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If You Build It, They Will Come: Finding the Right Keywords for Your Audiences

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Hear me: Don’t waste your time.

Seriously. It’s your most valuable resource—especially if you’re already limited on resources.

Unfortunately, too many marketers (and marketing teams) do. They know exactly what their goals are and they have all their tactics neatly outlined in a strategic marketing plan. But the tactics themselves are flawed in that they’re baseless. They’re not supported by any research or data, which in turn begs the question: Are you moving the needle for the people that matter?

As a mission-driven organization, providing value to your audiences is a top priority. Creating anything of value first requires one to identify who finds it valuable, then to walk backward. If you’re an organization that produces content (and you should be!), especially long-form content, you need to have a pulse on it after it’s published. Producing and maintaining fresh, consistent content takes strategic intent. Why invest the time to publish content without also investing the time to maximize your reach and return?

It All Starts With a Question

Our questions are so easily answered. It’s a luxury that many of us have never lived without. When we have a question, we ask Siri. We ask Alexa. Or, we use our fingers and search through the galaxies of information that live right in our pockets.

And boy, are your audiences searching. On average, each person conducts three to four searches per day. It’s estimated that Google processes around 2 trillion global searches per year!

Man saying

The most effective way to get your content in front of your audiences is through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). By using keywords strategically, your organization’s content can appear front and center when your potential donors, volunteers, members, etc. are looking for it.

How To Find the Right Keywords

Now, hear me once more: This is not an overnight endeavor by any means. SEO takes time. It takes time to optimize your keywords, and it takes time to see the impact of your work. This is just the first step. Because you don’t get to see results immediately, picking the keywords you want to go after will always feel a bit nebulous. You have to check back in months later, and it’s not always clear what to do if something’s not working. You may never be 100% confident that you’re on the right track with your keywords, but there are plenty of digital marketing tools and best practices to get you pretty damn close.

Audience Research

Do you have any idea what your audiences are struggling with? Have you ever asked them? You can’t create the best content on your relevant topics if you’re not even sure what your users are searching for.

Use in-person interviews to hear directly from a cross-section of your users. You want interviewees to be both internal to your organization (but maybe outside of your department) and external. Think supporters, members, students, people who are unfamiliar with your brand, etc. Your goal is to uncover their questions and the problems they’re having. That’s where your content strategy starts!

We find that interviewing fewer than six participants will produce less reliable insights, where conducting more than 10 interviews produces diminishing results. That’s to say that anything you can find out in 11+ interviews, you can likely find in 10.

Surveys are a great tool for collecting data from a large population. They’re a low investment in terms of time and money for a large amount of data in return. Be careful though, because survey data isn’t always good data.

With surveys, your questions are critical—and human error is virtually unavoidable. In that way, question writing is a science! Bias is built in no matter what, so you may need a third-party partner to write truly objective survey questions.

Keyword Research Tools

Unless you’re trained and highly-experienced in SEO, there are costs involved in developing and maintaining a healthy strategy. Expenses for training, continuing education, and SEO tools should always be considered in your annual budget.

There are plenty of keyword research tools, both free and paid, designed to help identify effective keywords for your content. With any of them, start with terms that relate to your organization and the services you provide. If you’ve done some audience research, use terms based on the problems you solve or the questions you answer. Remember: Your goal is to see if there is demand for your content and if you can be a valuable voice in the conversation.

Here are some of the most popular keyword planning tools

Any of these tools can help you generate a list of keywords related to your intended topic(s). When you’ve done that, the next step is to strategically parse through your options. If you’re just starting out, you’re working with a “low-authority” website. That means you don’t want to go after a phrase with too high of a search volume because you’ll get beat out by more established, “high-authority” websites. In other words, search engines like Google will rank high-authority sites over low-authority sites even if they share the same keywords. Instead, you may choose to go after lower-volume keywords to better your ranking—especially if you work in a niche market.

SEO takes time. It takes time to optimize your keywords, and it takes time to see the impact of your work.

Competitor Audit

What is your competition doing? It’s always a good idea to know what your biggest competitors are up to. These are the organizations that move in the same space as you, with similar services, programs, missions, etc. Choose one major competitor or a handful of small ones and do a deep dive. What are they writing about? What do their audiences seem to be engaging with?

If you’re having trouble finding your competition, you can use search engines to your advantage. Google some of your services or related keywords and see who gets served in the results first (after the ads).

Analytics

Once you’ve launched your keyword-rich content, you can use analytics to determine the effectiveness of your keywords. Remember—data should inform everything you do as a marketer. Keep track of the content you’re optimizing so you can check in on its performance. Use metrics like organic traffic, bounce rate, and conversions to measure SEO. Then, tweak your keywords, rinse, and repeat. You can also use tools like WebCEO to monitor how you’re ranking for certain keywords over time.

Within Google Analytics, you can navigate to Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms to see what your users are searching for to find your content. Compare those terms against the keywords you’re going after to see if they’re aligned.

Of course, even with all the tools available, no technology will ever be able to replace good ol’ human intuition. If anything, you have anecdotal experience with your audiences that can never be pulled into a report. You might know a major need that you can rank keywords for, or you may know that your audiences refer to something by a certain name others may not think to search. After all, we’re still targeting human beings with real emotions and autonomy. It’s up to you to assign that knowledge to your keyword research.

Mighty Citizen Can Help

The healthiest strategy for identifying keywords uses a combination of these fundamental methods and tools—but we’ve only scratched the surface. Our digital marketing experts at Mighty Citizen can help with any component of your SEO strategy. Reach out and let us know how we can be a partner!

For a more in-depth look at your website’s SEO performance and analytics, download your industry’s website performance guide.

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