Using the keyword planner

The next step involves putting these potential keywords in the Google Keyword Planner to determine search volume. In this step, we are looking for validation that our potential keywords are actually being searched. In addition, we’re looking for more keyword ideas based on actual searches.

This is one of your most important tools, so let’s take a deeper dive into some of the features. The Keyword planner requires a free AdWords account, so if you’re not already signed up, start a new account. While they require that you set up and start an ad, you can immediately disable it so that you don’t incur any charges.

Note: If you don’t want to use Adwords, consider using Rank Signals, which will provide you with similar information.

Step 1: Take your first potential keyword and plug it into the tool

keyword-planner
The most important field is the “Your Product or Service” field (pictured above). For our purposes, all of the others can be ignored unless you’re considering pay-per-click advertising. However, our goal is to simply determine search volume, which doesn’t require any use in other fields.

Step 2: Analyze the Results

Click over to the “keyword ideas” tab and check out the sample search results (pictured below) for “San Francisco Wedding Photography.”
adwords-keyword-planner

Average Monthly Searches

The most important column is the “Average Monthly Searches,” which is based on the past 12 months. Notice the huge difference between “San Francisco Wedding Photography,” with 170 average monthly searches and “San Francisco Wedding Photographer,” with 1,000 average monthly searches. This illustrates the importance of using this tool to determine exact phrasing for the keywords. The smallest change can make the biggest difference!

Higher is Not Better

A keyword with high search volume shouldn’t automatically be a keyword that you choose to target. If that keyword is too vague or simply doesn’t match your services, then it will not do you any good.

Also, niche keywords often convert better than broad, general keywords. For example, if someone searched “New York Photographer,” they could be searching for any type of photography, from family to wedding to fashion to headshot. In contrast, if someone typed in “New York headshot photography,” their needs are very clear. So even if niche keywords are searched less, they often have a higher chance of accurately matching the searcher’s needs. As a result, they will convert better than traffic from broad keywords.

Note on Competitiveness

The “Competition” column is worth explaining because of some common misconceptions. At first glance, you might think that search terms with higher search volume would automatically be more “competitive.” Keep in mind that the Keyword Planner is originally an AdWords tool for pay-per-click advertisers, so it is actually referring to the level of competition in AdWords, not in organic SEO. High competition means that there are a high number of advertisers bidding for that keyword relative to all keywords across Google. Though this often correlates with competition in organic SEO, sometimes it doesn’t. Simply ignore this column unless you are ready to dive into pay per click advertising.

adwords-keyword-tool

Step 3: Eliminate and Expand Your List of Keywords

So let’s rewind and review. Initially, we made a list of potential keywords that we thought our clients might be searching based on a series of questions we asked ourselves. Now that you have actual numbers, we can start eliminating and adding keywords based on the suggestions made by the Keyword Planner. Now let’s modify our previous list to include two columns: 1) the keyword and 2) the average monthly searches.

Keywords to Eliminate:

Keyword Average Monthly Searches
Oakland Family Photographer 0
Golden Gate Park Photography 0
San Francisco City Hall Wedding Images 0
Napa Valley Vineyard Photography 0
Pictures of Rustic Weddings in Bay Area 0
Bay Area Sunset Photography 0
Creative Wedding Photographer in San Francisco 0

Keywords to Keep:

Keyword Average Monthly Searches
San Francisco Wedding Photography 170
Freemont Wedding Venues 90
San Francisco Portrait Photographer 110
San Francisco Engagement Photography 70

New Keywords Discovered From Suggestions:

Keyword Average Monthly Searches
Wedding Photography Bay Area 90
San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photographer 320

Step 4: Account for Synonyms and Closely Related Terms

While creating your list of keywords, start grouping keywords that essentially refer to the same thing. For example, “San Francisco Wedding Photography” is pretty much the same as “San Francisco Wedding Photographer” and “SF wedding photographers.” In later chapters, we’re going to create pages to target each group of keywords, so we need to choose one main keyword for each group of similar keywords.

