keyword research helping a woman searching on her cell phone

Keyword research is one of the cornerstones of developing a website.

Everyone knows (or should know) you need to use the right keywords before you start to write, or design, a website:

  • Before you write, so you know what phrases to incorporate into your content, and
  • Before you design, so you can work your main keyword into your homepage (as an "H1 tag" headline), Page Title and Meta Description.

(To see how Google uses your Page Titles and Meta Descriptions, watch the first 40 seconds of this video.)

On our homepage, we use the phrase "Columbus Ohio website design" firm as the "H1 tag" one of the key elements Google looks for.

screenshot of the words a Columbus Ohio website design firmOur research showed the phrases "Columbus Ohio website design" gets 90 searches a month in the Columbus area. If we used the phrase "Columbus web designers," that only gets 10 searches a month:

columbus ohio website design keywordsAre exact match keywords critical in 2019? Less than it has been before Google's algorithms became incredibly sophisticated, but it's still better to have one of your keywords match, than not.

Don't guess at keywords, or you'd be wasting your time.

What keywords you build your content around isn't something you should never guess at, because there's a chance you'll guess wrong.

Examples of good and bad keyword choices.

If you don't think building your content around incorrect keywords is a bad idea, just look at the comparisons below.

Example 1:

The keyword phrase "web developer" has 17 times the monthly searches of "website developers," and with less competition:

screen shot of keyword comparison for web designers

Example 2.

The phrase "plastic surgery" has over 6 times the number of monthly searches as "cosmetic surgery":

screen shot of plastic surgeon searches vs cosmetic surgeon searches

Example 3:

Turns out no one searches for the phrase "homebuilders" as one word, vs. "home builders" as two words:

screen shot showing comparison between home builer as one word vs two

Picking the wrong keyword, and spending time, effort and money to be found for that word, would turn out to be a very frustrating experience.

We don't want to imply you should build your website around a single keyword, or phrase. There are several factors that determine the number of keywords you should use. We generally recommend using 8 - 10 keywords, especially for smaller sites. If you use more than that, say 20 keywords, you'd be spreading yourself too thin for Google's algorithms to connect all those keywords with your site.

A big factor for being found in a search is how often you'll be blogging or adding content to you site. Blogging is a subject for another article, or rather, series of articles, many which are already on our website. Read one post about the importance of blogging here.

What's better: using popular keywords more obscure keywords?

In a competitive SEO world, Google Ads' keyword tool tells you how much the keywords you're using (or thinking of using) are being used by your competitors. The High, Medium and Low designations in the competition column relates to the number of companies who are running Google Ads, and paying for that keyword, opposed to the websites that use those words for organic search results.

See the difference between paid and organic search results here.

However, we can surmise if keywords have high competition for Google Ads, they're competitive keywords being usd organically as well. all across your industry. And that includes the competition all around you.

On rare occasions, you'll see keywords with no data on the competition for keywords. That happens when no other companies are running Google Ads for, or organically, using, those specific keywords.

It's obvious, when keywords have low competition, it means there's a better chance your website can show up in Google's organic search results for those keywords. That's a big opportunity for you.

See a comparison of competitive keywords vs. "long tail," less popular keywords, below. Would you rather battle your competition for the keywords everyone is using, or focus on the ones that no one is using?

You can use both, but using less popular keywords increases the chances you'll show up one page 1 for those keyword searches. Focusing on only the popular keywords would be more of an uphill battle.

examples of head keywords compared to long tail keyword

Why keyword research should be done regularly.

Keyword research should be done on a semi-regular basis, especially if you add new products or services.

As an example, we work with a home builder who started building maintenance-free communities. Communities where the builder takes care of some of the outdoor landscaping. However, they were calling these new communities "maintained communities."

With a little keyword research, we showed them calling these new communities "maintenance-free communities" instead of "maintained-communities" was the better way to go. The research showed no one searches for the phrase "maintained-communities"...

screen shot of keyword searches for maintained communities

...while there are dozens of searches a month for variations of the phrase "maintenance-free communities."

screens hot of search results for the phrase maintenance free communities

The questions then become:

  • Do you want to play in a crowded keyword field, even though there can be hundreds of searches a month for those popular keywords?
  • Or do you want to use low competition keywords that your competitors aren't using. At least not yet.

We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

This doesn't mean you can't continue to use the main keywords that everyone else is using (ie: Columbus home builders) along with the less popular keywords. You can do both.

In our example above, when people search for the phrase "maintenance-free communities," there's a good chance they'd land on the maintenance-free community page of the site, since that page has those keywords. And when they land on a page with the keywords they're looking for, it makes for much better user experience.

Getting your prospects directly to the page with the content they want is the ideal scenario, even if it isn't your homepage. For you. And for them.

Paid vs. organic search results.

Google Ads appear at the top of the results page, and are designated by the little "Ad" icon to the left of the green domain name.

When is it good to use Google Ads? While you're waiting for your organic results to kick in, Google Ads can give you quick, top-of-the-page results. Organic SEO is best for long-term ranking, because 95% of people click on the organic results, opposed to the ads. If you want to be at the top of the first-page search results immediately, then Google Ads is the way to go. However, the best thing to do is both paid Ads and organic SEO, since they work well together.

screen shot of paid versus organic search results in Google

Go back up to the previous section of the blog here.