How to Find the Top Keywords for Your Home Builder Website
The loved, hated, and not entirely understood golden words of SEO: top keywords. Not everyone gets how they work. Not everyone is convinced keywords are even relevant anymore.
Those people would be wrong.
Reading time: 11 minutes
Skip to the section you're most interested in:
- What Keywords Make Top Keywords?
- The Changing World of Keywords
- Google's Hummingbird Update
- The Penalty for Over-Optimizing
- Imprecise Ranking Information
- Ranking is a Fickle Mistress
- Judging a Valuable Keyword
- Research and Find Top Keywords
- Keyword Research Tools
- Refine Your List
- Know Your Competition
- Next Steps
Businesses with strong keywords in their name are much more likely to rank higher in search results, and 97% of people learn about a local business online.
So what makes top keywords, and how do you find them? Keep reading to find out.
What Keywords Make Top Keywords?
For quite some time now, some marketers have been doubting the value of keywords with every update to Google's algorithm.
Things have gotten more complicated. But since Google receives more than 63,000 searches per second you want to make sure you're in on that. And what all those web surfers type into the search bar? Well, that defines how web crawlers will look for your web pages.
Thus, the importance of keywords.
The Changing World of Keywords
Keywords are important. Thanks to Google (and overexcited SEO marketers,) they've also gotten more interesting than they used to be. There are four key factors that have complicated keywords.
From the multitude of updates to the algorithms, to over-optimization (AKAK keyword stuffing) to the complexities of how ranking works, there's a lot to factor in.
So, we've broken down the four key factors here for you.
Google's Hummingbird Update
In 2013, Google added the Hummingbird update. This one is important for you because it radically redefined how Google's algorithm views keywords.
This has to do with the increasing importance of long-tail keywords and the dominance of mobile-friendly search terms. More people are searching on their phones, which means search terms more closely resemble spoken phrases (thanks, Siri!).
What does that mean in practice?
It means the Hummingbird update tells the search engine not to read the search query literally. It's now focusing on semantic context more than the specific words and phrases.
In other words, you can't optimize solely for highly specific keywords because you can't achieve one-to-one momentum with highly specific keywords anymore.
The Penalty for Over-Optimizing
It's easy to want to optimize left, right, and centre. Google doesn't respond well to that.
In fact, they blackball you, because the algorithm thinks you're spam.
You can recover from it, but it's going to be an uphill battle. Besides that, your customers won't trust you if you're constantly in their face with top keywords. I mean, really, when's the last time you enjoyed scrolling through a website that's constantly trying to sell you something?
It's the same for searchers. They are not going to trust someone if they're constantly going on about the best deal. Today's users do not want to be sold to. Period.
Imprecise Ranking Information
Google used to provide information to determine your exact ranking. Ah, the glory days. Sadly, the glory days are over.
Setting aside the fact that the information is hard to get, you can no longer be sure it's accurate - rankings vary widely because search engine results are personalized to the user and their individual search history.
Ranking is a Fickle Mistress
Google changes SERPs all the time. Someone searching using identical search terms could get different results two hours apart. Plus, your competitors are adapting to that information at the same time you are.
The game is on, and the game's never up.
So now that you have a better understanding of some of what factors into keywords, how about some info on how to get ahead of the game? Sounds good? Let's do it.
Judging a Valuable Keyword
What does all of this mean for your home builder website? It means that not all keywords are created equal. Not even top keywords.
See, it's not just about getting visitors, though keywords are certainly great for that.
It's about getting the right kind of visitors for your content. Listen... as a home builder you want people who are looking to get into a new home, and preferably want to build one. But if you're attracting a ton of traffic from visitors looking for a plumber, there's something funny going on here.
So what makes top keywords valuable? And more importantly, how do you judge what makes them valuable? Here are a few steps to help you out.
1. A Few Starting Questions
First things first: You want to ask these key questions:
Are those top keywords actually relevant to your site? It does you no good to attract visitors who don't care about your content. Keyword terms around "remodelling" are not what your visitors are looking for, whereas "new home construction" would be more relevant.
Will visitors find what they're looking for if they search your site using those keywords? And will the results make them happy? A searcher looking for "new home builder in [your city name]" is looking for something localized.
Will this keyword help accomplish your organizational goals, whatever they may be?
If the answer to all of the above is yes, proceed to step two.
2. Use Search Engines to Your Advantage
Search engines aren't just useful for your potential customers. They can also be used to help you see your competition.
To do this, type your potential top keywords into the search engine, and see who pops up in the results. It'll also tell you how competitive your keyword is. For example, a lot of ads is the sign of a high-value keyword.
Search ads directly above the organic results? Financially lucrative keyword. Conversion-friendly keyword. Also a highly competitive keyword. Take from that what you will.
3. Sample Campaigns with Google Adwords
If things are going smoothly so far, proceed to Google Adwords. Even if your site doesn't rank highly for your keyword, this Google Adwords exercise can still be useful.
It's simple. Go to Google Adwords, choose "exact match" and direct traffic to the relevant pages. Track traffic, impressions, and conversions for 200-300 clicks. Got it? Great. Put all your data together and assess if these keywords are, in fact, top keywords.
