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A Concise Guide To Keyword Research

30 December, 2007 (11:35) | Search Engines | By: Nick Dalton

Keywords are the underpinnings of all major search engines. In order to rank well in search engines or to do well with AdWords ads, you need to do keyword research. Knowing which keywords to target is also a prerequisite for using the tools RaSof and rApogee.

Keyword Ideas

First you need to come up with an initial list of keywords that you think are relevant to your web site.

Brainstorm

List all the keywords and phrases that you think your customers would use to find your site. While this is a starting point, most people are too close to their own business to know what words their customers use to describe their products. As a business owner you are prone to using industry jargon and abbreviations along with internal product names and descriptions.

Thesaurus

Use a thesaurus to come up with possible synonyms for your keywords.

Analytics

Look at your web analytics tools to get a list of keywords that visitors actually used to find your site.

Google Webmaster Tools

In Google Webmaster Tools click on Statistics > What Googlebot sees, to get a list of phrases and keywords on your site as Google sees it. This often reveals some eyeopening information.

Competitors

Look at the keywords your competitors are targeting. One easy way to do this is to view the source of their web pages and look at the “meta keywords” tag.
<meta name="keywords" content="internet business,business,internet,copywriting,traffic,product creation,marketing,advertising" />

Things To Avoid

Single Words

Most single words are bad keywords because they are too broad. How can you tell what someone is looking for if all they type in is “internet” or “business”? Even the two word phrase “internet business” is very broad. An exception to this rule could be the names of your product.

Generic Terms

Very generic terms like “iphone” are going to get a lot more search volume than more specific search terms like “iphone ebook“. But visitors who type is a specific term are much more targeted visitors and are therefore more likely to convert to customers. Again there are exceptions. For example you may have a blog with general iPhone information.

Plurals And Stem Variations

At this point in your keyword research focus on the core keywords. Do not worry about listing every possible variation, including plural forms, of every keyword you think of. There are tools that can help you with that later.

Refine Your Keyword List

Search Volume

Use Wordtracker’s Free Keyword Tool and Google’s Keyword Tool to estimate the search volume of the keywords on your list. If too few people are searching using particular keywords then there is not much to be gained from targeting those keywords.

How much is enough search volume? James Brausch once recommended in his 5 Minute Marketing Research process that you should have at least as much search traffic has the keyword “airguns” gets. The exact numbers will of course vary depending on your market, but this is a good starting point.

Competitiveness

If you’re just starting out and you target very competitive keywords you have your work cut out for you. One way to gage the the competitiveness of keywords is to look at the total number of search results, but this is no longer very accurate due to the increasing number of junk web sites. A better way is to look at the number of AdWords ads shown in Google when you search for the keywords.

You can also use rApogee and look at the total scores for the top 10 web sites. If the scores are all above 500 they those pages are probably highly optimized for those keywords.

Long Tail

If you have found generic keywords with a lot of search volume but are highly competitive, then you should think about more specific variations that are applicable to your business. For example instead of “internet business” you may go after “internet business startup advice” or “internet business technical consulting”.

Organize Your Keywords

When you have your list of keywords you need to map them to web pages on your site. If you have a web site that sells a lot of products then that’s pretty straightforward. If you have a blog it’s a little more tricky; you can think of your blog categories as product categories and optimize for different keywords for each category.

Don’t agonize over treating your home page in a special way or consider it more important than all the other pages. Search engines couldn’t care less which page you consider to be your “home page”. Nor do your visitors, they just want the information they’re looking for.

The three major search engines have very different algorithms for on-page ranking factors. That’s the reason RaSof gives you different scores for the same URL depending on the search engine you have selected. As you are organizing keywords and web pages you may also consider creating separate pages to target Google, MSN/Live and Yahoo as it is very unlikely that the same page will have a top ranking in all three.

Continuous Improvements

Keyword research is an ongoing process. You need to constantly refine your list of keywords. Use your web analytics tool to find new keywords that visitors have used to find your web site.

But most important is to trim keywords from your list that do not result in conversions to sales, newsletter sign-ups, etc. Unless you are selling advertising on your web site by page views, more traffic in general is not what you should strive for. What you want is targeted traffic: visitors who stay on your web site, take some action and eventually become your customers.

Resources

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