Keyword research is possibly the most important element of search engine optimization. Yet, the vast majority of small business websites reveal they were built with only scant attention given to the important step.

Why is this? I point to lack of time, attention, budget, and more often than not, awareness.

Keyword research when fully employed is time-intensive especially when a keyword strategy is continually tested and improved. However, there is no reason why a business owner can’t take advantage of some of the core aspects of keyword research and strategy without breaking the bank or the clock.

The First Step in Keyword Research

In some ways, the first step in keyword research is the easiest. Go back into the life of your buyer persona, your ideal customer. Drawing on what you know about your buyer as well as your own intuition, draft a list of keywords your buyer might use in a search.

keyword research search paneNext, type each of these keywords into the Google search window (or Bing, if you wish). Let’s say you are a bicycle shop. Your first keyword is bicycle.

Take note of the 9 additional options that appear in the dropdown as you type in your word, “bicycle.”  Choose the most appropriate among those and write them down as well. Phrases and long-tail keywords are likely a prominent and an important part of your strategy.

Click through on your first keyword to see the first page of results. Have you been wondering what SERP is? This is it—the Search Engine Results Page.

keyword research SERP for bicycle

Keyword Research: Mining Information on your SERP

If you are typing in a word as generic as “bicycle” you are going to see numerous big national retailers and images of bicycles for sale. Scroll down to the bottom of the page. Here you will see another list of suggestions.  Choose those that seem relevant to your buyer persona and your business.

keyword research options

If you wish to search manually through other search engines and online sites try searching for related topics and questions on Bing Search, Google Trends, Wikipedia, Quora, and Reddit.

Tools to Help You Measure Keyword Value

First, let’s review value of the keyword.  Keywords are measured by average searches by month and the relative level of competition to rank for the word.

There are several online tools to use for keyword research, some of them free.

Take a look at this screenshot from Moz.com free SEO Tools. Bicycle has an average monthly search volume of 118K-300K and a difficulty (level of competition) 61/100.  In addition, you see 64% Organic CTR (click-through rate).  Moz equates this value with Opportunity and calculates the score from the percentage of paid results versus organic.  For example, of the top 10 results on the page 4 at the very top are paid advertisements or PPC (pay per click) entries. The lower this score, the less opportunity you have to rank in a highly competitive field of paid results.

keyword research on Moz

The Moz Keyword Explorer Tool also uses a “Priority” score which weighs difficulty, opportunity, and volume. It is ideal to find keywords with low difficulty, high opportunity, and strong volume. The higher the better for this score, but don’t be discouraged. There are so many keywords that you can leverage for ranking.

I personally don’t use Google AdWords, but its Keyword Planner Tool is popular for keyword research. My preference is KWfinder.com and Moz.com free SEO tools. Moz Pro and SEMrush.com are the best for agencies and enterprise level use.

Next Steps

You have a solid list of priority keywords and phrases. Now, how do you know if they are the right keywords for your audience?  Will they click through and increase your sales?