Keyword Research for your SEO Audit

Keyword research is an important concept for SEO, arguably the most important. It ultimately serves as the basis for all online strategies that follow, because it is the most in tune Voice-of-the-Customer data that a company can acquire from their customers. But it is a pretty daunting task for non-experts, to collect and organize this critical data set. That includes drawing takeaways, much less getting into the mind of consumers in search. Like any skill worth learning, keyword research requires practice and discipline.

Why Should I Care?

Keywords = People. Keywords are not a list of characters used manipulate search engines (or, at least, they shouldn’t be), and they aren’t industry speak. Behind keyword data are literal people conducting searches for products and services like yours. So what can we learn from their input?


Making a website search friendly means making it available to those people who need it. The way we do that is to look at company goals and align those goals with keywords that are actually being searched.

But How to Find Keywords?

Keyword research is neither a quick nor easy process. But it’s also not rocket science (anyone that says so might need a humility check). By following the steps below, anyone can establish some basic keyword research to use as a foundation for website content.

1. Start with a few core terms.

Core terms are words that describe your services. These don’t have to be perfect a you can modify them and find the most searched versions of them later. However, take a few minutes to think about the most important services for which your company (or client’s company) is trying to rank in search. Think broad and high-level terms, as these, will serve as the basis for online marketing campaigns. Put these initial ideas down in a spreadsheet and keep them in mind.


2. Compare that with the data.

Take a look at Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools and compare the data with these core terms. In Google Analytics, look at the organic search keywords driving traffic to your website. In Webmaster Tools, look for terms that are getting the most impressions and highest click-through rate to your site. *Side note: You will notice a little thing called “(Not Provided)”. This represents data that Google is withholding because the user was logged into a Google account when conducting the search.

You will also probably notice that it represents a large number of your visits. Unfortunately, Google still owns the rights to its data, and can continue to limit access to it, so this chunk cannot be seen in Analytics.* Not finding your core terms in GA or WMT? Translation: You are not showing up in search results for core product/service terms. This means your website might need a major rehaul in terms of content. If most of the terms people search to reach your site are your brand name or branded services, this means a couple of things.

First, the traffic coming to your site is already aware of your brand, and interested. Second, by not targeting service keywords, you’re missing out on the opportunity of reaching everyone who DOESN’T know your brand. Finding your core terms? Great! But you aren’t finished yet. In many instances, the terms that people think they should be ranking for either:

  •  Have little to no search volume,  meaning that people aren’t searching the same way you are talking on your website, or…
  •  Are super competitive,  meaning you have little chance to rank in search engines for these terms without dishing out serious cash for a paid search campaign.

In order to reach a wider range of potential audience members, you will need to rank for terms that you may not have thought of initially, potentially a lot of them. The next steps will lay out the process of finding more terms relating to these core terms.

3. Analyze Competitor Sites.

A competitor in this instance refers to another website ranking for your key service terms. Conduct a Google search for some of the terms established in steps 1 and 2. Look for repetition in search results. The websites ranking for a few of your core services are your competitors. Granted, you may not have heard of them, but in the online realm, they are grabbing your potential organic search traffic, which translates to your potential customers. Once you have established 3-5 competitors, use the Keyword Tool in Google Adwords.

This is a free tool that anyone with a Gmail or Google account can use. Type the URLs of competitors into the section labeled “Website.”

This will populate keyword terms that are used throughout the site. Make sure that you select the “Keyword Ideas” tab and all three match types (seen below) in order to populate the most results.

Download these results in a CSV file, and scrape the terms to get rid of any that do not apply. Rinse and repeat for other competitors, combining each into one giant spreadsheet and getting rid of duplicates.

4. Back to the Keyword Tool

For any given category of terms that you discover, circle directly back to the keyword tool. This time, enter a handful of these terms into the box that says “Word or Phrase.” Separate them by one keyword per line.

This will populate related search terms that your competitors may not have targets on their sites. Add these results to your existing spreadsheet, de-dup, and scrub for irrelevant terms.

5. Use Google Instant (Don’t Press Enter!)

Go to Google, start entering a key term, but don’t press enter. The results that show up in that drop down menu are called aGoogle Instant results and represent the most searched variations of the term which you have started to enter. This will show you tons of variations of this term, usually all with significant search volume.

Rinse and repeat with these results until you are no longer getting new search terms. Once again, circle back to the keyword tool and add your new terms to the mix. Expand that spreadsheet and scrub some more.

