Technology Tip
Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Improving Small Business SEO With Keyword Research

Improving Small Business SEO With Keyword Research

One of the most effective ways to improve your overall search engine results is by understanding the terms your prospects and customers use when they search for the products and services your small business offers.

Although advanced keyword research can become very technical and specialized, even a basic level of DIY research will help you identify the most valuable keywords for your market and provide insights about shaping your site’s content to better match those keywords and search phrases.

Keyword Basics

At its heart, keyword research helps you understand the search terms that people are using to solve a specific problem or to research a given topic. It helps you figure out the phrases or words that are most popular with your target audience, which in turn helps you understand what your audience is interested in.

And this understanding is important to increase not only your website traffic, but also your visibility in the marketplace and, potentially, your ability to reach and serve new customers.

Choosing the most effective keywords is a balancing act between popular terms that may be hard to rank for, versus more obscure terms that may generate less interest within your target audience.

For example, a popular (and general) term such as "LinkedIn lead generation" is highly competitive, meaning the first page of Google search results will likely be dominated by large companies able to invest in SEO expertise and expensive advertising campaigns.

A variation such as "lead generation services" is ranked as a medium term, while "lead generation process" triggers a low level of competition.

If either of these terms fits the services your company offers, working them into your site’s content (particularly in page or article headlines) will help you rank higher as people interested in lead generation search for those terms.

Getting Started

An excellent first step in conducting effective small business keyword research is exploring Google’s Keyword Planner tool. Part of the company’s advertising suite, it’s free to anyone with an advertising account (which you can create without buying ads).

The "Discover new keywords" tool allows you to enter a keyword or phrase you are interested in, and you will see that term’s popularity and competitiveness. You’ll also get a list of potential variations that may be easier for your company to rank for, or may trigger ideas for your broader contact marketing efforts.

For example, pairing lead-generation terms with expressions such as "How to perform" or "what is" can provide headlines for blog post, articles, or videos that can increase your organic search results.

Beyond Keyword Planner, tools such as SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool, Moz Keyword Explorer, AnswerThePublic and others allow you to conduct basic searches for free. Most of these sites have paid offerings that offer more detail and statistics.

Understanding Intent

When you have completed this step, you can enter your original (and new) terms into a search engine and see what types of content emerges. This will help you understand the intent of the people conducting those searches, and understanding intent will help your tailor your content more effectively.

For example, more specific search terms tend to suggest users who know a little bit more about a topic and maybe further into the sales cycle then someone searching for general information.

Understanding this different, and repeating your keyword research on a consistent basis, can help improve your search engine ranking and results.

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