If you’re feeling overwhelmed by search engine optimization and what it means, today let’s focus on the most important element of SEO: keyword research. Choosing the right keywords around which to build content for your website is the difference between YOU attracting your customers and your competition.
Why does keyword research matter?
Keywords are your secret weapon to driving organic traffic to your website.
They are the basis of any good content marketing strategy.
You can’t be a successful online business without them.
So, how can you do free keyword research to drive sales?
This article will cover:
The importance of keyword research.
How to carry out keyword research for every stage of the sales funnel.
Two free keyword research tools to help you create a killer content strategy.
At the end of 2017, data showed that Google reclaimed its spot at the top traffic referrer – overtaking Facebook for the first time in almost three years.
Why does this matter?
When you break down your customer’s journey to purchase, it all starts with a set of keywords. Think of how you use the internet. Some time will be spent browsing on social media, and a large portion of time will be spent typing things into Google. Whether it’s looking for a recipe to make for tonight’s dinner, weighing up whether a staycation or trip abroad makes sense for your next holiday, or browsing the stories of 9-5ers-turned-personal trainers to see what the lifestyle is like and whether you might want to pursue that particular path…
The point is: we use Google to search for all manner of content.
But how often do you think people sit down, open up their laptop and type into the search bar: “Buy Scottish cashmere jumper made in St Andrews”?
They might type in: “Buy Uniqlo jumper” because Uniqlo is a household name known the world over. It’s a brand that’s spent decades – and billions of dollars – building its reputation.
And that’s great for Uniqlo. As consumer awareness goes, it’s doing pretty well. But for a lesser-known, recently launched ecommerce clothing company based in Scotland, how do you go about raising your brand awareness online when there’s thousands of other companies vying for attention?
Keyword research. Keyword research. Keyword research.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of keywords when they are the #1 way you will drive FREE organic traffic to your website.
Before you do anything else for your business, make sure you’ve got a keyword strategy in place.
Let’s go back to the Scottish ecommerce clothing company example for a moment. For a brand spanking new company like that, brand awareness is very low – and so is its customer base. Ultimately, it needs to make sales, but first it needs to build relationships with potential customers by using engaging content to tell its story.
And to tell a story that will cut through, it needs to use the right keywords.
Creating content around a keyword such as “cashmere jumper” would be a futile exercise. Why? Because it’s not specific enough. Look at the search engine results page when I type in that word.
If I plug the word into SEO wizard Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest tool, you can see that “cashmere jumper” is a highly competitive word to rank for. Big retailers with high domain authorities hog the traffic for that term, so it would be highly unlikely for our make-believe Scottish ecommerce clothing company to ever have a chance at ranking. Even if it created a heap of content full of the word “cashmere jumper”.
So, what words can it use to rank on page 1 of Google? For this, the sales funnel comes in very handy.
Here’s a quick visual refresher of what that looks like.
It’s the perfect place to start brainstorming your keyword research. Now, if you’re starting to ideate keywords for your own business, feel free to grab a paper and pen and draw out the following table.
Think of your customer profile. Start jotting down the most common questions or phrases they might type into Google under the relevant section of the sales funnel. I’ve filled in the one below as a guide.
Keyword research for the top of the funnel
Content aim: educate, raise awareness
At the top of the funnel, your potential customer is searching broadly for the answer to a question, or the solution to a problem. They are in the “awareness” stage and while they’ve recognised that they may want to take up yoga, or are a fresh undergraduate design student digging around for more information, they’re not yet ready to convert.
Let’s focus on “benefits of yoga”, for example. Here is where you can start to get creative with long-tail keywords (3 and 4 word phrases). I plugged the phrase into free keyword research tool, Ubersuggest, and this is what came up.
This is just a snapshot of the kinds of keywords you can start building content around. I suggest working your way through the results to build up a cluster of keywords for each the first section of your sales funnel. The list might end up being very long – and that’s ok.
You don’t need to be writing one blog post or landing page per keyword. The idea is that you start to see general themes or trends appear in your keyword lists that you can turn into blog topics. Or, if you can see enough of a demand for a particular topic, an entire section of your website.
Another great feature of Ubersuggest is the SERP analysis that displays beneath keyword ideas. Look at what appears for “benefits of yoga”.
The first article that appears has been shared more than 23k times. And guess what? It was written in 2007.
This just goes to show the value of evergreen “awareness” content. Named after evergreen trees that retain their leaves all year round, evergreen content is content that retains its relevance year after year. The article “38 Health Benefits of Yoga” isn’t selling anything. It’s not promoting a particular course or product. What it is doing is delivering up a long and very detailed article that answers the searcher’s query thoroughly and as a result, is still getting thousands of eyeballs on it more than ten years later.
