The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
For many of us, there is no greater feeling than winning a new client. It might help you to grow your team, earn yourself a bonus, or achieve a promotion. All of which are great motivators and things to celebrate.
But for me, the reason why winning new business is so enjoyable, is because you’ve just earned the trust of someone else. You’ve connected with them. They’ve bought into your ideas, and now they’re relying on you to help them grow their business.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be excited to get started. You’ll have poured your heart and soul into winning the new account. And you can now get to work putting into practice all the things you presented so well in the pitch.
For content writers, this might start with an in-depth keyword research piece. Taking your initial pitch data and expanding on it to form a content strategy.
But before you start, have you thought about inviting your new client to a working session to help with your keyword research?
It’s the kind of thing that might make you run for the hills — I would have, not so long ago — but it can be incredibly useful. We often forget that in our excitement to get started, our clients are excited, too. They often want to help, and you can use a working session as an opportunity to tap into their industry knowledge. After all, it’s the subject matter that they live every hour of every day.
In this blog, I’m going to show you why you should do a keyword research working session with your clients, and how it has helped us deliver 65% organic traffic growth for one of our clients with low Domain Authority.
Tried and tested keyword research
Let’s start with what keyword research usually looks like. This will be a great way to prepare for a working session with your new client, which we’ll come to next.
Now, there is already a library of fantastic resources available on Moz to help you with keyword research, each of which go into much more detail than I’m going to:
Adriana Stein’s take on low search volume keywords (a personal favorite – especially for help with low domain authority sites!)
I would urge you to devour as much of this as possible. For the purposes of this blog, we’re going to assume that keyword research boils down to three simple things:
Keywords you want to rank for
Keywords you already rank for
Keywords your competitors rank for
To compile this information, we’ll use Moz’s Keyword Explorer (you can use whichever keyword research tool you’re most familiar with, but I find Moz’s tool particularly good for this process).
The example we’re going to use is a real-world example from a keyword research session I had with a client who sells packaging supplies. One of their most important products is cardboard boxes. So we’ll start with that as our initial keyword.
1. Keywords you want to rank for
So, with cardboard boxes as our initial seed keyword, what other relevant keywords can we uncover? Using Keyword Explorer’s keyword suggestions, we can instantly get a good idea of some of the highly relevant and well searched for related keywords.
At this stage, you’re ideally looking to pick out related themes as you scroll through. For example, we can instantly see that several keywords are related to moving. Perhaps that’s something we should investigate further. Secondarily, there are also a few references to size too (small and large), which we’re also going to make a note of.
Within just a few seconds we already have a couple of ideas we can use to help inform our content strategy. And you can keep going, picking out as many interesting keywords or topics as you can.
You can then use these keywords to start building out lists within Keyword Explorer, or export the data and work in spreadsheets if that’s your preferred method.
Remember, at this stage, we’re just looking to prepare for our working session with the client, not create a fully kitted out content strategy.
2. Keywords you already rank for
Unless you’re working with a client in a very unique position of launching a brand new website, you should be able to uncover lots of keyword opportunities simply by researching the keywords the website already ranks for. These are often some of your biggest opportunities to improve and grow traffic from.
A search for your website in Keyword Explorer will return a list of keywords with your ranking position included. You can then export this to excel and filter on keywords you would like to target. In our case, let’s take a look at how our client’s website ranks for terms related to cardboard boxes.
Now that’s interesting. While some of the keywords with the highest search volume were related to moving house, we can see that our client’s website predominantly ranks well for postage boxes. And the search intent behind those two topics is very different. So, we’ll be earmarking this as one to discuss with the client.
3. Keywords your competitors rank for
Possibly the most important part of keyword research is to check what your competitors are ranking well for, but you’re not. You can do this in Keyword Explorer simply by adding one or two domains to your search when searching by website:
And when we do this, we uncover another opportunity:
While there are lots of keywords related to cardboard boxes that are of interest to us, it is double walled cardboard boxes that stand out here. There are several variations and a good number of searches per month, so, that’s definitely one to discuss during the keyword research working session.
After some very quick keyword research, we’ve uncovered four potential topics we could discuss from our initial cardboard boxes seed keyword:
Boxes for moving
Boxes by size
Double walled boxes
If we were doing this for real, we would have uncovered plenty more opportunities, too. And if you stop here, you can still have great success building out a content strategy and creating highly relevant, optimized content to target these keywords.
But as great as our SEO tools are for keyword research, they don’t always tell the full story. That’s where a working session with your client can help.
Keyword research working sessions
Working alongside your clients at this stage can feel a little daunting, and it can be hard to relinquish control. It’s your job, and you have the expertise and the instincts to be successful. You might be thinking that the last thing you need is the client demanding something you know will be near impossible to achieve before you’ve even got started.
But as mentioned above, we also need to appreciate that as good as keyword research tools are, they don’t show the full picture. Even cross-referencing against Search Console can leave us skeptical. And so, tapping into the knowledge your clients have might just lead to you discovering some great content ideas and keywords to target.
