Have you ever sat down with someone who was looking for something online?

If you have, you'll know that the experience can be downright frightening. Often the situation plays out something like this: the person at the computer (not you) needs to find something online, so they open up Google or their favorite search engine while you watch over their shoulder. As the person searching begins to type – using incomplete phrases or seemingly random search terms – your throat dries, you start to sweat, you can tell already that it's going to be a bad experience.

No matter how much you want to intervene while watching somebody else use a search engine, to shout out "You dork! Why don't you just search for [SEO-precise phrase] using quotes?!" you hold back.

Regular People

regular-people

Regular people don't search like you or I. Instead of searching for "oil change Dallas, TX" most people will search for something like "car oil texas" or "where do I go for oil?" or even just "car oil." Don't laugh; searches like these happen all the time.

As traumatic as it is to be a part of a real search in action, there's a lot of value to be had in simply watching other people search for things.

In fact, sitting down with someone and asking them to search for your website is one of the absolute easiest ways to conduct keyword research. Here's a quick strategy you can use to discover real, valuable keywords that your potential customers might be using when they're searching for your business, product, or service.

Find a group of friends, family, or ideal customers and sit down with them, one‒on‒one,  in front of a computer. Preferably find someone who knows either nothing or very little about your business or website to start with, that way you're getting unbiased results. Take one minute to explain your business or service to the person, being careful to leave out your brand name or URL. Explain in the simplest terms possible what your business does and why it would benefit the person to do business with you. Then ask them to open up a web browser and search for your business however they see fit.

While the person is conducting their search, take notes of what search phrases they're using. Those are the keywords you should be targeting.

Of course, you'll want to also do more advanced keyword research before actively targeting the words and phrases your searches produce during your experiment (check with the estimated monthly traffic, evaluate competitors, explore possible long tail, or longer tail, words, etc.). Once you've surveyed several people, look at what words and phrases they used to search for your business and see if there is any overlap.

If you're looking for accurate and – most importantly – real keyword ideas, just ask someone to do a search. It may be painful to watch, but the research can be invaluable.

Tanner Christensen

Tanner is a creative online entrepreneur who has been writing on creativity, design, business management, and web development for more than nine years. Recently he founded Aspindle creative publishing house.

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2 Responses to “How To Use Real Searches From Real People For Keyword Research”

  1. christina says:

    Watching people who are not used to the internet has been an eye opener. I nearly fell off my chair when my brother skipped the first page because "they've paid a fortune to be there". Where did he get this idea from and do others have the same view? My mother need a spare part for her oven. I would have searched for the oven model then the parts if I didn't already have that information. It took her 20 tries before she found what she was looking for.

    But then again I guess thats what long tail keywords is all about.

  2. Thanks for the comment Christina. The story about your brother skipping the entire first page of search results is amazing, makes me wonder how many people do similar things.