It’s no secret that choosing the right keywords can make or break your SEO campaign.

Pick the right keywords, and you’ll zoom to the first page and attract hundreds of targeted potential customers.

Pick the wrong keywords and find yourself struggling to crack Google’s top 10. And even if you do, the traffic you get may be full of freeloaders and tire kickers.

And just for the record, (not provided) hasn’t changed the importance of keyword research — just how we track traffic coming from specific keywords.

So how can you find keywords that potential customers actually search for? And how do you know if they’re not too competitive for your SEO budget? By following these 5 underused-yet-powerful keyword research strategies.

#1 Use Suggested Bid to Determine Commercial Intent

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to keyword research is ignoring commercial intent.

Commercial intent is simply how likely someone searching for a certain keyword is to buy a product or service. Certain keywords — like those containing specific products and services — have obvious buyer-intent. For example, someone searching for “buy a ipad now” may actually have a credit card in one hand while they type the search into Google with the other.

But what about keywords that aren’t so obvious? Well that’s where the Google Keyword Planner’s “Suggested Bid” comes into play. It’s an average of the bids people place on that keywords within Google Adwords. In other words, it’s objective data from the real world.

To find it, just head over to the Google Keyword Planner and look at the “Suggested Bid” column.

Suggested Bid

If you see a keyword with lots of search volume — but a low suggested bid — you may want to reconsider optimizing around that keyword.

2. Mine Blogs and Forums for New Keyword Ideas

Most people begin and end their keyword research with the Google Keyword Planner (which recently replaced the external Google Keyword Tool).

Unfortunately, the Google Keyword Planner (GKP), isn’t especially good at generating new keyword ideas. To do that, you need to find out where your target customers hang out.

For example, let’s say that you run a mail delivery cake service. If you just use the GKP for keyword research, you’ll likely only get keyword ideas that you could have thought of yourself, like “Cake recipes” and “bake a cake”.

But when you go to where the cake enthusiasts like to hang out — like Pinterest — you’ll find lots of fresh new keyword ideas:

Pinterest Search

Other places to consider checking out are popular blogs (especially the comments), forums and even Reddit and Digg.

3. Look for Keyword Ideas in Help Tickets and FAQs

If you run a business that sells a product or service, I bet you get questions from customers…lots of questions from customers :-)

And I bet you never think: “Wow, these are actual living, breathing customers telling us what they want in their own words. I bet there are some great keywords in here.”

Don’t feel bad if you hadn’t thought of it before. Most people don’t see questions from customers as anything but a minor annoyance or expense (just saying).

If you haven’t already, take a look at some of the common threads that tend to come across your help desk. See what words existing and (more importantly) potential customers use. Then pop those into the GKP to see if they’re popular searches.

4. Use This Little Used Feature to Find Keyword Ideas

While entering what are known as “seed keywords” into the GKP can land you some great keywords (especially when you use the strategies from this post). But there’s another feature of the GKP that most people ignore, search using a landing page:

Landing Page Search

This can often uncover amazing keywords that are sitting on your very website. You can take a popular landing page or blog post on your site and enter it into the field.

Or you can even enter competitor’s pages into the tool.

If you play around with this enough you’ll often find keywords that you’d be hard pressed to uncover with seed keywords.

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SEO for Startups: Where to Focus Your Attention First

by Kevin Michaels on December 20, 2013

As the proud owner of a startup company, you understand chaos. You know that there are an infinite number of tasks that need to be done right away just to get things moving in the right direction. You also understand the importance of prioritizing those tasks, especially as they pertain to your online presence. However, with so much to do and a limited number of hours to get it done, where should you start?

The answer may seem simple, with search engine optimization. SEO is essential for bringing the right traffic to your site and to spreading your mission, values, products and/or services to the world. However, knowing this isn’t enough. SEO is a broad term encompassing many tactics and strategies, some of which are more efficient and useful than others. When considering where to start with SEO, focus is critical. The following are a few of the most essential, basic SEO strategies.

Design

Picture of great website design

A startup looking to use SEO to their advantage must start with the actual design of their website. Apart from being clean, easy to navigate and optimized for a variety of devices, the design should be optimized for optimal search rankings.

After researching keywords that will most likely drive traffic to your site, you should find ways to incorporate them throughout. This includes image names, titles, sub-headings and the text itself. The key is to stay natural. Keyword stuffing is no longer an effective tool.

Internal Linking

Internal linking, while frequently overlooked, is an important SEO tactic to use from the start. Internal links used in high-value pages on your site like“Home, About, Services” and so on can increase your SEO value, help your site stand out to search engine crawlers and increasesearchability.

For the best results, look for ways to interlink your SEO landing pages by way of a “related links” section at the bottom of the page, sidebar or footer, create an internal linking dashboard and make use of breadcrumbs.

Content

Content should be a focus of your website from the start onward. Search engines gravitate toward and reward sites that post regular content. This means a blog should be a feature that is updated regularly.

Even if you use a web design company for the other areas of your site, content will probably be your responsibility. To be most effective, use the same keywords you use throughout your site. Think about your potential clients and customers and what information matters to them. To increase search rankings, content should be authoritative and reliable. Make use of Google+’s authorship tag, and use external and internal links for best results.

URL Structure

In many cases, URLs can be just as important as the text on the site when it comes to search engine rankings. Each URL should be simple, easy to dictate and remember as well as descriptive. URLs should be short and should reflect the content on the page. When a URL is too long, it may look more like spam to a search engine crawler, therefore hurting the search engine placement of a given site.

SEO doesn’t have to be a puzzle filled with confusion and apprehension. Instead, it should be a part of your startup strategy and should be seen as a way to use your site to your advantage from the start.

Images by:
Image byVFS Digital Design cc
ilouque via photopin cc
steveconnors21 via photopin cc

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