Keyword research is the process of identifying specific keywords that searchers are using to locate various products and services online. By conducting keyword research, marketers can gain a better understanding of their customers and the most effective ways of targeting them. Additionally, thorough keyword research can reveal the language used by your audience and even affect your long-term messaging and branding efforts

A 2012 report showed that 90% of marketers are using some type of content marketing to gain leads. Since most web searchers will find your content by using keywords, advertisers that fail to do keyword research may be missing out on valuable revenue. 

Steps for Researching Keywords 

As more and more advertisers are relying on content marketing and pay-per-click advertising to drive traffic to their websites, keyword research is becoming increasingly essential. In fact, your ability to locate the best and most relevant keywords may have a serious impact on the success of your business. Here are a few crucial steps to take when researching keywords for your online advertising campaign. 

1. Brainstorm Relevant Keywords 

The first step in conducting keyword research is brainstorming terms related to your company and its services. While it’s fine to start with your own ideas, savvy marketers will get second opinions, usually by consulting professional sources and referring to analytics in order to locate relevant keywords. Along with suggesting keywords, the Google Keyword Planner will show you the average search volume for each term and recommend ad groups to categorize them in. These ad groups can be used to help marketers determine niche markets, which are visually represented and tracked as “niche clouds.” 

2. Utilize Niche Clouds 

Niche clouds are visual representations of related market niches that help businesses identify other potential niche markets, or sub-segments of a larger market, that may have an interest in their products and services.For example, a cosmetics company might want to create niche keywords for buyers interested in its organic and allergen-free products. You can also target different niches by other criteria, such gender, age and income. Sites like BoardReader monitor discussion forums and pull information from them like a normal search engine to help marketers find places where their target audiences congregate. By visiting websites and forums frequented by these groups, marketers can find new audiences and sources of revenue for their businesses by identifying keywords used by discussion board members. 

3. Identify Related Terms 

Along with mining niche markets, businesses should take the time to identify the keywords and phrases used by their competition. By entering your top keywords into a major search engine, you can see which of your competitors are already ranking for these terms, which will allow you to evaluate how difficult it might be to successfully use these same keywords. Additionally, marketers should review the section at the bottom of the Google results page labeled “Searches related to.” This listing may include related words and long-tail versions of your keyword, or it may have phrases that comprise a single keyword using four or more words. Long-tail terms are often less competitive because of their length and specificity. 

4. Shop the Trends 

As part of a good keyword research strategy, the savviest marketers take time to identify useful trends before they appear in Google Keyword Planner. Google Trends analyzes web traffic to determine how many people are searching for a given keyword. By assessing the popularity of various keywords over a period of time, marketers can make important decisions regarding what terms to target in future content. 

5. Refine Your List 

Of course, it’s not possible to target all potential keywords for a given product or service. After researching keywords, marketers should take the time to refine their keyword lists. Remove keywords that generate many impressions but few clicks or conversions, as these are likely too general to be profitable in the long run. Additionally, you should seek out potential negative keywords and make sure you aren’t targeting them. For example, a business that sells landscaping may want to make terms like “landscaping career” negative to prevent ads from showing to jobseekers. 

Once you understand the basics of keyword research, you can use this information to optimize your website as well as any pay-per-click marketing endeavors. Take the time to compile a comprehensive list of keywords, and don’t be afraid to experiment, especially when the risk and costs are low.