Keyword Research in Plain English

by | Marketing, World of Tech

Keyword Research in Plain English

An important part of getting visitors to your website is to be featured high on the list of sites that Google shows when somebody types in a search request. Keyword research is critical if you are going to achieve this. This guide explains Keyword Research in plain English – why it is important to you, things to think about and ways to do it.

Keyword research should really, in my opinion, be termed keywords research, or even better keyphrase research. Here’s why, and more importantly why it is so important if you want to appear on page one in search results.


Hopefully you recall that the ‘O’ in SEO stands for optimisation, and that is about having the right words in your page title, address and description. If you haven’t read our SEO in plain English article, or you need a quick recap, it’s really worth taking a look now in order to set this keyword research article into context. Keyword research in plain English still doesn’t make much sense unless you understand why we need to do it, and SEO in plain English makes this clear.

People looking for a product, service or information

When you want to find something in Google or Bing, you type a query into the search bar. In our SEO example we were interested in green wellington boots, and so that is what we typed in, and Google gave us a list of websites it thought we would be interested in, with Amazon at the top of that list. In this example “green Wellington boots” are the keywords. The reason I started by saying that keyword research should be renamed is because people rarely type a single word into a search bar. Typing just “green” or just “boots” is very unlikely to get you what you are looking for.

Which sites do you think Google will show if you just type “green”? Take a guess first, and then have a try to see how close your guess was. Type into Google right now. Was it what you expected? It’s a bit like going into a library and telling the librarian you want a book – they really need a bit more information in order to give you a helpful reply!

This becomes important to you as a website owner when you think about naming your pages, their addresses and their descriptions. Using a single word is just not helpful enough to Google and so it is extremely unlikely that your site will turn up on page one of its results for that one word, whatever it might be. What we need to do is to use the exact phrase that a potential customer might type into Google’s search bar in our page names, addresses and descriptions.

Know your customers

So how do we know what our customers are going to type into Google? Well, the most important thing is to know your customers! Whether online or in the “real world” that is of course essential for any business, big or small. This article on the Sales Academy for Girls (which applies equally to men and women) makes a number of great points about knowing your customer. In our Google Analytics in Plain English guide we also talk about how to understand who is coming to your site – but before we can understand who is coming to your site we have to actually get them there in the first place – and along with actually knowing your customers, that’s where keyword research is so important.

My Mistake

When I first built our own website, I did a great job of the onsite SEO. I had everything optimised beautifully. SEO audits showed I could not have done it better. Yet I had got it all wrong! And the reason why? I had chosen the wrong keywords to optimise. They accurately described what our site was about (website design, digital marketing and helping small businesses to flourish online) yet we were nowhere near the top of the search engine rankings. Those of you who went back and read our SEO in plain English article will immediately know why. I hadn’t done my keyword research and if I had have done keyword research I would have known two very important things. One – was anybody actually typing the words “website design” into Google (yes, thousands were, great news!) and two, were there any high authority sites that were optimised for the exact same keywords (yes, hundreds of them, terrible news!).

Keyword Research in Plain English

Keyword Research is about finding out two things:

What people are typing into Google or Bing when they want to search for something – we want search phrases which are used a lot (indicates demand)
How many business competitors are trying to rank highly in the search listings by using those search phrases – we want a few (indicates supply)

The golden nugget is a phrase that is in high demand but with low supply. If we can meet that need, and can optimise our web pages to reflect that, then we have maximised our chance of appearing near the top of the search engine rankings. That maximises our chances of potential customers visiting our site and that maximises the chances of our business making more sales.

So how do we find such nuggets?

First we need to understand how keywords are classified. Keywords (really phrases) are broken down into the “head” word, the “body” and the “long tail”.

In a search phrase such as “website design and digital marketing company” we consider “website” to be the head; “website design” to be the body and everything else to be the tail.

There aren’t that many possible different words that can be heads and as such they are extremely difficult to rank for. If you type “website” into Google you will get many results and many, many high authority competitors. Your chances of ranking for these words are very small.

There are more possible variations in the number of body searches – think of all the possible words that could follow “website” – for example “design”, “designer” ,“designers”, “cost”, “company” and so on. Each of these searches will provide different results. So each result will have less direct competitors than just typing in “website”. However, it’s likely we are still talking very big numbers.

