If you’re looking to get your small business website to show up in search engine results, you will need to do some keyword research. In fact, I would recommend creating a keyword list before you do anything else, as finding keywords relevant to your business will play an important role in a lot of your website’s SEO.
In this post, I’ve put together a list of 6 keyword research tips for small businesses for you, but before we get there I want to cover some basics and share some free tools you can use to help you apply these tips.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is discovering search queries your target audience is entering on search engines. You can use these keywords strategically on your website to attract website visitors from search engines.
Why is keyword research important?
Keyword research is important because it helps you to understand what your target audience is searching for on Google. With this information, you will gain tremendous insight into the search intent behind your target audience (i.e. are they looking to buy or just browsing), what they’re searching for in relation to your business and how you can use this to inform your website’s content strategy.
Effective keyword research for SEO is like carrying out market research before developing to launching a new product. It’s essential for knowing what your target audience really wants.
So now that we’ve covered what keyword research is and why it’s important, let’s dive into my favourite free keyword research tools.
How to do keyword research
To do keyword research, you’re going to need some tools. With these tools, you’ll be able to action the tips provided below to carry out your keyword research.
I’m going to share 7 free keyword research tools with you that will help you get started.
I want to preface this by saying that I use paid keyword research tools nowadays. As an SEO specialist, these tools don’t quite cut it for the in-depth strategies and sheer volume of keyword research I do. However, if you want a cost-effective way to do keyword research for your small business, these free tools will take you pretty far.
Once you’ve exhausted them and started seeing results from your SEO efforts, I recommend switching to a paid tool and using these free tools to support where needed!
7 free keyword research tools
Google’s “People Also Ask”
Google’s “People Also Ask” feature is a great way to find search terms related to your business. You can see your competition directly under the search term and the data comes from Google, so you can be fairly confident it’s a query people are searching.
All you need to do is enter a seed keyword into Google, for example, I might type in “web design for hotels”.
Scroll down to “People Also Ask” and you’ll find a list of search terms related to your seed keyword.
Select any that apply to your website content and add them to your list of keywords.
Google Search Console
I’ve written a whole deep-dive blog post on how to use Google Search Console for keyword research.
The rest of the tools I’m sharing are self-explanatory, so I’ll drop you a list you can work through!
- Keyword Surfer
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- Answer The Public
- Ahrefs Keyword Generator
- Google Keyword Planner
With these tools, you should be able to find relevant keywords for your website. Some of them will also provide data on search volume, keyword difficulty, etc., so by using a couple of them, you should be able to figure out which keywords are the best fit for your business.
6 keyword research tips for small businesses
Now that we’ve covered all the basics, let’s get to the keyword research tips!
Start with a list of seed keywords
Seed keywords are 1-2 word keywords used as a starting point for your keyword research. For example, mine would be “search engine optimisation” or “web design”.
You should make a list of all the seed keywords related to your business before you get started with your keyword research. That way, you can find which seed keywords have the highest level of competition, who your main competitors are within these topics and easily identify any seed keywords you may want to target without further research.
For example, if your seed keyword has a low-search volume then you know you can easily optimise your service or product page for that keyword and hopefully see results.
Whereas if your seed keyword has a high search volume, you may want to explore your options before optimising the page.
Don’t ignore low-search volume keywords
If you’re new to the SEO game, you will struggle to compete with competitors who have been at it for a while. Those competitors are likely going after the high-search volume keywords because they’ve built up enough authority with Google they can.
You don’t have that luxury.
It takes time to build your website’s authority with Google and for them to trust you will meet high competition queries.
So you need to go after the less desirable keywords to start making a name for yourself with search engines.
The great news is that low-search volume keywords often have a much lower barrier to entry. If you meet the query well on your page, you should find you start ranking for it quickly and see a boost in website traffic from those searches.
Use long-tail keywords if they’re relevant
There are three types of keywords when it comes to “- tail keywords”.
