My idiot’s guide to keyword research

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So what is keyword research?

Keyword research is a practice used by Search Engine Optimization professionals to find and research actual search terms people enter into search engines when conducting a search”. Good old Wikipedia!

But, I used to think, what has that got to do with me? I’m a graphic designer. People who want to find graphic designers are going to Google “graphic designer” – (note to Googlebot: I’m not keyword stuffing, honest!). So I’d ignored keyword research for years, thinking I knew better than the 1.5 billion people who make internet searches. All this changed after I heard this excellent interview with Google’s Matt Cutts.

How do you keyword research?

Google “keyword research”, click on Google Adwords Keyword Tool which will be the first result, then enter the keyword(s) you are currently optimizing your site for. When you see the results, click the top of either the Global Monthly Searches or the Local Monthly Searches column. Now you will see the most popular keywords which are being used together with the one(s) you entered. After entering “graphic design”, the following searches caught my eye:

  • Creative design – Immediately I saw that I have underused the word “creative” in this site as “creative services”, “creative designers”, “freelance creatives”, etc., are popular searches. Maybe I won’t change the title of the homepage to include the word “creative”. But I can use it in a few blog post titles as it will draw in a bit more traffic.
  • Design jobs – Jobs, huh? How’s that going to help me, I thought? These aren’t searches from people looking for graphic designers. These are searches from graphic designers looking for jobs. Yes, but hold on! There’s loads of these searches a month. All I’ve got to do it write some blog posts about design jobs and I’ll get some of that traffic. I immediately thought of some great post ideas about getting design jobs!
  • Graphic art – Art is another word that I’d not targeted as I wouldn’t describe myself as a graphic artist. But I can certainly write tutorials about creating graphic art.
  • Brochure design – I found it amazing that this was such a popular search. Not as popular as “web design” or “logo design”. But more popular than say, “business card design”, “flyer design” or “leaflet design”. I’ve done plenty of brochures and ebrochures. I should write a blog post or two about that.

In five minutes I had several blog post ideas!

The constant challenge of blogging is having to come up with interesting things to write about every week. More importantly, you have to think of subjects that are interesting to everybody else as well! With keyword research, some of the guesswork is taken out of the equation. You can find out what people are searching for. By writing about what people want to read, you can increase your organic traffic, which can lead to more links, which can lead to more traffic, which can lead to … you get the idea!

Why do keyword research?

The words that are in the title of your website’s pages and in the anchor text of links to your website determine how you will be found through search engines. It’s quite possible that you are targeting the wrong keywords. You may have your website title as “exercise routines” when “fitness training” gets millions more searches, for example.

What about you?

Do you use keyword research? Or have you never done it before, like me? If so, try the above, it’ll only take 2 seconds and tell me what you discover!

Photo credit: Chris John Beckett

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  1. Mark Narusson says

    Nice post Rob. I find keywords a bit of minefield due to my lack of experience in this field. I’ll definitely explore this more closely and hopefully direct a bit more traffic my way. Cheers.

  2. says

    It certainly seems like a minefield area to the likes of you and me, Mark. It’s not going to change the importance of the words “graphic designer” to this site, nor to yours. But it may help you to tweak certain words in your site to pull in a little more traffic. 😉

  3. says

    Blimey I have so much to learn. Can you still use meta tags and images to build in keywords or does it mainly have to be in the content? Probably a combo of all I guess. I have opened up a can of worms!

    • says

      Hello Rob, you don’t need to bother with meta tags and images so much. Title tags followed by heading tags are the most important places for your keywords on site. Off site they need to be in the anchor text of hyperlinks to your site. That’s why as a blogger you need to write posts about what you do and good content will draw good visitors to your site.

      Not a can of worms, but a big subject. I have written more about how to optimize your site for search engines and how to get links to your site if you’re interested in this subject.

  4. says

    Thanks for the vivid explanation with an example. Google Keyword tool.

    I often find it hard to research for keywords and sit to write posts for those keywords, yes, it feels like you said earlier in post. A bit more extra work can produce magical results.

    Thanks for the post.

  5. says

    Hey Suresh, it’s certainly something that is worth experimenting with. Here I’m saying to choose keywords with lots of searches per month but other people say to choose keywords with around 30,000 searches a month as they’ll be easier to get to the top of the results pages on. So, it’s not a simple subject but one I hope I’ll return to.

  6. says

    Thank you! I write my blog M-F and I admit sometimes get lazy on the Key word search section. :/ Thanks for your advice and Im definitely looking into Google adword searches for now on! xxx

  7. says

    Hello Juls, sorry, I don’t know why I’d missed your comment here but I did! Yes, keyword research does seems like an extra hassle but, as with everything else, after a little practice with it you can see good results with minimum effort!

  8. says

    Hi Rob,
    I can understand your logic however my take on this is that It’s one thing to write a post about getting a graphic design job which will get you some traffic, you can have all the traffic in the world but if the traffic doesn’t convert to a sale then you will be no better off. i.e. if you don’t offer graphic design jobs they will click away. If you get a very high bounce rate on a site then this could be a signal to google that you don’t offer quality content and could potentially harm your site.

    In my opinion it’s better to focus in on words like creative design as you suggest or if you are an agency then something like “creative graphic design agency” or if not then turn the phrase round like this: “before you search for a creative graphic design agency…”


    • says

      Hi Pete,

      I see what you’re saying here and it’s a good point. There is a dichotomy about this site in that it’s original objective was to attract graphic design business but the blog, by it’s nature, will attract other graphic designers or other interested parties. However, I have come to discover that increasing traffic is pretty much good all round.

      Of course, I don’t want people coming here and not getting what they’re after but I don’t think that happens: the keywords “graphic designer” will return the home page whereas “graphic design jobs” will return an article about how to get graphic design jobs. Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t second guess clients. One of my best paying clients came to me having googled “graphic design prices” – which returns a blog article for other graphic designers.

      Write good helpful content, and you can’t go far wrong.

      Cheers, Rob

    • says

      If you’re talking about semantic search then there’s not a lot you can do in terms of keyword research, you’re much better off concentrating on quality content and great marketing.