In terms of gaining the type of online recognition that your business needs to stand out, you’d still be hard pressed to find something more important than SEO. Remember that as of 2016, an incredible 93% of ALL online experiences still begin with a search engine. One of your potential customers sits down at their computer (or, more likely, their smartphone), plugs in a few keywords and finds a business. Hopefully, that business is yours.

How well you can anticipate what those keywords might be will play a role in determining whether that theoretical customer knocks on your door or that of your distinguished competition. This is where your keyword research will come into play. It may seem overwhelming, but keyword research is actually fairly straightforward provided that you approach things from the right angle.

The following seven tips will not just strengthen your keyword research skills – they’ll go a long way towards making sure that you leave your competitors in the dust.

1. When In Doubt, Use a Competitor’s Keywords

Regardless of the industry you’re talking about, it is very rare for two businesses to be created totally equally. If you take a look at your closest competitor, you’re probably looking at a very different organization – even if they’re ostensibly selling the same basic products and services that you do. The only asterisk to that, however, comes down to keyword research. You’re likely still trying to reach the same people in roughly the same ways, which is absolutely something that you can leverage to your advantage.

Case in point: does your competitor seem to be ranking higher in general searches than you do, no matter how hard you try to come out on top? Congratulations! They’ve just given you a perfect keyword template to steal– err, reappropriate, for your own uses.

Pay attention to the searches that your competitors are doing exceptionally well in, then try to reverse engineer the techniques they’re using by taking a look at their pages. What keywords are they targeting successfully? Most importantly, why? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can apply them to your own techniques to give yourself a much-needed boost.

2. Find Hidden Long Tail Keywords

When it comes to keywords, you need to resist the urge to fall into the trap of assuming that you’re only targeting one or two word phrases. While it’s true that if you’re an electronics dealer in Cleveland, focusing on keywords like “electronics dealer” will certainly be helpful, long tail keywords bring with them a host of different benefits that you can’t afford to ignore.

Long tail keywords are typically three and four keyword phrases that are incredibly specific to whatever you’re selling. They’re the perfect way to target customers who are already late in the buying cycle. Most keywords target people who are beginning their journey and who are doing general research, ie: “electronics dealer.” Someone who already knows what they’re looking for would probably search in more specific ways, like “electronics dealer Cleveland Sony home theater system.”

If you focus on finding hidden long tail keywords, you have a chance to essentially leapfrog your competition and connect directly with your audience at this essential point in their journey.

3. Find a Niche and Stick With It

Again – even if you’ve got 100 direct competitors selling the same basic products and services to the same customers, there is still something about your organization that makes you unique. There’s something that you do different from anyone else – something that has already carried you this far. When it comes to keyword research, figuring out what this is and using it to your advantage is a perfect way to stand out in a digital forum.

Finding a niche and doubling down on it isn’t just a way to differentiate yourself from competitors – it’s also a way to build trust and establish credibility. Your audience is looking for experts when it comes to a particular subject matter. Use four or even five steps as opposed to the traditional three step keyword rule (Category, Niche, Sub-Niche) to hyper focus your keyword targeting in a way that can really attract the right kind of attention.

4. Don’t Forget About PPC Performance

Keyword research can sometimes feel like you’re stabbing around in the dark – but with the right tool like AdWords at your side, it doesn’t have to for very long. The fact of the matter is that you just don’t have enough time to try keyword string after keyword string to see what works in real-time. Plug your keywords into AdWords and see how they perform. Test variations upon variations upon variations, paying attention to what works and getting rid of what doesn’t as quickly as possible.

5. Geo Targeted Search Terms Are Your Friends

Thanks to the mobile revolution that we’re currently living through, geo targeting has become more efficient (and easier to pull off) than ever. The vast majority of people who visit your site are doing so on a powerful little device that, among other things, has a GPS chip built inside. It would be a shame not to use that fact to your advantage.

Geo targeted search terms are a perfect opportunity to get specific with your keyword research in a whole new way. To continue with the previous example of an electronics retailer, start going after location-specific phrases like “electronics retailer Cleveland Ohio” or “electronics retailer Berea Ohio.” Most people who perform a search on a mobile device will visit the store they find within 24 hours. Relying heavily on geo targeted search terms helps make sure the store they find will be yours.

6. Keyword Trends

To better understand keyword trends, think about trending topics on a social media site like Facebook or Twitter. You know how every time a celebrity does something crazy that person’s name tends to appear at the top of the “Trending Topic” results? This is because that person is suddenly getting a lot of attention and more people are talking about them than ever.

Keyword trends are similar, but you have to actively tie them back into your business. Take the keyword research that you’ve already been doing and try to tie certain phrases into a super trendy, hot-button topic. Doing so again helps you target the intersection of people who are interested in your product or service AND people who are interested in whatever pressing issue happens to be making waves that day, week or month.

Managing the data of short-tail and long-tail keywords can be challenging at scale. Use a tool like Linkio to keep your various keywords organized.

7. Leverage Seasonality

Most businesses have “busy seasons” and “slow seasons” – it’s just a way of life. People tend to buy cars during the summer when the weather is nice, whereas they tend to slow down on shopping for an automobile in the winter when they aren’t doing much driving in the first place.

This is a concept that you can absolutely leverage in your keyword research, provided that you go about it in the right way. Think about the periods of the year when your business is truly booming. Use long tail keyword variations to play to what makes those periods unique. If you sell flat screen TVs and the Super Bowl is coming up, you know you’re about to get hit with a rush of customers. Targeting “flat screen TV deals Super Bowl” during this time will give you a better chance at finding people shopping for that particular reason.