Creating a range of articles around your cluster of keywords for the top of the funnel, or ‘awareness stage’ will give Google lots of lovely content to index, which in turn drives more organic traffic to your website. At last! People know you exist.
And while this won’t necessarily lead to a sale or sign up just yet, it’s given you the opportunity to turn cold leads into warm ones.
Keyword research for the middle of the funnel
Content aim: highlight service/product features
In this stage, people are looking for solutions. No longer are they just searching “benefits of yoga” or “graphic design principles” – they’ve moved onto “yoga classes” or “design software features”. They’re getting specific. And so should you.
How does this look in practice?
Well, think of the top of the funnel as “telling” the user about the benefits of your product/service. Whether that’s creating content around the benefits of yoga, or a blog post about the most relevant graphic design principles every young designer should know about.
Now it’s time for the “showing”. When someone types into Google “design software features”, they are expecting to see something specific.
What are the kinds of keywords/terms your different customer personas would search at this stage of the funnel? Add them into Ubersuggest and see what other suggestions come up.
At this stage, you don’t need to be sales-y. But you should provide educational content that includes your product or service as a solution. An example of this would be demo videos or user testimonials.
Here’s Hootsuite showing us how it’s done.
And Squarespace, which offers heaps of free, step-by-step “how to” material. This isn’t gated or private content, accessible only to those who have an account. It’s open to everyone. And the benefit of that is twofold. 1) It allays any potential customers’ fears that Squarespace is a complicated tool that can only be mastered with a degree in Computer Science and 2) It gives them a good opportunity to see exactly how the platform could work for their business.
Keyword research for the bottom of the funnel
Content aim: drive home the sale
At this stage of the sales funnel, things are starting to get interesting. Your customer has read about the benefits of yoga, they’ve browsed the different kinds of classes on offer and now, they want options to help them make their final decision.
It’s now or never to convince your customer to click “purchase”.
So, think of all the possible questions a customer might have about your offering. Or, better yet, questions they might have about a competitor’s offering. Then, build your content around those keywords.
It’s worth thinking about your competitor at this stage, because for many, this is the phase in which they’ll compare two service or products.
Let’s see this in action…
This is what happens when I type Adobe into the search bar. A whole host of ‘versus [competitor]’ queries come up. This is a quick and simple way of seeing some of the most common long-tail keywords people are searching for in relation to a brand.
The learning for you, is to think about your competitors. Who else out there is offering a similar service or product to yours? If you’re in a crowded market, you could create a content series all about comparing your offering to one of your competitors, making sure to highlight all the reasons why your service/product is best.
This is a great way to capitalise on your customers’ behaviour. They’re going to search for reviews and comparisons as they get closer to parting with cash anyway, so why not be there waiting for them when they do?
Bottom of the funnel content can take many forms, but if nothing else, make sure your value propositions, product/service descriptions and call to actions are clear and detailed.
Copy at this stage of the game will make all the difference to whether your bottom of the funnel content works or not, so make it compelling.
Two free keyword research tools
I’ve already shown some examples above of the brilliant free keyword research tool Ubersuggest in action. To wrap up this blog, I’m going to do a brief overview of that very tool, and one another, Ask the Public, to help you get started on your keyword strategy right away.
This free tool allows you to search simply for keyword and content ideas. If you’re a new business that can’t justify the spend on a paid-for tool such as Moz or SEMrush just yet, then Ubersuggest is a fantastic place to start.
Type your customer’s pain point or query into the search bar and see what results appear.
One of my favourite things about this tool is the keyword overview. Similar to Moz, it shows you how difficult your chosen keyword is to rank both organically and paid. It also gives you plenty of keyword ideas to download, and a list of search engine results and the social shares for each, so you can see exactly what – and start to understand why – that content is performing best.
Answer the Public
Another great free keyword research tool is Answer the Public. It’s super user-friendly and spits out a whole heap of content ideas that combine your keyword with typical “question” words such as how, why, and what.
For this example, I typed in “graphic design principles”…
…And got a HUGE number of suggestions that I can download and input into a keyword strategy document.
Conclusion: HOW TO DO FREE KEYWORD RESEARCH TO GENERATE SALES
While there’s no step-by-step fail safe template for how to do keyword research (oh how I wish there was!), I hope this article goes some way in demystifying how you can conduct keyword research that aligns to your sales funnel.
Using your existing customer knowledge and combining this with some strategic keyword research using one, or a number, of keyword research tools will set you in good stead for creating killer content that converts.