Keyword research is critical to ensuring your content can be found online. Such research isn’t the only element that impacts your digital visibility, but if you’re trying to drive traffic to your website, you should actively investigate which keywords work best.
Your research should center around your buyer personas, which are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. Understanding your personas is imperative to driving quality traffic. Only then will you grasp how to attract people with the specific pain points or challenges your company solves for.
By considering the terms your buyer personas would search, you can build out your keyword strategy around the actual people those personas represent.
To begin building your strategy, you should ask yourself a series of questions: What solution does my company provide? How are people searching for that solution today? How do I connect my solution with what people are searching?
Beginning Your Research
When you consider your organization and the solutions you provide, you probably have a core term that comes to mind, summing up what your company offers.
Consider an investment management organization. Obviously, one of their core terms could be “investment management.” While that might not be the exact keyword or the most common thing that people think of when looking for that company, it does sum up what they do.
To determine if the keyword “investment management,” is worth using as a core term, the company should conduct research. By using tools like Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush, they could determine whether or not the term has a high, or at least consistent, search volume.
“A good monthly search volume is in the 300 range, so if you’re over that 300 mark, that’s a really good sign your core term is something you want to go after. If it’s got low competition, that’s even better,” says Guido Bartolacci, New Breed’s Head of Demand Generation.
After entering “investment management” on Google Keyword Planner, the company would find it is probably a great core term for them to target. It has a high monthly search volume, with 6,600 searches, and low competition. That means it should be easier to rank for since a relatively small number of companies are focusing on it.
However, competition and search volume are not the only aspects that your company should consider when determining what keywords to target. You should also ask, “Does this term really encompass what we do?” Sometimes what people are searching for won’t directly align with the solution you provide.
“What you need to do is bridge the gap from how you think about your solution to how your audience thinks about it,” says Guido.
It is your job to determine what your audience is searching for and guide them towards your offering.
“If you can build out a strategy around those keywords to address individuals’ pain points and challenges, you can attract leads to your website,” says Guido.
From there, you can educate them about the solution you provide, aligning your company as the answer to their problems.
Finding Related Terms
When you begin the process of finding your core terms, you’re probably going to discover a handful of topics that your personas are searching for. Some of those will closely relate to what you do and others will be more abstract.
At an investment management company for example, if individuals are searching “investment management firm,” that directly relates to what they do.
People researching the generic “investment management,” could be seeking advice or tips on how to invest by themselves. This produces a large monthly search volume of 6,600. The term “investment management firm,” has a different connotation. It garners 590 monthly searches, which is much more focused.
“A person that’s searching ‘investment management firm’ is likely very deep in the decision -making process, so the search volume around that term will be relatively low,” says Guido.
Essentially, that individual probably has determined that they want to work with an investment firm, and they’re looking for the ideal candidate.
“While the firm should rank for that term, it’s not going to bring a ton of traffic to their website, even though the traffic that does come from that term will be ideal,” Guido adds.
Since individuals searching investment management firm are mostly in the advanced decision-making stages, they’ll be more likely to close.
On the other hand, you’ll find more people searching for terms that are closer to the beginning of the decision-making process.
For an investment management company, those queries could be “How do you invest in stocks?” “How do you diversify a portfolio?” or “What is investment management?” They are more abstract but basically define the types of things the company does. This is why positioning your business as a solution is so important.
“Someone might be thinking, ‘I need help with investment management,’ and not make the connection that they need a firm right away. They just know that they need help,” Guido says.
By considering your buyer personas and developing a greater understanding of their pain points, you can determine what keywords you want to rank for. To balance your needs for lead volume and high intent visitors, your strategy should target a few specific core topics in addition to more abstract subtopics.
Expanding Your Total Addressable Market
As we’ve mentioned, the average number of monthly searches for “investment management” is 6,600. By targeting that keyword, you may be able to capture a few small variations of the term, but in general, you can use search volume as your maximum potential reach.
