Keyword Research Service Providers vs. DIY: Tips for Approaching Keyword Research

May 1, 2023 | Data & Analytics, Research, SEO, Strategy

Keyword research is a crucial component of any successful search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. It helps businesses identify the most relevant and profitable keywords to target, which can ultimately lead to higher search engine rankings, increased visibility, more web traffic and more leads/sales. However, approaching keyword research without a clear understanding of the objectives and targets can result in missed opportunities and wasted resources.

To get the most out of your keyword research, it is important to start with a clear understanding of your ultimate goals. This could include improving local visibility, raising product awareness, gaining a competitive edge, or a combination of many things. By keeping these objectives in mind, you can use them as a lens to view the keyword data and ensure that your research is focused on the most relevant and profitable terms.

But even before that, it really helps to understand your audience – this will offer you some guidance and direction as you begin the keyword research process.

Before we get into some of the tips for keyword research, let’s look at “how” you plan to go through this phase of your SEO and SEM strategies. One question that often arises when it comes to keyword research is whether it is better to do it yourself or hire a keyword research service provider. Ultimately the decision will depend on your business needs, budget, time and expertise.

Keyword Research Service Providers

Hiring a keyword research service provider can be advantageous for businesses that lack the time or expertise to do it themselves. Service providers typically have access to more sophisticated tools, advanced data analytics, and expertise in identifying relevant keywords. This can result in a more comprehensive and accurate keyword list and analysis.

However, the cost of hiring a service provider can be a disadvantage, especially for small businesses or startups. Additionally, it can be difficult to find a reliable and trustworthy service provider, as there are many providers with varying levels of expertise and quality of service.

Ultimately, the decision to do your own keyword research or hire a service provider will depend on your business needs and budget. If you have the time, expertise, and resources, DIY keyword research can be a viable option. However, if you lack the time or expertise, it may be worth investing in a reputable service provider.

DIY Keyword Research

Doing your own keyword research has its advantages. You have complete control over the process, can tailor it to your specific needs and goals, and it is often less expensive than hiring a service provider. Additionally, you have a better understanding of your business and industry, which can be beneficial when identifying relevant keywords.

However, it can be time-consuming and require a significant amount of effort to learn how to conduct effective keyword research. Furthermore, there is a risk of making mistakes or missing opportunities, especially if you are not experienced in this area.

Whether you DIY or hire an expert, what follows are some tips and guidance for conducting keyword research effectively. However, even before that, you’ll need to identify a keyword research tool to help you conduct this research.

Starting With Obvious Keywords

We look at keyword research much like the YouTube rabbit hole, it starts somewhere familiar and ends in a very unexpected place. What I mean by that is keyword research for any business, local or national, will almost always start at the most obvious place – what does the business do/offer? From there you’ll likely stumble upon some interesting terms that are related and as you go deeper into the layers you’ll find terms and strategies you just wouldn’t have considered at the start of the research. But start with the core groups and keyword themes to help organize your keyword research.

Comparing Keywords with Existing Site Content

Once you’ve identified the kinds of keyword groups or themes you hope to target, the next step is to determine exactly how you plan to target these terms and influence your site’s ranking for them. This is equally a content consideration as it is operational. What kind of content do we need to create to impact rank on these terms? How is the site structured? What links are clearly being prioritized on the site? What needs to be changed on the website to align more with our new-found keyword targets? We use keyword research to critically analyze the existing site, identify gaps and create a plan for fixing and improving SEO for both existing and future site content.

Conducting Competitive SEO Research

The most important element in competitive SEO research is understanding the qualitative aspects of a page/site that are driving their rank for a particular keyword or group of keywords. This means, look at the top ranking competitor in your space and see what they are doing on their site. There is a lot that goes into this, but if you’re investing in SEO, understanding who is winning from a traffic and ranking perspective is extremely important in taking next steps for your own SEO strategy.

The best advice I can think of for conducting competitor analysis is to constantly be asking yourself “why” to pretty much everything you see. Keyword data is extremely valuable when reviewed and analyzed effectively. It has been our experience that the best SEO strategies are the ones that ask the right questions, such as:

  • Why is a competitor ranking better for a keyword that we’ve built tons of content for?
  • Why is a competitor ranking higher locally even though our reviews are roughly the same?
  • Why is a competitor’s traffic for a particular service so much higher than ours?
  • Why is a competitor using a particular keyword so much?

There are so many questions you can ask yourself, but it is almost always the case that research leads to more research and down the rabbit hole you go.

Gaining Confidence in Your Direction

Without knowing what people are searching and how your competitors are winning in your space, you’re content and organic traffic strategies will make it difficult to have any real confidence in the plan. Allowing the research phase to play out, asking the right questions, looking at the competitors and refining the strategy accordingly will give you the confidence that your keyword strategy and overall SEO plan is founded on real-world data vs. some kind of hunch or hope. That being said, there is still always opportunity for more creative or exploratory testing when it comes to SEO, but we’d recommend that come after a foundational approach is set, execution is underway and initial data is coming in. From there, exploring new ideas and pathways is a logical next step.

Jumping Into Keyword Research

In addition, the business objectives and targets also present a unique starting point for conducting this research. So before you research a single keyword, start by understanding what you are ultimately looking to accomplish. Is it local visibility? Is it product awareness? Is it competitive intelligence? Is it a combination of many things? Whatever the case, have the ultimate objective in mind and use these targets as a lens to view the keyword data.


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