But, in the remainder of our search term – the so called “long tail” there are an almost infinite set of possibilities “website design and digital marketing company” is just one of them. If you can think of a search that is really, really specific to what your business does then there will be far, far fewer competitors and so your chance of ranking really highly – even at number one on page one are much more realistic.

Make sure you are selling something that people actually want!

However, there is not much point in spending a lot of time and effort in finding such a long tail, and then doing all the things you need to do to make sure your website is the one that will match this search phrase, if the reason there are no competitors is that it’s a search that is only ever performed by a very low volume of people. Being number one in a market that nobody is interested in won’t bring you any more sales than being number 101 in a market that people love.

So what we need to do, in order to find a golden nugget that can allow us to rank highly in the search engines for a product or service that people actually want to buy, is to focus on the long tails. We need to find high demand and low supply long tails and then we need to optimise the pages on our sites to make it easy for Google to realise that our site is the solution that the customer most wants to see. Now that’s a paragraph, if you came across it cold, I would not consider to be plain English! Hopefully, in the context of what we have already talked about, it now makes sense? Do let me know in the comments below!

There are three main ways you find information on long tails.

Trial and error

You can do it for free by trial and error. Type what you think is a likely sounding search phrase (relevant to your business) into Google and see which websites Google recommends. If they are high authority sites, then you are not going to be able to out rank them until you have a similar authority level. As you may imagine, this approach can eat a lot of time. Click below if you would like a step by step guide to checking the authority a site has.

Google AdWords

You can get some information from Google by signing up to its AdWords product. You need to have this product if you ever want to advertise on Google. Note that whilst you will have to supply card details to set up an advertising account, you don’t actually have to place any adverts to get basic information about keywords – and there is a basic research tool provided as part of the Google AdWords software.

Purchase specialist keyword research software

You can buy a software tool that will make suggestions for you. So for example if you enter “website design” into the tool it will automatically do thousands of searches and tell you the best long tails (additional words) to put after “website design” to find searches that people have previously entered into Google. It will also tell you how many competitors use the same phrase. There are many of these tools and they generally have a subscription payment model rather than a one off purchase fee. These tools come in various degrees of sophistication but what they all do is present you with a ton of figures that you then need to decide what to do with.

Keyword Value

You see, what we haven’t touched on yet in this guide is that there are several more layers of finesse to deal with once you have got closer to the long tail keywords that could work for your business; these layers are to do with keyword value – some long tail keywords are more likely to lead to sales than others. This is because they are more likely to have been searches entered by people who were ready to buy products as opposed to those just browsing. We are touching on the area of consumer psychology and huge databases exist to allow analysis of buying behaviour.

Summary of Keyword Research in Plain English

So, to recap. In this Keyword Research plain English guide, we have learned:

        • It doesn’t matter how well designed your website is if nobody knows it exists
        • A key (excuse the pun) part of making sure people get to know about your site is to have it rank on the first (and maybe second) page of Google
        • To do that you have to make it easy for Google to match what your website is about and what people are typing into Google searches
        • To do that you have to optimise your website for search phrases that people use that are relevant to your business
        • The phrases you choose to optimise for are ideally ones that indicate a product or service in the market with high demand and low supply
        • To find those you need to analyse long tail keywords

        This is not easy stuff and it all takes a lot of time and effort whichever approach you choose. In addition, keyword research is just one part of the puzzle that is SEO (getting your website seen on google searches).

        So, one option is to let all that time and effort be our time and effort and not yours – then you can get on with running your business whilst we get on with the online side of growing your business.

      • Another option is to let us show you, step by step, in plain English, how to do your own SEO. We’ll do the research to find out what’s working in your industry and what your competitors are trying to rank for, and then give you clear step by step actions that you can take to improve your rankings against them. You only need a few hours a month and we’ll even tailor our recommendations to the amount of time you have. There are so many benefits to this approach and we’re really excited to share these with you.

        Find out more about the Roman Britons SEO package. Not only is it a quality service, which we are really proud of, but it’s delivered in plain English too!

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