Basically, if you only target that keyword, no more than 6,600 people will come to your website as a result of your SEO efforts — and that’s if every single person who makes that search happens to click on your search result.
Of course, you aren’t just going to target one keyword. As was discussed above, you’ll find a series of terms to target, each with its own search volume.
“This allows you to diversify a little bit, and you can expand the total addressable market of people that can find you online,” says Guido.
He borrows a term you may have heard in a different context. Total addressable market (TAM) is usually used to describe the amount of revenue your company could earn if everyone with a demand for your offering actually bought it. Here, Guido uses it to describe the number of people your company could bring to your website if everyone searching your keywords actually became visitors.
For instance, if you only targeted “investment management” your TAM would be 6,600 people, the number of people who search the term. On top of that, if you targeted “asset management,” which according to Google Keyword Planner has a monthly search volume of 18,100, you would have a TAM of 24,700 — the combined search volume of the terms.
This is why it makes sense to target related keywords. With each term you target, you can grow your overall pool of people that could find your site. Over time, if you produce quality, searchable content, this will help you attract more visitors.
Building Topic Clusters and Pillar Pages
As you build a collection of keywords and begin to structure your content around them, it is useful to create topic clusters. Topic clusters center around a core topic, like investment management. From there, you can build out supporting posts related to your core topic.
The most popular use of topic clusters is through a pillar page and subtopic structure. Basically, you build a pillar page detailing your core topic and publish subtopic posts about related subjects. Then, you should connect those posts to the pillar with reciprocal links. In this way, when a reader is researching your main subject, they can dive deeper, exploring all of the related topics required to understand what you are talking about.
Let’s revisit our investment management example.
If you were writing about investment management, you could walk consumers through what investment management is and why it’s important, but without delving into particular elements of what it means for their lives, it wouldn’t hold much weight.
The image below shows some of the topics related to investment management, including investment advice, wealth and estate planning, trust services, philanthropic planning, family legacy planning and tax strategies. Taking these into account, it’s easy to see that different topics might be more meaningful to different individuals.
According to Guido, it’s important to discuss subtopics because they can act as different starting points for your audience.
“I might care about tax strategies, do a search for that term, come across a blog post about it and follow a link to a core pillar page that has information about investment management as a whole,” he says.
In such a scenario, investment management would obviously be relevant to the reader, but they might not think to search for it. Of course, the opposite could also be true.
“Maybe someone comes in for investment management and doesn’t realize that they need to think about tax management. [Building topic clusters] is one way to bridge that gap between where someone is and where you want them to be,” Guido says.
By providing links and a solid structure for your audience to understand the connection between the topics, you can guide them to your ultimate solution.
“The other great thing about topic clusters is they help you break through the ceiling of what your total traffic could look like,” Guido says.
In effect, you can provide your visitors with a better, more valuable experience.
To attract visitors to your website, you should identify the terms you want to rank for, gradually expand your TAM with related keywords, create content based around those keywords and begin structuring that content with a topic cluster strategy. This process provides your potential customers with the most efficient way to consume information. They should be able to use your site as a “one-stop-shop” to determine anything they want to know about your area of expertise.
This also happens to be how Google ranks sites on search engine results pages (SERPs). They are searching for websites with high authority that can answer consumers’ questions (and their follow-up questions) with as little friction as possible.
Consider what you do when you come across a website that doesn’t have what you’re looking for.
“You take a look at it and realize it doesn’t actually answer your question. There’s nothing else that it’s linking to that looks like it could provide your answer, so you just leave. You bounce from the website, you don’t spend any time there and you don’t click through to any pages,” Guido says. “In part, Google’s using those three things [bounce rate, time on page and click-through rate] to determine how well to rank your site.”
At the end of the day, Google is trying to rank pages like a human would. When you’re building your keyword strategy and producing content, keep this in mind. Targeting the “perfect” keyword with the most search volume won’t help you drive traffic if you can’t provide value to the people searching that term.