For example, Jennifer would create the following groups (in no particular order):

Group 1:
san francisco wedding photography 170
san francisco wedding photographer 1300
san francisco wedding photographers 210
Group 2:
freemont wedding venues 90
wedding venues freemont ca 30
Group 3:
san francisco engagement photography 70
san francisco engagement photographer 50
engagement photos san francisco 90
san francisco engagement photos 110

Step 5: Separate Keywords

The next step is to determine one “main” goal and five to ten initial “niche” goals. The main goals are highly-searched, highly-competitive search terms that you work towards with the realization that it will take time and continuous efforts to rank for them.

The “Niche Goals” are the less searched, less competitive search terms. Since they are less competitive, you can quickly rank for these terms and begin to see results. The total traffic from these “niche” goals has the potential to be higher than the traffic from your “main” goals. So Jennifer should not be discouraged if she never ranks for “San Francisco Wedding Photographer.” Along the journey her business will still benefit!

Of course, you will need to use your Keyword Planner to verify, but in photography, your “Main Goals” are often one or two of the following:

[The Largest City/Region In Your Area] + [Type of Photography] + Photographer
[The Largest City/Region In Your Area] + [Type of Photography] + Photography
[The 2nd Largest City/Region In Your Area] + [Type of Photography] + Photographer
[The 2nd Largest City/Region In Your Area] + [Type of Photography] + Photography

Your niche goals will vary a lot depending on your type of photography, business specialties, and location. Let’s continue with our wedding examples. Some keywords might include:

  • [Venue Name] Wedding Photography
  • [Popular Photography Location] Engagement
  • [Small City Name] Wedding Photography
  • [A Frequently Asked Question]

There is no need to finalize your Niche Goals, as they will continue to evolve with your business. As you start to gain experience in SEO and understand your target audience better, you’ll be able to come up with more and more of these niche phrases.

Let’s bring this back to our example of our San Francisco wedding photography studio. Remember, you need to develop your unique keyword strategy based on your business and your clients. This is only an example and NOT a template for everyone to follow. If I were a wedding photographer and lived in San Francisco, my main keywords might be the following:

Main Keyword:

  • San Francisco Wedding Photographer (1,000 Monthly Searches)

Secondary Main Keywords:

  • Bay Area Wedding Photographers (320 Monthly Searches)

Niche Keywords:

  • San Francisco Engagement Photographer (50 Monthly Searches)
  • San Jose Wedding Photographer (90 Monthly Searches)
  • Oakland Wedding Photographer (20 Monthly Searches)
  • Fairmont San Francisco Wedding (50 Monthly Searches)
  • Other Venue Based Keywords

Now that we’ve determined our initial set of Keywords, it’s time to put it all into action in the next section and populate our content. Our main keyword will become our keyword for our home page while our niche keywords will be targeted in individual pages on our site.

CHAPTER 1.01 – INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 2: 1.02 – SEO BASICS & KEYWORD STRATEGY

CHAPTER 3 1.03 – CREATING CONTENT

CHAPTER 4: 1.04 – SITE STRUCTURE

Chapter 5: 1.05 – ACCESSIBILITY, SPEED, AND DUPLICATE CONTENT

Chapter 6: 2.01 – LINK BASICS

Chapter 7: 2.02 – LINK VALUE FACTORS

Chapter 8: 2.03 – NOFOLLOW, RELATED LINKS, & ANCHOR TEXT

Chapter 9: 2.04 – LINK BUILDING STRATEGIES

Chapter 10: 3.01 – THE IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Chapter 11: 3.02 – MAXIMIZING SPECIFIC SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS

Chapter 12: 3.03 – MASTER LOCAL SEARCH

Chapter 13: 4.01 – Initial Decisions

Chapter 14: 4.02 – WORDPRESS AND SQUARESPACE

Chapter 15: 4.03 – GOOGLE ANALYTICS

Chapter 16: PAID DIRECTORIES

ACCESS TO INDUSTRY-LEADING EDUCATION

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