Choose the Right Weight Class – Keyword Research with the Google Keyword Tool

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:

  1. Keywords that bring in buyers who will spend money with you
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Google Keyword Tool

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.

Filtering Keywords

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.

Social Media on Autopilot for Busy People

Anyone who’s anyone is talking about Social Media and how it is the new way to find new customers and interact with your old ones.  I can understand that many busy business owners probably struggle to find enough hours in the day to remember to eat, let alone Tweet. I rarely write about Social Media on this blog but I thought I would share this tactic I recently used for a new client. My client was a very busy local business owner who didn’t have a single Social Media account let alone a Social Media strategy, and I certainly didn’t have the time to look after another account too so I went about finding ways to save time for us both.

Everyday my Twitter and Google+ streams are full of people in my niche sharing other people’s great content and by doing so getting more and more followers, they become “Thought Leaders” or subject matter experts. You see the Social Media is just that “Social” if you want to be popular on Twitter you need to do just 3 things… that’s right 3 things!

  1. Engage with other people
  2. Share & Reshare other peoples great content
  3. Share your own content

I have put these things in their order of importance and as you can see talking about yourself is the last thing to do. By  sharing really good content you will get more followers and not just any old followers, engaged followers  & people who think you are the person with their finger on the pulse in your industry.

But, I don’t have time to sit on Twitter or LinkedIn all day looking for Infographics, Videos or blogs to share with my followers.

Well this is why I am going to show you a great tool & a couple of tips which will allow you to do this on autopilot!

Find the Content Specialists

Firstly you need to find the top bloggers  in your industry. You probably already know who a few of these are, but you can either do a quick search on Google or use a blog directory; Alltop is a superb place to start and so is Technorati

You want to make a list of the RSS feeds of all the blogs you like in a text file. If you don’t know what an RSS Feed is read this

Automatically Post to Social Media

The RSS to Twitter service dlvr.it is the go to service here, it’s dead easy to setup and allows you to post to a number of social accounts at the same time including Twitter, LinkedIn  and Facebook. All you have to do is paste in the feeds and add your social profiles.

If you want you can also add more rules to your feeds so that only posts containing or not containing particular words, this allows you to have some editorial control over what updates are shared with your audience. You can also add extra text to the update such as hashtags or an intro or call to action such as “Read this Great Article…”  will help get your updates noticed.

dlvr.it provides metrics such as the number of clicks and retweets you receive and it will show you your most popular content for the past 7 days… did I mention it was free?

Another great feature I use with dlvr.it is their schedule a post. This allows you to setup announcements in advance in case you are away or you could reshare some of your popular content from the past to your new followers or people who may have missed it.

Engaging With Followers on Autopilot

Remember rule number 1?

That’s right engage with other people on Social Media, well there is a great service that I discovered only a few weeks ago called ifttt , pronounced ift as in lift.

IFTTT stands for “If This Then That”, it allows you to automate tasks online such as you can back up your Instagram photos to Dropbox automatically or you can receive an alert if someone tags you on Facebook.

The automated tasks or “recipes” I use the most are:

  1. Thank someone on Twitter if they RT me
  2. Greet New Twitter Follower
  3. Post Tweets with #FB to Facebook
  4. Email me when someone mentions me on Twitter
  5. Send an SMS when a particular person sends out a Tweet (I’m not stalker honest)

The tasks above are great especially if you send a tweet to someone who might mention you with the hashtag #FF (Follow Friday) or you can jump online if you receive an SMS as one of your friends has mentioned you or tagged you on Facebook.

ifttt is growing rapidly and more and more services are being added to improve your automation online, it really is very easy to use and I recommend you go setup a few recipes now, at the moment I am setting up a task to send me a Google Calendar update to “Remember an Umbrella” if tomorrows weather report is predicting rain.

By using tools such as ifttt and dlvr.it it means you don’t have to spend hours online everyday and can start to get more out of social media.

If you have any more great Social Media automation tips please feel free to leave a comment below or send me a tweet

+Chris Dyson

Link Building – Competitor Analysis Case Study

As a webmaster Link Building seems like a very daunting task; with so much misinformation, poor advice and varied personal opinions on the web it’s not hard to see why most people can be confused as to where to start – the most common questions I get asked by clients and friends are:

  • What are the best types of links to build?
  • How many links do I need to get to the first page of Google?
  • Should I use the same keyword anchor text or mix it up with brand terms?

Well all of that is relative…

Invariably my answer starts by asking them more about their competition. Competitor analysis is a very important part of the link building puzzle. By understanding what your competition are doing to hold on to those all important and much sought after search engine results then you too can learn more about the types of links you need, what type of anchor text and generally the volumes of links you might need to rank well.

With so many tools available in the market place and the large amounts of data that can be produced by them it has never been easier to snoop on your competitors. In this post I am going to carry out a competitor analysis for Cash Cow UK, a free to use internet auction site, so you can understand a little more about the processes I use to analyse the link profiles of my clients competitors.

Using the free to use Google Keyword Tool I normally find 50-100 keyword phrases that my client wants to rank well for to get more traffic to their site. I then run a quick Google search to find out who the top 5 ranking pages for those keywords are and make a note of them. (There are some more advanced automated techniques that I use to do this but for now I want to keep it simple)

For the purpose of this case study I am going to just focus on 3 key word phrases:

Online Auction – 60,500 UK Searches per month

Online Car Auction – 8,500 UK Searches per month

Free Online Auction – 1,300 UK Searches per month

Intuitively you would think that eBay would be top for at least 2 of these search terms however they only appear once in these SERP’s and in position 2, this is very common to find when you ask a client to tell you more about their market as they often over state and under state their competition’s online presence.

I have decided to look a little more at the back link profiles of uk.madbid.com, ebay.co.uk, uk.ebid.net and totalbids.co.uk in order to find some quality link opportunities. The two tools I would recommend are SEO Spyglass it’s free to trial and less than $100 for a license or you could try the SEOMoz pro tools again it is free to trial but its $99 a month thereafter, however it provides lots of great data, including Social data and tonnes of great reports.

Below is the output from SEOMoz’s Link Metrics Comparison tool, as you can see there are lots of external links pointing to eBay and ebid however Total Bids who we saw were ranking very highly for Free Online Auction only have 200 external links. So I will probably start here to understand this better.

What we are interested in here is the Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA), this is a value calculated by SEOMoz based on the quality of links that are pointing at the page.  SEO Spyglass does not have DA and PA but it does give you the Google Page Rank of the linking page and linking root domain which can also be useful to determine good quality links.

Go to Open Site Explorer and input the page you want to analyse; in this case I have input www.totalbids.co.uk

As you can see this page has over 1100 links from over 100 different domains, it has received only 7 Facebook shares and 1 tweet. This looks like quite an easy link profile to investigate to find some great links.

Firstly we want to look at the Anchor Text, this is very easy to do in both OSE and SEO Spyglass:

As you can see a lot of their anchor text is just their brand name there are very few links containing the keyword that they rank well for. I would say over 50% of their links don’t have any mention of Online Auction or Free Online Auction. This means that we are working in a niche where quality counts.

You now want to export the links report into Microsoft Excel by using the Download to CSV function. I normally only export the domains and followed links so that I can see what type of site they are and to determine how easy or difficult it will be to obtain the link. I normally don’t export no follow links as these are often just blog comments and have very little link value.

Now you want to do the same for all of the link profiles of the other competitors and add them to your list. You should now have a master list of several hundred if not thousands of domains to target.

I normally then sort the lists of domains by DA or Page rank and categorise them as one of the following:

  • Info Site – low quality information site
  • Education or Government Site – hard to find links
  • News Site – quality newspaper or news site e.g. Mashable
  • Article/Press Release
  • Blog –possible Guest Blogging opportunity or product review
  • Web Directory – easy to obtain by submitting a link

Then in the same spreadsheet I then put a few notes and actions I have taken e.g. when I sent an email to the webmaster, contact details of the blogger etc.

Advanced Tip: If any of the blogs have a Twitter Account, be sure to make a note of it and write down the number of followers they have and their Klout Score. This will help you determine whether they are a key influencer in their niche and how much effort you should put into getting a link on their site. You can easily find someone’s Klout score by visiting www.klout.com/(username) where (username) is their Twitter username.

Now that you have your list of sites to approach for a link you need to decide what your approach will be. How much time will you spend chasing that elusive link and what can you do to get it.

I normally approach link building with the easy links first I list the site on all the directory sites that I have found and if they are paid directories I will sum up whether or not the quality of the site is worth paying for the link to be added or not. I usually do this by looking at the DA and PA of the pages my link would appear on and whether it would be just as easy to get a free link from another source.

As for the article and press release directories I will submit a few pieces of content to these if they have a good DA but I really don’t value these types of links and I believe the Search Engines have devalued these types of links over time too. However SEO is not just about getting links it’s about getting traffic and brand recognition too so a few press releases/articles now and again never hurt.

