How are your patients finding you? It all begins with words typed in a search box.
Keyword research is the foundation of SEO. It is one of the most important and high-return activities you need to make time for.
What is keyword research?
According to HubSpot, Keyword research is when people use keywords to find and research actual search terms that people enter into search engines. The knowledge about these actual search terms can help inform content strategy or marketing strategy overall.
6 Steps For Thorough Keyword Research
Step 1. Make a list of important topics or niche markets that apply to your business.
Come up with 5-10 main topics for your business. These main topics will be used for specific keywords later on in our process. Ask yourself, what types of topics would your target audience search that you'd want your practice to get found for?
For example, let's say you have a physical therapy practice. Your prospective patients might search for:
- Typical injuries your office treats
- Therapy modalities you implement
- Your practice specialties
- Practices near their location
- Products you endorse or recommend
Step 2. Fill in your topics with keywords.
Now that you have a few topics you want to focus on, it's time to identify some keywords. These are keyword phrases you think are important to rank for in the SERPs (search engine results pages) because your target patient is probably conducting searches for those specific terms.
For example, if I took -- "your practice specialties" -- I'd brainstorm some keyword phrases that I think people would type in related to that topic. Those might include:
- Injury Prevention Programs
- Pediatric therapy
- Job-Site Analysis
- Functional Capacity Evaluations
- Custom Designed & Fabricated Splints
This is still not your final list of keyword phrases ("Ugh! What?" - I heard you and we can help take the load off). We will narrow the lists down later in the process.
Another smart way to come up with keyword ideas is to figure out which keywords your website is already getting found for. To do this, you'll need website analytics software like Google Analytics or HubSpot's Sources tool.
If you're having trouble coming up with relevant search terms, you can always ask your employees in your next staff meeting what types of terms their patients and customers use, or common questions they have. Those are often great starting points for keyword research.
Step 3. Research related search terms.
To get "the little gray cells" generating more terms a great help is to go to Google.com and take a look at the related search terms that appear when you plug in a keyword. When you type in your phrase and scroll to the bottom of Google's results, you'll notice some suggestions for searches related to your original input. These keywords can spark ideas for other keywords you may want to take into consideration. This is what happens when you type in "bubble gum".
Step 4: Look for head terms and long-tail keywords under each topic.
What are those? Head terms are keywords phrases that are generally shorter and more generic -- they're typically just one to three words in length such as, "bubble gum flavors". Head terms have more search competition and can get lost in the sea of search results.
Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are longer keyword phrases usually containing three or more words such as, "What bubble gum flavor is best for blowing large bubbles". These terms are highly specific and, in turn, will have highly specific search results. These terms won't bring everyone to your site but they will bring the right kind of patients.
It is good to have a mix of these keywords so you can use the head terms for research down the road and the long tail keywords will give you some great SEO right off the bat.
Step 5: See how the competition is ranking for these keywords.
If the practice across town is ranking for certain keywords that are on your list then you should try to rank for those words as well but also take note on what keywords they don't rank for. This is your opportunity to pull ahead in a specialty area.
To figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for, I recommend SEMrush. This allows you to run a number of free reports that show you the top keywords for the domain you enter. This is a quick way to get a sense of the types of terms your competitors are ranking for.
Step 6: Cut down your keyword list.
The Keyword Planner will show your which terms have a too high or too low search volume. Don't delete anything until you check out the terms trend history and projections in Google Trends. This will show you if some low-volume terms might actually be something you should invest in now and benefit from later.
Google Trends can help you determine which terms are trending upward and thus you will know how to cut down a large keyword list and which terms to give your full attention.
Well, for now, that is, you will need to re-evaluate these keywords once a quarter. You will find that as time passes your website will gain more authority in the SERPs and you can add more keywords to your lists. This will allow you to maintain your current ranking and then grow in new areas as well.
Keep in mind, even the best estimates of value fall flat against the hands-on process of optimizing. Search engine optimization involves constant testing, experimenting, and improvement. Remember, even though SEO is typically one of the highest return marketing investments, measuring success is still critical to the process.