We have looked at some tools to assist in researching keywords for your target market.  However, there are also some general rules to follow when you start down this path.  Selecting keywords is not quite a science, but these steps can help avoid keyword writer’s block.

Start with Foundational Ideas

A goal of effective keyword selection is finding niches.  Of course, you can’t find a niche without making some scope reduction.  Thus, we can start with some broad terms that still help narrow our focus.  A safe start is industry terms to get you in the ballpark.  These words may end up being thrown away later, but they are a good starting point.  For example, let’s look at a consulting company.  Consulting is an obvious choice.  You also want to categorize that to business or technology consulting.

Getting in the mind of your Customer

We now take the next step and consider terms that would be used to search for results in that primary category.  In our example, we have words like outsourcing, assistance, expertise, or solutions.  This list is not exhaustive and the more, the better.  Use these words and think about your ideal customer.  Which of these terms would they use to find your business or your competition?

In our example, technology consulting could become contract technology expertise.  This choice is hardly ideal, but we will go with it for now.

Finding the Niches

At this point, you have some general search terms that could work.  However, there are two problems with these words.  They are so general that the cost of using them for paid search is going to be very high.  Second, they don’t do anything to get to what makes your company or service unique.

That means we want to get more specific and add color to the description of our search.  For this step, consider what makes your business the perfect fit for the ideal customer.  This may include things like location, approach, budget, areas of specialization or anything else that separates you from the competition.

Let’s look back at that consulting company example.  We got to contract technology expertise.  We can add color and narrow our scope to a set of words like Java programming experts.  We just reduced our pool a lot, but we want to distinguish our company.  We can focus on a line of business and details to get to “certified java programming experts finance northeast.”  We have added a location and some more information to refine our words

Review the Results and Refine

The review step is where a lot of those keyword tools bring value to the table.  Use those keywords you have come up with and run them through the tools.  The results will show you how common the words are in searches, the typical cost for ad word buys, and much more.  The odds are that you will not nail your keyword planning in the first pass.  That is ok.  Few, if any people, do.  Keyword planning is also a task that is becoming more complicated as more people jump into keyword search marketing.  The good news is that there is still an unlimited number of niches out there, you just have to find (or create) the one for you.

Rob Broadhead

Rob is a founder of, and frequent contributor to, Develpreneur. This includes the Building Better Developers podcast. He is also a lifetime learner as a developer, designer, and manager of software solutions. Rob is the founder of RB Consulting and has managed to author a book about his family experiences and a few about becoming a better developer. In his free time, he stays busy raising five children (although they have grown into adults). When he has a chance to breathe, he is on the ice playing hockey to relax or working on his ballroom dance skills.

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