- Short-tail keywords (similar to seed keywords)
- Medium-tail keywords (typically 2-3 words)
- Long-tail keywords (typically 4+ words)
Long-tail keywords are often also low-search volume keywords, which means they’re easier to target.
If you can use long-tail keywords on your product or service pages, and they’re relevant to your page content, this is the best way to rank these pages when you’re just starting with SEO.
For example, let’s say you’re a new business and you sell a dog shampoo that helps to relieve itchy skin. When you do keyword research, you find that “dog shampoo for itchy skin” happens to be a low-search volume phrase related to your seed keyword (“dog shampoo”).
If it works for your product page, optimising the page for “Dog Shampoo for Itchy Skin” will bring more traffic to the page than if you optimise for “Dog Shampoo”.
Spy on your competitors
If you’re feeling stumped on keyword ideas, you may find it useful to check out the specific terms your website competitors are ranking for on Google.
Before you get started, add the Google Chrome extension SEO META in 1 CLICK so you can assess the data on your competitor’s pages.
You can do this straight from the search engine results page (SERP) on Google. Either search for your seed keyword and see what appears in the search results, or type in site: yourcompetitorsurlhere.com to see all their pages indexed on Google.
Once you’ve found a page you want to review, click on SEO META in 1 CLICK from your browser’s toolbar, and it’ll pull up all the SEO data from the page.
In the above example, you can see that the most commonly used phrase on the page is “Website Reviews”, so chances are this is the keyword the page has been optimised for.
Target keywords with blog posts
If you’re struggling to find low-search volume keywords for your service or product pages, you may find it easier to target them with blog posts.
Remember, the goal here is to bring relevant traffic to your website and to build your authority with Google. So if you’ve got a five-page website you’ll need to start a blog anyway, even more so if your main product/service keywords have high competition.
A blog can seem like a total chore, but once you get into the habit of writing posts regularly, and you see the SEO benefits, it’ll become a crucial part of your SEO strategy.
You can also repurpose your blog posts into social media content.
Consider search intent
In 99% of cases, there are four types of search intent for search engine users. They are:
- Informational: The user wants to find out more information
- Navigational: The user wants to directly access a website
- Commercial: The user wants to buy but they’re still considering their options
- Transactional: The user wants to book or buy
Let’s say you use Google’s “People Also Ask” for your keyword research, and you find a query like:
“What should a hotel website include?”
The search intent behind this query is to learn what a hotel website should include. The search intent is “informational”.
If you optimise a web design service page for this keyword, you will attract a load of visitors who don’t necessarily want to hire you. It’s a wasted opportunity for this page.
As a rough guideline, here’s how you can use search intent to inform where on your website keywords should go.
- Informational: Blog posts like “What should a hotel website include?” or “What is the best keyword research tool?”.
- Navigational: Homepage. You shouldn’t need to optimise for this but you may need to if you share a business name with another who has a better search presence than you.
- Commercial: Blog posts like “Best keyword research tools” or “Alternatives to Shopify for an e-commerce business” or subheadings on your product or services pages like “Is this the best keyword research tool?”.
- Transactional: Product or service pages like “Web Design Agency for Hotels” or “Vegan Dog Shampoo”.
The truth about keyword research for small businesses
If you’re a small business, you will need to get pretty scrappy with your keyword strategy. Whether that means stealing keywords your competitors are ranking for, or taking the time to build out a blog to target low-competition keywords, nobody said SEO was easy!
The most important thing to remember with your small business keyword research is that your goal is to generate organic search traffic to your website. One of the best ways to do this is to research keywords that you have a chance of ranking for. In the early days, these will be the small fry keywords.
The good news is that all these keywords can mount up to a pretty sizeable amount of monthly traffic! Especially if you’ve managed to bag the top of search engine results for them. And as your authority with search engines, like Google, grows, you can target the “game-changing” keywords that can explode your business. After all, every business has to start somewhere!