Choosing the Right Search Terms for Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

By Jan Zimmerman, Deborah Ng

Try to come up with a list of at least 30 search terms for your social media marketing strategy that can be distributed among different pages of your website (more if you have a large site). You must juggle the terms people are likely to use to find your product or service with the likelihood that you can show up on the first page of search results. Here are some tips for building a list of potential keywords:

  • Brainstorm all possible terms that you think your target audience might use. Ask your customers, friends, and employees for ideas.
  • Be sure your list includes the names of all your products and service packages and your company name. Someone who has heard of you must absolutely be able to find you online.
  • Incorporate all industry-specific search terms and jargon you can think of.
  • If you sell to a local or regional territory, incorporate location into your terms: for example, Lancaster bakery or Columbus OH chiropractor. It’s very difficult to appear on the first page of results for a single word, such as bakery or chiropractor.
  • For additional ideas, go to Google, enter a search term, and click the Search button. Then select the Related Searches option in the left margin. You may be surprised by the other search phrases that users try.
  • If you already have a website, look at your analytics results to see which search phrases people are using to find your site.
  • Use one or more of the free search tools listed in the table to get ideas for other keywords, how often they’re used, and how many competing sites use the same term.
  • You can also try the Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool. Intended to help buyers of Google AdWords, this tool is also useful when you’re brainstorming search terms. However, to access this tool, you need to sign into an existing AdWords account or create one by clicking the links on the Keyword Planner page.

You’ll get more accurate, detailed numbers if you also sign up for Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). You or your programmer should do this anyway.

  • Check your competitors’ search terms for ideas. Visit your competitors’ sites and right-click to view the page source, or look in the browser toolbar for something like View    →  Source. The keywords are usually listed near the top of the source code for a page. If you don’t see them, use the Find command (Ctrl+F) to search for keyword.

Not sure who your competitors are? Enter one of your search terms to identify similar companies appearing on the first page of search results. Then you can go look at their other keywords, too.

  • Look at the tag clouds for topics on social news services or blog search engines such as Ice Rocket to assess the relative popularity of different search terms. Tag clouds visualize how often keywords appear in specific content or how often they’re used by searchers, with the most popular terms usually appearing in larger type.
  • Avoid using single words except in technical fields where the word is a term specific to a particular industry, such as seismometer or angiogram, with only hundreds of thousands, instead of millions, of competing pages. Not only will you have too much competition on generalized single words, but results for single words also produce too wide a range of options. People simply give up.
Keyword Selection Resources
Name Description
Google AdWords Keyword Planner Free keyword generator and statistics available to holders of Google and AdWords accounts; better results for paid accounts
Google Trends Research on trending search terms
KGen Shareware add-on for the Firefox and Chrome toolbars showing which keywords are strong on visited web pages
SEMrush Research keywords used by competitors for Google and Bing organic searches
Ubersuggest Free keyword suggestion tool
WordStream Basic keyword tools; 30 free searches
Wordtracker Keyword suggestion tool; free 7-day trial

Crafting a page, blog post, or social media profile for more than four or five search terms is difficult. Break up your list of terms into sets that you think you can work into a single paragraph of text while still making sense.

Optimizing for search terms that real people rarely use doesn’t make sense. Sure, you can be number one because you have no competition, but why bother? You will show up on these words anyway. The exceptions are your company and product names and terms highly specific to your business.

Always test your selected search terms to be sure that sites like yours show up in the results for that term. For instance, entering artificial trees as a search term yields inexpensive artificial Christmas trees, especially at the holiday season, and perhaps some silk palm trees. However, that term doesn’t produce appropriate results if your company offers $30,000 tree sculptures designed for shopping malls, zoos, or museums.