With seemingly endless programs and tools available for doing keyword research, it can be frustrating to try to figure out the best ones to use in your SEO campaign. Certainly, keyword analytics tools like Google AdWords are extremely helpful, but a huge part of keyword discovery involves thinking like the customer. As you work to understand your target market, step into a potential customer's shoes and ask yourself, "What am I looking for?"

Step 1: Types of Keywords to Focus On

Let's start with the basics. According to Hassan Bawab of Magic Logix, successful search engine marketing revolves around keywords and their multiple derivatives.  Keywords (or key phrases) are, in essence, search terms that web users will input to find information. Seems pretty simple, right? Well - yes and no.

Let's start by breaking down the four different types of keywords searchers use. 

  • Broad keywords. These are the shortest, simplest terms - usually made up of only one word. They're broad because said terms do apply generally to your industry, but they might also apply to a number of other industries or companies.
  • Fat head keywords. Fat head keywords use the same general terms as broad keywords, but they combine two or three broad keywords to slightly narrow down the search.
  • Chunky middle keywords. Even longer and more precise, these are the search terms that the average consumer is entering into search engines on a daily basis.
  • Long-tail keywords. Now we're getting really specific. Long-tail keywords are made up of a series of words or phrases that unambiguously identify who you are, both as an industry and as a company.

An effective digital marketing strategy uses an organic combination of the above keywords, interspersed throughout written content in a way that flows naturally and doesn't sound overwrought or forced.

Step 2: Your Target Market's Language

Getting visitors to your site is important, but if they're not the right kinds of visitors, they're not going to convert. The point of your web marketing efforts shouldn't be to attract a massive amount of traffic; rather, you should focus on attracting your target market. You likely already know something about your target audience. Now it's time to hone in on the specifics and really think about their thought processes, needs, and values - speak their language. Consider the answers to the following questions:

  • What terms do you use for your products or services?
  • Does your target market use the same terms? If not, what terms does your target market use instead?
  • What terms does your target market use in the rest of their daily lives? What industry jargon do they know? What industry jargon might they be unfamiliar with?
All of these criteria will inform your preliminary research. Remember, you're trying to get into your buyers' heads. Don't just look at blog posts; read the comments people have posted in response. Look at forums that discuss your industry topic - and participate in the discussions. According to HubSpot, these are "your people," so put yourself in their shoes.

Step 3: Back to the Data

Once you have a sense of your audience and some ideas in mind, it's time to turn to the tools in your arsenal. The bloggers at KissMetrics recommend figuring out what terms people are already using that lead to your site. Look at your analytics to see how they arrive, and then follow that data to see where visitors navigate. If you have an internal site search, take a look at what people are looking for within your website.

Every keyword has a story, so question everything. Does one keyword bring visitors with a higher bounce rate? Maybe that's a keyword you need to take focus away from. If you want visitors to arrive to your site via that channel, though, you need to figure out what about your site is driving them away. You also need to figure out where those potential customers are going. What are your competitors doing differently?

Final Thoughts: Bring It All Together

These are just a few tools to get you started, but hopefully you've gotten a sense of how to think through your buyers' needs and desires. Ultimately, keyword research will set you up to predict shifts in your audience, their changing demands, and upcoming market conditions. As a result, you'll be able to create and sell products and services - not to mention create content - to meet those needs and conditions.

February 10, 2016

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > Thinking Like the Customer: How to Target the Right Keywords