August 13th, 2012
So now that you know what the post is going to be all about, let me outline the main points which will be covered in it:
- Main ideas to keep in mind while doing keyword research
- Which tools should you use for keyword research
- What do competitors do?
- What to check rankings with?
- Exclude illusionary queries.
First off, what is a keyword… Well, it’s a word or a combination of words that you want to rank high in Google for. Once you’re sure that you want to start a new site, you need to do your keyword research. While doing that, you need to check the following aspects:
- amount of traffic for your target keyword (not for the long tail);
- relevance to your selected topic (you need the keywords that have something to do with your site’s main topic);
- if the query is commercial (or the searchers just want some free stuff which you don’t need to target at all);
- level of competition for a specific keyword (moderate competition is the best fit for most cases).
Now, as for the tools you want to use for those endeavors:
- Google Keyword Tool – for checking rankings;
- Ahrefs.com, SEOQuake and SemRush.com – for competitive analysis;
- Google Trends and Google Insights – for checking trafficked keywords.
Though you need to select a keyword or a few (2-3 max) that you are going to target on your main pages, you still need to remember about the long tail which is capable to generate most traffic for your site.
Keyword Research Step-by-Step
You need to adhere to the following routine while doing keyword research:
1. decide what pages you want to promote (read on to learn how);
2. come up with an approximate list of your keywords;
3. check your keywords’ query frequency;
4. get rid of non-commercial queries;
5. competitive analysis.
Now let’s dwell on each of the aspects and see how exactly you can do that. So, we need to figure out what pages to promote. You can use the following Google operator to track down which exact page is best for your keyword: site:site.com “your query”. Just replace “site.com” with your actual site URL and “your query” with the value of your actual query (search phrase) and paste it into Google. It’ll show which exact page of your site is potentially best for that keyword. In case you need more keywords to promote for, you can use your common sense to come up with a bunch of ideas. That done, you need to see whether your keywords are actually worth it (and if your common sense is OK ).
I mean if people actually search with the help of those keywords. Like I mentioned above, you can use Google Keyword Tool for that purpose. It works just fine for that. Plus it is free.
Chances are that while checking your keywords for frequency GKT (Google Keyword Tool) will give you a few keyword ideas that you have not even thought about. And that’s one of the magic tricks that tool has.
If you want to sell some products or services on your site – and it is usually the case – you need to be sure that you exclude so-called noncommercial queries (or keywords). For instance, if you sell movies online, you don’t need to optimize your site for the “free online movies” keyphrase because the people who search with that query are not your target audience for sure. You see the pattern? In order to remove noncommercial queries, you need to:
- exclude the queries with the “free” keyword in them;
- use Google Trends and Google Insights (they help to see if the queries originate from “rich” countries);
- check if somebody buys ads for that keyword.
Remove illusionary queries
These are the queries that have lots of searches but just few clicks. In order to see if the keyword is worth fighting for it, you can run a test AdWords campaign. You can invest some money into it, but having tested for a week or so you’ll be able to clearly see if you’re on the right track with your selected keywords. I mean if the campaign gives a whole lot of traffic, you’re good to go. Another way to check illusionary queries is to see if there’s middle-class in a list of queries in that niche. If it’s not the case, most likely you landed in the Illusionland.
You need to investigate that aspect in order to find out who are your competitors, what keywords they try to rank for and borrow some of their target keywords to your keyword list. You may want to use the following tools for that activity:
- the SEOQuake Firefox extension (competitive analysis);
- SemRush.com – to see the keywords your competitors (their sites) are optimized for;
- SEOSpyGlass.com, Ahrefs.com and OpenSiteExplorer.org – to see keyword anchors;
Why would you do a competitive research?
If you are not exactly sure why you need to analyze your rivals’ sites, let me break it down for you. Firstly they use the correct keywords (so you can just borrow them from the HTML on their pages from meta tags such as meta keywords, meta description, and keywords) or just use some services that allow to download the keywords of your competitors, Secondly, if you know who your competitors are, it’ll be way easier to assess how hard ranking high for a specific keyword will be.
Portrait of a strong competitor
This is just a ball-part list but it makes sense to keep those parameters in most cases:
1. ranking high for “cool” keywords;
2. high PR;
3. low Alexa Rank value;
4. 5-7 year old domain or more;
5. a considerable amount of incoming links;
6. lots of pages indexed by Google.
By the way, you can use Rank Checker from SEOBook or Rank Tracker from Link Assitant to see what your competitor’s PR is.
These are the basic methods and tools that you need to use for your keyword research. As a rule of thumb, make sure to use a few methods at the same time just so that you’re on the safe side. Plus you need to always keep track of Google algo updates because chances are that your competitors will react to that as well. And you do need to understand their behavior as much as possible.
About the author: Kenneth von Rauch is an avid and enthusiastic web design and web development self-made person. One of his prominent pages is the how to make a website one.