by Jody Nimetz
One of the difficulties in online marketing deals with finding the right keywords, at the right time that are being used by the right people. In the B2B arena, keyword research becomes further complicated when your company is in a new or niche industry. Maybe your business consists of something like email authentication, price management solutions or the like. Newer services in newer industries can make it difficult to progress with an effective online marketing campaign. In the past ten years, with the rise of the Internet and Search Engines, we have seen numerous companies emerge in niche markets. Quite offten these companies are looking to address a need for a product or service for another buisiness that is not currently being met. There has been tremendous amounts of innovation with some of these startups while others have come and gone with but a small flicker. As a result, finding the right keywords for B2B companies in niche markets can be extremely difficult and frustrating.
The question is then, how does one go about finding relevant keywords to position for? From an organic search perspective, how does an organization determine which keywords they should be found for in Google, Yahoo, Business.com, YouTube, or other search engines? Well before we dive into how you should go about your keyword research, we must first visit the issues that are at hand.
Issue #1: My Industry is new and we’re not sure which keywords are specific to our business consumer - This is the whole reason why you perform keyword research. To identify terms and key phrases that can be used to intercept your audience or your consumer. Developing a keyword strategy is critical at this point for your business to be able to intercept your targeted audience in hope of generating fresh and qualified leads. One of the greatest assumed practice of online marketers is that keyword research is a one time happening. The fact is that it is not. Keyword research is something that is on-going and is something that will need to be continually refined as you progress with your online efforts. This is a key point to remember: Keyword Research needs to progress and evolve.
Issue #2: Using industry jargon that people may not be aware of - Marketers are the worst for this are they not? We continue to see this all of the time. We get a client who comes to us after working with another SEO vendor or marketing agency and the messaging on their site is full of industry terms… terms that may or maynot be being used by people looking for theeir services or form information about their service.
Issue #3: Our Industry is so niche, that there are only a few phrases that people use - While this may be the case, this gives you an exciting opportunity to define the language of your industry. You can help mold the language of the industry and build a foundation of relevant keywords that your audience will quickly adopt and use.
Issue #4: Getting over your ego and thinking that you already know which keywords to focus on - Have you heard this before: "We don’t need to do keyword research, we’ve already established our keyword list…" Even in 2009 we continue to have clients dictate that they have already defined a keyword basket. Yet as we review these phrases, we see that they lack search volume (i.e. nobody is searching for them in the search engines) or they are branded phrases which they already rank for in the engines. Developing a proper keyword strategy sometimes means trusting someone other than yourself to idenitfy relevant keywords for your online marketing efforts.
Issue #5: Lack of online marketing activity - Would you believe that there are still companies, yes even B2B companies that are still not allocating sufficient makreting budget to online initiatives? It becomes difficult to establish a keyword strategy to promote your online properties, if you do not have budget to do so. We think that there will be a huge shift in this respect in 2009, as SEO/organic search marketing has proven to provide great return with minimal investment (when compared to traditional forms of advertising and promotion). Keyword research is part of a total online marketing strategy. Companies, especially new companies in niche markets cannot afford to neglect online marketing efforts.
How to Approach Keyword Research in a Niche Market/Industry
Keyword research can be challenging, but it can be even more challenging when you are in a niche marketing or a fairly new industry. So what do you do when you are involved in a new industry where there may be a lack of relevant terminology and potentially a lack of competition? Businesses in niche markets need to work at keyword research and selection. In order to do that there are a few items that should be consideredand practiced:
1. Understand your Business - not to state the obvious here, but you need to understand your business and which key phrases are relevant to your business. Of course branded phrases play a role, but chances are you should be ranking well for your branded phrases anyway. In a niche market, you should be able to determine a core basket of head type key phrases. These are phrases that are more general in nature and tend to have higher search volume. By understanding your business and online goals, you should be able to establish a list of head and torso phrases that you can optimize your web properties for.
2. Understand your Audience - this is huge. The better you understand your audience or your target consumer, the easier you will be to intercept them as they proceed through the purchase cycle. Whether they are in the research phase or are close to making a purchase. An effective keyword strategy will ensure that your brand and your business is up for consideration throughout the various phrases. Learn the language of your customer. Frequent environments that they frequent. This is where social networking serves some benefit for business-to-business companies and B2B marketers. Unerstanding the buzzwords of your audience will go a long way in shaping your keyword strategy. Keep in mind that your audience will be changing and the terminology being used will also be changing. Remember, Keyword Research needs to progress and evolve.
3. Keep it Simple - Depending on the nature of your business, you do not need to have baskets and baskets of keywords. This is especially true for B2B sites. Avoid focusing on too many keywords. Select a core group of phrases and build from there. Especially if your website is smaller (in terms of pages that it consists of) as you cannot effectively optimize a 100 page website for 10,000 keywords. It just doesn’t work that way. Remenber that ideally a webpage should be optimized for a single key phrase. The search engines cannot treat a single page as an authority if the page consists of nine or ten different key phrases. When it comes to keyword research for organic search initiatives, keep it simple.
4. Seek Assistance of a Reputable SEO Firm - keyword research is so important and while it’s true that anyone can technically do it, you should seek out the assistance of an SEO firm that has experience with keyword research strategy. Sure every SEO firm offers keyword research or keyword analysis, but few focus on overall keyword strategy. Especially for companies in niche markets, bringing in a thrid party with a fresh set of eyes can provide great insight into keywords that you should be posiitoning your web properties for. For companies that are fortunate enough to have experienced SEO staff on hand, having the understanding of search experts can be a huge benefit when it comes to keyword research and keyword strategy.
5. Evaluate Online Competitors - another helpful resource for constructing B2B keyword research is to examine your online competition. While in niche markets this is more difficult as there may be less competition, there is always some competition lurking around whether direct or indirect. Examine their websites to see what keywords they are focusing on. Copmpare this to what you know about your target audience. Are these same key phrases relevant for your business, for your site, for your audience? If available, competitive insight is a great source of keyword intelligence that B2B companies in niche markets can leverage as part of their keyword research process.
6. Specialize but don’t Overwhlem - the great thing about being in a niche or newly emerging market is that the area of focus is smaller. As a result you have the opportunity to define new terminiolgy that can become mainstream in your industry. You have the ability to contribute new buzzwords. You have the ability to create "niche key phrases" that are relevant solely to your industry. The trick here is not to create an entirely new environment of industry ja