How to Do SEO Keyword Research for Your Small Business Website

In this article: A step-by-step guide to conducting SEO keyword research for a small business website, for those who are new to search engine optimization.

Keyword blocks

Are you about to start a search engine optimization campaign to support your small business? Or maybe you were already dabbling with SEO and are now looking for ways to expand? In either case, keyword research is the next logical step. It can help you get your campaign up and running, or broaden your existing SEO campaign to bring in even more traffic.

The question is, how do you go about it? How do you do keyword research for a small business website, if you’re new to the world of search engine optimization? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Keyword Research Steps for Small Business SEO

Note: The SEO keyword research process can vary from one business to another, due to a number of factors. A small business that only offers a few products or services might be able to skip some of the steps covered below. On the other hand, a business with a broader range of products — and therefore a broader variety of SEO keyword topics — might need to follow every single one of these steps. You can decide that for yourself.

With that introduction out of the way, here’s how to conduct keyword research for small business SEO purposes:

1. Think about what your customers want and need.

Step out of your shoes for a moment, and into the shoes of your potential customers. Think about the problems they have, or the goals they are trying to accomplish. Think about how your products or services can help them solve those problems or achieve those goals.

Don’t gloss over this step. Really take some time to tap into the mindset of your target audience. This is one of the first and most important steps when doing small business SEO keyword research. In the following steps, you’ll use this information to identify and select keywords you want to rank for, based on your business model and target audience.

2. Make a list of broad topics based on step #1.

Get out a piece of paper, or create a new document on your computer, and start brainstorming some general topics based on step #1 above. Don’t worry about identifying specific keywords at this point. That comes later. For now, just write down topics relating to your target audience — and how your products and services can help them.

This is just a brainstorming session that paves the way for the next steps in the SEO keyword research process. Here, you’re just trying to get some general ideas down that can connect your small business with the types of customers you want to attract.

3. List the words / phrases your customers might use.

Now you’re starting to get into the specific keywords for your SEO campaign. We’re not quite there yet, but we are starting to take those general topics and ideas, and distill them into words and phrases.

Later, you’ll be validating them by using an actual keyword research tool. But for this step in the research process, you’re simply making a list of words and phrases your potential customers might use when researching the products and services you provide.

Once you have them all written down somewhere, you can proceed to the next step.

4. Use keyword research tools to start building your list.

So, you’ve spent some time thinking about your small business and the types of customers you’re trying to reach. You’ve made a list of general topics and specific phrases those people might enter into search engines, when seekin the products and services you provide.

Now we enter the research phase of this process. This is where you use keyword research tools to create a list of keywords you want to focus on in your small business SEO campaign.

There are many keyword research tools available these days. And while they differ in terms of their specific features, they all pretty much do the same thing. Some of them are free, while others require a monthly or annual fee.

If you’re serious about your small business SEO campaign, consider using keyword research tools such as Ahrefs and SEMrush. You could also use the free tool provided by Google, which is known as the Keyword Planner.

Once you’ve identified your SEO keyword research tool of choice, you can start entering those words and phrases you came up with during your brainstorming session. The keyword tool will give you a rough idea as to how many people search those particular words and phrases each month. This is known as the monthly search volume.

 Here’s an important point to understand, regarding keyword volume and competition:

  • Keywords with a higher search volume have the potential to bring more traffic to your small business website, but they’re usually more competitive and harder to rank for.
  • Keywords with a lower monthly volume tend to be easier to rank for, but will probably bring less traffic.

We encourage our small business SEO clients to include a broad mix of keywords relating to their businesses. You want to include some of the high-volume competitive ones, along with some of the less competitive low-volume keywords. This will help you get some results over the short term, while also pursuing higher volume and traffic over the long term.

5. Identify long-tail keywords for products and services.

When researching small business SEO (and keyword research in particular), you will probably encounter the phrase “long-tail keywords.”

Long-tail SEO keywords are specific, detailed, and highly targeted search phrases that are typically three or more words in length. They’re often used to describe a particular product, service, or location in detail, making them more specific and relevant to a narrow audience.

This will be easier to understand if we provide some actual examples, based on two different types of small businesses.

Long-tail SEO keywords for a pet grooming service:

  • “Affordable pet grooming near me”
  • “Mobile pet grooming services [city name]”
  • “Organic pet grooming products [zip code]”
  • “Pet grooming for cats [city name]”
  • “Dog grooming services [zip code]”
  • “Pet grooming for senior pets”
  • “Pet spa services [city name]”
  • Et cetera…

Long-tail SEO keywords for a home cleaning service:

  • “Affordable house cleaning near me”
  • “Eco-friendly home cleaning services [city name]”
  • “Move-out cleaning services [city name]”
  • “Weekly home cleaning services [zip code]”
  • “Deep cleaning services for homes [city name]”
  • “Spring cleaning services [city name]”
  • “One-time home cleaning services”
  • “Residential cleaning services [city name]”
  • Et cetera…

The advantage of using long-tail keywords is that they tend to have less competition and can be easier to rank for in search results. They also tend to be more specific. So the traffic you get from these keywords is more targeted and more likely to convert into actual sales or leads.

