The objective of keyword research is to identify the topic phrases your target quarry would actually type in to find your services.
First things first
Dump the keyword discovery tools including the free Google Adwords API. The data you get there first of all is powering the less enlightened competition. Gunning for the keywords that everybody else is targeting is just madness on several levels including increasing the costs of creating the amount of content for onsite, offsite SEO activity and search reputation building activity. Even if you do manage to out gun the competition, you may not reach the targeted figures projected by Google or the keyword discovery tools. If you do hit the search numbers projected, you still don’t know whether you will get click throughs or whether the people clicking through are the actual people you’re trying to reach.
It’s all about the search intent
And how often do we hear that? It’s an overused phrase in the SEO agency industry but are we really paying attention to it i.e. not just telling prospective clients about search intent and then forgetting what we just said and then doing the usual thing of interrogating that keyword discovery tool over and over again? What you really need to do before anything is to have a serious chat with the CMO or marketing manager and ask who is it they are trying to reach? If you have demographic data such as age, sex, location, needs etc then you have basically identified the audience segments. You now know which groups of people the client is trying to reach.
Some detective work
Of course now that you have identified your target people (who aren’t always customers by the way, they could be suppliers, investors, employees etc). Like any good marketing research, you then need to determine which media they consume, are they on twitter, facebook, what magazines do they read, who are their role models - i.e get under the skin. Look at the trade publications and forums they read. Chances are they are already discussions on the things that they need you just happen to provide.
Look at the way the product or service you’re selling is positioned
So look at the ads your competitors are using, how do they describe themselves. Unless you have first mover advantage in the industry, the chances are you have probably been beaten to reaching the target audiences already. What phrases do they use to position their firm? Could you do better? Also look at the discussions, what phrases are being used to describe what it is that you do?
Now you know which key phrases and topics you should be writing about