Effectively conduct keyword research and identify the most popular searched phrases for your business with a few simple steps.

By Mark Subel

We're approached regularly for advice on SEO tips for driving traffic to company websites. One of the most important steps of any SEO campaign is to identify keywords that people are typing into search for a product or service related to your business. After all, when someone is searching Google or Bing for your product or service, you'd like to show up in the top position for those keywords. This process is called "keyword research" and is the basis for any successful SEO campaign.

This article will help you effectively conduct keyword research and identify the most popular searched phrases for your business.

Step 1: Brainstorm
It may seem obvious, but brainstorming is an important first step that's often overlooked. Instead of jumping into using keyword research tools, sit down with your team-and this means everyone! Together identify what the team believes to be topics or keywords prospective customers are using to find your product or service online, and compile a list of those terms. Then, organize your list into various categories based on topics.

Step 2: Keyword Research
Now you have a list of topics and keywords your team has identified as important. From here, free and paid keyword research tools can identify the most popular searched keyword terms from those topics. These tools provide quantifiable data on the most searched terms related to your business.

Google provides a free keyword research tool; all you need is a Google Adwords account. You can enter your top phrases and Google will provide you data on the top-searched terms in your industry:

Click on "get ideas" and Google will provide results along with associated average monthly searches for those keywords. This process will help you to prioritize search terms:

Google will provide additional "topics" to explore that you may not have thought of. You can use these supplementary phrases in your copy, or create additional service pages or blog posts to target these phrases.

Google also makes it easy to export topics and search terms to Excel for easy organization. Simply click the arrow "add to plan" to add these keywords and topics to a file you can export via .csv.

We would recommend organizing keywords into separate products or service tabs so it's easier to review later, when you're creating content.

We also recommend having one "master" list of all the keywords on one tab, so that you can get a sense of the top-searched phrases in your industry.

While there are additional keyword research tools out there, beginning with Google's tool is a great start.

Step 3: Related Keywords
Now that the keyword list is organized into various tabs for core products/services, you can look for "long-tail" opportunities. "Long-tail" means more specific "longer" searches for a certain keyword.

These longer phrases are typically more valuable because the user is farther along in the decision-making process. Conducting a Google search for "payroll processing," we see a related phrase is "small business payroll processing." If that's a core offering, consider breaking out a separate page for that service.

To get this list of related searches, simply navigate to Google.com, enter your root level keyword and scroll to the bottom of the page. This is a great way to build your keyword list for "long-tail" keywords.

Step 4: Competitor Keywords
Finally, don't forget to review keywords driving traffic to competitors' websites, which can help you uncover keyword phrases your team may have overlooked. Tools like SEMrush or Spyfu help identify what's delivering traffic to your competitors' sites.

Mark Subel is the Owner of Two Wheels Marketing, a Short North-based digital marketing firm specializing in search engine marketing (SEO, PPC, paid social) and social media marketing.