To put it differently: While you might generate less traffic using these long-tail keywords, those visitors might be more inclined to need your products or services.

These are people who are searching for very specific topics relating to your business. So you want to include some of these long-tail keywords within your SEO campaign — and these research tools can help you identify them.

6. Use Google auto-suggest to expand your list further.

You’ve probably noticed that when you start typing a word or phrase into Google, it automatically offers some suggestions. These “auto suggestions” are based on actual search patterns. This means that Google is basically showing you some of the most valuable keyword phrases based on the one you started with.

This is another great way to expand your SEO keyword research process. And you can get creative here. Have fun and experiment.

Take some of those keywords you identified by using the keyword research tools mentioned above, and start typing them into Google — slowly, letter by letter. See if it offers you additional keywords and phrases that are not currently on your list. If it does (and if those auto-suggestions are relevant to your business), be sure to add them to your list of keywords.

The idea here is to create a broad and comprehensive list of keywords. This will help you generate the right kinds of content, in order to attract new customers.

7. Create a spreadsheet to keep track of your keywords.

Small business SEO keyword research can be a time-consuming process that unfolds over weeks or months. Because of this, you need somewhere to compile all of your keywords, and to keep track of your SEO efforts.

An Excel spreadsheet is a great way to do this.

You could also create a table in Microsoft Word or some similar program. But spreadsheets offer some distinct advantages, when it comes to creating a list of SEO keywords. For one thing, you can easily sort an Excel spreadsheet based on any of the header columns you’ve created.

For instance, you could prioritize your keywords and then sort them accordingly. You could also sort them in alphabetical order, group them into product categories, etc. All of this is easier to do with a spreadsheet, compared to a Word document or table.

8. Prioritize your list by relevance, potential traffic, etc.

This is an optional step. If you have a relatively small number of keywords that relate to your business, you might not need to prioritize them at all. On the other hand, if you have a much larger list, some organization might be in order.

You could prioritize your keywords any way you want. I recommend that you focus on relevance and traffic potential. Relevance refers to how closely those keywords relate to your specific products or services. You could also prioritize or rank your keywords based on their traffic potential, in terms of monthly volume.

Another way to organize keywords is by category. For instance, you could group your keywords based on the specific product or service they relate to, and then color-code the spreadsheet accordingly. Each color would represent a particular product or service that you provide, along with the associated keywords.

There’s really no right or wrong way to go about it. So think about how you want to approach your search engine optimization strategy, and then organize and prioritize your keyword list accordingly.

9. Identify (or create) your preferred landing pages.

When creating your keyword list spreadsheet, you might want to include a column for “landing pages.” In this context, a landing page is basically a page on your site that’s going to be optimized for a specific keyword or keyword phrase.

For instance, one of your specific product or service pages could serve as a landing page for those types of keyword searches. Having some landing pages in mind will give you the direction needed to move toward, when it comes time to optimize your content.

Here’s an example:

Let’s assume that I’m a fitness trainer in San Diego, and I also provide nutritional counseling, physical therapy, and related services. While these things are closely related, they are all very different when it comes to search engine optimization. People are not going to Google all of these things at one time. Different people will look for different types of services. So I need to have landing pages for all of these categories.

My keyword list probably includes a lot of things relating to my fitness coaching (personal trainer in San Diego, fitness trainer in San Diego, etc.). In order to rank well for these types of searches, I need to have a landing page that describes them in detail and is highly optimized for those particular keywords.

I’d also want to have other landing pages for the other services I provide, including nutritional counseling, physical therapy, etc. These are all different keyword groups, because they involve different types of services. So they all need to have their own individual landing pages.

This is good for people, because it allows them to learn about the specific service they need. And it’s good for search engine optimization, because it allows me to create a specific page for each service, and to optimize it accordingly for better rankings.

10. Adjust, expand and refine your list over time.

As time goes on, your small business search engine optimization strategy will likely change and evolve. For instance, you might find that you start to rank well for a specific keyword phrase or topic, but you don’t perform as well for other keywords relating to your business.

In that case, you might want to reprioritize your keyword list, or perhaps add new keywords onto the list. You might need to create new pages and content for your website, in order to rank for those topics.

The point is, keyword research and search engine optimization are not fixed or static. They are dynamic and ever-changing. They’re flexible. You can adjust them as needed based on the results you get — or the results you don’t get but want to achieve.

So there you have them, the basic steps needed for small business SEO keyword research. I hope this article helps you achieve your goals for search engine optimization and business growth. Good luck!

Brandon Cornett

Brandon Cornett is a real estate market analyst, blogger, and creator of the Home Buying Institute. He also provides blogging services for mortgage professionals across the U.S.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *