Keyword Research

Keyword Research for Search Optimization

What is keyword research?

I prefer to think of keyword research, as audience research. It is the process of seeking to understand (and forecast) how your audience seeks out information online and how they use that to make buying decisions.

Why is keyword research important?

Because organic search continues to be a leading source of traffic; a large part of providing user-friendly content means content that is easy to find. Keyword research allows you to answer the questions that your target audience is asking.

One of the most pivotal factors to rank well on search engines like Google is, user intent. Intent is important because it powers inbound marketing strategies, advertising campaigns and ultimately company growth.

The following is a keyword research process you can follow to help discover and pinpoint a list of target keywords you should be targeting to optimize your inbound marketing campaign.

How To Do Keyword Research

1. Understanding Your target audience

Pull demographic data from:

  • Google Analytics
  • Social Media audience insights
  • SEMrush Competitor Analysis
  • Customer surveys

Use Google Analytics to pull conversion data by traffic source.

View the landing page and behavior flow reports to see how they are currently interacting with the website.

Now that you have an idea of who your audience is and what pages on the website they’re most interested in. Join social media groups, find IG influencers, browse Pinterest. Look for recurring topics, popular hashtags, common questions, take in the overall “vibe.”

Read the comments, is there a pattern to the sites that are sourced? Where do they receive trusted information online?

These are the platforms you need to learn. Research what terms (those) algorithms are using.

Using Google as an example, create a document to keep track of notes and search (from your target location) the popular phrases you learned while researching your audience. You will be keeping track of related search suggestions, featured snippets, carousel, PAA, top pages.

You’re looking for a commonality or a pattern emerging.

2. Test with Google ads

Time to test your theory. Running ads is an incredible, real time, science experiment. 

Watch which reterms have the largest click through rate, time on page, conversion rate and cost per conversion.

Look for:

  • which search queries triggered the ads
  • which search queries have the largest CTR
  • which keywords have the highest/lowest bounce rate
  • which keywords converted
  • which keywords spent the most time on page
  • Auction insights, how competitive is this space
Track Keyword Performance

Arguably one of the most important aspects of a successful keyword strategy is tracking performance and analyzing results.

Create a recurring spreadsheet and include data points important to you such as:

  • search topic
  • click through rate
  • impressions
  • conversion rate
  • conversion value.

Wondering why I didn’t mention average position or keyword volume? Just ask..

Integrating SEO and Content Marketing: Writing Blogs that Rank

Current search engine marketing strategies see an increased focus on quality content and an enhanced user experience. 

Because organic search continues to be a leading source of traffic; a large part of providing user-friendly content means content that is easy to find. Creating a challenging task of how to satisfy what search engines need and what users want.

How to Integrate Search Engine Needs with User Needs?

In order to write user-friendly content that ranks search engine thinking needs to be involved in every step of the content marketing process: audience research, writing, optimization, promotion and measurement.

Here are the 5 steps to integrating SEO and Content Marketing:

1. Audience Research

How are users currently searching for the content you provide? 

Understanding user needs and behaviors will help focus content creation efforts, preventing the wasted effort of creating content that doesn’t perform well. 

Notice this stage is purposefully titled “audience research” because understanding how your audience searches and uses information online is more detailed then downloading a spreadsheet of keyword volume / competition density. As you research keywords, consider the impact of Google AI and how search engines are getting even better at conversational search. Proper keyword research puts yourself in your users’ shoes and understands how they are currently searching.

When audience research is done well this supercharges content creation by finding the “sweet spot.” The optimum balance between a user’s need, the product/service, and how users actively use the web.

2. Empower Content Writers

Many writers are aware of the value of keyword research and the positive impact ranking has for a business. While working with inbound marketing teams, I found that writers are generally motivated to write content that performs well in organic search.

Content writers will benefit from learning basic on-page optimization such as how to edit titles, header tags, meta tags, image tags and the page URL. When writers are empowered with SEO skills, content will is search engine friendly right out of the gate.

When SEO thinking is seamlessly integrated into the content writing workflow, search engine optimization  is no longer seen as an obstacle, but important to the process of creating quality content.

3.  Technical SEO

Empowering writers to make content naturally search friendly is a huge leap toward organic traffic success. 

However, there may be technical SEO tasks that writers are not equipped to handle. At this point a SEO consultant needs to review pages before publishing to ensure consistency between the content, keywords, internal linking structure and the technical elements of each page.

4. Publishing and Promotion

Success of the publishing stage depends on how you manage the workflow between the SEO, social promotion and link building team members. Creating a process that allows a smooth hand-off between each department is essential to success.

