Creating a successful digital marketing strategy starts with a detailed keyword research report. Before execution of any SEO, your company needs to asses its current web reputation, its capacity to fight ranking competition, and have insights in link landscape of your desired keywords. This is where keyword research saves your company tens of thousands of potentially wasted search engine optimization dollars. Properly executed, this digital marketing activity will help you accelerate your search marketing success, by finding the keywords that are easy to rank for, while you build out your link portfolio.

Keyword Research Service

Why Keyword Research Service Is An Essential Marketing Activity

Hiring an agency or a freelancer to conduct continuous keyword research for your company is a surefire way to stay on top of your search rankings, without missing out on revenue streams that you may have overlooked.

Keyword research services can be complicated to understand, their outcome uncertain, and often times without any future plan of action. Therefore, we wrote this article so your investment will result in an articulated SEO strategy that correlates with your business goals. Your agency or a consultant needs to understand your business objectives and connect them to an articulate keyword and content strategy that will yield long term results. Keyword research is the first and critical step towards your success online, and deserves your complete attention.

Because keyword research has such long term implications to your online marketing strategy, it is necessary to spend adequate time in making decisions that will affect the future of your business on the web. Due to its importance, it is necessary for you to understand search results, and their connection to your website’s unique situation.

Throughout our experience in digital marketing, we’ve identified seven steps that will produce successful keyword research activities.

  1. Brainstorm your keyword list
  2. Run your keywords through Keyword planning tools
  3. Analyze Pay Per Click competition
  4. Differentiate the singular and plurals
  5. Create a keyword research spreadsheet
  6. Analyze and compare the SEO competition against your website’s authority
  7. Develop an actionable report

Let’s dive deeper into these steps, and demystify keyword research services, and what they are supposed to provide you with.

1. Brainstorm your keyword list

Before you attempt to find an agency, you should have a pretty clear picture of the keywords for which you want to rank. However, in all likeliness, this list will overlook numerous keywords. Your focus should be on 4–5 word long phrases as they will, more likely than not, be the phrases you for which you can rank. They all should be completed within 20–30 minutes. This will jump-start your agency, and give them a list of keywords that you know are very relevant for your bottom line.

If you don’t brainstorm ideas about your keywords, you can ask yourself these questions to kickstart your brainstorming session:

  • What products or services do you offer?
  • What problems do your leads have that your company can solve?
  • How would you describe your business to someone that has never heard of your company?
  • What common questions do your leads ask?

Even though the final keyword list will vary, this will give a foundation to your agency or Adwords manager with which to work.

As a business owner, I am pretty sure that you grasp the basic keywords that your audience would use to find a solution for the problem that you are offering. Oftentimes an agency can’t understand the terminology and the exact context of the keyword or psychology behind the keywords. They will need to devote time and energy to understand the psychology and behavior patterns of your consumers.

Quick Tip: Try to cut this learning curve in an initial meeting, by giving your agency as much insight as you can. Often times the basic elements will help your agency to save valuable time and resources, and will eliminate the guess work.

When your keywords are too difficult to rank for

This understanding is best coupled with “Social Media Monitoring” (Keyword research is to search engine marketing, what monitoring is to social media). When going after the traditional keywords proves to be difficult, too challenging or too costly, this process is used to determine keywords that you usually wouldn’t be aware of at first sight. This means that the service provider you are working with, needs to learn your industry inside out, fully comprehend how your customer thinks, how they talk, and what words they use to communicate their problems.

2. Run your keywords through keyword planning tools

The second step would be for your team to analyze the keywords you’ve provided and give you an estimate of the traction and potential advertising budgets for PPC as well as for SEO. The result of the analysis should consist of two very important topics:

How people express their desires and interests on the web.
How many people search for the particular phrase

This can give you a pretty extensive and thorough view of your marketplace. This creates an entry point, where you can easily asses who your competitors are, as they are most likely bidding on the same keywords. Your most successful competitors usually have done most of your job for you regarding the market research, and understanding your customer needs.

Two top tools for this particular case that we use are: Google Adwords Keyword planner (you will need a Google Adwords Account) and Market Samurai.

3. Analyzing Pay Per Click competition – One Sneaky Tactic To Steal Your Competitors Keyword List

Paid search arena can save you a lot of time in building up your keyword list, or finding the hidden gems, that you may have overlooked during your brainstorming phase. Analyzing your competitor can give you a very good insights into what they are doing right, and what they are doing wrong. Mapping out the search landscape where you will be competing, and where you will avoid them is a sound approach for organic, as well as for paid listings.

  • When defining your competition, you need to answer some of the following questions:
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What are their keyword lists?
  • How good are they? (technologically savvy, CMS they use, their sales funnels)
  • How do they sell? (value proposition, understanding their customers)

By examining your competitors keyword list you can tell a lot about their wins and failures, based on the keywords for which they’re competing. Sometimes when you are viewing your competitors campaigns, you can gain insights and ideas on the keywords that you may have overlooked in the past, adding numerous prefixes or suffixes to already existing keyword groups.

You will get bonus points if you compare their keyword list against yours, and see where you will be competing.

4. Differentiating singulars and plurals

Differentiation between plurals and singulars in Adwords is officially dead, but the same difference is still at large in the SEO world. This goes to the extent, where singular and plural will show you completely different search results. When choosing whether to optimize your article for plurals you can see some of our data on performance from Adwords (propr to Adwords bundle change in late 2014).

