by Mike Moran

I speak to many small businesses working on organic search marketing. They usually understand the concept of keyword research, but often they miss a basic step that makes the difference between a successful search program and one that just bumps along without creating much of an impact.

Sure, they follow the basic steps. They analyze their logs to see which words are bringing the most traffic, the better to optimize for them. If they are smart, they analyze which keywords bring the most conversions, not just the most traffic. They understand the priorities and they use them to improve their Web site to drive even more traffic with those keywords. Great job, right?

Well, not exactly. It’s good as far as it goes, but there is a big missing step that can make a big difference in organic search success. You must also think about the keywords that aren’t bringing any traffic to your site right now.

For large sites, this is less of an issue. Larger sites get so much traffic that almost any keyword shows up in the referral list somewhere. But for small sites, that’s not true. For small sites, it’s easy for a referral list to miss important keywords.

What can you do to find these hidden keywords?

  • Check your competitors. You might be missing these keywords, but someone is getting them. See what words your competitors use on their sites and see if you are missing some of them on yours.
  • Brainstorm outside your team. Get a perspective from your customers and others who are less familiar with your offerings. They might use words to describe your products that you don’t.
  • Expand your buying cycle. Too often, we focus only on the later parts of the buying cycle. We focus on product names and model numbers and all the words people use when they are near purchase, but we forget the words people use at the outset of the cycle. Often we have no information on our sites about the problems our products solve—keywords about the problems are often overlooked.

If you’ve been focusing only on the keywords that already bring you traffic, think about whether there might be keywords that you’re completely missing. Finding just a few of those hidden keywords might provide you the boost your organic search program has been missing.

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The missing step in keyword research

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