The importance of keyword research is often underestimated, but your keywords will form the basis of any successful SEO campaign and go a long way to boost your lead generation.
By conducting keyword research, we are essentially choosing what phrases we will attempt to rank for on search engine results pages.
We will choose these keywords based on relevance to our products, the strength of competition to rank for those keywords and of course, we need to choose keywords that our specific target audience will be likely to type into their search bar in order to attract those users to our website.
Before we can figure out what your prospective customers are searching for online, we need to really think about who’s searching- who is your target customer?
The example we will use is a company providing Leadership and Management training courses. This business sells courses to individuals wanting to better their employment prospects and management skills, or business owners wanting to upskill their workforce.
We start by creating Buyer Personas. These are fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customer. Buyer Personas are often created via market research and insights from your actual customer base.
These Personas make it easier for you to tailor content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different potential customer groups. A business can have anything from 2-3 Buyer Personas up to 20, depending on how many campaigns and they might be running. We will start here by focusing on one.
‘Team Leader Tracey’ works as a Team Leader for a small sales team. She wants to improve her prospects for promotion and jump the gap between
Team Leader and Manager. We will need to think about Tracey's personal profile, career goals and her challenges, both in her career and the barriers to purchase she may encounter when buying training courses.
Team Leader Tracey
- Current role: Team Leader
- Aged 25-35 typically
- Hard worker, self improver
- Goals: To improve prospects for a promotion and pay rise
- Struggling to jump the gap between her current role and the next
The next step in creating your buyer persona is to consider what questions Tracey will ask when researching how to get a promotion at work. What questions will she ask herself or look to the internet for answers too? These questions can come from any stage of the buyer journey.
She might be in the ‘attraction stage’ unaware of management courses you offer, and so might search for:
- How can I get promoted?
- Are there courses I can take to upskill?
She might be in the ‘consideration stage’, aware that management training courses exist, but wants more information:
- Can a management training course help me get promoted?
- Why should I sign up for management training course?
- Will paying for the cost of the course outweigh the salary increase of a promotion?
- Will a management training course benefit my CV in the future?
- Are these courses well respected by employers?
Finally, Tracey might be in the ‘decision stage’, ready to go ahead with management training but needs encouraging to buy:
- Which management training course is right for me?
- What about cost? Is there any funding available for such courses?
A great way to come up with questions is to use 'Answer the Public'. When you type in the phrase ‘become a manager’ it will come up with all sort of frequently asked questions which will guide you in formulating yours.
Our buyer persona is done, although we can always return to add more information or make changes!
This buyer persona will help you better understand your customer, Tracey, and many of these questions will provide the basis for your keywords. They will help you to create content answering Tracey’s questions so the training company is both visible to Tracey and provides her with educational, creditable information.
Now we have an idea of what our customer will be searching for online, we can begin the hard work of researching keywords and phrases that may be typed into a search engine, and analysing them to choose the ones our campaign will centre around.
There are several steps to come up with some keyword ideas but the first thing to do is to come up with some options for yourself! Off the top of my head I can come up with a list of about 50 keywords that I have derived from my Buyer Persona to research including:
- Cost of management training
- Management training courses
- Funding for management training
- Benefits of management training
You can type these phrases into Google and it’s autocomplete will give you similar phrases that are most searched. By typing in ‘Management Courses’ it gave me 4 similar alternatives.
You can also scroll to the bottom of your google search and google will give you list of related searches based on your current search term.
Next, you can use ‘Answer the Public’ again to find keywords. This will helps specifically with long tail keywords.
You could also try tools such as 'Ubersuggest' and 'KeywordTool.io'. Below, I have used the latter. This site lets you specify searches by country so the output will be relevant. By searching ‘management tips’, I found 327 unique keywords, all of which you can copy onto your clipboard at the click of a button.
Once you have used these tools to come up with a list of potential keywords, typically around 1500, we can work on refining this list to choose the most relevant, searchable and competitive.
Refine your Keywords
Now you have your list of potential keywords, you will need to refine them! First up is to remove the duplicates and irrelevant keywords that may have made their way onto your list.
It’s time to find out how useful these keywords will be in making your content visible and directing organic traffic to your website.
You can use a tool called 'Raven' to find out the monthly search volume for each keywords and the difficulty score, which tells you how hard it will be for you to rank highly for this keyword. Just paste your list of keywords and add them to the keyword manager.
With many keywords having monthly search volumes in the tens of thousands, I would usually delete any keyword will a search volume lower than 150, as the reward for ranking highly will not be worth the effort to get there.
In most keyword research tools, (including Raven) difficulty will be rated on a scale of 1-100. A difficulty score of higher than around 65/70 is usually not worth trying to rank for, and so I would delete all those keywords with a difficulty higher than that.
Although if there is real value and a large amount monthly searches and you have the time and resources, over time you can still go after those harder to get keywords.
You should now have a smaller list of around 300 decent and relevant keywords to choose from.
Choosing your Keywords
We are now ready to choose the keywords we’ll be focusing on for our SEO campaign. It should be clear from your list which are great keywords to go for.
They should have low difficulty, high monthly search volumes, and we also need to think about what stage of the buyer's journey Tracey will be in when typing these phrases into a search engine. We will want to choose keywords from each stage of the buyer journey so you can create content for Tracey and make your business visible to her no matter what stage of the buyer journey she may be in.
Attraction/Awareness Stage - In this stage, Tracey may be unaware of management training courses, or unaware that is what will help her to carry out her work goals. Keywords such as ‘how to get a promotion in management’ will be fitting for this category, because Tracey is just looking for information on achieving her goal I outlined in the buyer persona - to get promoted.
Convert/Consideration Stage - In this stage, Tracey may be aware of such management training courses but are unsure of where to go to get one or whether they are useful and relevant for her. Some examples might be ‘management training courses’, ‘cost of management training’ or ‘can a management training course help me get promoted’
Decision/Close Stage - When a potential customer is ready to make a decision, the lead is more likely to already be aware of your business and be a returning visitor to your website. They might be comparing your business to other management training companies to try and come to a decision and so content might be created around why this prospect should choose your business. This decision stage content could also be a free assessment or consultation.
Some generic keywords will fit into more than one stage.
For our example business, one of the keywords I have chosen is ‘management training’. It is relevant to our buyer personas and so target audience, it has a search volume of 1300 searches monthly and a difficulty score of 33 which is relatively low. This keyword is also relatively easy to create content around which helps! This particular keyword fits into the consideration stage of our buyers journey.
Using information from the buyer persona and your keyword research some great blog titles utilising this keyword might be:
- Will Management Training Help You Get Promoted?
- The Costs of Management Training: Is it worth it?
- Which Management Training Course is right for you?
There you have it! The foundations of keyword research. They are of course many other tools you can use to create your lists, and refine and evaluate your keywords but the best thing to do is get practicing!