are almost impenetrable right now - see how steady they are?
So what kind of keywords should you focus your small business content on?
You want to focus on longer tailed keywords and keyword phrases. They’re lower when it comes to search volume, but they’re more specific to your business and therefore can help you generate hyper-relevant traffic.
This is where you need to understand your exact audience. The more specific you build your buyer personas, the more specific you can become with your marketing. CoSchedule has a fantastic blog about how to develop your marketing personas.
Once you understand your persona’s motives for needing a business consultant, you can start to target your keyword strategy.
First, focus on one primary target keyword
To find this, you’ll need a keyword research tool. There are many free ones out there, including Google Keyword Planner for Google Ads, Keywordtool.io and Keywords Everywhere, but I use a mixture of Ahrefs and Google Search Console.
You’ll want to use a tool that shows you how difficult it is to rank for the keyword. Other metrics to look out for include sites currently competing in the top 10 ranking spots and, of course, how many times the keyword is searched for - the search volume.
You’ll probably already have an idea of what customers would search for just using an educated guess, starting from this point, search your tool. You can see who is currently ranking for this keyword and their pages that are currently ranking for this keyword, plus other similar keywords.
What’s the search intent behind your chosen keyword?
After you’ve searched for your keyword, you need to understand what the user’s intent is behind the search query. This way, you can match their search intent in your blog post or page content. Making it relevant for your user and giving your site the best possible chances of worming its way into the search results pages for the keyword. Just like our example before, you might realise at this stage that the user’s search intent doesn’t align with buying your products, and you’ll need to research alternative keyword phrases.
To find the search intent behind a query is straightforward. Just search for it in Google and scroll past the ads to the organic search listings. If you notice a lot of the content ranked in the top 10 are how-to guides or product pages, you can mirror this content in your strategy.
Using our business consultant example, I searched Google for the term. These are the current organic rankings:
You can see that a good proportion of the top results are listicles. Easy to digest tidbits of information to help the user understand why they should consider hiring a business consultant.
Creating content like this appeals to your audience and their questions surrounding your business, and it helps increase the chances of your business ranking for relevant keywords.
Matching search intent is crucial when creating content. Google is showing you exactly what users want from this keyword - so you’re best sticking with this same formula, they rank for a reason!
Want to chat about your content? Contact me today to book a quick call.