Keywords; The search hierarchy

Before selecting the keywords you want to target, it’s worth understanding the web consumer’s search process. Of course, everyone will have their element of randomness but in principle, when looking to purchase online, people use a hierarchy of descriptors that funnel from broad to specific, as follows:

An example of this might be:

This search process creates a whole series of possible touch points for your site. Depending on your product or service capabilities, and where you would like to meet the consumer in their purchasing decision, will dictate which keywords you target.

Keyword Research

Trying to compete on very competitive keywords at the generic ‘theme’ level will be difficult if you are a new or smaller site/business. This is where you need to do a little research:

  1. Make a relevant assessment of your strength from products through to site proficiency.
  2. Look at what the competition are doing: what keywords are they targeting for?
  3. Assess the market. Are you niche or mainstream? Is your product/service seasonal? What’s the longevity of your business or shape of things to come?
  4. Research what search terms are popular and relevant to your business. There are a range of free keyword suggestion tools that can help with this.
  5. Consider your ROI. What’s your budget? Can you afford any wastage? How much converting traffic do you need to return a profit?

Benefit of tail terms

If, after answering these questions, you realise that you cannot compete on top level, ‘major’ keywords, fear not. ‘Tail term’ keywords are generally keyphrases that reflect the more targeted end of the online purchasing process (the long tail). Combining several words that contain ‘localisation’, ‘brand’ or ‘product’ descriptors will ensure you meet the web user at their point of sale. They will have made the decision on the type of purchase they want to make and now be fine tuning. While it is true to say that you won’t receive particularly high levels of traffic from tail term keywords, as by their very nature they are less frequently searched, you will get higher conversion rates. Targeting a good number of tail terms will ensure a positive effect on your baseline ROI due to the high propensity to purchase and lower levels of competition at this end of the tail.

Helpful tools

Here are a couple of useful tools that can get you started with your keyword research:

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Longtail Adwords and Keywords Tool