Keyword Research – The First Step in Any Successful SEO Campaign

Google is Blinding Us

Google is hiding more and more information from us.

If you look at your Analytics account you will see the majority of organic traffic comes from “secured search.” In other words, they are no longer showing us what keywords brought in the traffic.

The Common Keyword Research Tool is Inaccurate

Furthermore, the Google Keyword Planner is only accurate (supposedly) in telling us how many searches per month each keyword gets.

The problem is it does a terrible job suggesting new keywords.

The suggestions it gives you are merely synonyms of your initial search, not intuitive possible search phrases that also make sense.

For example, if you type in “personal injury lawyer new york,” it will suggest some of the following:

  • Personal injury lawyer nyc
  • Personal injury lawyer ny
  • Personal injury lawyer in new york
  • New york personal injury lawyer
  • Car accident lawyer nyc
  • Injury lawyer

But that doesn’t help us uncover great keyword phrases your best prospects are searching for.

We Tend to Ignore the Majority of Search Traffic

It has been said that over 80% of search traffic comes from the long-tail.

Long tail keywords are the longer, more specific keywords that are less common, individually, but in total account for the majority of search-driven traffic.
Source: http://www.wordstream.com/long-tail-keywords

And around 20% of search phrases have never been searched before. All the more reason to strive to answer any question your market might have about your product, service or business.

4 Ways to Find Great Keywords with Lower Competition

For the rest of the article we will focus on where to uncover great keywords. When you are ready to actually do these exercises, open up a fresh Notepad or Word document.

The goal here is to compile information. Take as many notes as you can. We are ultimately looking for questions your market is asking, phrases they are searching for and topics they are researching. The search engines take a back seat here. This is all about knowing and serving your market to the best of your ability.

1. Spy on Your Competitors

The first place to look for great keywords is Google search. Not exactly ground breaking.

Type your main, most coveted search phrase in the search bar and note the attorney websites that appear on the first page.

Take some time to look at their homepages. Usually their most important pages are listed in their top and side navigation menus. Hover over the menu items and see if they open submenus.

Take note of the page titles in all the menus on the homepage.

I like to look at the homepage of each “competitor” before diving into their inner pages.

Just by looking at their homepage menu items, you should have a nice list of keyword ideas forming.

2. Google Tells Us Which Keywords to Target

It’s hard to tell how many people use Google Instant search suggestions instead of regular Google search (where you type out the entire query) but I’ve noticed an impact on the amount of traffic the number one spot gets. It used to get anywhere from 40 – 60% of the traffic for any particular search phrase.

With search suggestions appearing as you type, Google slyly diverts traffic to any search phrase it wants.

Why not row your boat downstream as opposed to against the current?

Look at what Google suggestions when typing in phrases for your market.

I always get relevant ideas from the suggestions.

And now that most people prefer to choose one of those suggestions as opposed to typing out the entire phrase and hitting enter, you will be targeting where Google is diverting traffic as opposed to where it used to go.

Sometimes suggestions are also displayed at the bottom of the results page. Remember to scroll down and check there after searching for any phrase.

3. Brainstorm from Experience

No one knows your market better than you. At least that should be the case. Sit down with other attorneys in your office, your paralegal or set some time to do this on your own.

Take out a blank piece of paper, or open a new Word document, and create a list of all the questions someone looking for your services might ask. Not only about your services but other relevant questions they may have about your field of expertise as well.

The bigger the list the better. Try not to stop writing to think. Keep your pen moving or your fingers typing. Without your conscious in the way, you are often able to blurt out great ideas you may not have thought about otherwise.

After you are satisfied with the size of your list, identify the ten that pop out at you the most.

Take the best one of ten and transfer that to a new page or blank section on your page.

Try to think of the intent behind the search term or question. Why would someone be looking for that?

Then ask why one more time to dig even deeper into your prospects intent.

Do this for every item in your top ten.

By the end you should have a rather strong list of keywords and phrases your best prospects may search for.

4. Get a Jump on the Competition with Breaking News

Once your website has been around for 6 months to a year and has a solid foundation of trust with

Google, you can start to target breaking news stories and beat everyone to the punch.

Case in point. One of our clients had a website that was about a year old at the time of this story. The site had a few hundred links from relevant, authority sources so Google trusted the site (still does).

One morning we heard the news that dozens of people were injured in a train derailment in New York City.

