Imagine if someone were rifling through
your Rolodex, calling all of your contacts.
That would be illegal, of course, because
your information is private.
However, because the Internet is open, you can now see
every keyword that your competitors are using for both
pay-per-click (PPC) and SEO. With this information, you
can know exactly what is working for them, allowing
you to simply copy and paste only their most successful
keywords into your own campaigns.
I had a hard time believing it myself … but it’s true.
And it works.
Let’s start with the basics. Keyword research is the
process of discovering the actual search terms people
type into search engines when browsing online. People
are generally doing one of two things on the Internet:
looking for information about something, or seeking to
buy something. As Internet marketers, it is those who
are looking to buy goods or services that we want to connect
Keywords that indicate a high level of interest in buying
are called keywords with high commercial intent. To
discover these keywords and phrases, a free tool is available
For example, type in the phrase “Dodge Caravan”,
and the tool will tell you that there is a 95-percent chance
that the user is looking to buy something. On the other
hand, type in “blue clouds” and the result comes back
with a 71-percent chance that the user is not looking to
make a purchase.
Next is the long-tail keyword. This refers to a phrase
made from very specific words. For example, “how
to eliminate student loan debt,” is a long-tail keyword. Because there are more words, there is less search traffic
for these keywords and thus fewer bids — making them
cheaper to buy for PPC advertising
Individually, long-tail keywords make up a small portion
of Internet searches. But when taken as a whole, they
can provide significant traffic to your site that is highly
targeted. They also make you a subject-matter expert for
the search engines, since the long-tail terms strengthen
the theme created by broader phrases.
Conducting long-tail keyword research is important
because these users are usually further along in the buying
cycle, resulting in higher conversions.
Depending on what you sell, it is important to include
geographic locations in your keyword research.
For example, “homes for rent Miami”, “Chicago glass repair”
and “Richmond Italian restaurants” all provide important
qualifiers for local products and services.
Another important consideration is the ratio of keyword
supply to keyword demand. Keyword demand is the
number of times a keyword is searched by people in the
most recent month. Keyword supply is the number of Web
pages that contain that specific keyword or phrase.
“What you want to do is find keywords for your
niche that have a high number of searches and a low
number of pages with those search terms on them,” says
Gina Gaudio-Graves, president of Directions University
and 30DayIMChallenge.com, an Internet marketing
university for entrepreneurs. “For example, I recently
found out that the term ‘hypnosis CD’ has over 40,000
searches a month, but only 20 organic website competitors
there to meet the demand. This means that
there’s a huge opportunity in both pay-per-click and
SEO for this term.”
The keyword research tools currently available allow
you to see your competitors’ PPC ads as well as how long they have been running. Most offer a limited free trial. In
addition, you will get access to your competitors’ SEO data.
If you see that a competitor has been running the phrase,
“DUI attorney Tucson” for the last six months, that can be
a good indication that the keyword is converting profitably
for that business. You can also discover and copy your top
competitors’ ad structure and keyword-ad and landing
Keyword research is broken down into three basic stages:
Stage 1: Creating Your List
Stage 2: Finalizing Your List
Stage 3: Taking Action
Creating Your List
A common misconception about keywords is that you
already know what terms a customer will use to find your
site or PPC ad. By putting your proposed keywords into a
keyword research tool, you will quickly discover how
many users are conducting searches for that term on a daily
basis, and how many of those searches are converting to
sales. You will also discover synonyms of which you were
not previously aware but could prove very valuable.
Knowing your competitors’ data tells you how much
effort you will need to invest in order to rank well for that
term organically, or how much money you will need to
spend to be successful in PPC.
There are two questions to ask when making these
1) How many other sites are competing for the same
2) How strong are those sites’ rankings? Or, How many
other sites link to those sites? and How many pages do
they have indexed?
This information can be found for free by plugging
your competitors’ websites into the Yahoo! Site Explorer
tool. Knowing the answers to
these questions will offer a good indication of the competitive
nature of your selected keywords and phrases.
Finalizing Your List
Create a spreadsheet that allows you to easily see each
word’s conversion rate, search volume and competition
rate, as provided by the keyword research tool you use.
These three figures allow you to calculate how viable that
term is for your SEO and/or PPC campaigns.
The first step in narrowing your list is to highlight the
terms that most closely target the subject and theme of your
website or advertisement. These are the terms that you want
to keep. Delete all words that are not relevant to your site or
that you do not have sufficient content to support. You can
not optimize for words with no supporting content.
Create a mix of both long-tail and targeted keywords —
you will need both to rank well for SEO and convert
After compiling a final list of 20 to 30 highly focused keywords,
it’s time to prepare them for launch.
If you did your keyword research correctly, some of the
words on your list should already appear in your site’s content.
Begin thinking about how many pages you will need
to create to support new keywords, and how and where
these keyword phrases will be used.
Current best practices for SEO recommend optimizing
for three or four related keywords per page. Any more than
that and you run the risk of diluting your page to the point
where you will rank for nothing. Simply work the keywords
into your pages naturally and avoid over-repetition,
which can be interpreted as spamming. Your content
should never sound forced.
Your on-page content isn’t the only place where you
can insert keywords, however. Keywords should also be
used in several other elements on your site, such as title
tags, meta description tags, headings, alt text, and anchor
text/ navigational links.
Keyword research can be a fun project as you discover
all of your competitors’ top converting keywords and plug
them directly into your own PPC or SEO campaigns. If you
take your time and go through the tutorials that the keyword
research sites offer, you may end up like my friend
Sarkin who has the number one Google spot for 90,000
keywords. Of course, this success did not come without
significant effort — he’s been at it for 20 years.
About the Author: Mike Evans is Director of U.S. Sales and Marketing for KeywordSpy.
com, a PPC and SEO research firm that tracks more
thank 127,000,000 keywords.