While keyword research isn't the sexiest of marketing tasks, it's an essential part of maximizing your resources in an ever-evolving digital landscape. Obviously, ranking for the right keywords related to your product or offering is like finding your marketing sweet spot. Researching your keywords tells you exactly how to grow your audience, by giving you insight into your customer's buying behaviors and purchase signals. Without a thorough understanding of what's moving the needle with your campaigns, you're leading on hunches, not data - you still don't have a clear understanding of how people are finding you online.
For example, say you sell shoes. Anyone who's worked with keywords can tell you that a brand new shoe boutique will never rank for the term "shoes" without a ginormous, completely unrealistic ad spend.
But what if your keyword is a little more specific than "shoes?"
Currently, Google AdWords is a good place to start, because it tells you about your keyword rankings and search volume. But, you need more than just Google AdWords to win your keywords. For example, knowing a keyword's search volume doesn't give you any insight into why people are searching that term, or how they're discussing it (in blog posts vs. tweets vs. LinkedIn discussions). You can't tell if it's an outdated legacy keyword and you certainly don't know the best way to get in front of people discussing that term: Should you create targeted blog content, or promote on instagram with various hashtags, or engage on forums? Knowing a keyword's search volume but not knowing where it's being discussed hurts your ability to get backlinks or social signals, the two strongest criteria for a keyword's ranking.
To know which keywords to target, you need to determine your likeliness of finding success creating campaigns around that term. That means understanding not just the search demand for the keyword(s), but also the actions you can take to win the keyword. This is particularly true for small companies competing in broad industries where huge corporations have infinitely more resources and dollars to spend on getting visibility.
If you don't want to do additional manual (time-consuming) research of your domain authority and top 20 SERPs, you'll want to use a tool that gives you useable intelligence into your keywords. Ultimately, you want to have the definitive answer to this question: Can you "win" this keyword?
Here are some things you need to consider when determining if a keyword is winnable:
- Are you able to rank for this keyword with your current resources?
- Is this a topic people are discussing right now via social signals?
- By creating content with this keyword, are you participating in a current online conversation or trying to create a discussion that your consumers don't really want to have?
- Who is currently winning this keyword, and how (blogs, social posts, paid ads, etc.)?
Ultimately, your keyword research must give you context about your industry as a whole. Understanding search volume is important, but it gives you no information about how to execute an effective marketing strategy. You need a tool that gives you a big-picture snapshot of your keyword(s), but can still deliver detail-oriented recommendations about how to effectively get in front of the people that matter the most to your business. While keyword research may seem like a labor-intensive endeavor, keywords are the building blocks of successful marketing. Why would you only partially execute on the most quintessential foundation of your campaign?