We quickly wrote an article targeting phrases like New York City Train Accident Lawyer, MTA Train Accident Lawyer, Metro North Train Accident Lawyer, MTA Accident Injury Lawyer, Sue the MTA Lawyer and a few others.

The main keyword we wanted to rank for went in the title of the article and secondary keywords went in the subheadings with H2 tags. (Not hard to do if you’re using WordPress, simply highlight the subheading and click Heading 2).

We knew the on page elements of the article being in place would not be enough to get the article to the first page of Google (see our On Page Optimization article here). We needed to tell Google this article was important by linking to it.

Here are the links we built, both internally and externally, to rank the page.

We published a short blog post on the same site about the train accident and linked to the “Money Page.” Writing about this event was easy because there was so much news coverage about it. All we did was embed a News Station’s YouTube video and summarized what was said underneath.

We linked to the article from one other relevant page on the same site, I think it was the Train Accident Lawyer page.

We placed the article in the main navigation as a submenu item of Train Accident Lawyer, an existing page on the site.

We shared the page on all our social media profiles.

Last but not least, we ordered three articles about the event from TheContentAuthority.com. Thankfully, the articles were all ready before the end of the day. Once in hand, the articles were published on other law websites we own and control, with links back to the Money Page.

What happened shocked us.

The very next morning our newly published page was in the number 2 spot on Google’s first page for our targeted keyword, in the title of the article. The only website higher than ours was ABC News.

We were also on the first page for most of our secondary keywords.

Within a few days we were on page one for dozens of related terms people might be searching about the accident.

Another great point to note, we were one of only two attorneys on the first page for these terms.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you this brought in a new case for our client. It did not. But we put his website in front of hungry prospects a day after the tragedy occurred. It’s a numbers game. As long as we keep getting in front of the right people, we will get bites.

Don’t underestimate the power of this tactic. Because the news was so fresh, the competition was extremely low yet the value of the keyword was extremely high. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

You also see this tactic used a lot by defective drug injury lawyers. When a product is recalled because of negative side effects, you’ll see lawyers quick to publish something about it on their websites. This the SEO equivalent of low hanging fruit.

Only Then Should You Used the Google Keyword Planner

Now with the list of keywords you’ve compiled from the above exercises, head over to the Google

Keyword Planner and type some of them into the box on the left to “get ideas.”

Now that you are infinitely more specific with what you input, this tool can give you a few new ideas you may not have thought about. If any pop out at you, jot them down.

Keep typing in your best terms and looking through the generated ideas in the second tab called Get Ideas.

You will notice the search volumes for most of these long-tail phrases are zero or very low. That’s ok.

That’s what makes these keywords great.

The fact that there is very little competition because of low search volume does not make these bad keywords you should ignore. If you find one that makes sense and you know someone needing your services will be looking for an answer, you should go after it.

Remember when we said eighty percent of all search traffic comes from long-tail searches? Eight percent! Why would you ignore these phrases just because Google tells you each individual phrase is not being searched?

You shouldn’t. This is where all the traffic actual comes from.

At the End of Your Keyword Research Session

You should now have at least five new target keywords you want to rank for. And since this article is about finding great keywords, we could stop here.

But you may be asking what to do with these keywords. I will close this article by briefly summarizing where we go from here.

The very next step is to pick one keyword, or overarching topic if the keywords are closely related, and write an article that will answer any question a visitor to that page might have. You can also order an article or have someone else write one if you’d rather not do the writing.

Don’t worry about the search engines at this point. Just do your best to serve your visitor better than any other website or source of information available.

You may be asking how many words the article should be.

And I’m a little hesitant to answer that because if you’re asking that you may be more concerned with the search engines than with your visitor.

The article should be as long as it needs to be to fully satisfy your visitor. This article is now approaching nineteen hundred words. Not once did it cross my mind to stop typing because we’ve hit X number of words and that will be enough to rank the article in Google.

Assume the person is already on the page. You’ve got him to your site and now you need to treat him as someone sitting across from you in your office paying you for your advice.

Article Written, Before Publishing

After you have your article you will need to optimize the page for the keywords you want to rank for in Google. There are certain places you need to include your target phrases so Google knows exactly where to index the page.

And that is where we will end this article. Stay tuned for our next article on On-Page Optimization which will teach you exactly what to with your content. Ignore on-page elements and you’ll have no chance of ranking for what you want to rank for.

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