So many people go wrong when it comes to keyword research. I find all too often people struggle to get keyword research right. They try to rank for keywords that don’t bring traffic or they are so competitive they will really struggle to ever compete with the big players.
The first problem I want to cover is aiming for keywords which are far too competitive to ever seriously rank your website for. The sites you are going up against have a lot of domain authority generated from years of high quality links pointing to them.
The second issue is you want to rank for keywords that will send you traffic, and if you rely solely on the Google Keyword tool you soon realise it can lead you to false expectations. The main flaw with the Google keyword tool is you can’t always find long tail keywords with traffic. Earlier this year SEOmoz wrote an article on the “hidden data” in Google’s adword Keyword Tool.
As you can see below Rand highlighted a number of search terms that were bringing the site hundreds of visitors every month to the site but were not suggested by Google when you research the keyword phrase “Blog Traffic”.
From the table above it is evident that Google is not showing any data for keywords that are bringing in 800+ visitors every month to the SEOmoz blog.
What types of Keywords do you want to aim for?
When you are starting out on your keyword research journey you really want to understand your business and the market you are operating in. In other words you want to find out what “weight class” you are positioning your website in.
If you think about this in a common sense way, when you are starting out you want to target the “easy keywords” that you can rank well for quickly and easily. It’s better to start small, fight in your weight class, develop the content you need to target them and over time you will begin to learn what it takes to rank for the harder and more competitive keywords.
You need traffic to serve the purpose that you need. Early in my career I made the mistake of simply chasing keywords that would just send me traffic. What I should have being doing was focus the following key areas:
- Keywords that bring in buyers who will spend money with you
- Create keyword targeted content that will bring traffic where people are looking for free information or news and ultimately these people may sign up to your RSS Feed or email list
- You want to target a piece of content that’s a little more fun or entertaining and even though this may not be appealing to your target market. The great thing here is that people will seed your content on social media because they enjoyed it even if they don’t believe in the product or service you are promoting
As I highlighted above the best keywords are the one’s which get people who are going to spend money to your site. Often people will suggest you target a particular brand name but all too often these types of keywords are more difficult to rank for as Google often will return large ecommerce providers such as Amazon or the main brand website for these terms.
I find the best way to do this is to help buyers to answer the pre buyer questions they might have. These are people who already know that they want to buy a product i.e. TV, Laptop but are not sure which is best for their needs & budget. So by targeting phrases such as “Product A review” or “Product A vs. Product B” you can often rank for these keywords quite easily with good on page SEO and little need for additional link building to the new pages you create.
Beware of the Panda
But you don’t want to just create one page for every keyword you aim for… Amit Singhal gave us a list of questions to ask ourselves about the types of sites that the Google Panda Update was designed to target.
The question I feel has the most impact for keyword research and site architecture is:
“Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?”
This is very interesting, and what you need to be careful of here is if your web pages target keywords that are very similar, e.g. “How to get blog traffic” and “How to Increase Blog Traffic” then you might be in trouble with the big G. If you do want to target more than one keyword, you are better to target them on the same page, by structuring your content in a way that allows for these different keywords to be covered.
If you follow these tips then you will be choosing the right “weight class” of keywords to target and start to see organic traffic increase over time.
One of the most common tools that people use when carrying out keyword research for their website or blog is the free keyword tool provided by Google. In no way is this blog post meant to act as a fully comprehensive account of all the features and uses for the keyword tool but hopefully there will be a few useful hints and tips you didn’t know about that could improve the way you perform keyword research for pay per click or SEO campaigns.
The first thing you want to do is make sure that you are signed in to Google. The 2 reasons that you want to do this that instead of returning just 100 keyword ideas you can get access to 800. The second reason that you want to make sure you are signed in to the Google Keyword tool is that you have access to so many more features such as Local search trends, Approximate CPC (Cost per Click) and Google search network which shows the number of user searches for the keyword on the Google Search Network per month, based on an approximate 12-month average. This statistic is specific to your targeted country and language, and is only available for exact match type.
Extracting Google Keyword Tool Data
In the below example I have searched for data on the keyword term Protein Shakes (after all everyone is trying to get in shape in January). I have selected the Exact Match types (this is best practice when performing keyword research) & I am using the UK and English for my location and language settings.
As you can see because I am logged in I have the column Local Search Trends available. It produces some nice little green data bars.
Some of the information presented by the Google keyword tool is not very useful in the format in which it is presented within and I find it is better to download the results into a spreadsheet so that you can work with them. Simply select download as CSV for Excel and open the results.
From the results I have downloaded you can now see the searches per month for the keywords we are researching, this allows us to see where there are seasonal fluctuations in search volumes and also to determine if there is a rising or declining trend for a product we are optimising our sites for.
As you can clearly see there is a significant drop in search traffic in August this common across most niches in the UK simply because it is a popular time for us Brits to bring our unique culture to our European neighbours.
Use High Ranking Sites for Keyword Ideas
A pretty cool feature you can use is the find keywords by website feature, this allows you to insert a URL and get keyword ideas for content that is not already featured on that web page. The top ranking website in the UK is proteinshakes.org.uk (who says exact match domains are dead, eh?) I have simply copy and pasted the homepage url into the Google keyword research tool and it has returned lots of results that Google feels this page is relevant for.
By sorting the results by competition we can find some highly competitive keywords with good traffic that with a little on-page optimisation and a few relevant links this page could rank well for too. In the example below Protein Supplements and Protein Shakes for Weight loss have some great search volumes and as they have a high competition it means that these keywords have a high commercial value attached to them that will probably have a good conversion rate too.
On the left hand side of the Google keyword tool are two boxes Include terms and Exclude terms. These do exactly what they say on the tin and allow you to remove keywords that are not relevant to your site’s content.
This a feature that I see many experienced internet marketers ignoring when performing keyword research for their clients especially if the client has advised they don’t offer a particular product or service.
Finding Mobile Browser Search Traffic
With the bumper growth of mobile search and the recent news story just a few days ago on the BBC that mobile devices saw 1.2 billion app downloads in a week. It is very important that you also check mobile search data as part of your keyword research. I’d say the number 1 thing you need to invest your web design budget on this year is a mobile friendly website.
You may have spotted where to change the device data in a previous screenshot (bonus points if you did) if not here it is.
The drop down box “Show Ideas and Statistics for” in advanced settings allows you to easily change the type of device your potential site visitors are using. This is very useful for businesses in the Food and Entertainment industry where mobile traffic is growing rapidly.
Finally, don’t expect that the data in the Google keyword tool is highly accurate; the search volumes are estimates and quite often they are over-estimated.
I hope this blog post has shown you a few features of the Google keyword tool you aren’t already using and if you have any more tips feel free to leave a comment below.