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Supporting image for How to Come Up with Better Keywords for SEO – @therichbrooks
How to Come Up with Better Keywords for SEO – @therichbrooks
The Agents of Change

AOCP-Pinterest-Rich-Brooks-SEOBrainstorming Your Keywords

One of the first things I do when sitting down with a client for SEO, is to ask them two questions:

  • What do you think are some of the phrases that your ideal customer would search for to find a product, service, or company like yours?
  • What do you want to rank well for?

These questions might start a brainstorming session, but really they’re not enough. Too many of us have spent too much time in our own industry. We’re not thinking about the questions that a brand new customer–someone not familiar with our industry–might ask.

One of the exercises I recommend is to try and brainstorm keywords using five perspectives.

Products & Services

This is how we think of ourselves, and how we hope our clients think of us. It’s the products or services we bring to market. It’s the most obvious search term for most businesses, so we tend to focus on it.

Some examples might include:

  • Maine web designer, portland web design, WordPress web developer
  • Dog trainer, puppy trainer, canine behavior classes
  • Sales trainer, sales training techniques, corporate sales training
  • Florist, flowers, wedding florist, mother’s day gifts
  • Bicycle tours, self-guided bike tours, bicycle trips in Tuscany

All businesses want to rank well for the results in this perspective, and with good reason. When people are searching for these terms, they’re often looking for a result that will lead to a purchase.


Now it’s time to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes.

What are the problems that you have helped your best customers solve or overcome? Many people search based on what they’re suffering from. By reflecting their words back on them, you can capture some of that search traffic.

Some examples might include:

  • Hair loss, receding hairline, Alopecia, bald spot
  • Tantrum, screaming child, terrible twos
  • Crabgrass, grub infestation, dead grass
  • Bad back, back ache, lower back pain
  • Sleeplessness, insomnia, waking up in the middle of the night

You may have many products or services, so try and come up with the problems that each solve.


This is just about flipping the previous perspective on its head. Some people search for problems, others for solutions. You want to generate a list of keywords that best describe the real or perceived benefits that people get after working with you.

Some examples might include:

  • Healthy yard, green lawn, increased curbside value
  • More leads, more customers, more clients
  • Stress-free workplace, happy employees, lower turnover
  • Well-behaved children, respectful kids, European boarding school
  • Peace of mind, feeling of calm, sense of peace.

Again, some of these benefits may be tangible, some not. Some benefits may be perceived. If you can get to where your customer wants to be, you can meet them there.


If you’ve ever taken a sales course, you know that you never sell on features, you always sell on benefits. Well, on the web that’s not always true. Often, your customers have done so much research they know more than you or your salespeople before the conversation even begins!

Some of these perspectives will be more relevant than others, depending on your business, especially this one. If you can’t come up with many (or any) relevant features, don’t sweat it. Just do the best you can.

Some examples might include:

  • 10 megapixels, 5 frames per second continuous shooting, ISO 100-12800 (expandable to 25600)
  • Windproof, one-hand open, 15 color choices
  • On demand video content, lifetime access, private Facebook group for networking
  • 100+ machines, spinning classes, 24/7 gym access
  • Security cameras, round-the-clock doorman, safest neighborhood in Houston

The other thing to consider is that when someone is searching on features, it often means they’ve already done a lot of their research and they’re looking to buy. They’ve got a mouse in one hand and their wallet in the other. Those are the kind of people we want to be around.


Now, when I talk about competition, I don’t mean that if you run a burger joint you should be brainstorming “McDonald’s,” or if you are a psychologist you should be writing down the names of the other doctors in your building.

Every business brings something to market. Imagine you own a gym. Why do people come? There’s probably a few reasons: improve their health, become more attractive to the opposite sex, lose weight. Let’s consider the lose weight option.

Is a gym membership the only way to lose weight? Of course not. They could get on a fad diet, or take diet pills, or buy a Thigh Master. In that case, those things are my competition. At some point, I may write a blog post like:

  • Why the South Beach Diet Won’t Get You Into That Swimsuit by Summer
  • Why Diet Pills Don’t Keep the Weight Off (But a Gym Membership Will!), or
  • How the Thigh Master Makes Your Butt Look Big

I’m using SEO judo…using my competition to attract attention to my own, better solution.

Get More Brains for Brainstorming

While you can certainly come up with this list of words by yourself, sometimes you’re too removed, or too embedded in your own industry for this to be completely effective.

