Without decent key phrase research your search marketing is useless

Perhaps the hardest idea to get over to new clients is the importance of Key phrase research in SEO. Although things always change, in general terms a search engine will try to match as closely to the phrase you enter.

While many business will know the key phrases that work for them, without research often these are either wrong or at the least misguided.

People search in keywords

While it’s true that people write and communicate in natural language, when people use search engines they tend to change the interaction into a series of keywords…

So as an example if you lived in Croydon and needed a plumber, if you were speaking to a friend you would ask ‘Do you know of any good plumbers?’. When the same person asks a search engine this changes to ‘Plumbers Croydon’. Part of this will come from time (most people like to type in the most direct way possible) and part will have come from their historic use of technology.

And indeed if you look at the majority of on page SEO work done today most will revolve around identifying and writing in exact terms around these killer key phrases.

Google AdWords saint and sinner

Although it now has massive flaws, Google AdWords Keyword planner still represents the best source of search data available.

An AdWords account can be set up for free (just go to the Google AdWords website and sign in with your Google account) and requires little skill to use.

It is important to realise how the data is collected and how it is flawed before sinking your SEO budget into a range of content that will never give you a return.

Includes historic

By Google’s own omissions, the reported search volumes includes historic volume data, so while large volume numbers are good, there is no guarantee that while the search volume was popular then, anyone searches for it now.

Buying phrases

It’s important to realise that not all key phrases translates to targeted traffic. For instance if you are a web designer, there may be a lot of searched for ‘web design courses’ or ‘web design software’, these searches are unlikely to contain visitors which are likely to want to take out your service.

By default it’s Global

By default the Keyword Planner will bring back global search results, for most companies they will want to see more local volumes, so make sure you restrict results as appropriate. (I.e. if you are based in Oxfordshire and that’s where 95% of where your clients comes from restrict the results to only show search volumes from within Oxfordshire)

1, 2 3 – Don’t bother

Even with good monthly search volumes it’s important to realise how many searches it means for you. Typically the first organic result in google will take 20% to 30% of the monthly search volume, and this goes right down to barely 1% for the bottom result on the first page. In other words if you search phrase gets 100 visitors a month, the first result on Google will get 20 to 30 of them and the tenth results will get just 1 visitor or a month. Make sure there are enough search volume to justify SEO.

They are not all customers

One of the biggest factors in the Google data being wrong is the type of searches which inflate these figures. While some will be potential customer searching for services, some will be generated by you when checking how you are ranking, some will be competing companies doing the same thing and lastly a lot will be SEO companies carry out their own SEO research. For key phrases with small volumes, these ‘fake’ searches my account for 75% of the searches recorded.

Tom can’t peep any more

While it is true that in the beginning days of Google it was able to record a near 100% of accurate data, with recent rulings and with people removing the ability for Google to record your search data, this translates into less accurate search volume data. In short more searches is better, you can’t assume the actual search volume is anywhere near.

Most searches does not equal the best search phrase

While search volumes are in indication of popular phrases, it’s not the end of the story. A search phrase which is popular is likely to have a number of other people competing for that top spot, this is referred to how competitive the phrase is. The more competitive a phrase is, the harder it is to rank for it. For new websites or for us mortals, choosing phrases which are less popular may allow us to get more customers in the long term. To give you your best phrase, simply take the search volume and divide this figure by the competitive value (given in the AdWords keyword planner), this will help you determine which search phrases have the most traffic and are the easiest to rank well for.

Common sense

Finally use your common sense, if the data seems wrong, it probably is, so it’s acceptable to spilt test phrases to prove your research. If you take the advice above you should see an improvement in your SEO and SERP efforts.