Firstly, If you are new to the world of SEO & Search Marketing, I’d strongly advice you to read my Newbie Guide to SEO. It has all the basic elements that you may need to get your blog/website to rank in the search engines.
In that article I briefly touched on “finding a niche” and “…using keywords in Title” and someone emailed me last week to ask – “How to Find the Right Keyword(s) for a Blog?“. Well I basically gave her a brief answer already, but as promised I’m covering the whole “Keyword Research” topic in more detail here in the blog. If the post gets too lengthy please bear with me – I promise that by the end of the article you will become a Master of the Basics of Keyword Research & Optimization.
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What is Keyword Research?
In regards to Organic/Natural/Paid Search, Keyword research basically means researching for words that are supposedly going to be used by your customers/readers/visitors to find your website/blog/business/product.
Why Is Keyword Research Important?
Well, If you can know what your customer is looking for, its easy for you to sell them the right product. If a person is looking for a Dish washer but ends up in an online tire store, he is less likely to make a purchase.
So if you are selling tires online you need to know what ‘keywords’ or ‘search terms’ searchers use to search for your product online. For example are they searching for ‘tires’ or ‘wheels’?
- Car Tires <> Automobile Tiers ?
- Snow Tire <> Winter Tire ?
- Bridgestone Tire <> Firestone Tire ?
How would you know? How can you differentiate between all these keywords? How can you tell which one is more “important” or better (in terms of search volume).
Well all these questions can be answered when you will do a proper Keyword Research. Now since my target audience is Bloggers & Small Business owners, I’d like to give an example of how Keyword Research can actually help a blog to become successful. Lets say you have a technology blog and you write about all sorts of technology news, tutorials, how-tos, tips & hacks. You only get about 100 visitors a day and most of them are from your own community of friends. You don’t get any significant amount of traffic from search engines because most of the things that you write about are either “too general or common” (there are thousands, if not millions of pages on the same topic), or you just don’t know what people are interested in the technology arena. You only write about things that ‘you feel’ is important, but not necessarily the whole blogosphere thinks the same.
So after you did some basic keyword research, you noticed that people in your area of expertise/interest are searching for the following – (The amount of searches shown are from Google Alone! The figure will be even bigger if you consider the other engines on the market)
facebook group – 18,000+ searches/mo
Vista Theme for Xp – 33,100+ searches/mo
best free antivirus – 22,200+ searches/mo
backup iphone – 22,000+ searches/mo
And all these search phrases has “minimal” amount of competition in Paid + Organic search. (I’ll write about how to determine competition later in the article).
Now with the above data you created few ‘top-notch’ blog posts (I just made up some example titles)-
Target Keyword: “Facebook Group”
- How to Join a Facebook Group?
- How to Create a Facebook Group?
- How to Make a Facebook Group Popular?
Target Keyword: “Vista Theme for Xp”
- Top 20 Windows Vista Theme For Xp
- Beautiful Windows Vista Theme for Windows XP
- Collection of Windows Vista Theme for XP
Target Keyword: “Best Free Antivirus”
- Best Free Antivirus for Windows Vista
- Best Free Antivirus for Windows Xp
- The world’s Best Free Antivirus Review
Target Keyword: “backup iphone”
- How to Backup My Iphone?
- How to Backup your Iphone using Itunes?
- How to Backup Iphone Data?
- Iphone Backup Tutorial
- Free Iphone Backup Software
After writing the posts, you promoted them among your community and also via the social media and soon after they got indexed by google and some other major search engines, you got some decent ranking for some of those terms. As a result you to get an additional 10-20 thousand visitors / per month from the search engines. So from only an average of 100 visitors per day, you straight away jumped to 600 visitors per day! Now just think what you can accomplish, if you are always doing keyword research when thinking about writing your next blog post.
How to do Keyword Research?
Now that I have convinced you (I hope~) that keyword research is very important, let me go straight to the steps that you need to perform in order to do some basic keyword research.
Step 1: Brainstorm for Keyword Ideas & Topics
As easy and lame it may sound, the best keyword ideas can actually come from your own brain. Because you are a human being and you would certainly know it better how another human thinks. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a searcher and “THINK”, what type of queries he may use to search for ‘things’ that are under your hood. Give attention to things that you yourself search for. If it takes you little bit of ‘extra’ time than usual to find what you are looking for then – Wala! You got yourself a keyword that is probably not very saturated. Some other ways of generating keyword ideas may include:
- Looking at other blogs on your niche and tracking what they are writing about. An easy way to do this would be to search for “your-niche” + blog in google and see who are ranking in the top 30. E.g. If you write about gardening, you can search for gardening blog in google. Some other nice keywords to find gardening related blogs would be to search for: gardening blog directory, blogs about gardening etc. You can also search for “gardening” in the major blog directories like: BlogCatalog, MyBlogLog, BOTW, Yahoo Directory
A search for “gardening blog” returns over 631,000+ results
- Look at the respective categories in some of the big social media and bookmarking sites to find out what is popular and what is liked by the readers. Some big social media & bookmarking sites includes: Stumbleupon, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Mixx, Digg, Yahoo Buzz, Propeller etc.
- Go to the relevant category of some of the popular news providers and see what the media is talking about. For example if you are have a Technology Blog, you can check out the following: e.g. Google News, Yahoo News, BBC News, MSN Tech, CNN Tech, CNET, NY Times Technology, BusinessWeek, Wired, Forbes etc.
- Look at the trends of a given topic/keyword in a trend engine like – Google Insights. Input your term, choose a time frame of last 90 days and click on search and it will show you how popular the keyword is and most important it will also give you some related keywords at the bottom left and some raising searches at the bottom right. For instance a search for “Vista Themes” shows me a nice list of some other related keywords that have good amount of searches:
- Use a Keyword Research Tool like: Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Wordtracker or SEObook Keyword Suggestion Tool. Enter a general keyword and the system will automatically suggest you a lot of additional keyword along with the number of searches it receives every month. For instances, I searched for “mountain bike” in Google’s keyword tool and this is what I get:
Step 2: Record Your Findings
So after going through all the various sources mentioned above, you must have gotten a hand full of keywords that you want you to optimize your site for. But before even going into that, you should save everything that you found in a spreadsheet.The advantages of using a spreadsheet for keyword research is just too many, but for now all you need to know that its easier to export yours keywords from a spreadsheet to external applications for further analysis and because of their structured tabular nature, its very easy to read keyword data from a spreadsheet rather than any other typical application. Microsoft Excel is a popular choice of desktop spreadsheet application. But my personal favourite is Google Docs and Spreadsheets. You can also use Zoho Sheet which is very identical to MS Excel.
I have created a simple keyword research spreadsheet that you can look into and follow accordingly. Don’t worry about those additional columns (Searches, Competition), I’ll explain them later in the article.
Step 3: Refine your Keyword List
Now that you have a list of keywords on your niche, you can further analyze them and bring out the cream. So the main objective of this step is to figure out which keywords are most relevant for your blog and which are likely to bring you traffic/conversion and which keywords would be easier to rank for. So this part will involve competitor analysis, checking for pay-per-click ads etc.
- Check for competition of each of your keyword in Google. If a term is very competitive, it would be useless to optimize your new site/blog for that keyword because its likely to be very hard to rank well for the term. So how do you check competition? Its very simple, Just go to google.com and type in your keyword in “quotes” and look at the number of results it returns. Even though there is no magic number, but from my experience (and only from my experience) — IF the number of results returned is less than 75,000+, its a keyword that you can easily target with a brand new website/blog. But of course If you already have a reputable site with moderately high PageRank and good backlinks, you can even target a keyword that has over 500,000+ competition. So lets check for the competition of a dummy keyword – Mountain Bike Gear.
According the Google, the keyword – Mountain Bike Gear has about 25,000+ competition thus it would be a relatively easy keyword to rank for. Now how do we determine whether its a profitable keyword? Simply check the number of ads running on the right hand side of Google search when you search for “mountain bike gear”. It seems like a lot of advertisers are actually paying money to show up their advertisement for this keyword so very likely its a profitable one. But to get more accurate information, cross reference this with the result you get from Google’s Keyword Tool. If the keyword shows a lot of searches then definitely its a keyword that is worth ranking for.
- Complete your keyword research spreadsheet that you created in Step 2. Fill in the necessary columns like – searches, competition (organic) & competition (paid). You can always scrap out the keywords that are either too competitive or has very less amount of searches. All keep this list up-to-date and check your rankings for these terms on a regular basis.
Step 4: Keyword Optimization
So now that you have a list of solid keywords that you can easily rank for, you need to complete this final step which is – Keyword optimization. Now how can you optimize your website/blog with the keywords that you just discovered?
- Firstly, you need to determine your approach. If you are doing this keyword research just to figure out what to write for your “next blog post” then apply the following:
- Make sure your Post Title contains the keyword or Phrase. The shorter the title the better
- Try to mention the keyword at least once within the opening of your article (first paragraph)
- Don’t stuff your article with the keyword(s) – instead use synonyms and other keyword variations (e.g. PS3 / Play Station 3/ Sony PS3 / Sony Play Station 3 – All refers to the same thing)
- If you add a relevant picture, make sure the picture “title” and “alt” tags have your keyword.
- Add unique Meta Description for your Posts. Include a short keyword rich opening of your article within 160 char or less.
- If the sole purpose of this Keyword Research was to find a niche for your new online business or blog then do all of the above and in addition do the following:
- Make sure your site’s title has your main keywords. Don’t stuff too many keywords!
- Write a unique keyword rich meta description for your site
- Add a lot of relevant categories on your site that can target each of your main keywords individually. Make sure all the category pages has it’s keyword title properly written
- Start adding unique and useful content that are keyword optimized in all those respective categories
You have Now Mastered the Basics of Keyword Research & Optimization!
Yes finally, we have come to an end. I know this post has been really very long and I actually wanted to break the whole post in smaller parts. But I realized for any newcomer to the SEO world, it would be better if I put up everything in one place for easy referencing.
This is by no means a complete keyword research guide, but I believe this tutorial teaches you all the basics that you need to learn to start Keyword Research & Optimization. There are lots of advanced stuffs that I plan to release later this month.
If you have any questions, dobuts or feedback, I’d appreciate if you shoot them in comments. If you want more help in keyword research & optimization, you can always email me at – me[at]saadkamal.com.
Good Luck with your Keyword Research!