Research and Find Top Keywords
Now for the hard part: identifying and using your top keywords. This is a more extensive process than doing a bit of background research - if you want your keywords to achieve organizational goals for you online, you'll have to do your homework to determine if they're worth the time and effort.
Why is it so important?
Here's the thing. Even if you're an expert in your field (you're the best damn home builder in the city) you still won't know everything there is to know. Trends, research, and new ideas pop up all the time.
That's why niche keyword research can help you - it takes away the guesswork. Not only will you identify new keyword opportunities, keyword research will also help you find less obvious terms to drive traffic and help your conversion.
The heart of it is content marketing, and content marketing is complicated. Give your keywords the time and respect to reflect that.
The key idea to keep in mind? You want to generate a broad portfolio of top keywords, something you can draw on and add to again and again. In building this portfolio, you should also get to know your competition in the process.
Here's a step-by-step breakdown to get you started (and if you need more marketing resources, try any of these.)
1. Keyword Research Tools
First things first: What are your top keywords? Well, that depends on you and your business, but the secret to all good keyword research is taking out the guesswork. That's where keyword research tools are helpful. Here are three good ones to get started.
Google Adwords Keyword Planner
If Google is king of the search engines, why not go straight to the source for top keywords?
The beauty of the Google Adwords Keyword Planner is that it doesn't just suggest keywords. It also predicts the cost of running paid ad campaigns on these search terms.
The Google Adwords Planner will also show you historical data, and create new keyword lists by multiplying together several lists of keywords. All of which is information you can apply straight to your Google Adwords campaigns.
Just be thorough when using Google Adwords tools in your keyword planning. If you're being careful about checking your ranking and click-through rate, you may find that you're actually getting fewer visitors for your top keywords than you thought.
Moz Keyword Explorer
Moz's Keyword Explorer is another comprehensive tool in your keyword research arsenal. It allows you to search by keyword, root domain, subdomain, or page and shows everything from total volume to average organic CTR, and more.
When you put a keyword into Moz's tool, it'll first pull the top ten rankings for that keyword before applying a difficulty score. So you know who's ranking for that keyword and how hard it's going to be to compete with them. Plus, you can look at page authority and root domains linking to these sites' pages. If it's an uphill battle, you should know how steep the hill is before you join.
Want to keep one eye fixed on the competition? That would make you a smart marketer. To accomplish this, the smartest marketers use SEMrush.
See, SEMrush isn't just about your keywords - it's about your competitors' keywords. This lets you evaluate the landscape to figure out how to bump up to position one in Google and Bing by looking at common keywords and positions in Google's organic, paid, and shopping search results.
2. Refine Your List
Great, you've got your keywords! What next?
Refine, refine, refine.
See, a list of keywords is useless if it's just a list of words. All they really are at that point is a list of suggestions. Now, that's a great place to start but it isn't actionable. What you need now is data.
We're talking search volume, keyword difficulty, SERP data. All the good stuff that will tell you what you need to know about the usefulness of your list of top keywords, and whether those keywords will actually work for you.
This list should also be highly personal - specific to your business and your brand. Remember, it does you no good to attract a lot of visitors if those visitors a) aren't interested in your content and b) not likely to want to build a new home.
Take the suggestions the data gives you, puzzle out what it can tell you about your customers' purchasing behaviour, and go forward from there.
3. Know Your Competition
You're only as good as your competition, right?
Where top keywords are concerned, you need to know how competitive they are - in other words, how difficult it is to rank using your chosen keyword. This is a big picture evaluation connected to your overall site ranking, your relative SEO, and SERP success and who you're up against.
Put it this way: If you're a brand new little blog looking at a highly competitive keyword that the big boys rank for, it's a David versus Goliath situation. That doesn't mean you have to cross out every keyword on your list, though, so don't despair of ever ranking on page one of search results! It just means you have to learn how to play smarter.
After all, the big boys in the business got to be the big boys for a reason.
4. Next Steps
Phew. You're done. Right?
Hold your horses, cowboy. This rodeo's still going strong.
You've now invested a lot of time, energy, and dedication into finding the top keywords that could work for you. Don't let them die on the vine now.
After all, keywords are only good if you... you know, use them.
So apply your keywords. But don't just put them on your site and wash your hands of it! Make sure to spend time tracking how they perform on your site, how well they're working for you, which are working and which ones aren't, and what you can do better.
Just because a keyword planner returns a keyword doesn't mean it's going to be useful to you; it doesn't mean your site will rank for that term; it doesn't mean you'll get the traffic for it or that it'll perform for the business goals you want. That's why you have to stay on top of your keyword research, even after you've started optimizing for those top keywords.
I"m going to get real with you here; keyword research doesn't stop. You and your competitors are all optimizing and responding to each other in real time, so you've got to stick to your guns.
Make regular, quality keyword research a high priority item, and take the time to see if your keywords are accomplishing the goals you chose them for. If not, well, get back to the drawing board and try, try again.
Sharks are born swimming. Just keep swimming. You'll figure it out ;)
These days, you can't just be a marketing master. You have to be a marketing ninja. The good news? We can help you out. Our program is rooted in inbound marketing, the most effective method for building brand awareness and marketing your business online. Sounds like your cup of tea? Let's have a chat and get started.
Originally posted March 6, 2018; updated August 20, 2019.