When you’re optimizing for your SEO campaign (or PPC campaign), keyword research should be one of the top priorities to take care of before embarking on your quest for niche domination. Not doing proper keyword research can make or break your campaign. What if that keyword you thought was getting 500,000 searches a month was only getting 1,000 searches a month – would you go back to the drawing board? Keyword research will clear up issues like these and paint a much clearer picture for you. If you aren’t exactly sure what keyword research is, the folks from Market Samurai do a fantastic job of explaining Keyword research. Here are four tips on doing keyword research:
1. Top 10 Competition on Google SERPs
The top 10 competitors will often give you a true idea of just how competitive a niche is. Pay attention to how many links a particular page is receiving and how authoritative a page is (PageRank). You can see in the following image that the top 10 for the keyword ‘credit card’ is very fortified with highly authoritative pages and an abundance of links going to each page.
(I’m using SEOQuake to give me the statistics below each result.)
You’ll have a very tough time cracking the competition here just looking at the PR and the number of backlinks. Also, take a look at what types of pages are on the first page. If it is filled with EzineArticles and other article directories, it means the top 10 competition is relatively weak. However, exercise caution because it might also mean that the keyword itself might not be worth pursuing. This leads us to the next point:
2. Long tailed keywords
I make it a point to note all the long tail keyword opportunities. Long tail keywords are words that get relatively low search volume, but often convert at a higher rate. For example, ‘dog’ might get millions of searches a month, but won’t get as many conversions because the user intent is highly variable. Alternatively, ‘Pug puppy dog training’ will have less search volume, but will convert better because the user intent is much more focused. I like to use Market Samurai to find my long tail keyword opportunities. The Google Wonder Wheel also does a great job of locating hidden opportunities.
3. Use ‘Exact Match’ instead of ‘Broad Match’ when looking at traffic
So you’ve located your target keywords and you’ve determined that the levels of competition are acceptable, great! The next step is to determine whether your keywords are getting acceptable levels of traffic. After all, there’s no point of building a website only to find out that no one is interested – right?
No matter what tool you are using, make sure that you select ‘Exact Match’ instead of ‘Broad Match’ when you are analyzing traffic levels. Broad match accounts for the long tailed keywords, which can add up quickly and give you bloated results. Exact match gives you an idea of how many people are typing in the exact keyword phrase each month. In the following image, I’m using the Google Keyword Tool with broad match:
(Pretty big numbers for the global and local monthly searches, huh?)
In the next image, I’m using the Google Keyword Tool with exact match:
(Huge difference from broad match!)
So just by looking at these two results, we can see that there is a large discrepancy in search volume. For example:
Dog Training Videos:
Broad match search volume: 5,400
Exact match search volume: 1,300
Dog Training Classes:
Broad match search volume: 9,900
Exact match search volume: 720
Best Dog Training:
Broad match search volume: 5,400
Exact match search volume: 260
By looking at these numbers, you can see how much of a difference it makes when you switch from exact match to broad match. Imagine if you expected to receive 2,700 clicks a month and you only received 130 clicks a month… from a pure traffic standpoint, that would be valuable months of time, effort, and money wasted!
4. Google Trends and Google Insight
Google Trends will show you how a particular keyword is trending – it can even give you data from the last few years to see how the interest over time changed for a specific keyword. You’ll also get data showing the regions, cities, and languages that search for that particular keyword. This can help shape your plan of attack for later.
Google Insights will show you rising searches and breakout terms, which can help you come up with more ideas such as new categories, products, videos, or anything you can think of!
“Every battle is won before it is ever fought.” – Sun Tzu
Careful keyword research lays out the foundation for your project – and every house needs a solid foundation, right? There are many ways to approach keyword research, so just find out what works for you and adjust accordingly. I hope this helps!