Those of you who follow us on Twitter might have noticed our MD, Ann Stanley, was away in Stockholm this week as a guest speaker at the SMX Stockholm event. One of Ann’s speeches was concerned with how to do keyword research – and it went down so well we thought we’d share it here on the Ask Anicca blog.
If any of you have any questions regarding any aspect of keyword research, please feel free to ask in the comments at the end.
Keyword research – the process
The process of researching keywords relevant to your site and planning your optimisation efforts can be roughly ordered into these 3 steps:
- Identify all keyphrases used by potential visitors to find your service/product
- Filter keyphrases to highlight the ones worth focusing on
- Order these keyphrases by topic/page
This blog post will briefly cover the process of identifying keywords, choosing the best ones and matching them to the corresponding page on your website. It is worth noting that there are lots of different methods and techniques used to obtain this data and make these decisions, the methods and techniques here are just the way we generally prefer to do it.
Step 1 – How To Identify Keywords
A lot of webmasters will already have a good idea of what sort of keywords they should be targeting. However, more often than not, these keywords are very general and as a result are highly competitive. The key to good keyword research is to identify the keywords related to your website that are used a lot on search engines but do not have a lot of competition.
The first place to start is by using a keyword tool – which will provide data on how many searches are made using a specific keyword. There are a lot of these about, both free ones and ones that you have to pay for. We’ve come up with a quick list here, but this is in no way exhaustive (let us know in the comments which keyword tool(s) you use and why):
- Google Adwords Keyword Tool
- MSN adCentre Forecaster
- Trellian Keyword Discovery
- SEOBook Keyword List Generator
- SEO Monitor
We generally use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool here – which can be accessed via a valid AdWords account. There is an external version of the tool (which you can find here) but that tends to provide different information than the internal AdWords tool.
A lot of you may already be aware of Google’s Keyword Tool if you have ever set up a Pay-Per-Click campaign, but you need to be aware that keyword research for SEO purposes is slightly different. There are three main types of keyword available from the tool: Broad Match, Phrase Match and Exact Match. For SEO we are mostly interested in Exact Match – represented by square brackets – [keyword], as this will give us the search volumes for just the specific keyword. For example, if our site was selling mens trainers, we would want to know how many people search for the term ‘mens trainers’ in Google. If we entered this into the keyword tool and left it on Broad Match, the results would include every search that included those words, like ‘mens black trainers’ or ‘trainers for mens tennis’ etc… If we chose to display Phrase Match data the search volume results would include all the searches that included the term ‘mens trainers’, like ‘black mens trainers’.
We sometimes use Phrase Match at this stage of keyword research, but it is advisable to use Exact Match whenever possible as this will provide the true amount of searches for each of your keywords.
Once you have entered a few keywords into the Google Keyword Tool and selected Exact Match you will see something like this:
Google will provide the Global and Local (UK) monthly searches for the keywords you entered as well as generate more keyword ideas. You can then export all of this data into a spreadsheet so you can play about with it – which brings us onto the next step.
Step 2 – How To Measure Keyword Competition
Now you have your list of related keywords organised by how many searches they get per month, it’s time to identify which ones are worth optimising for. As well as the amount of searches, you need to know the competition levels for each keyword before you make your decision. There are lots of different ways to determine the competition of a keyword. The way we like to do it is to find out via Google how many other web pages out there are trying to optimise for the keyword. We do this by running a search operator that identifies the amount of pages that have the keyword in their title tag – as this is a good indicator that the optimisation of the page is geared towards that keyword. The search operator is really easy to create, just type into Google:- intite:”keyword” and hit enter. The figure Google presents at the top of the search results is the competition figure. In the case of our ‘mens trainers’ example, running the search intitle:”mens trainer” will provide a figure of about 342,000 (Note: Google’s index is changing all the time so you will see slight fluctuations).
There are other ways of getting a competition figure, either using different search operators or using third party software like Wordtracker or Keyword Examiner, but we prefer this method as the title tag is the area that just about every webmaster will use when optimising their pages.
If you have been running a Pay-Per-Click campaign, you will have a lot of your own keyword data you can use for SEO keyword research. The Google AdWords Keyword Tool provides estimates of search volumes, but your Pay-Per-Click campaign will have absolute figures of how many times the keywords you are bidding on have been searched for (impressions). Also, if you have conversion tracking implemented you can incorporate the top converting keywords into your SEO keyword research so that you are optimising for the keywords you know will result in conversions. The ‘See Search Terms’ function may also provide a lot of ideas on relevant keywords to include.
When you have finished this step, you will have a list of relevant keywords along with their monthly search volumes and levels of competition – now you can start the process of choosing which ones to use to optimise your page with. The key rule here is to choose keywords with good amounts of potential traffic but relatively low competition – so that it is easier to rank high in Google. A keyword with 1 million searches a month may be great, but if there are 30 million other pages optimised for that keyword then the chances of you breaking into the top positions is not great. So be realistic and target the keywords you have the best chance of ranking for. For example, instead of optimising for ‘mens trainers’ you could choose to optimise for ‘trendy mens trainers’ or ‘mens trainers online’.
Step 3 – Turn Your Keyword Research Into A Plan
Now you have chosen all the best keywords to optimise for – in terms of search volumes, competition and, if available, conversions – it is now time to match them all with the corresponding pages on your site. The key here is to group the keywords into topics so you can match them up with the category and/or product pages on your site. When you’re doing this, make sure to only choose 2-3 keywords per page as a maximum. Any more and you will just be diluting your optimisation efforts.
I could go on all day about the complexities of keyword research, but hopefully this post has given you a good guide and reference point. If you need any help or advice feel free to ask as many questions as you like in the comments below!
Posted by Luke Glassford