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I don’t easily get angry, but I felt this small flame burning within me when I came across a facebook post asking for someone who could help with keyword research. The poster found keyword research too “boring” and “time consuming”. As someone who enjoys keyword research , I found this irritating. Nonetheless, the poster’s apathy for keyword research was not what actually angered me.

It was the fact that the post’s only responses were related to price. It was as if keyword research was reduced to buying and selling potatoes, not the valuable and specialised part of marketing that it is. There were no:

What industry does your website operate in?

What does your business actually do?

How many pages does your website have?

You get the point.

I recently completed four weeks of keyword research for a client. I visited their factory, held two three-hour consultations and multiple five-minute phone interviews before I found the keywords that would work for their business and guide their website architecture.

It was well worth the exercise; I learnt much about what the client was currently doing, their competition, and trends and opportunities.

When asking someone to help build the foundations of a website and gather data around potential customers, would you sum up this important task in a two line facebook post? Similarly, if someone really wants to help you out with keyword research, how can they provide a price before they even know what your business does?

When it comes to tasks as crucial as keyword research, if you don’t understand something, don’t outsource it. Learn enough to know what you’re talking about.

A few years ago, when we were getting our house refurbished, we found out there was an issue with rising damp. Knowing damp could have a health impact was enough for me to be all over it.

I spent hours researching everything I could find and found out there are actually a number of different treatments and opinions. By the time I met the first experts, therefore, I probably had actually  gained enough knowledge to start my own damp consulting business. So whenever I invited experts to give quotes, I was mentally prepared with some specific questions to test them out. I categorised the experts into two groups: a) Time wasters; b) Experts. This strategy turned out to be quite valuable. There was one guy who told me he would put a piece of foil between the walls. Now that’s just stupid.

If it’s important, get all over it.

Why Keyword Research Is So Important?

Learn The Language Your Customers Are Using

Whenever I market a new business online, I start by spending a considerable amount of time looking around the internet for terms the business’s customers use. From this research, I see the problems the customers have and, most importantly, the language they use, which can be incorporated into the site copy. Furthermore, I get a deeper level of understanding who the ideal customer is.

Now why would you outsource this research to someone? Don’t you want to know what your customers are looking for or their struggles?

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” – Albert Einstein

See How Customers Search For Your Products And Services

I recently met an accountant who had a site with 4 pages in total – these included, “Home,” “Contact Us,” “About Us” and “Our Services.” After showing her a few keyword research results (for example, people were searching for “VAT returns,” “tax returns” and “company end of year accounts”), I asked her if it made sense to break out her services into additional pages.

In other words, do shop owners put everything on one shelf?

If there’s a significant number of people who are searching for a particular product or service, then 9 times out of 10, the product or service needs its own dedicated page. How can you serve your customers in any other way?

“Never try to solve all the problems at once – make them line up for you one-by-one.” – Richard Sloma

Find Possible Opportunities For Your Business

Not only can you learn a lot about your customers, but you can also find the opportunities that only someone who fully understands and cares about your business can do.

This is actually linked to the reason which pushed me into digital marketing over 5 years ago.

My wife and I were launching an online luxury gift site and, as we were both working full-time, I explored hiring a SEO agency to help. They all promised me the world but their recommended keywords were not relevant. I didn’t like the idea of giving someone who hasn’t taken the time to truly understand my business the right to market it.

During keyword research for a luxury travel services website, I was looking at the  competitors’ Trip Advisor reviews for inspiration and came across this:

As you can guess, this review presented a solid opportunity to add a foreign language guide to help the site stand out and even pickup customers who wouldn’t have booked otherwise. That’s a business decision driven by keyword research.

It only feels right we end this section with another quote:

“The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” – Gordon Gekko, Wall Street


Contrary to the tone of this post so far, I didn’t write this article to put you off outsourcing keyword research (though I understand I may have been successful at doing that, let me know in the comments if that’s the case).

If you do want to outsource, go ahead, but at least find someone who will do the research as if the business is their own. I’ll show you how.

How To Find Your Keyword Research Freelancer

I boil it down to 3 key areas:

  1. The (all important) Job Description
  2. Their Experience
  3. Do they care about your business?

The (all important) Job Description

I’m not going to tell you the usual “be clear,” have a “specific description,” and “set expectations,” because you already know that.

I don’t, however, want you to give away too much about your business within the description. We’re looking for curious people (which we’ll talk about later). Diligent freelancers who ask questions about you and your business are good. You may want to be wary of the “Yes” freelancers.

Make the job post about them and what you expect from them, and not about you. Here’s a quick example:

The Applicant’s Experience

Don’t pay too much attention to prices quoted. Hold tight, because we first need to shortlist them into a) Time Wasters and b) Experts.

To start with, I look for references to points within the job description. If they pass this test, then I look for 3 good detailed examples.

Here’s a good example of someone saying the right things, but does not include 3 examples. Find someone who can at least follow basic instructions.

After categorisation, I then probe the freelancers within the “Experts” category by asking questions and further information. I’ll even ask questions  I know the answer to because I want to see how well they respond. At the end of the day, we’re looking for quality individuals.. This exercise helps us focus on the best people.

Do They Care About Your Business?

This is the one I care about most. It goes beyond their skill and experience and gives us an insight into their attitude and ability to work as a team. Ultimately, it shows whether they will treat your business as if it’s their own.

As highlighted earlier, I go into business consultant mode and dig so deep into businesses  that I can often help drive business decisions unrelated to digital marketing.

That’s what’s possible when someone REALLY understands your business. And with this knowledge, keyword research becomes fun.

Keyword research is more than just plugging a few phrases in Google keyword planner. It’s an iterative process of learning about the business from the business itself as well as online research. It has no end, other than feeling like you’ve exhausted the options and have a good hold on the market.

How much effort do you think someone who doesn’t care about your business is going to put in?

So, how do we find someone that cares?

Say “yes” to as many of the question below and you’ve found them:

  • Do they ask what your business does? The more detailed the question the better. Remember, curious people are good.
  • Do they refer to speaking on skype/phone/email to understand your business?
  • Do they give you relevant examples of websites they have worked on similar to your business?
  • Do they have good reviews?
  • Do any of the reviews include feedback with words like (real examples): “total understanding of what we wanted,” “very reliable,” “quickly took care of every need,” “immediately trust to get the work done,” “eager to serve,” “strives to get the job done,” “very good with great suggestions for me” – you get the gist!

Feel free to add any other tips that have worked for you in the comments.

We’re looking for people who don’t just talk about the tactics and tools used to do keyword research (the “how?”), but also people who take time to understand your business  (the “what?”).

Now go find yourself a keyword research superstar, or have fun doing it yourself.