10 Ways to Choose What Keywords to Track

How do I decide which keywords I want my business to rank highly for? (One piece of advice — be specific!)

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

keyword tracking
photo credit: Edward Shen

1. Do Some Competitor Recon

In most instances, you want to start with competitor research. Use a service such as SEO Frog to scrape their site and see what keywords they’re ranking for and trying to optimize in their titles, slugs and descriptions. Work from that, and then hit Google Keyword Planner and see what Google Trends show. Then, work your content.
Chuck Reynolds, Levers

2. Look for Low-Hanging Fruit

By this point, you’re a little late to the game, so you can’t get the big words right away. You need to start from the bottom up, build a foundation with less popular words, continue to improve your ranking and build on your keywords over time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Trace Cohen, Launch.it

3. Test Them First

The secret is to test first with the PPC engines. It’s very easy to find out what keywords are producing conversions in AdWords, for example. You can spend a few hundred dollars to find out what is converting visitors to buyers, and then you roll this into SEO budgets and focus on ranking the keywords that are converting. This will maximize your bottom line.
Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

4. Use Google’s Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner will give you search volume estimates and competitiveness across a range of keywords related to your business. Dig in to find low-competition, high-volume keywords and target those first. Start small and pick just one or two keywords that look easiest. Once you’re ranking for those, work your way to more competitive ones.
Ronnie Castro, Porch

5. Interview Potential Customers

Unless you’ve spent a long time in the industry you want to serve, you may not be able to guess what jargon or language your prospective customers will use to describe what they’re looking for. Your best option is to actually go talk to those people and take notes about the keywords they use to describe their problems and the solutions they need. Then, work on ranking for those terms.
Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

6. Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes

If you were a customer looking for your product/service, what would you search for? Write down the terms you think are relevant to your industry and do some test searches. Pay attention to the results on the first page. If the companies listed there also provide similar products/services, you should try to rank for those keywords.
Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

7. Review Google Analytics

Often, the best key terms to try to rank for are the ones you’re already getting some traffic from. Look at the key terms currently sending you a little bit of traffic and see where you rank. If it’s outside of the top five to 10, then there’s a significant opportunity to increase traffic for those key terms.
Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC

8. Test, and Then Test Some More

Always look at your cost-per-acquisition for each keyword. There are usually somewhat obvious keyword choices for your company/industry. At ReTargeter, we want to rank highly for retargeting, but it can be expensive. To figure out if a keyword is actually worthwhile from a conversion perspective, we do significant testing on the performance, and then iterate accordingly.
Arjun Arora, ReTargeter

9. Start with AdWords

Do you want to improve your SEO rankings with the right keywords? Here’s a trade secret: Start testing your keywords with Google’s PPC advertising model first. Use a test budget to see what will convert, then implement that strategy into ranking on search engines organically. You’ll save a ton of time and money.
Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union

10. Understand Keyword Intent

Take a look at your keyword list and try to understand what each keyword tells about the person searching for it. If you take a moment to try to understand the “intent” behind the keywords, you can get much closer to what is going on inside the mind of your potential customers.
Nick Reese, Elite Health Blends