6. Try “Related Searches.”

When you conduct a Google search for a key term, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. Here you will see a list of related search terms (seen below).

Related searches

Start from scratch with each of these that apply. Enter them into Google for Instant results, and dump into the keyword tool with related terms. Continue to combine these with your existing keyword spreadsheet.

7. Use Free Keyword Research Sites like is another free tool that allows you to expand on existing keywords and see related terms with significant search volume.

One handy feature with UberSuggest is the ability to select a group of keywords, click “Get” and copy and paste into the Keyword Tool. This helps you easily pick out the terms that are searched often each month but are also not too competitive.

These are all free keyword tools anyone can use to understand their target audience and develop a content strategy. Keyword research is the core of Search success because everything is (should be) developed only after this critical step is completed. Then you can work generating content that will truly fill a need for your consumers. After that, you can leverage it for outreach, drawing more traffic and authority to your website.

Eight Purposes of Content

I’m no champion of content, guys. What I am, though, is a faithful consumer of information online. I knock back know-how like yoga instructors slurp smoothies, but probably with worse posture. I’ve noticed which kinds of posts grab my attention and (most importantly) maintain my interest. Today I’d like to share my sliver of insight with you. Hopefully we’ll keep this in mind before carelessly hitting the “publish” button.

Every post I’ve ever enjoyed, ever, fits into one of the following categories: tactical education, curation, validation, niche appeal, mass appeal, amusement, controversy, and inspiration. Depending on the time of day, my mood, and my needs, I will click through to a post if its title implies to serve at least one of these purposes.

Tactical Education:

These posts are direct and informative. Often the title alone is enticing enough to attract users (it certainly is for me). What makes these posts valuable is the direct transfer of knowledge; the author empowers the reader to understand something he or she didn’t before reading the post. A recent article that fits into this category is called Copy/Paste screenshots directly into Photoshop. And guess what? The article explains very effectively how to do exactly as the title promises. Now that I know a new handy shortcut, this girl is satisfied.


What I enjoy about curation posts is the one-stop-shop factor. Jon Cooper’s post about visualizations is more than an article; it’s a magnificent resource. The next time I’m craving inspiration for visualizing data, a particular subject, or whatever, I don’t have to spend more time than necessary sifting through Google search results for posts relating to visuals; I can simply open this blog post which already references awesome examples, instructions, and tools.




It feels good to read something I already know or believe in. It just feels good. Why was I so eager to digest the many posts that highlighted an author’s Top Albums of 2012? Because I wanted to know that I’m not the only one who saw the value in Purity Ring’s debut album. Reassurance is a nice feeling. Additionally, when I first jumped (headfirst, mind you) into the SEO world, I felt encouraged to discover how many other industry cats were pursuing similar “white hat” tactics. It instilled a pride in my work and in Evolve. One specific article I recently appreciated was about 2013 being “the year of the online writer.” Hey, online writing, that’s what I do! No wonder the post resonated with me; the author’s words justified my contribution to the digital marketing world.


I am pretty big into humor. Work can be tense, so I appreciate a post that is sprinkled (or drenched) with comic relief. I admire brands that can loosen their ties and crack some snarky jokes; it gives me a reason to return for the next post. I’ll be honest, these are usually not found on websites relating to my industry. When that happens, though, it’s pretty miraculous. A fellow SEO on Twitter released this humorous SEO Predictions post a I recommend it if you are in need of a laugh. Or there’s always The Oatmeal (warning: it’s vulgar).

Niche Appeal:

Content pieces written for a specific audience are successful when the subject focus is very narrow. This blog caters to a niche audience; a very small percentage of Internet users give a crap about SEO. I’m pretty sure my own mother doesn’t read this. And that’s okay a because I’m not writing it for her. Niche appeal posts should be useless to a person who doesn’t fit in your targeted audience. One article that comes to mind is called “Ray Bradburyas 7 Rules for Writers.” It’s a nice summary of several points made in his book Zen in the Art of Writing. What makes this post niche is that it appeals to a subset of writers: those who admire Bradbury’s works enough to want to learn from him. And I most certainly do.

Mass Appeal:

Information that applies to wide audiences has its purpose, too. It has the potential to draw in a more diverse crowd, thus increasing exposure to a particular brand or idea. This is definitely not my area of expertise; it’s difficult to find a way to link readers that are looking for different solutions online. I don’t know for certain how many brands can benefit from this strategy a but I do believe there is value in considering different ways you can apply your brand’s strengths to an audience you wouldn’t normally consider your targeted demographic.