Performance of Singular vs Plural Keywords

The Difference Between Conversions Between Singulars And Plurals


5. Create a keyword research spreadsheet – Get all of your keywords in one place

The best place to compile all your keywords is Google Spreadsheets. This way, you and your agency can collaborate on the same document in real time. The beauty of it all is that you can literally see your keyword list growing right in front of your very eyes. When we evaluate the keywords, we tend to stick to the most important metrics related to Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization. The two particular tools most used at Cult of Traffic are Google Adwords Keyword Planner, and Market Samurai. These lay the foundation for our work. There are a plethora of other great tools that you can use, but we found ourselves using these two the most. Check out keyword researching tools articles, and see what other services provide for more in-depth analysis.

Search Engine Marketing metrics that we keep as a part of our spreadsheets are:

  • Keyword
  • Approximate CPC (Google AdWords Keyword Tool)
  • Competition (Google AdWords Keyword Tool)
  • Global Monthly Searches (Google AdWords Keyword Tool)
  • Local Monthly Searches (Google AdWords Keyword Tool)
  • Intent

Of these columns, the most important column is the “intent” column, as it explains the rationale of why a user searches for the term. Evaluating intent can be based on a hunch, as well as the competitiveness of the price per click. If a price per click on a certain topic is consistently high, that means that other players on the market already learned how to monetize that specific keyword for their gain.

Search Engine Optimisation competition metrics that are a part of our SEO spreadsheet are:

  • Domain Age
  • Page Rank
  • Citation Flow
  • Trust Of Flow
  • Index Count
  • Referring Domains
  • Domains RDD
  • Page RDP
  • Page Backlinks
  • Domain Backlinks BLD
  • Edu/Gov Backlinks BLEG
  • Keyword Title
  • Keyword In Description
  • Keyword in head

We assess the competitiveness of the page with Market Samurai. Without this tool, we believe analyzing the SEO competition would be too expensive, which is the reason why few agencies and freelancers tackle the true issue of competitiveness of the organic results. Without thorough SEO competition analysis, SEO keyword research is completely futile. For more details, check out our review of Market Samurai.

6. Analyze and compare the SEO competition against your website’s authority

Market Samurai Keyword Competition

Click To Enlarge

When you have your keyword list, you’ll want to know whether it is worth it trying to optimize for that specific keyword list. The best way is to analyze the possibility of ranking. With market samurai, it is relatively easy to asses your website and cross compare it to your competitors. This will immediately give you a very good impression whether your website can compete against the major players for your specific query.

Most of the time, this is the missing piece of puzzle for the majority of the SEO’s out there, and they are unable to grasp this concept. Unfortunately, this element is in fact the critical element, as it saves you headaches in the long run, and removes doubt over the question: “Why am I not ranking for the phrase XYZ”?

If you have a young website that doesn’t have a backlink structure that is built out, in all likeliness, you won’t be able to compete with the big boys who’ve been around the block far longer than you have, and you will be left with long tail keywords. But just because you can’t rank for higher competition just yet doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a strategic approach to bigger keywords. However, you can set reasonable expectations. This is how good keyword research investment will yield the results in the short and long term.

7. Develop an actionable keyword research report

Upon completion of every good keyword research report, there needs to be a good actionable document that will allow to you, the business owner, to take a realistic look at your business position and understand with clarity, the steps to take towards your business goals.

An actionable report doesn’t consist only of previously mentioned keyword research spreadsheet, but also contains insights that can help your creative team to develop a more articulate content strategy, with regards to short term, as well as longer term future.

Bonus: One overlooked strategy that gives you an absolute certainty over your keyword research

When doing a keyword research, a majority of freelancers and agencies alike will forget to mention to you that the best way to test your keyword list with absolute certainty, is by getting raw real world data from Google and Bing paid ads. Before executing an expensive, long term SEO strategy, you will want to see if there are actual queries being made on the keywords from your list. The best way accomplish this is to create a test campaign for the month, so you can get the traffic estimates for Bing alone.

Adwords Keyword Planner Problems

The reason why we encounter this problem, is because majority of people are using Google AdWords keyword planner for keyword research. This is an amatuer approach, and if not resolved in Google directly, our results will never play in the favor of SEO, because of Google Search Partners, and the way they affect the results from Google Keyword Planner. This will never allow us to have accurate impression on the searches within the Google Adwords Keyword tool.

How to organize the results of the keyword research

When you get your final keyword set, you can get a pretty long list. However some of these keywords might belong to a similar group. If you were doing this for the purpose of paid search, every keyword (or a group of keywords) represents a campaign, and if you’ve done this for the purpose of search engine optimization, then your keyword list is your new sitemap.

You need to semantically organize these results according to meaning and naming convention. Experience plays a big role when it comes to organizing your keyword list, as it will make or break your paid search campaigns (making them dramatically more or less difficult to manage). Grouping these keywords might also lead either to winning an effective vs. ineffective SEO strategy.

How good keyword research makes a difference

Bottom line is that experience and practice will play a major role in your keyword research effort. Particularly the experience of your agency or freelancer, in the area of semantics as a continuous practice and knowledge regarding SEO competition. Observing the data without prior experience can lead to costly mistakes in deciding to rank for a keyword that is only perceived as easily ranked.

Next Steps:

Start practicing keyword research on daily basis, either by doing it yourself, or by hiring our talented team at Cult Of Traffic.

If you’re already working with someone, we suggest that you sign up for our newsletter, and download our free keyword research spreadsheet template, to get the best results for your business needs.

If you are a freelancer looking for a great way to do better keyword research, we wholeheartedly recommend that you check out Market Samurai, and really help your clients get the whole picture when it comes to SEO competition and ranking factors.