If you start a new site, either a blog or an online shop, you won’t rank immediately. So, what’s the first step you need to take to boost your rankings? In our view, you should always start with keyword research. Take some time to think about the words you want to be found for: which words are your audience searching for? But how do you find that out? What tools are useful? And, when you’ve found those keywords, how do you determine which ones you should focus on first? The most competitive (head), or the less competitive (long tail) keywords? In this post we’ll illustrate with a case study how to start your keyword research.
Focus on head or tail? Google it!
My cousin Sanne recently started her own online shop: Made by Mae . She’s a graphic designer and designs really cute posters, postcards and milestone cards. She asked me about SEO: where should she start? “Did you do your keyword research?” I asked. She did. She wanted to rank for the Dutch translation of [personalized poster]. And she already figured that aiming for those high-end search terms like [postcard] en [poster] would be pretty useless.
Choose the right locale
Make sure to Google your specific keyword in the language that you’re using on your website. And, in the case of my cousin, make sure to use Google.nl. She’s mainly interested in selling stuff in the Netherlands, so she should only worry about ranking in the Netherlands.
But how do you know for sure? You should check the competition! Google the keywords that are the most competitive and analyze the results. Are these major companies? Companies with large marketing budgets? Then you’ll probably have a hard time ranking for these head terms. Ask yourself what the probability is that you’d be able to rank for such a term. Then, try a term that is slightly less competitive, and see what comes up. Did the probability change much?
If you do this, starting from very competitive head terms to slightly longer and less used search terms, you’ll get a pretty good idea of where your website should be able to fit in and rank. For Made by Mae, focusing on (the Dutch translation of) [postcards] and [posters] would be a bit too difficult to go after just now. [Trendy postcards] or [trendy posters] results in less competition. I would choose even less competitive search terms like [personalized trendy postcards].
Make a long list!
You should never focus on just one keyword. You should make a long, a very long list. My cousin should make a list of at least a hundred keywords. These could be variations of different keywords. As the menu of Made by Mae states she sells posters, personalized posters, postcards, milestone cards and printables. So my cousin should try to come up with keywords around these terms. For example: [cute milestone cards], [personalized milestone cards], [trendy milestone cards], [black-and-white milestone cards] and so on. Make sure to rate the competitiveness of each of your keywords.Learn how to set up a keyword strategy for your site in our Keyword research training »
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Start writing content
Blogging is a great way of creating content. My cousin could write really awesome blog post related to her products. She recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and she should have lots of inspiration. However, a keyword is not a subject of a blog post just yet. You’ll need a specific angle or topic for the keyword you would like to rank for.
Read more: ‘5 tips to find inspiration for your blog’ »
Use Google trends!
If you have to choose between certain keywords you’d like to rank for, but you don’t know which one to choose, you should use Google trends. Google trends will allow you to compare the search volume of a few terms. If you want to know whether it makes sense to write about trendy postcards or about personalized postcards, Google Trends will give you your answer:
Think about chances to convert
While doing your keyword research, you should already think about the chance to convert for people searching for a specific keyword. For instance: if people are specifically searching for [black-and-white milestone cards], they will be more prone to buying a set of cards than if people are searching for [milestone cards]. People searching for [black-and-white milestone cards] already know what they want, they know what they’re searching for. Once they’ll find the milestone cards on Made by Mae, they will be more eager to buy them.
People searching for long tail, specific keywords generally have a higher chance to buy something when they end up on your website. So, perhaps, you’ll generate less traffic with a post optimized for [black-and-white milestone cards], than with a post optimized for [milestone cards], but you’ll end up with more sales nevertheless.
Keyword research is a very important first step in SEO. And after that, you’ll have to start writing. A lot. Writing will not instantly result in higher rankings. It’ll take time. It’s a longterm SEO strategy. But it will pay off eventually!
Keep reading: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »