One of the smartest things you can do when initially conducting keyword research is to brainstorm original ideas with the participants in the business before getting keyword tools involved. This can be surprisingly effective for coming up with numerous critical keywords, and it can help you understand if your organization thinks about your offerings using different language than your customers – in which case you may want to adapt! Start by generating a list of terms and phrases that are relevant to your (or your client’s) industry and pertain to what your site or business offers. The brainstorming phase should ideally result in a list of several dozen to several hundred or more keyword searches that will bring relevant, qualified visitors to your site. It can be a great idea to get sales, customer services, or whichever branch works most directly with clients to participate in the brainstorm, as they may have input into keywords or phrases the customer uses or expresses interest in that aren’t currently targeted.
One easy way to begin this process is to gather your team in a conference room and then follow these steps:
1. Produce a list of key one- to three-word phrases that describe your products/services.
2. Spend some time coming up with synonyms that your potential customers might use for those products and services. Use a thesaurus to help you with this process.
3. Create a taxonomy of all the areas of focus in your industry. It can be helpful to imagine creating a directory for all the people, projects, ideas, and companies connected to your site. You can also look at sites that are leaders in the industry and study their site hierarchy as a way to start your thinking about a taxonomy.
4. Broaden your list by thinking of higher-level terms, and topics, of which your products or services are a subset.
5. Review your existing site and extract what appear to be key phrases from your site.
6. Review industry association and/or media sites to see what phrases they use to discuss your topic area.
7. List all of your various brand terms.
8. List all of your products. If your site has a massive number of products, consider stepping back a level (or two) and listing the categories and subcategories.
9. Have your team imagine that they are a potential customer, and ask them what they would type into a search engine if they were looking for something similar to your product or service.
10. Supplement this by asking some people outside your business what they would search for, preferably people who are not directly associated with the company. Consider also the value of performing actual market research with a test group of consumers in your demographic, and ask them the same question.
11. Use various tools (such as Google Webmaster Tools) to see what terms people are already using to come to your site, or what terms they are using within your site search tool if you have one.
Gathering intelligence on how potential customers discuss related products and services is what a traditional marketer might have done prior to initiating a marketing campaign before the Web existed. And of course, if any of this data is available to you from other departments of the company, be sure to incorporate it into your research process.
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