Search Thinking: Questions to consider when Publishing an Article

  • Review internal link structures. Are articles linked to relevant pages and how.
  • Are the linking sites relevant to both the content and the keywords that content is being optimized for? 
  • What sites link to your competitor’s similar pages and what is the DA? 
  • Are there any relevant broken links?

Backlink activity continues to grow organically with time, be sure to create a spreadsheet and follow up periodically after content is published.

5. Measuring Return on Investment

Companies are seeking to invest in content at a record pace, putting the pressure on marketing agencies to show a profitable return on investment. Once the content is published, you need to know how it is performing against KPIs (key performance indicators.) 

  • What is the average page rank in the target location?
  • What is the conversion rate for that article?
  • What is the monetary value of the page?

Tracking overall traffic from organic search is simply not enough. To determine if the organic search traffic is accomplishing business goals you need to know page rank, estimated keyword volume and conversion rate. 

Be sure to have a plan of what to do with this data. What can be learned from actual performance that can be applied to future SEO and content creation efforts?

SEO-Centric Content Writing

A true content strategy is SEO-centric. Search engine thinking needs to integrate into every step of the content marketing process: audience research, writing, optimization, promotion and measurement.

Keywords are a core component to SEO, but SEO is not exclusively about keywords, and the use of keyword data has changed.

Successful inbound marketing strategies are built from a foundation of knowing what the audience wants. To stay competitive you also need to know how they look for what they want. Super charge content marketing strategies by integrating search engine needs with human and business needs. This is the key to successful campaigns.

Larkin SEO has been providing search engine optimization services since 2008. Ensuring content marketing agencies are targeting the key phrases users are searching, on the platform users are engaging with.

Send us a note to discover what your user is searching for, how they are searching for it and who your competition is online.

Simple SEO Strategy

Before you pay for an SEO course from a digital guru or coach claiming to have the secret to scaling your business to 6 figures – READ THIS – the SEO strategy professionals use.

SEO education is free. You do not need roadmaps and mastermind groups. There is big business in having people believe that optimizing your website is too complex, but the reality is most people can easily understand the basics. Even a small amount of knowledge can make a big difference. Free SEO education is widely available on the web combining these strategies with a little practice and you are well on your way.

It is true that Google’s algorithm is updated around 500 – 600 times a year. Every now and then there will be a large update that shakes up the industry enough to be “named” Panda, Fred, Medic, and we can’t leave out “Mobilgedeon.” These are simply click-bait for seo blogs and scare tactics used by agencies or those not playing by the rules. If you stay focused on providing a quality user experience by answering their search query the best. Be patient, organic search marketing takes time. Depending on your industry it can take between 03 – 12 months to see results, after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  

The intent of this article is to provide an overview of how to provide a quality user experience and how to discover what search queries to focus on.

Quality Guidelines

Spend your energy upholding the basic principles of Google by providing a better user experience. Focus on providing value to the user rather than trying to trick then search engines and your site will enjoy long term value from your search marketing efforts. 

SEO Basic Principles

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
  • Don’t deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

Don’t go chasing algorithms. Just because a specific technique is not listed as deceptive does not mean that it is safe. Those who spend time looking for loopholes they can exploit will eventually find themselves at the wrong end of an update. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

Avoid the Following Black Hat Techniques:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Participating in link schemes
  • Creating pages with little or no original content
  • Cloaking
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Hidden text or links
  • Doorway pages
  • Scraped content
  • Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
  • Creating pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware
  • Abusing rich snippets markup
  • Sending automated queries to Google

Continue reading about Google quality guidelines for webmasters here in the Google Search Console help forum or keep scrolling for professional tips on figuring out what your audience is searching for.

Before you  begin optimizing your website for search you need to know who is searching for your product, how are they doing it and what is their closing considerations. In the early days we would send out customer surveys, questionnaires, data pools, create think groups, develop personas, etc. We spent  a lot of time and money to retrieve the data needed to market effectively to our audience. But what if the data is wrong? What if we asked the wrong questions?

Trends move far too fast these days. Ideas are being exchanged, embraced, and evolving at an ever increasing rate. While trends used to come and go over the span of years, these days discussions are moving at a pace of months or weeks.

This deeply impacts the way we do business and the way we operate in this world.

For marketers, in particular, it means that the ability to engage consumers with fresh and relevant points of view is a swiftly moving window. For corporations, it means creating products that serve customers in a quickly changing competitive landscape. Small businesses have to move just as quickly with often times fewer resources.

