To get the best return on investment for your business, you need to be targeting highly specific keywords. Keyword research is when a person conducts research to determine the best and most relevant search terms for getting their company discovered. One of biggest mistakes that business owners make––whether they own a real estate website or a home goods ecommerce store––is assuming they know which keywords to target.

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Keyword research is about helping you get the RIGHT kind of visitor, versus getting just any visitor. Guessing what keywords will stick is too big a risk in today’s business climate, where one entrepreneur can easily make more money with less quality product simply because they put time into the research. To find the best keywords for your business, do the following:

Make A List of Relevant Topics

To start, you can make general assumptions about what topics are most important. You’ll eventually build these topics out using research, but it’s a good place to start. For example, a real estate business in Los Angeles might have topics that revolve around best selling practices, resources for home buyers, home inspection services, and the like. A marketing company, on the other hand, might choose topics such as inbound marketing, email marketing, and SEO.

Understanding Different Keyword Types

Not all keywords are created equal. The majority of marketers will agree that long-tail keywords perform better. As a business owner, it’s important that you understand the difference between different types of keywords. You should be targeting both long-tail keywords AND head term keywords. Head terms are much shorter, usually a word or two, and therefore much harder to rank for. A head term might be “real estate” while a long-tail keyword would be “best real estate agencies in Los Angeles.”  Keep this in mind as you start to build upon your initial topic list.

Make An Initial Keyword List

Once you’ve come up with your topic list, you can start branching out to keywords that fit under those topic umbrellas. For example, in the real estate business, one topic might be “house staging.” Sub-topics could include:

  • House staging tips
  • House staging for the holidays
  • House staging for luxury homes
  • House staging tips for cabins
  • Best house staging advice

And so on. With this in mind, you can easily see how your initial keyword list can become hefty pretty quickly. If you’re having trouble thinking of the right keywords for various topics, you can come up with quick ideas by taking a look at “Related terms” at the bottom of Google’s search engine. For example, a quick search on “house staging tips” yields the following related terms:

  • Staging a house on a budget
  • Staging an empty house
  • Home staging photos
  • Staging a home for a quick sale
  • Staging a house before and after
  • Staging a house cost
  • Staging a house while living in it

Again, this would still all be a part of your initial list. The final list you’ll create will be backed by research. This is because you’ll want to investigate the potential for each of these keywords before you put any time and money into it.

Check Out The Competition

When you know which websites are currently ranking for your desired keywords, you’ll glean better insight into your competition and how you can leverage that knowledge to your advantage. Fortunately, there are several ways to conduct competitor research for your business.

Competitive intelligence is the essentially the process of attempting to reverse engineer a successful competitor’s strategy. In the online commerce world, this has everything to do with SEO, and keywords are the foundation of any SEO strategy.

To spearhead your efforts, it’s important to use competitor research tools. Platforms like iSpionage and SimilarWeb are great places to start. iSpionage is a keyword monitoring tool that allows you to learn which keywords are high performers for your competitors––through both PPC and organic volume. This means that you’ll see which keywords are attracting target markets based on organic SEO, and which are attracting them through paid ads.

But that’s not the only information you can get from these tools. You can also see specific ad copy, which can help you craft your own highly-effective ads and eliminate unnecessary wasted time split testing ineffective ad copy. You can even find out exactly how much money your competition is paying for certain keywords.

Similar Web, on the other hand, focuses on website traffic data. Simply type in the URL of your competitor, and you’ll learn what their global and category rank is in their industry. You’ll also see of a graph of how many visitors navigated to their landing page over the past six months, how long they stayed on the page (on average), and where they came from (social media channels, paid search, or organic search among them).

For example, a search of Business Insider on Similar Web shows that it ranks #1 in its category (Business News), and 120 in the country. It also shows that nearly 50% of its traffic comes from organic search, while nearly 18% of visitors come from social engines. And lastly, you’ll see that “bitcoin” and “bitcoin price” are some of its highest converting keywords.

Research Your Keyword List

Now that you have a handful of keywords to work with, it’s time to drill down on which will make it into your overall SEO strategy. Ideally, you have your entire list saved somewhere in an Excel sheet. (Hubspot offers a free SEO template to help you keep track of your keyword research.) You’ll need to come back to it time and time again, each time you revisit your SEO efforts. Just as with competitor research, there are a handful of keyword research tools at your disposal, and you should use a combination of them during your search.

A few notable tools are Google’s Keyword Planner, Hubspot’s Keyword Tool, SEMRush, and Moz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool. Google’s Keyword Planner is a solid place to start. Begin your search by inputting your keyword, and the tool will spit out a list of related keywords and corresponding statistics. These metrics will show you how many searches those keywords get, and what the competition for them is like. These are the most basic metrics for keywords, but you can take your search further by using other highly-developed tools.

The other tools mentioned all perform similar tasks with a few differences depending on the platform. Hubspot, SEMRush, and Moz all help you identify keywords and track the results of those keywords to see which are proving most effective. SEMRush allows you to check the history of certain keywords, detailing rises and drops, while Moz tells you a keyword “Difficulty” score to help you determine which will be hardest to rank for, and which provide the lowest barrier to entry.

With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way for landing a coveted spot on Google’s first page of search engine results.