Small Business Keyword Research: Understanding Your Online Opportunities

Here is the fundamental question in digital marketing for most businesses... How do we size up online marketing opportunities and translate those into ROI? With so many data points, opinions, guides and sales pitches, it can feel overwhelmingly difficult to get down to the point and decide how to allocate your marketing budget. Even more importantly, it can be challenging to get clarity on how much that budget should be... It's too easy to spend money on the internet - building a digital marketing strategy that gets results is another story.

The big picture

Let's start with a simple big picture question. How big is your online opportunity? Business schools like to talk about your "total available market" or TAM. We recommend taking a similar approach to your digital marketing strategy. As a business, how many potential customers are online right now, raising their hand by asking questions about renovations, interior design decisions, or straight up looking for contractors in your area?

Let's take the home remodeling sector for example, since our team recently completed a major project for a client in this industry. To give you some idea, there are over 2.5 million searches that include variations of the term "remodeling" in the United States every month according to SEMrush, a popular and powerful tool for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing (SEM). That's a lot of searches. Your next step would be to narrow down those searches to your region. This will help you understand how many people are researching remodeling questions in the areas where your business operates. For example, "remodel Chicago" yields about 7,000 searches a month.

What does this search volume tell us? A lot. For one, it means that if you wanted to completely dominate search result pages with ads and always appear at the top, you would do quite well with a paid ad budget of $3,000-$5,000 a month. With a limited number of searches for a particular search term, you may soon hit a spend ceiling and expand to other keywords based on your goals and budget. We can infer this by looking at estimated costs per click (CPCs) and typical clickthrough rates. The Google Ads platform also provides guidance to help you understand search volumes vis-a-vis your ad budget.

Buying ads is a great way to guarantee you are reaching your audience and bringing people to your website. But it's not the only way.

SEO & Keyword Difficulty

Online advertising is a proven way to get immediate and guaranteed results, but it is crucial to also invest in your digital presence beyond the ad campaign. Making your website the best place for local homeowners to get their remodeling questions answered is the key to long term online success. This is where local and ongoing SEO and the content on your website come into play.

Content is all about keywords and not all keywords are created equal. There's a number of tools out there that can help you understand whether or not your website has a chance of ranking for a keyword organically, i.e. appearing on the first page of search results for free. For example, a more in-depth analysis shows that a keyword string like "small kitchen remodel Chicago" is relatively more difficult to rank for organically than "home remodeling Chicago". This is very powerful information because it implies that we have a pretty good chance of appearing at the top of a search for "home remodeling Chicago" if we wrote a helpful blog post or added a useful resource to our website on the subject.

"This is very powerful information because it implies that we have a pretty good chance of appearing at the top of a search..."

On the other hand, we also learn that if we specialize in remodeling small kitchens in Chicago, we are dealing with a relatively more competitive set of keywords. This means that we have less of a chance chance of ranking organically on the first page and are better off buying ads. This is one of many benefits of working with professional SEO tools such as SEMrush, MOZ or Ahrefs.

This approach to keyword research requires paid marketing tools and trained SEO analysts and is just the tip of the iceberg of what a comprehensive digital marketing research suite can do for your marketing strategy.

Free Resources

If you prefer the DIY approach to digital marketing, there are lots of free tools that can help your keyword research. Professional marketers use them too. For starters, we have Google Trends.

Google Trends allows you to "explore what the world is searching for". You can type in any keyword that interests you, such as "home remodeling", and Google will display search trends over time. Although you will not be able to see how many monthly searches your keyword yields, you will be able to compare keywords and understand relative search volumes. For example, when you compare "home remodeling" with "bathroom remodeling" and "kitchen remodeling", you will see that the term "home remodeling" is searched for far more often than the "kitchen -" or "bathroom -" keyword variations.

Real time data from Google Trends.

The next extremely powerful free tool from Google is Search Console. It lets you see when and how your website has appeared in searches, measure search traffic to your pages and optimize your content with search analytics. It's a critical step to understanding what remodeling keywords are used when a link to your website appears in Google, as well as which terms lead to clicks and bring people to your website. You can also do a lot more, including understanding how Google sees your site and whether there are any issues you should fix.

"There's a lot you can learn by paying attention to Google auto-complete suggestions."

There is also a number of free tools and "light" versions of paid tools used by professional SEOs. Some of the free tools include Wordtracker, Wordstream, Answer The Public and there are many more. There's also a lot you can learn about semantic variations on remodeling keywords by paying attention to auto-complete suggestions as you type a query into Google.

In Conclusion...

As with all things digital, keyword research is all about the data. A comprehensive keyword analysis can help you understand what homeowners are looking for online and position your remodeling business to best meet those needs locally. With this knowledge, you can optimize the content on your website to increase your chances of ranking well organically for certain keywords. You can also gain insight on how to best allocate your advertising budget and focus on advertising for keywords that are relatively more competitive.

To discover more tips and advice on shaping your remodeling marketing plan, check out more of our blog posts on the subject:

For more on SEO and digital marketing for remodelers, home builders and designers, read our blog and subscribe to our newsletter.

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