Customers start their quest to “find you” by typing in keywords or key phrases into Google, Yahoo, or Bing. (For simplicity’s sake, I’ll use the word keyword to mean either a single or multi-word phrase as a search engine query). Identifying customer-centric keywords is the foundation of effective SEO. Your best keywords match your business value proposition with high volume, high value keywords used by your customers. First, we’ll brainstorm our list of keywords, focusing on “getting all the words” on paper as a keyword brainstorm document.
For now, don’t worry about how to organize your keywords. Your goal in right now is to get all your possible keyword targets on paper; this is about brainstorming your keyword universe. Let’s get started!
- Brainstorm Your Keywords
- Reverse Engineer Competitors’ Keywords
- Use Google to Identify Possible Keywords
- Use Free Keyword Discovery Tools
- Brainstorm Your Keywords
Sit down in a quiet place with a good cup of coffee or tea, or if you prefer, a martini, i.e. anything to get your ideas flowing! Brainstorm the keywords that a customer might type into Google that are relevant to your company, your product, and/or your service.
When a potential customer sits down at Google, what words do they type in? Which keywords are DEFINITELY those of your customers? Which keywords are CLOSE to a decision to buy? Which are farther away, earlier in the sales ladder? Which customer segments use which keywords, and how might keywords differ among your customer segments? Which keywords match which product or service lines as produced by your company?
Conduct a Keyword Brainstorming Session
I highly recommend that you organize a formal keyword brainstorming session with your marketing team (it might be just you by yourself, or it might be your CEO, your marketing manager, and a few from the sales staff). Devote at least ONE HOUR to brainstorming keywords; close the door, turn off the cell phone, tell your secretary to “hold all calls” and start drinking (either coffee or martinis).
Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm
Try not to miss any possible keyword combinations! Do this, first, individually – take out a piece of paper, and write keyword ideas down WITHOUT talking to the others in your group. Don’t be shy. Don’t leave anything out. The goal is to get EVERYTHING on paper, no matter how ridiculous it might be. Then have a group session and go over all the keywords each person has identified.
Drink some more coffee, or more martinis, and keep brainstorming – write all possible keywords on a white board, a piece of paper, or a Word / Google document. Don’t censor yourself because there are no wrong answers. The goal of this exercise is to get the complete “universe” of all possible keywords that customers might type into Google. “Think like a customer” sitting at his or her computer screen at Google: Assume you are a completely new, novice customer. Assume you know next to nothing.
What single words or multi-word phrases (keywords) would you type into Google? Segment your customers into different groups. What keywords might each group use, and how would they differ from other groups? Are there are any specific “helper” words that a potential customer might use? Common helper words specify geographic locality (e.g., San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose), for example. Others specify things like “free,” “cheap,” “trial,” or “information.” Don’t miss your synonyms! If you are a “lawyer,” don’t miss “attorney.” If you are a “dry cleaner,” don’t miss “wash and fold” or “laundry service.” If you are an “SEO expert,” don’t miss “SEO consultant.” If you are an orthopedic surgeon, don’t miss “knee doctor.”
By now you should have a well organized group of search terms relevant to your website. The next step is to begin the optimization of your site. You may also decide to hire an SEO company with your marketing budget.