Keyword research is one of the most important activities that many small businesses neglect. We get it: we’re a small business. Keyword research takes time away from selling your products (even if, ironically, one of your products is keyword research). It involves seemingly arcane activities like building a keyword matrix and terms that sound like they’re from the stock market such as “keyword competitiveness” and “search traffic.”
And: is it really that important? Is keyword research for small businesses important even if you aren’t an e-commerce-focused organization? Is it as important for small businesses as it is for large corporations?
In a word: yes. According to SEO guru Matthew Capala, approximately 80% of modern day consumers search online for product information before making a purchase. If they aren’t finding your business, you can bet they’re finding your competition.
To help you supercharge your keyword efforts, below are five tips to get you started.
Tip #1: Don’t Try to Catch Them All
Many small businesses get overwhelmed by the daunting task of trying to capture every keyword that any potential customer might search for online. What about variations of your main product line? Do you need to include alternate spellings? These are some of the questions we get on a regular basis from our clients when doing keyword research for small businesses. Our answer is always the same: it depends on your goals.
Like all digital marketing efforts, you should start small with a manageable group of keywords that are:
- Specific to your business
- Have a high amount of search traffic
- Have a low index for competitiveness
You should not try to leverage every keyword out there that you think applies to your business. Doing so will only hurt your SEO. As a rule: the more specific you get with your keywords, the better.
Tip #2: Build a Keyword Matrix
To help you make choices about what keywords to focus on, you need to build a keyword matrix. Essentially, a keyword matrix is a ranked list of all the best keywords for your business. When doing keyword research for small businesses, we find clients are the most resistant to this step, but it really is essential if you want to be successful with SEO.
A keyword matrix ranks keywords based on the above criteria (specificity, traffic, competitiveness), plus some additional criteria depending on the channel you’re going to use to deploy them (i.e. Google AdWords vs. a blog). The best explanation we’ve found for how to build a keyword matrix is this article by SEO Nick.
Tip #3: Use Tools
If you click on the article above, you’ll see some scary code-math that SEO pros sometimes use to build keyword matrices. Like all things in life, there’s a version of keyword research that only the top 100 SEO experts in the world know how to do. There are also professional level athletes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play some mean flag football with your friends.
To help you be the kind of amateur keyword researcher that makes all your fellow small business friends jealous, use tools that the pros use, or have designed.
In no particular order, here are our favorite keyword research tools:
Tip #4: Consider Your Channel
Once you have your keyword matrix, you want to start deploying your research. You’re going to deploy keywords differently depending on the channel, however.
Below are a few things to consider for common digital channels:
- Website: In the past it was sufficient to “keyword stuff” by simply plugging in as many keywords as possible into every page of your website. Now that will get you majorly dinged by Google and every other major search engine (.e.g Bing and Yahoo). Today you need to plug in appropriate (read: logical) keywords into specific parts of your website. These parts include: page titles, meta descriptions, alt tags of images, and page content.
- Blog: A blog post functions just like a page of your website, so you want to include a keyword in each blog post you publish in the same areas as those of your main pages. The advantage of running a blog is that you can add additional keywords to your website every week without keyword stuffing.
- Google AdWords: If you’re going to run an online ad on Google, you’ll be able to plug in keywords straight from Google’s Keyword Planner tool as you develop your ad.
Tip #5: Improve Over Time
The other challenge with keywords is that they change over time. A great keyword one month might shift dramatically next month. We recommend doing regular SEO checks on your website at least once per month using one or more of the above tools. If you’re pressed for time, however, following tips 1-4 will put you ahead of much of your competition. Most of the small businesses we’ve encountered aren’t doing any keyword research when we first start working with them. If you’re in this camp, following these steps will most likely improve your search traffic greatly.