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How to Decide Which Keywords to Rank For

When’s the last time you looked beyond page 1 of Google search results? If you’re like most people, it’s almost never – just 6% of clicks are on the second page of results. That’s why it’s so valuable to be highly-ranked by Google. Companies need to be on that coveted page 1, where almost all the action is happening.

In fact, there’s a joke about it: Where’s the best place to hide a dead body? On page 2 of the Google search results.

All joking aside, getting a high Google ranking is serious business. Companies that are ranked within the top 5 search results get 67% of all search clicks, driving massive traffic and revenue for their brands. Accomplishing this takes some search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and an understanding of keyword research.

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Keyword Research: Getting Started

Keywords are the key to ranking with Google. They’re descriptive terms that connect to your business, and also crop up commonly in your audience’s searches. Keywords are part of the online language Google understands – and certain keywords woo Google more than others.

For your business, there’s a keyword sweet spot you’ll need to identify. Certain terms are far too common to really give you a competitive advantage.

For example, if you’re an independent shoe store in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the word “shoes” is probably not one of your best keywords. Strange, but true. Big dogs like Adidas, Amazon, and Wal-mart dominate that frequently-searched word in the online world. Instead, you might have better luck with niche and locally-driven keyword combos like “Razorbacks athletic” or “Fayetteville tennis shoes.”

Brainstorm keywords by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. What are 10 or 20 specific words your customer would use to search, right at this moment? Think about brands, fashions, and famous people related to your products. Check helpful tools like Google Trends, which generates keywords based on trending topics around the world.

Also, become a frequent Google searcher yourself and pay attention to the related searches that are listed at the bottom of the results page. That’s where Google is giving you hints about valuable keywords that are related to your original search.

When in doubt, outright ask your customers what kinds of searches they’re doing online for products like yours. You can also use social listening, which means scrolling through social media channels to see the exact words and phrases people are using to discuss products/services related to your business. This helps you go from a generic term like “shoes” to something more in-demand, like “choosing the best hunting boots.”

A Deeper Dive into Keywords

As you nail down the basics of keyword research, you’ll see that it opens up huge possibilities for your business. You’ll discover new things your audience desires and fresh insight into how to serve them better. You’ll feel more connected to your customers every day.

Try using Google Keyword Planner – which requires a free Google Ads account – and it will guide you toward longer phrases, also called long-tail keywords, that could further ramp up your ranking. Another favorite is Answer the Public, a quirky question-and-answer tool that provides words, parts of speech, and comparisons for a richer picture of how your audience thinks.

Okay – let’s assume you’re putting together a great list of keywords and phrases. Now it’s time to capitalize on the strength of these powerful words. Here’s a to-do list of next steps:

Create a content plan. Develop site pages, blog posts, ebooks, and all kinds of other content that features your best keywords. Focus on answering your customers’ questions and educating, rather than selling. You must produce fresh content consistently to stay highly-ranked with search engines.

Keep it real. Both search engines and human readers prefer content that is well-written, friendly, and meaningful. Incorporate true stories and reviews (including links) from real customers across the web. The more real it is, the more highly-ranked it will be.

Make sure you’re mobile. Is 100% of your website and content mobile-friendly? If not, search engines will penalize you heavily for it. More than 50% of all searches are now done on mobile devices, and it’s closer to 70% for certain types of searches like food, health, and sports.

Stake your claim. Make sure your Google My Business profile and other online directories are up-to-date and include your keywords. This includes Google Maps, which is extremely important for any business that needs to attract foot traffic.

Go visual. Visual search – searching by using pictures instead of words – is the newest frontier in SEO. Stay ahead of it by incorporating videos and images in all of what you do, including alt-text (image captions) with relevant keywords.

Share, share, share. 59% of global consumers use social media as direct inspiration to make purchases. So invite everyone into the conversation by sharing things constantly on social media. The more shared your content is, the more search engines will be attracted to it.

Pay to promote. Promoted posts, especially on Twitter and Facebook, get significantly higher viewership. It’s worth paying to promote what you share on social media, because you can essentially choose how many eyeballs you’re willing to pay for. And social users actually like seeing ads based on keywords that are relevant to their lives, so it’s a win-win.

Making it Happen

Getting excited about keywords? It’s easy to nerd out on keyword research when you see how much it can do for your company. If you want to go even deeper into this topic, here are a few additional resources from Fortune Marketing and my colleagues at Duct Tape Marketing: