Whatever you may have thought of niche research, you absolutely cannot skip keyword research. This is the process that can make or break an SEO campaign. It will ultimately decide what you are capable of competing for when it comes to getting your name and your business name out there on the Internet.
And a little basic keyword research is not going to get the job done. You need to be thorough. These keywords are going to cost you money some day and are going to be an important part of everything you do from now on. So they need to be accurate and effective in matching your niche and your content.
In this article, I spend time discussing exactly how to dive deep into the world of keyword research with a number of free tools available on the Internet and basic research methods that will integrate well with niche research.
What Are Keywords?
The first thing you should know – what exactly is a keyword? Keywords are exactly as they sound. They are words or phrases that search engines recognise as unique queries entered by their users. Saying just “keyword” though is a bit misleading. Almost none of the marketing you will do involves a single word in that format. Rather, you will use the tools I’m about to show you to create keyword phrases, or a collection of words. After all, when you’re trying to find something on the Internet, do you type just one word? Or do you type a whole set of words?
For example, if someone were to type in “hotdog” on Google, they would get a whole number of different results, probably telling them what a hotdog is, and listing a number of companies that sell hotdogs. On the other hand, if you were to type in “how to cook hotdogs”, you will find a great deal of much more specific pages that actually show you how to cook a hotdog.
This is the crux of keyword research – finding the phrases and wording that your users would use when they search for your products or services. Not only are there millions of pages that will rank for a single keyword like “hotdog”, but those pages are all very general. People who search for that single word may be looking for anything. You could waste a great deal of effort targeting the word.
However, with keyword phrases, you could target more specifically people who are seeking out exactly what you offer. If you were selling hot dog cooking lessons, the longer phrase we just discussed would be a vital keyword for you to target whereas hotdog alone would not.
Of course, there is another trade off to using longer keyword phrases. Not only do you target your audience more specifically, but you still get to use that single keyword. Of course, you’ll never rank for “hotdog” alone.
But, by using it over and over again in your text for longer keywords, you will integrate it in a number of ways throughout your page. This will benefit you in multiple ways that you’ll find in the rest of the book, such as for your quality score in Google Ads or for your article marketing.
Because of this effect, we do keyword research in a reverse pyramid of sorts, starting with one or two words and then finding as many keyword phrases that contain those words as possible and that market to the direct audience. By combining the two, you will be able to create lists of extended keywords you can use for multiple marketing tactics.
The first stop in keyword testing and research is to develop a list of basic keywords. Again, these are not words you will be using for your marketing campaign. Rather, these are the roots words that your phrase will be based off.
You should have a good idea of what sorts of words go with your product and website. While it is impossible to give you a general overview of every niche on the Internet, let’s take a look at a sample site, in a niche slightly more exciting than hotdogs.
William has a website devoted to selling MP3 Players and MP3 Player accessories. He sells iPods, but also a number of other products. So, it’s important that he use a wider array of keywords than just “iPod”. Upon doing some research into his niche, he finds that there are 5 different manufacturers he wants to promote through his site. He also finds that there are approximately 10 different types of accessories that he’d like to include as sections on that site. So, as a result, he creates a basic keyword list that looks like this:
MP3 Player Accessories
These lists are very basic starter lists for each of the different MP3 Players and then the different accessories that William will be selling. He cannot, therefore go out and start marketing his site with the keyword “adapters” or “iPod”. Not only are they much too broad, the competition is incredibly fierce.
But, even though his list is basic and will not necessarily allow him to start marketing just yet; William has a very good starting set of keywords that will allow him to create longer, more in depth keywords. By adding additional words or combining these basic keywords, William can start targeting very specific customers to his site. For a page selling iPod Car Adapters, he could use keywords like:
“iPod Car Adapter Set”
“iPod Car Accessories”
“iPod for the car”
And so on. The list of possibilities are endless, which can be a bit daunting, but that’s where the next section and the research tools I’ll show you come in handy.
Before we start on that research though, you should sit down and create a complete list of basic keywords for your site. Don’t worry about being complete – you may find dozens more when you start doing your research. However, by having a good list in hand to get started, you can save some time in your research efforts. Here are some ideas of what to write down:
Products you sell
Services you offer
Awards you have received
Certifications you hold
Popular models and accessories in your niche
Make sure to categorise those keywords as well, like William did above. That allowed him to keep the MP3 player brands separate from the accessories. You’ll find that by having separate lists of basic keywords, it can be easier to mix and match them later on to create longer, more specific phrases to target for your content. Additionally, it will give you a baseline for your website’s overall SEO efforts, such as the keywords you use on your homepage and for the main product or service pages.
Now that you have a good deal of basic keywords in hand to work with, it’s time to start creating longtail keywords – those phrases that people actually search for. The key here is to find phrases and words that match up with what people search for when they’re actively interested in purchasing what you’re selling.
It sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised by the number of traps you can encounter when trying to get just the right keywords. So, to help you out, I’ve created a list of questions you should ask about your keywords as you research them, to make it easier to determine which are going to work and which may not:
Would someone ask this question?
Why would they ask this question?
How many other sites answer this question?
Are they ready to make a purchase?
Can this phrase be misconstrued somehow?
Basically, what you’re doing here is finding out what frame of mind your visitors are in if they use these words. Ideally, they should be ready to purchase something. A trap that many people fall into, especially with digital products and services, is that their visitors are seeking something related but free.
For example, if your company creates templates for websites, it might be tempting to optimise for a keyword like “website template”. However, you need to make sure you specialise that keyword a bit. Because, if you ask yourself the above questions you’ll find that many people are just looking for a quick, free template.
More often than not, people who are willing to pay for website design will use a different approach. You’ll find this soon when we do our research. In this case though, they might search for “premium website templates” or “quality web design”. Things like that will ultimately have a much greater impact on your traffic than a generic term that could easily have the word “free” or “download” added to it.
Keyword Research Tools
Now that you have a clear idea of what you need for your keyword lists, it’s time to figure out how to get those lists. This is where research tools are going to come in handy. Rather than just focusing on the ways to “guess” keywords, we’re going to look directly at how to find keywords that are highly searched, not overly competitive, and match up to the criteria we’ve already discussed.
The first research tool you should use is your competition. Look at your competition to get ideas about your niche with tools like Quantcast and SpyFu. However, now you’re going to dig a little deeper and do some keyword research on those pages to see how they are marketing their content.
Start by searching for the websites that you want to research. Do a quick read through of their content and see which words and phrases they use. Now, to dig a little deeper, you’re going to need the tools we are about to get into. These tools will all have a website analyser option that allows you to enter the URL of a site and then go through it to see which keywords are used most often.
You’ll find, when you do this, a listing of which keywords are used and how many times they are used on that page. Take notes of these numbers for now, just so you have a general idea of what your competition is doing. It will allow you to more easily adjust your own strategies, either to compete directly with them, or to shift your phrases a bit and target different keywords.
Google Ads Keyword Planner Tool
This tool is free and integrated into the Ads interface, all you need to do is visit: https://ads.google.com/aw/keywordplanner/home
This tool is not nearly as powerful or as accurate as some other tools, but it is free and if you’re just getting started, it can give you a rough idea of what keywords you’re dealing with. So, it’s moderately useful for a lot of users, despite its lack of advanced features.
Google will now provide you with a list of keywords related to your terms. These phrases are all common search terms that appear in advertising campaigns and websites with your original phrases. The majority of the phrases you will see are terms that are highly competitive and have high search volume.
For example, when you use the list of basic brand names that William wrote up earlier in this chapter, the first response is “mp3 player” with its very high advertising competition and 16.6 million monthly searches.
These numbers are again just rough estimates by Google based on their advertising data, but they are good for getting a general feel for how popular the phrases are. In this case, you can see you’re in a very competitive market that will probably take you quite a while to rank well for, especially if people are willing to spend large volumes of money to advertise instead of doing organic SEO.
Search through the list that appears when you do this search and choose any keywords that are related to content you want to sell. This might include product names, related longtails like “mp3 player comparison” or unrelated searches that work like “digital media players”.
Additionally, below that first search you’ll find a collection of “additional keywords to consider”. These keywords are related options that are very similar to the ones you entered in your search box that Google thinks you should consider.
To save keywords from these lists, just click on the “add” button located to the right of each keyword. It will create a list of those words on the far right side of the page. When you are done selecting keywords, you export that list of keywords to a TXT file for later use. Alternately, if you have an Ads account, you can add them directly to your advertising campaign without having to do anything else.
This tool pretty much does the same thing as Google Ads but uses a much more sophisticated database and provides much more direct matches and suggestions for your keywords.
The thing about WordTracker is that it costs money. However, if you’re only doing your research once and need a simple tool to get started with, you can sign up for a free trial that will allow full access to the software without having to pay for it.