How to approach a keyword research working session
So, how do you go about approaching a keyword research working session yourself? Start by asking yourself a few simple questions:
Who should be involved?
Depending on the size of your client, you might have multiple contacts on their side. Think about who would be best placed to discuss the products in detail. The MD or CEO won’t need to come along. But someone like the Head of marketing, along with a senior buyer would have all the knowledge you need.
And in your own team, do you need to invite several people or keep it small? It might depend on how big the client is, but to get the most out of your session, it might be best to keep the attendees at a minimum. This will be a decision for you, your circumstances and how best you work as a team.
How many sessions do you need?
Again, this depends on the specifics of your client and your scope of work. If you’re working on a small retainer, just one session will be enough. But if this is a big client with a sizeable retainer, perhaps you’re going to need a handful of sessions to cover various topics that you’ll be hoping to rank for.
What does your client need to prepare?
The best thing your clients can do is come prepared with detailed knowledge of their products and which products are most important for them. Which products provide the greatest profit margin? Which products are they struggling to get hold of due to issues in the supply chain? Which products are stacked up in the warehouse that they need to shift? As much information as possible.
What do you need to prepare?
You should prepare well, either by following the recommendations in this blog or by going through your own keyword research process. But beyond that, you also need to have an open mind. Let your client contribute their own thoughts and take it from there.
What happened at our own keyword research session?
In our example, we got talking about the different sizes of cardboard boxes available. The client explained it was a hugely important factor for their customers. No business wants to be shipping empty space in boxes that are too big for their products. And no business wants to be cramming products into boxes that aren’t big enough.
So we took a closer look at boxes by size and discovered there were plenty of low volume searches related to box dimensions. These are great keywords for us to be targeting, either on product pages or within facet navigation.
You might suggest the search volume is too low to care too much about. But you’re missing a big opportunity if you take that approach.
Remember, our client has a low Domain Authority. Competing for some of the top generic keywords is not going to happen overnight, so we’ll need to be clever in our keyword targeting. And as Adriana Stein notes in her brilliant blog on low search volume keywords:
“[For] low authority sites in competitive niches, it takes months (or maybe even years) to rank for a [highly competitive] keyword.
“Specific and niched keywords are exactly what accelerate your organic traffic growth and business revenue – even when you don’t have the domain authority, brand awareness, or resources of your more established competitors.”
So, with that advice in mind, in this example I was not concerned about seeing low search volume at this stage. Rather, I was quite excited about it. And then, as we were looking at these low volume dimensions, the client picked out an odd-looking keyword to me and noted: “Oh, that’s interesting.”
Interesting? I have to be honest, if I was browsing these keywords by myself, I’m really not sure I’d have picked this one out. To my untrained eye, it’s just a few unidentifiable numbers with low relevancy.
“That’s a FEFCO code.” My client told me.
“A FEFCO code. It’s what our customers ask us for every day. When you’re selling cardboard boxes, you’re talking in FEFCO codes.”
All of a sudden, we have a whole new bunch of incredibly relevant keywords for us to target. And not just relevant from an SEO perspective, but also in the language our client’s customers would understand.
I’m happy to admit that getting to this point would have been impossible on my own. I needed my client’s insight and knowledge of the industry to find these keywords.
So what about you? Have a think. Are you missing some hidden gem keywords?
Working this way has resulted in an organic traffic increase of 65% year-on-year:
Beyond traffic acquisition, organic revenue has also increased significantly. Not only that, but our client also regularly updates us that they’re receiving inbound calls from potential new customers who have found them online.
The success in keyword targeting is perhaps best visualized with a look at their historical keyword rankings:
We started working with this client in 2020. And really, before 2021, there were only a handful of keywords in the top 10 according to Ahrefs data. That is now over 1,000. And best of all, because we’ve been working so closely with the client, we know we’re targeting the right keywords.
Additional benefits of working sessions with your clients
If you’re still not convinced, consider the additional benefits that this working session will bring:
You’ll be able to build on the connection you’ve made during the pitch, to help you build a long-lasting working relationship for years.
Your clients will be highly engaged and excited to work with you. And they’ll appreciate the time you’re taking to hear from them in detail.
They’ll also get a front row seat to see how much hard work goes into your content strategy and planning from minute one, appreciating your expertise with the SEO tools you use.
All of which helps to facilitate a team spirit and culture of working together, rather than lapsing into a confrontational client vs agency relationship should things go wrong (and we know with SEO, sometimes we can’t guarantee results!)
With all of the above in mind, by making a little extra effort to schedule a keyword research working session, you’re far more likely to retain clients over the long term.
The additional benefits alone should be reason enough to undertake a keyword research working session with your clients. And when it comes to optimizing low Domain Authority websites in competitive niches, any help you can get is valuable.
But more than that, you might just uncover a few hidden gems for content ideas. And that’s something that’s incredibly valuable whatever the budget you’re working with.
These sessions don’t replace your traditional keyword research. You should still do that, too. But this is a great way to supplement that research with evidence from those at the coalface.
And if you get just one great content idea that you hadn’t otherwise considered, it will be worth it.