The day Google killed its Keyword Tool
August 28th, 2013 was a sad day in the annals of DIY bloggers and content-makers. Once it was easy enough to find keywords for your firm’s website. You looked into the bowels of the Google Keyword Tool and presto, there they were, keywords of every shape and description. The results also told you how often (or how little) that term was searched by prospective clients looking for a service just like yours. It was a godsend.
But godsend no longer, not after August 28th, 2013. A day of infamy.
What is Keyword research?
Keyword research attempts to predict the words clients and prospective clients might type into a search engine when they look for the service you provide. You then use those words, strategically placed in your website content, to attract them to your firm’s website. Keyword research is basic, and should be looked at by anyone who writes targeted (optimised) content. It should also be conducted for every page on your website, and every blog post you write.
But how does the search engine know what searchers specifically want if, as is usually the case, the searcher does not type those specific words (in fact often the searchers don’t know, that’s why they’re doing “research” or “surfing”).
Using the Google Planner
Google still has a lesser keyword tool, the Google Keyword Planner, but it associated with its paid Google AdWords. You get it when you sign up for an AdWords account. You can use it to get the average monthly searches for the terms you have identified as potential keywords. Again, your ideal keyword has low competition and high search volume, but they are obviously scarce.
First use the “new keyword or ad group ideas” function. Then type in a broad search term for your professional service e.g. “family law”. You will receive a list of “related words” to check. So “family law” might return “divorce lawyer” “financial agreement” “custody” etc.
Then check the search volume and level of competition for that keyword. This is where it gets interesting. The most common failing of professional firms is to target keywords that are the most popular (e.g. “make a Will”), not understanding that the same keyword (or keyphrase) will also be targeted by larger competitors. This will be challenging (at the least) if you are a small firm competing with a much larger firm for the same keywords.
Look at the long tail
Although you might logically think the most popular search terms are the majority of searches, in fact they account for less than 30% of the total searches performed on the web. The remaining 70% are the so-called “long tail” of search. This is the treasure trove you can mine and refine with the Keyword Planner – the hundreds of millions of unique search terms that appear less often, but when added together represent the largest percentage of all searches.
Remember, for every person who searches a broad term like “accountant” or “lawyer” or “financial planner” or “insurance broker”, there are many more who search for a specific service by an accountant or lawyer or financial planner or insurance broker, e.g. “self managed superannuation fund” or “family law financial agreement” or “flood insurance broker in Smithville” or “family trusts tax returns”.
There is another element at work here. A decade ago we would be more likely to search for a standard keyword and use the search engine results to sift through the resulting information to clarify what we wanted. Nowadays there is an evolutionary development in the sophistication of searchers, who are more likely to begin the search for more targeted words. Those targeted words are more “long tailed” by nature, which makes them ever more important.
Don’t run to consultants
At best keyword research is problematic. This is even moreso given Google’s decision to withhold information that was once the bedrock of any keyword research, especially for those who relied on free research available through the Google Keyword Tool.
This is a complicated issue, because it may appear to make hiring an SEO expert a greater imperative. There is no doubt that the withdrawal of the Google Keyword Tool is a major setback to DIY keyword analysis, but at the same time other Google changes have also taken place in it’s algorithms, and the effects must be analyzed holistically. Content research is more than technical use of a tool – it’s also knowing your clients and the client you want to attract to your firm, the overall quality of your content, and the trust that your content engenders.
There is very much you can do on your own before you need to seek (expensive) outside help.
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