If you’re part of a bigger team, bring in your sales reps. Ask them for the questions prospects are asking them during the sales process. Talk to your customer service reps, and ask them what questions or problems customer are having.

If you have customers, call up some of your ideal customers (and maybe one or two that you secretly can’t stand) and ask them how they would describe what you do, the features and benefits of your products and services, and who or what they might turn to if you suddenly disappeared.

Very often you’ll discover that people use your company for reasons you couldn’t have imagined, or describe what you do differently than you would have thought.

Checking Out the Competition

Very often, some of your competitors will have already gone through a SEO project, so you might as well benefit from their investment!

Let’s say your run a day spa, offering services like massage, reflexology, facials, and so on. You probably have a pretty good idea of who is your competition. Visit their site and make note of some important elements of their home page:

What is the title tag of the page? This appears outside the page in the tab on your browser. If you can’t read the whole thing you can hover over it with your mouse and often the full name will appear. Pay close attention to the first few words in the title.

Are there any headers? These are usually bigger and possibly bolder than the regular copy. Are there any good keywords here? Ignore headers like “Welcome to Enrique’s Day Spa” but pay attention if it reads, “Phoenix Day Spa and Massage.”

What do the first few sentences look like? Are they keyword-rich, too? What words are they using here.

What pages are they linking to in the body copy? If they’re linking to the page on reflexology and the links don’t say “Read More” or “Click Here,” or something similarly helpful but generic, those words were probably chosen for a reason.

What do the meta-tags contain? This gets a little tricky, but I know you can do it! Meta-tags don’t appear on the website, but they do appear in the source code. Every browser has a way of displaying the source code. Often you can right-click and one of the options will be View Source. Sometimes you’ll see the option in the View menu (Chrome) or the Develop menu (Safari).

Once you’re looking at the code, don’t panic! Just do a find (CTRL-F on a Windows machine, Command-F on a Mac), for “meta.” Often there will be two results, “meta-description” and “meta-keywords.”

Meta-description is what search engines use for the black descriptive text below the big blue links. Although these have little to no search value (depending on who you speak to), they can persuade a searcher to click on your result, so they’re important. Pay attention to any keywords that may be hanging out here.

Meta-keywords were very important to SEO…in 1997. Now they’re completely ignored. However, some people still use them. Pointless for them, good for you. They basically are a list of the keywords that they want to rank well for, giving you more ideas.

After checking out your known competition, you may want Google some good descriptors for your business: day spa, massage, swedish massage, deep tissue massage, reflexology, etc. Find the top few results for each of these search terms and run through the same exercise.

If you have no nearby competition, do the identical search in a bigger market. In fact, checking out similar businesses in a very competitive market–LA, NYC, Chicago, etc.–can give you even more insights, as these companies may have had to hire very expensive SEO firms to put them at the top of Google for their given area.

What Is Your Competition Bidding On?

If your competition is spending precious budget by bidding on keywords for Google Adwords, chances are they feel strongly about those particular keywords. If only there was some way to discover what those keywords were!

Here comes SpyFu to the rescue. SpyFu is a paid service that can provide you reams of information on your competition and how they’re spending their Google Adwords dollars. (And, of course, reveal your ad spend to your competition!)

If you put in your own URL into SpyFu, it will return who it believes to be your nearest competition based on overlapping keyword usage. Alternatively, you can put in your competitors’ domains to see what they are targeting and how much they’re willing to spend to get in front of that audience.

Market research indeed!

Organizing Your Keywords

By now you should have a healthy list of keywords to use. The next step is to organize them by the type of services you offer.

For example, you might offer home inspections for new home buyers, environmental audits for current homeowners, and mold removal for commercial buildings. You’ll need to take your list of keywords and organize them into those categories, whether they represent Products & Services, Problems, Solutions, Features, or Competition.

Once that’s done you can start to test which of these keywords–or even ones you haven’t considered yet–are going to be the seeds from which you grow your most effective copy.

Show Notes:

  • Hurry up & grab your highly sought after tickets to the upcoming Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference now! (Can’t make it in person? There are both Live and Virtual tickets available.)
  • Be one of the lucky few to get one-on-one (or two-on-one) with Rich and Sue B. at their pre-con workshop the day before the conference. You won’t want to miss out on this 4-hour, very informative, intimate learning opportunity with two of the top minds discussing social media platforms and how to develop a digital marketing strategy to help you grow your business.AOCP-FB-Rich-Brooks-SEOAOCP-FB-Sue-B-Zimmerman-2016