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Keyword Research: Fundamentals of SEO

by Brian Forrester   |   Oct 10, 2012

Keyword research is one of the first, and most critical, steps in any SEO campaign. All searches begin with a keyword if they happen within a search engine. The benefits of solid keyword research are:

a.) It allows the SEO Analysts to take the potential keywords that the client has supplied to ensure that they are all, in fact, driving traffic.

b.) It allows them the opportunity to find any keywords that the client may not have thought of but that are valuable due to search volume or low competition.

c.) It provides insight into the marketplace.

d.) It provides the very beginnings of content creation ideas.

SEO Keywords Aren’t Always What the Client Thinks They Are

Most keyword research starts with asking the client what keywords they think they should show up for. The thinking is, “What would you type in to find your business?” or “What do you think you should be showing up for?”.

What we often uncover is that what the client would like to rank for and what actually delivers relevant, quality search volume aren’t always the same. Here’s an example:

How many people actually visit Orthopaedists every year? Quite a few I would imagine. Now, how many people, if they were searching for one online, would actually type in “orthopaedist”?

Part of keyword research for SEO is taking the keywords that clients provide and using them to determine answers to this question. In the case of “orthopaedics”, far more people search for “orthopedics” than the medical spelling.

Keyword research showing search volume for "orthopaedics" vs. "orthopedics"

Determining how these spelling variations impact search is just one component of nailing down a highly targeted keyword list. Google, after all, is pretty smart. For example, if you were to search “Richmond orthopaedics”, they would default to the more common spelling of “richmond orthopedics”, as shown in the screenshot below:

Screenshot showing Google's ability to correct spelling

The key takeaway here is simple: Never assume you know what your target audience is searching. Common spellings and spelling variations may yield great results. However, we’d suggest you not focus on spelling errors.

People Search For That? Finding The Golden Keyword

Keyword research also affords your SEO team the opportunity to find keywords to target that you may not have thought of. These keywords can be low competition words that may not drive huge amounts of traffic but will be easy to rank for. The keyword phrases are commonly referred to as the “long tail”. These phrases, as a collective whole, actually make up the majority of all web searches.

These long tail keywords represent searches which are very specific in nature, and which often represent a searcher much further in the buying cycle. For example, someone searching for “bicycle” could be searching for any number of things. Someone searching for “blue bicycle” is searching for something more specific. Someone searching for “buy blue 10 speed bicycle in richmond, va” is searching for something very specific. We know much more about the 3rd searcher’s intent. He or she is looking to purchase a blue 10-speed bike in Richmond, VA. Now we can speak directly to this potential customer. If you own a bike shop in Richmond, you want to create content around this keyword phrase for this highly targeted customer. This example highlights the importance of targeting these long tail searches.

Keyword Discovery is an Evolutionary Process

No list of keywords is ever truly final. Google states “16% of the daily queries on Google have never been searched before”. Keyword research is an on-going process much as SEO itself is. As you begin to rank for terms and generate traffic you can evaluate those keywords and see if they’re still relevant, if they’re generating the traffic you want, of if it’s time to increase the number of keywords that you’re targeting.

Your SEO team will work with you at every stage of the process to ensure that you’re comfortable with the keywords they’re targeting for you, but also that they’re targeting the correct keywords for your business. As your business grows, they’ll make sure that your keyword lists reflect that, and help your business continue on its upward trajectory.

Portrait of Brian Forrester

Brian Forrester

Brian has spent over 15 years in digital marketing. He is most passionate about building a better agency with an emphasis on culture, community involvement, and the development of our number-one resource, our team.

During Brian’s time as Co-Founder & CEO of Workshop Digital, the agency has won numerous awards including six-time winner of Virginia Best Places to Work, four-time winner Outside Magazine Best Places to Work in the U.S., 4-time winner of Generosity, Inc., an award celebrating top charitable corporate givers in Richmond, VA, three-time winner of the RVA25 Fastest Growing Companies in Richmond, the 2016 Richmond Chamber IMPACT Award, and Brian was also selected for the Style Weekly 40 under 40 list in 2017.

Since his days at James Madison University, Brian has always sought to give back to the community. Brian has served on the Executive Advisory Council for JMU’s College of Business, Marketing, the FETCH a Cure Board of Directors, the IMPACT Awards Selection Committee, and the Town of Irvington Planning Commission. Brian now serves on the Board of Directors at Northern Neck Insurance and is a member of the Virginia Advisory Council for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.