If it is a lower value blog or site that I want to target for a back link then I may simply send them a nice email asking for a link adding to their article, in this case their list of eBay alternatives. With this link analysis I also discovered a number of Blogspot, WordPress, Squidoo and other web 2.0 properties. I would consider making some web 2.0 properties myself if I couldn’t persuade the owner to give me a link. For the higher quality news sites and blogs then I will spend time getting to know the blogger or webmaster in order to get a guest post, share an infographic I have created or perhaps get them to review my client’s product. This is where you want to target your most efforts, a link from a few high profile web sites can catapult your site in to the big time so this is where you want to be creative and invest your time.

I hope you found this guide useful and hopefully it’s given you some insight into how easy link building can be by researching your competition.

+Chris Dyson

Microsoft Excel Tips for SEO – Extracting Domain Names

Being a bit of a whizz with spreadsheet packages such as Excel is a very important skill to possess for SEO’s. The industry is becoming more and more data orientated thanks mainly to the great link analysis software that is now available in the marketplace from places such as SEOMoz, MajesticSEO and SEO Spyglass.

This series of blog posts is designed for webmasters to help analyse their backlink profiles and help carry out some basic competitor backlink analysis using Microsoft Excel.

Extracting the Domain Name from a URL

When using a link analysis tool such as Open Site Explorer you will inevitably return lots of line data. This can often be overwhelming especially if you are analysing an expansive list of backlink urls. The quickest way to return the domain name is to use the text to columns tool.

Simply highlight the URL’s column and choose data and then text to columns.

Now using the Convert Text to Columns wizard choose delimited

And insert / into other under delimiters and select treat consecutive delimiters as one.

Click next and then finish, you will now have all your data split across several columns but more importantly you will now have your domains in one column. You can now use the remove duplicates tool to remove any repeated domain names so you now have a list of websites to monitor or target for new links.

Another way to do this is using the Excel text functions LEFT & FIND

The formula I use is =LEFT(A1, FIND(“/”,A1,8)) (assuming Cell A1 is the cell containing the URL)

This formula basically says find the first “/” in the URL, after letter 8, and return everything to the left of it.

I hope this post was useful and I’ll be posting up some more Microsoft Excel SEO tips.

How to Get Your WordPress Content Indexed – Fast!

Getting your new content indexed quickly by Google is now more important than ever following the new Google Fresh Update. The recent Google algorithm changes put more importance on being the newest or latest. Below are the techniques I use to get new blog posts indexed quickly, sometimes in less than an hour, for my clients and my own sites.

Firstly you need to make sure that Googlebot can “crawl” your website quickly and easily, the best way to do this is by setting up and XML sitemap. For WordPress users I recommend the Google XML Sitemaps plugin. Sitemaps allow Googlebot to find new content quickly and easily within your site and will also ensure that most of your site pages are indexed.

Next if you are using WordPress for your blog you want to Ping as many services as possible to let the search engines know that your site has been updated; a ping is an XML-RPC-based push mechanism by which a weblog notifies a server that its content has been updated.

I ping numerous services at all once automatically, simply add this list to your Ping Services in your WordPress installation:

http://api.moreover.com/RPC2

http://bblog.com/ping.php

http://blogsearch.google.com/ping/RPC2

http://ping.weblogalot.com/rpc.php

http://ping.feedburner.com

http://ping.syndic8.com/xmlrpc.php

http://ping.bloggers.jp/rpc/

http://rpc.pingomatic.com/

http://rpc.weblogs.com/RPC2

http://rpc.technorati.com/rpc/ping

http://topicexchange.com/RPC2

http://www.blogpeople.net/servlet/weblogUpdates

http://xping.pubsub.com/ping

In testing I have also found that giving your new content a site-wide link will help get it indexed. This again can be easily achieved with WordPress by using a Recent Posts Widget in your Sidebar or Footer to make sure your new post is linked to by the majority of your web pages. This will show Google that this new piece of content is very important.

Another great way to let the search engines know that your site has been changed is to build links to your new content a few social bookmarks on services such as Digg, Folkd and Reddit, will get your site crawled quickly, but remember being crawled is not a guarantee that your new content will be indexed by the major search engines so make sure you have good quality on-page SEO and that your blog post is original and contains at least 400 words.

Finally you want to submit your Feed to a number of Feed Aggregators. If you List your RSS feed in these feed aggregators Feed-Squirrel, OctoFinder & FeedAdage. By submitting your Blog feed to these RSS sites, they will keep track of your newly published posts and index them within their site, providing more backlinks to your site.

If you have any more indexing hints and tips please leave a comment below.

Update: after posting this blog  I submitted the post to Digg and sent out a Tweet. I then checked Google and I was indexed in 2 minutes…

Obviously I doubt you will always be indexed this quickly but it just goes to show how easy it actually is!

Chris Dyson+