Keyword research forms the groundwork of all SEO endeavors and unfortunately, is very often overlooked by those wanting to get on to the more “exciting” stuff. This is one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make in their SEO efforts – don’t underestimate the importance of keyword research. A lack of keyword research can make your job tenfold more difficult, if not impossible. Do the research and you are guaranteed to reap dividends down the line.

So how do we get started in keyword research?

To start your keyword research process, you need a keyword tool. A keyword tool provides you with rough estimates of how many searches are being made every month (worldwide, or for a specific country) for certain keywords. Most people take a guess at these figures and then find that either:

  1. No-one is searching for their chosen keywords (often because its industry jargon) or
  2. The keywords that they have chosen are incredibly competitive, and therefore not economically viable to optimize for

I personally recommend using Google’s free keyword tool, as it is simple and easy to use:

(Make sure it’s set to whatever country you are optimizing your website for)

The Google Adwords Keyword Tool

Above: The Google Adwords Keyword Tool

Note: There are also more sophisticated tools available, such as Keyword Elite but these are paid for (worth it if you are serious about your SEO).

Once you’re on the Google Keyword Tool page, type in as many keywords as you can think of that are relevant to your business’s offering. For example, if your company sells stationery you might type in:

  • Stationery
  • Stationery New York (or wherever you’re based)
  • Stationery supplies
  • Cheap Stationery

And so on… You don’t need to put in a lot of keywords (in fact, you can just get away with one broad one). You then click the “Search” button and it will return with a few pages of similar and related keywords and phrases, as well as their respective statistics. This is a goldmine of information at your fingertips, as you can realistically measure the demand on certain keywords both locally and internationally. You can also notice the trends for each keyword over a period of time. From this example, we can see that more than 360,000 people are searching for the term “stationery” in the US, every month (under “Local Monthly Searches”).

The next step is to sort the list by “Local Monthly Searches” and start picking some keywords that are relevant to your line of work, and also have a fair amount of local searches every month. I would suggest picking about 20 keywords to start with. Write down your list of keywords or type them into excel. You can also export your keyword results directly from the keyword tool – play around!

Tip: These search figures are based on “broad matches”. This means that they include searches where other words were combined. To get the most accurate figure, I suggest using the [exact] results. To do this, simply tick the [exact] box under “Match Types” (left hand side bar).

The next step is to assess how competitive each keyword is, as this will influence how difficult it will be to rank well in Google for that keyword. How we do this is as follows:

  1. Open the SEOMoz Keyword Difficulty Tool (You’ll need to be registered – If you haven’t yet registered, click here to register – it’s free for 30 days, which is all you need)
  2. Enter your refined keywords  or keyword phrases (maximum of 5 at a time) into the keyword box
  3. Select your target engine (.com for USA, for UK, etc)
  4. Click the “Run Report” button
Keyword Difficulty Tool

Above: The Keyword Difficulty Tool

You will then receive a report with a breakdown of the difficulty of each keyword you’ve entered. This difficulty score reflect how competitive each keyword is to rank on Google (in that region, US, UK, etc). Enter the difficulty score of each keyword into an Excel spreadsheet and repeat until you have the score for all keywords on your list. What you’re looking for is the best search volume : keyword difficulty ratio -ie: high search volume, low difficulty.

Refine your keyword list using this tactic until you have 3 – 5 good targeted, low competition keywords, which have fair search volume every month. You may find that you need to go back to the keyword tool to get more ideas.

Tip: if you are selling a very unique product, try using the product name as a keyword and see what comes up. Sometimes you can find really easy to access niches this way, which makes the SEO process so much easier. Even sneakier, try using your competitor’s name as a keyword and see what comes up…

To get the greatest benefit from keyword research, you should aim to have a unique set of keywords for each page on your website. For example, if your website has a page each for:

  • Office stationery
  • School stationery
  • Home stationery

Then the best thing to do is create a separate set of keywords (i.e., carry out keyword research) for each page. This will allow you to capitalize on each page, not just your home page.

And that’s it for your first lesson – here’s a recap on your homework:

  • Using the Google Keyword Tool, create a list of 20 – 30 keywords relevant to your website with good search volume
  • Using the Keyword Difficulty Tool, assess the competition of each keyword
  • Refine the list to 3 – 5 keywords with good search volume and low competition

PS - If you’re looking to cut down the time spent on keyword research, I would recommend trying Brad Callen’s (the SEO guru) Keyword Elite. Keyword Elite makes keyword research a breeze, and allows you to better use your time elsewhere.

In your next lesson, I’ll show you how to use these keywords on your website and optimize your website to start raking in the abundance of traffic (prospects) that Google has to offer.

Please feel free to post your comments or questions below and I’ll do my best to respond ASAP. Don’t be shy – your question could help the next person!

To start the next lesson, simply click here.