The article “Method Ocean Plastic Bottle” from The Dieline, for example, appeals to designers, animal lovers, and environmentalists alike. I like that.



It’s never been easier to hop onto a soapbox and boldly proclaim your opinion, and that’s a beautiful thing. Even better, we can share news to hundreds of thousands of people (depending on the virality) in minutes. So it’s pretty hard for me to resist a post that’s intended to ruffle feathers. Even if I disagree with the author (which I often do), I usually see the benefit in giving the other side a chance to speak. Derek once stated that you shouldn’t publish a topical piece without stating a clear opinion. Sometimes infusing a bit of controversy into a post is as simple as pushing your outlook a little more aggressively than usual. People might dislike you for it, but at least your post is going to stand out. The post “Please stop eating the shit sandwich” from TripleSEO does a fantastic job of presenting an issue in what some may consider a controversial way. I’m a fan.


I like blog posts that challenge me to think a different way and grow into a smarter, more proficient person. Inspiration can take many shapes, but I feel most moved by the transparent, direct words of people I admire. Case studies, design portfolios, success stories, and even lessons learned all urge me to continue learning and developing. The post “100 Tips About Life” from Julien Smith, author, and blogger extraordinaire, is one I try to reference often.


Great posts often serve more than one purpose at once. For example, I usually gravitate toward educational posts for niche audiences. Or maybe content that both validates and inspires. Having grasped the particular purposes that content can serve, I think I’ll start challenging myself to enhance a post with additional tiers of intention. If you ask me, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get away with anything less as we continue to be overwhelmed with information online. One of my goals this year is to do my part to reduce the amount of thin content that is released online; it gets pretty discouraging to click to an article whose content doesn’t live up to the enticing title. Simply put, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. Hopefully I haven’t.

Learn more about How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy.

Why We Stopped Making Content and Started Making Products

Content Marketing Works

First let me defuse those fuming. Ok, so content marketing works. For Evolve Digital Labs, as a brand, the value of content creation is clear. However, we have witnessed and experienced first hand how quickly the value of content can change. For better or worse.

The Scale of Content Production

When EDL first rolled out a list of services content marketing offered hope to challenged brands and small companies. It provided the opportunity to be found and be useful. That same opportunity exists today, the challenge now, is the average enterprise company has figured this out as well. So just like the production challenges the SMB against enterprise, content for the purpose of digital transformation has become a war of scale.

The Value of Search Engine Result Pages

We look at a web page differently than most. It is an asset, a business asset. And assets are meant to be monetized. In fact, that is really the entire game of business, how can I increase the value of X, while I make it for less. SERPs are no different, in fact, Google is kind enough to do the heavy lifting for you, if you are willing to pay.


So why not determine the most valuable assets at your disposal online and work towards reducing the cost of sale, while increasing the value? Can a single piece of content do that? In most cases the answer is no. Especially today, when your industry leaders have started to drive up the price of admission for everyone else.

Queries Change, Jobs Don’t

I place the obsession of keywords squarely on the search professionals. Not Google. Over time the search professional convinced the sales and marketing teams that keywords are one-to-one with a customer trying to buy or solve a problem. That keywords should be one-to-one with pages, content, rankings.

That’s a myopic and dangerous perspective. We aren’t in the search marketing business; we are in the growth business. We are not in the ranking business, we sell. We are not in the content marketing business, we help companies, including ourselves, build products and experiences online that increase the value of their presence.

Strategyn case study

It’s the Music, Not the Tape

The real issue with content marketing and why we stopped investing so much time in content creation ourselves can best be demonstrated by the music industry. When you write a blog post, create an infographic, make a video or whatever piece of content you can possibly dream up, chances are you created material that at best is the means to the end.



People want less of the how-to and more of the tada. Most of the content we are tirelessly creating has a finite shelf life. Just like every cassette I’ve owned. There are classic albums, that have been produced on every distributable medium possible and people who have purchased them all.

They don’t really want the record, the cassette, cd, or even the mp3. They want the music, the ability to take it with them, and the consumption of a product that satisfies an unmet need only satisfied by Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, or The Beatles.

Evolve Digital Labs is committed to getting a job done, not just satisfying a single query. We are in pursuit of a classic.

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