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Keyword research is a seriously important skill that all digital marketers should master. Whether you’re a search specialist, a PPC pundit, a content connoisseur or a social media scholar, keyword research is a must. So how do you go about compiling a list that’s as effective as possible? And how can you ensure that you’re working with the keywords that drive the most value?

Keyword research in simple terms

The basic procedure of keyword research involves creating a list of relevant topics and then populating each topic with keywords. From this, you’ll be able to determine the phrases that are most relevant to your business, and go on to build a strategy around these search terms. To put it simply, you’re identifying the words that people use to discover you.

The most effective way to conduct keyword research

While we like to keep things simple, there’s no denying that the most effective keyword research involves a few more complexities. The model we use takes into account the various levels of intent at which people search. For instance, someone who has only just started researching for a new pair of trainers will use generic, short tail keywords (trainers), while a person further down the customer journey will use long tail keywords (white Adidas trainers), and someone who is extremely close to converting will be more explicit (black and white Adidas Superstar trainers).

While it’s great to drive the ‘research’ traffic to your site (if they like what they see, they’ll return), the most important eCommerce site visitors are the ones that will convert. They’re likely to be far into the buying process, having discovered the product, conducted research and compared with alternatives. When they’ve decided it’s time to seal the deal, they’ll be specific in their search term. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

With customer behaviour in mind, our keyword research shouldn’t end once all terms have been identified. Instead, we should categorise our findings by purpose and effectiveness at converting, investing our biggest efforts into the ones that make the money. Once this volume has been maximised, we can then turn attention to the short tail terms that drive early stage shoppers.

Here’s the model we recommend when conducting keyword research:

1. Seed list

Your keyword research should commence with your initial ideas – your seed list. Write down a handful of categories that relate to your business, for example: trainers, sportswear, accessories, football shirts, ladies sportswear, kids sportswear.

2. Language

Not everyone speaks the same way, and the same goes for search terms. Use your analytics to identify the search terms people are currently using to discover your site. Research your audience and consider the terms they’d use to describe your products. Is there a common synonym for one of products? For example, would they refer to trainers as running shoes or training shoes? Would they search out ‘sports clothes’ instead of ‘sportswear?’

3. Compile

When you’ve identified your list of keywords, along with variations, fill out your seed list categories. You can then expand your lists using a keyword tool, which will allow you to group by topic and select exact matches (the most effective estimate of your search traffic). You can then download your keywords into a spreadsheet to work from.

4. Refine

Your list of keywords is likely to be pretty substantial, so now is the time to strip it back to the best of the bunch. There’s no right or wrong length for a keyword list, but try to stick to three figures or less. Get rid of the less interesting terms, consider ambiguous searches, and think about competition. That’s not to say that competitive terms should be completely avoided, but you need to accept that they’ll be much harder to rank for.

5. Categorise

Now it’s time to categorise your keywords in terms of their involvement along the customer journey. These categories will include product terms (likely to be early in the buying process), complementary product terms (stuff that’s relevant to what you sell), competitor terms (people who have done a lot of research and know the market well), and brand terms (fewer impressions, but more high quality traffic).

You will now be able to utilise your keyword list in your digital strategy, building your landing pages around the most effective terms, and ensuring that the content presented is relevant to the searcher and their position along the customer journey. This keyword list will also come in handy in any paid search activity, and also help to inform on-site and offsite content, including your social media activity.

Want to know more? Get in touch with one of our search experts today, and discover how we can help boost your digital activity further.