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Everyone will eventually develop their own approach and process to doing keyword research, and you'll ultimately need to find something that works for you, but the most important part of keyword research is to forget about you and your business, and put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers. The process typically begins with brainstorming and answering some key questions. This stage is important from an organizational perspective, because it will force you to look at different areas of your business. Start with answering, what services do you offer? Be as comprehensive as possible and list out as many keywords and phrases as you can, but make sure that you do it from the customer's perspective.
As people who work in our businesses day in and day out, we might have a very different way of explaining our products and services. Take for example, a discount travel website. You might be tempted to write down keywords like "high value air transport" and "G76 eligible discount ticket," but at the end of the day no one in the world is typing that into a search engine. While those things make sense to you, your customers are just looking for things like cheap flights. Well, brainstorming can get you started. We'll look at some tools that can find and suggest similar keywords and expand your list of possibilities considerably.
Once you've got that list of potential keywords, the next thing you'll need to do is take a look at the search volume metrics to see what kind of a demand there is for those phrases. As you do this you'll notice that a handful of keywords will get typed in thousands and thousands of times a day, but there are a whole lot more that don't get typed in nearly as often. These might be more descriptive keywords or less common variations, but the important thing to note is that these are known as long-tail Keywords. Long-tail keywords in SEO are incredibly useful. They let us go after a much larger amount of less competitive keywords that tend to be extremely relevant to our business objectives. And, while individually there's not a lot of search volume on each term, they each do have some search volume.
For example, if I were selling iPhone cases, I may start looking into the keyword iPhone cases, a term that gets typed into search engines a lot. It's extremely competitive, and it's probably going to be very difficult to rank for. But I might also take a look at a more long-tail keyword like blue iPhone 3GS cases. It's going to be extremely relevant, less competitive, and easier to rank for at the expense of raw search volume. But here's the important part. You might be able to find hundreds or thousands of these long-tail keywords that together have the potential to get you more traffic than ranking for iPhone cases would have from the start.
Finally, you'll want to add some meaning and organization around the keywords that you've collected. You can do this by identifying themes or topics to group your keywords around, a process known as keyword categorization. Back to the example with the blue iPhone case. We may want to create a group that will be just about blue iPhone cases that includes all the different models of the iPhone. Alternatively, we could categorize these not by phone model, but instead by color. There's no right or wrong way to do this, only a way that works for you and allows you to manage these groups of keywords as you optimize for them.
Remember in the end that this is an exploratory and discovery exercise. Everyone searches differently and you'll find lots and lots of data as you dig deeper and deeper. Be open-minded, put yourself in the mindset of your potential customers, and make sure to consider all of your options as you evaluate your keyword performance over time.
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