So how do you stay ahead of it?

Search Marketing Research

Knowing your “persona” is basic marketing. Be sure to support your ideal client with data of who your client actually is. This can be obtained by viewing Google Analytics demographic data, Social Media demographic data and competitor analysis.  Learn where they get trusted information online then research what terms (those) algorithms are using. This will help you generate the next step of testing. 


Running Adwords is an incredible, real time, science experiment to control which users come to your website. Start with a small budget using a few ad groups targeting broad match terms. Watch which terms have the largest click through rate, time on page and conversion rate. Look for:

  • which search queries are used to get to your website
  • How they interact with your website
  • whether or not they took an action

Analyse this real time data to learn about your user’s behavior and to select profitable keywords. For example: We noticed a phrase inching up in Adwords search queries. The client had not been targeting this term because they did not think anyone would be searching for that. A quick Ad Group, 4 broad match terms, 12 hours and $3 later they made $80k. Can you guess what term we are building an onpage seo strategy from?

Optimize Your Site

Integrate winning strategies into your website. Focus on making the best page on the internet about the search query you discovered using Adwords. Writing highly relevant content will naturally attract links and most importantly your audience will love it! 

Just as you should not write pages for the search engines, don’t write posts with the sole purpose of converting. Build trust with your audience by being a source of useful information, answering a question they have or otherwise providing something of value. That is the purpose of a webpage. 

Close the Deal

Now, we have discovered our target market demographics, pain points and where they go online to find trusted information. We have tested content using Adwords. Our audience has come to our website organically by reading an article addressing their pain points in an informational way. It is time to close the sales funnel. To sell your customer, use the medium of which they are used to receiving a hard sell. Retargeting site visitors and closing them through Adwords and Facebook Ads will greatly reduce wasted Ad spend and increase leads that are well primed and ready. 

What would you like to hear more about: Google quality guidelines, using Adwords research campaigns, closing the deal with retargeting or on page search optimization?

SEO Checklist for WordPress Designers

watercolor sketch of website layouts

Combining the technical aspects of search engine optimization with a user friendly website – THAT WOWS – is an unbeatable combination. I partner with web designers to deliver not just another website…but websites that attract the right people at the right time.

Here is a brain dump, the “SEO checklist” I use when working with a designer to optimize WordPress websites. Broken into levels: basic, intermediate and advanced. This is dependent on how much a client needs help with and the competitiveness of their market.

Continue reading “SEO Checklist for WordPress Designers”

Outsourcing SEO

What is Outsourcing SEO?

Outsourcing SEO is the process of hiring a third-party company, agency or individual expert for onpage or off page search engine optimization (SEO) services.

Companies switching from an inhouse seo department to an SEO expert are finding they save a considerable amount of time and money. Outsourcing seo generates passive income, expands digital services and increases clientele.

Continue reading “Outsourcing SEO”

AMP Stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages

Google AMP increase Mobile site speed.

What is AMP?

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages– the basic explanation is that it has to do with HTML changes and caching, it makes mobile pages load faster and perform better on Google.

More info here:

What will AMP do for my search rankings? Is it a concern for my website now or in 2017?

Google has a long history of favoring sites that provide optimized user experiences, especially on mobile devices. Knowing that AMP is designed to benefit mobile users, you’d be logical in thinking that AMP-enabled pages would get a significant ranking boost, at least on mobile devices.

Rest assured Google has officially confirmed that AMP designation is not a ranking signal. Rudy Galfi, Google’s lead product manager for AMP told “Search Engine Land” (a prominent news source for SEO) that “the global rollout would be complete by the end of 2016. He reiterated that this does not represent a rankings change.”

You aren’t going to get an SEO bonus from providing an AMP version of your site, nor are you going to suffer a penalty if you don’t have one. Don’t expect this to be the case forever. I’d be surprised if, as AMP does become more accepted and refined that Google didn’t turn AMP designation into a ranking signal.

Is this something that I NEED to update my website for? 

Yes. You should update your site to include AMP.

The advantages go far beyond your position in organic search rankings. The most important factor here is overall user experience. Site speed is a huge potential detractor for your site visitors.

AMP strips away many of the unnecessary web page elements that slows down a page’s performance on a mobile device. For example, with AMP HTML, JavaScript and third party scripts are all removed. Any content or code not essential to the web experience is done away with. These changes can make a page load anywhere from 15 to 85 percent faster on mobile devices—which is incredible for such a simple change.

And hey, you may also receive more traffic as users opt to visit your site (seeing it stamped with the AMP symbol) instead of competing pages that lack it.