Enter your keywords into the interface and start searching to gather recommendations for further words and phrases. You can add words to a cart that will allow you to compare them later and to get more suggestions based on those words you saved.
Keyword Discovery is yet another paid research tool, but this one offers even more features than WordTracker. You will find that Keyword Discovery tends to keep a clutter free database of keywords. It’s not perfect of course – none of these tools are and none of them can be – but it is a very clean interface and relatively easy to use.
To use Keyword Discovery, do the same thing we did before with WordTracker. You will not get the same form of suggestions, but you will get more data options than you did before.
Premium Versions of Keyword Tools
If you decide to upgrade your subscriptions to paid software you will also get a much more detailed suite of tools, including the following:
Spelling Mistake Research
Keyword Density Analysis
The last tool I want to share with you for keyword research is SpyFu. Until 2009, SpyFu was a free, relatively simple site that provided numerical data for Google Ads listings. Basically, when you typed in a keyword, it would tell you how many people had ads for that keyword, how much they were paying for their clicks, how many clicks a day were being made, and show you a listing of the ads.
Again, like the other tools, it was never 100% accurate, but it gave a vital snapshot of what you would be dealing with if you tried to pay for advertising with Google – something Google was never able to do (and still doesn’t).
What SpyFu Does Well
However, that’s not to say that SpyFu doesn’t pull its weight relatively well when you’re looking into your competition. Many people write off Ads data, saying it doesn’t have a tremendous impact on how you run your SEO campaigns. But, I beg to differ.
First off, you can usually tell right away how competitive your niche is by the number of ads listing for certain keywords. Think of it this way; if you were trying to compete for the keyword “MP3 player”, would you pay £5 per click when it was easy to get listed in the search engines organically? I don’t think so.
So, if you search for your longtail keywords and find that they are all very expensive and competitive, you can bet that it’s because the organic SEO is tough as nails to rank for. That may not deter you from trying, but it tells you that you’ll need to do a heck of a lot more work than you originally banked for yourself to get listed for those vital keywords.
On the other side of things, if you search for a keyword that has decent search volume according to Word Tracker or Keyword Discovery and find that the average cost per click for an Ads ad is only £0.50/word, you may have a good opportunity there to run a PPC advertising campaign without having to break the bank doing it.
I recommend running a SpyFu search for all of your basic keywords and your main longtails whenever you do a new keyword research campaign. It will help you get a much better idea of the market.
Implementing Your Organised Keyword Strategy
If you don’t have a good strategy in mind before using them, the keyword research tools listed are only going to give you a massive, overwhelming list of keywords that are hard to integrate into a real time campaign. That’s not very useful. You can’t go into a new website with 250 keywords and no idea how you will use them. So, here are some tips to help you slowly pare down your lists and start creating a keyword strategy for your site.
PPC vs. SEO
The first thing to do is to create two separate lists for PPC and SEO. It’s important that you keep in mind the difference between these two. For PPC, the more longtail keywords you have the better. The better targeted they are, the better. These keywords will help you reach as wide of a targeted audience as possible and get more click throughs.
You might want to consider Bings Ads v Google Ads and compare the two options for PPC.
But, for SEO, you need a different strategy. You need to create a list with hierarchies depending on the size of your site and how you plan on using your keywords.
To start with, keep that initial list of basic keywords handy. You’re going to use those as a basis for SEO work you do on your pages. Second, narrow down your list of longtails. You should have no more than 2 or 3 good longtail keywords with a few different variants per page on your website. If you try to do more than that, it can be hard to keep track of what you’re doing with those keywords.
Now, create a longer list of longtail keywords for each of your pages that you will use for outside SEO. This includes the article marketing, blogging, and other tools we’re going to use throughout the rest of this book to target more areas of your niche. We’ll get into more on how this works later in the guide, but for now, just make sure you have a list that looks something like this:
Root (Basic) Keywords
Main Longtails for Each Page
SEO Target Keywords for Each Page
You may not use all these words, and you may end up cutting some out on purpose as you do more research, but for now it’s good to have a solid, well organised list that you can use a basis when you move forward. It will come in especially handy if you start outsourcing your content creation and website design.
Keeping Up with Keyword Research
Digital Marketing is a very dynamic place full of constant changes and adjustments. If you’re serious about your SEO, you’ll continue doing keyword research regularly, seeing what changes occur, what new aspects of your niche become prevalent and what your prospects are searching for on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Some niches may never change, but many others – including anything related to technology – will shift constantly and require you to keep making new keyword lists and adjusting your SEO strategies in real time.
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