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Choose the Right Target: Keyword Phrase Research 101

target practiceGreat news! Your business has made it to the front page of search engine results and online success is yours.

“But wait,” you might say. “My business still isn’t getting more calls or making more money.”

Your problem is more common than you might think. The likely culprit? You’re targeting search terms that your customers aren’t using.

Getting it right starts with careful thinking and meticulous research about what customers really want, and you will have to step away from the Internet to do it. Check out the OnlineImage® customer analysis guide on just that topic.

In today’s blog, you can read about how our expert analysts go from general ideas about customer preferences to keyword phrase research, strategies and testing.

Note: For the newbies and the anti-jargon warriors out there, “keyword” is the Internet marketing term for whatever users type (or speak) into query boxes in search engines, even when the searches are for multiple-word phrases. “Keyword phrase” refers to the longest search queries.

Explore Your Keyword Phrase Ideas

Imagine you’re a dentist trying to find new clients in Roseburg, Oregon. You make the most money per procedure for laser teeth whitening, and you just had a pregnant woman ask about how to keep her teeth white at home. You might guess that customers are searching for “teeth whitening when pregnant.”

Don’t jump right into buying pay-per click (PPC) ads and writing blogs about pregnant ladies with less-than-lustrous smiles. Instead, dig around in the search engine metrics provided by tools such as Google Analytics and the Bing Webmaster Toolbox. There, you may find that very few people have visited your site after searching for “teeth whitening roseburg or,” let alone “teeth whitening when pregnant.” Most of your visitors first visit your page on general dentistry, and the keyword phrases that bring them there are about crowns and teeth cleaning.

From this data, it’s pretty clear that building an entire site about teeth whitening during pregnancy isn’t your best bet. You may get to the first page of results in a jiffy, but only you will know. You can check your analytics research in a few other places. In Google Trends (which just got a makeover), you would discover that virtually no one is searching for pregnancy and teeth whitening. You can confirm that in Adwords when you see that virtually no one is trying to buy ads for those searches.

google trends dental research

Find Another Way

Now that you have pulled up all the numbers, don’t worry that your initial idea didn’t pan out. Instead, combine your knowledge about what brings customers to your site now with what people are searching for and make some decisions.

For example, you might find that “family dental care” and “cosmetic dentistry” are popular keyword phrases in your local area. Focusing on these words as you work on your site could be the perfect strategy, and you could mention your laser teeth whitening services as a great addition to regular checkups and teeth cleaning services.

Scope Out the Keyword Competitionall your data

Your next step is to check the competition, and it’s a two-step process. First, visit the web pages of your top competitors. Look for the services they highlight and link to from their homepages. Pay special attention to Title Tags and Meta Descriptions.

When you’re looking at a webpage, you can find these by typing “Ctrl + U” on Windows or Linux or “Cmd + U” on a Mac. When the page source opens, search for “title” and “description” and notice the exact verbiage. As a bonus, some webmasters also fill out the “keywords” section in the page source. Unless they’re trying to trick you, and they could be, this is a direct sign about their goals.metatags example

You can safely ignore brand-related keyterms, both for your own site and your competition research, because ranking for your brand should happen automatically.

Gather a list of the keyword phrases your competition is targeting and ones you know people are searching for based on the research above. Then, simply try out each one by typing it into a search engine. When you do, notice whether the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) bring up businesses like yours. If they don’t, searchers who use them might use those words for something entirely different. Alternatively, they may simply be looking for educational information.

Make the Call on Keyword Phrases

You’re full of data and ideas, but don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, so consider these tips:

Compare Popularity to Search Volume: If too many competing websites are targeting the keyword phrases you want, getting on the front page of search results will be very difficult. It takes time, effort and a lot of money to target the most popular terms. If you’re David the Dentist, try slaying some sheep before you take aim at Goliath. Keyword phrases that are less competitive and more specific will probably serve you better.

Longtail Keywords Matter: On that note, you will have noticed that some people use several words when they search, such as “Find me a dentist in Oregon for a teeth cleaning.” These are known as “longtail” searches, and they might not be used verbatim very often. However, they usually mean customers are closer to making a purchase or scheduling a service. Your increase in sales might make optimizing for these terms worth it. Also, remember that your short keywords are often part of longtail queries, so you’re probably targeting them regardless.

Hypothesize, Build, Test, Hypothesize, Build ….

Now it’s time to work the strategy. Just like a scientist, use what you know to make guesses about the keyword phrases most likely to bring you success. Then, start building your website to focus on those terms. Make sure all your SEO efforts match up, including everything from sitemaps to backlinks and URL structures. Be sure to decide ahead of time what counts as a successful campaign so you can measure as you go.

Shameless Plug Alert: OnlineImage has developed smart, easy-to-use tools that let you track your keyword rankings and all the most important analytics at a glance. If you’re interested in trying them out as part of a service package, get in touch with our team by clicking here or calling 801-261-5700.

After you wait a few weeks or months, you’re ready for the most interesting part — results! Check your goals against your hypotheses by revisiting your analytics reports and any conversion metrics you have set up. Then, do a simplified version of competition research and make another plan. If your hypothesis was correct, do more of the same. If not, regroup and try again.

Our analysts recommend checking your keywords and metrics at least every few months and as often as every two weeks. If you check too often, you might make decisions based on random spikes or drops in traffic that are completely unrelated to your business.

Don’t Go It Alone

We love it when customers know a lot about finding keyword phrases and implementing SEO strategies, and our business is built on taking care of the details. Whether you’re starting from scratch or just have questions, we’re happy to help. Trust me, our keyword analysts are some of the best nerds on the Net.