11.20.08 —How to Begin Keyword Research
Author Charlie Hearns
What is a keyword?
It's anything people type into a search engine. It could be made up of one word or several keyword phrases joined together. Every person uses their own method of searching, and that makes anticipating those keywords that will connect their websites with the right visitors very difficult. Keyword research starts with the understanding that finding lots of related keywords that deliver targeted traffic is the ultimate goal of any keyword research.
Sending thousands of visitors to a site who have no interest in your product, let alone in buying it, is just wasted effort and doesn't do any good for your business. If possible, we want to find the customer who has a clear knowledge of what they want and is close to buying something soon.
We would ideally want a few visitors who are seriously looking to buy in the near future. In order to achieve this, we want to find the least competitive keywords with the highest number of searches that are the most relevant to our website.
If you are just starting out, it definitely would be to your advantage to target lower competition terms. Having success with low competition terms will lead to increased confidence to target more competitive terms with higher search volumes.
Thinking like your customers
Thinking like your customers is easier said than done.
All merchants are guilty of thinking in terms of features and specs of the products and not thinking in terms of benefits it can provide to the customers.
You know your business and market too well. The industry jargons and slang are in your every day language. No wonder when you start your keyword research you have a very narrow keyword focus. You become your own worst enemy in exploring other ideas.
Here is an example: what is the most popular search term, "cheap flights," "cheap seats," "low fares" or "discount fares"?
As you can see it's not that simple to pick the best keywords, is it?
The hardest part of keyword research is to keep an open mind about all possible search methods people might use to look for the same thing. Keyword research is part science, part intuition, and imagination. Since we can't get into the heads of every possible potential visitor to your site who may be interested in your products or services, we have to rely on keyword research tools to tell us what people actually search for and how often.
There are a handful of very powerful keyword research tools that are worth using, but the amount of information you can mine from them is mind boggling.
Another great resource for proven keywords is to look at your competitor's website. We are talking about finding the highest ranking competitors on the search engines using your target keywords. Once you find the top 5-10 competitor sites, perform a quick review of their keywords on the web pages.
This can be a lengthy and slow process, but luckily there are free Keyword Analyzer tools that can dig up keywords from your competitor's sites in a snap. We'll cover in detail how the Keyword Analyzer can be used to add hundreds of keywords to your keyword research project.
Keyword research is like a job interview process
In order to find the right candidate you may need to interview hundreds of applicants to find the perfect fit for the job. Well, the keyword research process is very similar; you have to cast a widenet first to capture all the possible combinations of keywords known to man. Even then, it's almost guaranteed you will discover new keywords you have missed in the original research only a few weeks earlier. What this tells us is the keyword selection and refinement process never ends, or at least it should not end until you are happy with the number of visitors you are receiving to your site.
Where and how to look for keywords
In order to find the best keywords for our website we need to gather information from a variety of resources. Some of these resources may include:
Brainstorming: Getting your brain to go on a magic carpet ride is one of the best ways to find relevant keywords for your website. Don't just settle for asking the obvious question, what does my website sell? Ask questions such as: "What is this product made up of?" or "Who is using my services?" or "What problems do my products solve?"
Finding the main and secondary keyword phrases should take less than a month for even 2 or 3 websites. This does not mean your keyword research has ended forever, but finding the 4-5 word long secondary key phrases can be done with the free keyword research tools if your budget is tight.
Free keyword research tools: You can gain access to the powerful and free Google external keyword tool to expand your keyword list. Unfortunately the Google external keyword tool only gives a search volume indicator instead of the actual search numbers. Another very valuable feature in Google external keyword tool is the "Site-Related Keywords" finder. By simply entering the website URL of your competitors, you can find out in seconds which keywords they target on their web pages.
Another free keyword research tool available without creating an account is the Overture keyword inventory . As of now, August 2007, this tool only shows the January 2007 search volumes as it's being phased out, but Yahoo! is promising a replacement. If you have a Yahoo! Search Marketing account you can still gain access to their keyword tool albeit without the search volume numbers.
Related search terms suggestion tools: One of the fastest ways you can find hundreds of related keywords is to use online lexical or thesaurus tools.
Creating a large initial keyword list that includes a large number of synonyms and acronyms is essential to effective keyword research. Discovering related phrases that are not simply stemming from the original keyword term is a cornerstone of semantic latent indexing . Semantic indexing can be described as the grouping of related documents based on not only direct relationship between words, but the meaning of the words as well.
Some of the search engines provide a related search command list in their search results. Try Clusty by entering a search command and take a look at the "clusters" side bar. You can get dozens of ideas from the keyword clusters by playing with different combination of keywords. You can also visit Technorati a well known blog aggregator and social media tagging site to help unlocked your brain and generate new keywords. Enter a search term and observe the "Related tags" section directly under the search results.
Visitor statistic reports: These can be generated from web server log files or from script based visitor statistic programs. This can help you uncover new keywords for your website by discovering what the visitors are typing into the search engines to find your websites. In some cases, you'll find keywords you didn't expect to come up for in the search results. You should further research those keywords and uncover new keyword niches.
Site search engines: This can be a great source of new keywords and a potential data mining source. As well as further analysis of the average number of keywords, keyword length and other important keyword metrics.
Top ranking competitors: These websites are already well optimized and contain keyword rich web pages. Why not leverage their efforts and harvest the best keywords for your own website? With the help of the SEO Studio keyword analyzer you can extract hundreds of keywords from their META keywords and HTML page content in seconds.
A few examples of good keyword selection practices
Selecting the best keyword takes experience and a little know how, but it's always helpful to see how the pros do it, so here are a few basic steps for keyword selection.
Using your favorite keyword research tool Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery or the Keywords Analyzer, type in the main keyword phrase. Start with the broadest possible search terms, this way there is less chance of missing keywords that might otherwise be overlooked.
Look for 2-4 word key phrases that have at least a daily search volume of 200 or more. Since the top 3 sites will receive 60 of all searches, it follows you can expect at least 120 or more unique visitors for those keywords phrases. In some cases, you may want to lower the minimum search volume threshold to as low as 50 if the search term is well targeted for your business.
At this point you should have at least 20-30 really good secondary keywords in your basket.
Hopefully most of the keywords you have selected will have little competition. Some of the keyword tools we have recommended will also tell you the amount of competition for each keyword, but you can also verify these numbers manually by typing the search terms into the search engines with quotes.
It's very important that you use quotes around the keywords to let the engines know you are looking for an exact match. The rule of thumb we use to assess keyword competitiveness is around "100,000" websites. Anything above a hundred thousand results is fairly competitive and requires a fair amount of optimization and link building.
Originally published in the November 20, 2008 Entireweb Newsletter.