Welcome back to our SEO Essentials series. This week, we’re going to tackle keyword research and competitive analysis, two important elements of any successful search engine optimization strategy.
Last week, we talked about how a solid technical foundation is necessary to set your SEO strategy up for success. Once you already have a fast, responsive, well-structured website, you can move on to planning your content strategy. Keyword research and competitive analysis should be your starting point – and here is how you should go about it.
If you missed last week’s article about SEO setup, check it out here.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying the keywords that your target customers are searching for online in order to focus your content strategy on them. Knowing what keywords you should be targeting, you can create relevant content that will answer your target audience’s questions, address their needs, or help them solve a problem.
A consistent keyword strategy across your site will also help Google understand exactly what products or services your business offers and include your website in relevant search results.
What is competitive analysis?
Competitive analysis should supplement your keyword research. Knowing how other businesses in your field address their target clientele and what keywords they focus on can point you in the right direction and save you a lot of trial and error.
When running keyword and competitor research, you should aim at finding a sweet spot: keywords with a lot of potential to drive search traffic but not too much competition. For example, if you run a skin care clinic and your biggest competitors dominate top search results for a high-level keyword like skin care clinic, you could try to pinpoint some more location- and service-specific long-tail keywords that people look for, e.g. acne scar treatment Calgary.
4 ways to do simple keyword and competitor research
Below, you can find 4 simple exercises that will help you get a rough understanding of the list of keywords you should be targeting with your content. These methods do not require the use of specialized tools or SEO software – it’s all you!
Google is the primary source you should turn to when trying to conduct free keyword research. The search engine makes the task very easy with a feature we’re all so used to, we don’t usually think of it as a potential marketing tool: Google search suggestions.
Why are the insights from Google search suggestions so valuable? Because the list is comprised of actual searches from actual real users, ranked by popularity. They vary by region and language, so you can safely assume that the suggested keywords you see are popular search terms in your area. Using them as keywords in your content strategy will help you cater to the needs of potential clients looking for relevant services in your area.
Another great way to use Google search for keyword research is to take a close look at paid search results. Large companies spend big advertising dollars on search engine marketing, and you can trust that the keywords used in top ads are the ones that successfully attract leads – after all, high-value search campaigns are always backed with extensive keyword research.
Look for patterns. For example, if you notice that several of your competitors are mentioning free consultations in their search ads, consider using the phrase free consultation on your website, in your blog posts, in a few page titles, etc.
Using search ads as an inspiration for your organic content strategy is like taking a well-informed shortcut to identifying winning keywords.
Manual first page results review
This next exercise requires a bit more investigative work.
Run a Google search for the phrase that you believe best describes your services (e.g. skincare clinic Vancouver). Then, open the pages listed in organic results on the first page. The content you find there can serve as an inspiration for your own content strategy – if these pages perform so well in search results, their SEO strategies are clearly working.
Take note of frequently used keywords, focusing on phrases used in page titles, headings, URLs, calls to action, etc.
While the goal we are focusing on today is keyword research, take this opportunity to look into other aspects of your competitors’ websites. Ranking on the first page isn’t determined solely by content optimization – user experience is an important ranking signal used by Google’s algorithm.
When researching your well-performing competitors’ sites, keep an eye out for innovative design or technology solutions that could potentially also work for your business.
Quora, Reddit, and social media analysis
In some ways, SEO is the art of pleasing search engine algorithms. But we shouldn’t forget that these algorithms work to best match the search intent of their users. This means that if you want to excel at SEO, you have to start with building an understanding of what it is that your clientele needs and looks for on the internet.
A great way to find this out is to listen to your potential customers. Find places – online forums, social media groups – where people go to discuss needs relevant to the services you offer. If you find popular threads that address your area of expertise, consider creating content that explicitly answers the questions they raise. Use the same key phrases as the participants of these online discussions to improve the chances of your content gaining traction through organic search.
What if you need more details?
For more granular keyword metrics, including monthly search volume, competitive difficulty, and purchase intent, you should turn to specialized SEO software or ask an SEO expert or digital marketing agency for help.
Soulpepper boasts a team of experienced SEO specialists and a portfolio of happy clients who were able to outrank their competitors and generate new leads with the help of SEO. We would love to help you grow your business.
Looking for help with SEO?
If you need help identifying valuable keywords and building a winning content strategy, we’re here for you! Our team of leading SEO experts can help you set your website up for success, develop a bespoke action plan, implement on- and off-site optimization strategies, and guide you all the way up Google’s rankings.
Soulpepper Digital Marketing has helped numerous businesses of different sizes and budgets succeed, and we look forward to helping you grow your company! Give us a call or get in touch via our contact form to see what we can do for you.