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Interview: Guy Kawasaki learns about keyword research

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Illustration for Interview: Guy Kawasaki learns about keyword research

Ahead of his keynote speech at Search Engine Strategies New York, Guy Kawasaki - the man who could have been king of Yahoo - talks with Mark Nunney about Twitter and his site, Alltop. Guy reveals he doesn't do keyword research (so Mark does some SEO and keyword research for Alltop).

Guy Kawasaki’s fame goes back to his being an early evangelist for Apple. He has since become a much sought after inspirational speaker, an investor in high tech start-ups and has written many books including Reality Check, The Art of the Start and How to Drive Your Competition Crazy. Among his current ventures, he is CEO of Alltop, the "online magazine rack" that aggregates feeds from the best websites for a wide range of popular topics.

Mark Nunney: What's the most important lesson you've learned about online business?

Guy Kawasaki: I've learned so many - it's difficult to narrow this down to one. How about to two? First, I learned that ideas that you think no one will use or care about can turn out to be not only popular but also profitable. HotorNot is an example of this. Who would have thought?

Second, I learned that nobody really knows what their stats are because server logs, Google Analytics, and every service that purports to know "the truth" are all based on black magic.

Mark: Are you more of a practitioner or a teacher, and does it matter (you can say both - I don't like boxes myself)?

Guy: I am primarily a practitioner because I am the CEO of Alltop. However, this makes me a better teacher because I really know how things work and happen. This has also made me a better investor.

Mark: Tell us how you feel about Twitter. (Guy Kawasaski on Twitter.)

Guy: It's the best marketing tool I've come across in my career. When coupled with the right tools and sites, it's the most cost effective marketing that exists today. I just hope that most companies don’t catch on to this too fast.

Mark: What's your best Twitter story?

Guy: I was once on a trip to San Diego and discovered that I forgot to bring a charger for my MacBook at 10pm. I tweeted that I needed to borrow a charger, and I got four offers for help within minutes. Within 30 minutes, someone delivered one to my hotel.

Mark: Which online business do you most admire and why (not Google - that's too easy)?

Guy: I love Etsy because it combines online sales, artistry, craftsmanship, and a community. Such a company would not be possible without the internet, and it's great for the sellers and buyers.

Mark: Via a conference's press office, I asked for an interview with a Googler who was speaking at the conference and got a 'no' without any discussion. Does Google not get social media like Microsoft doesn't get search?

Guy: I'm not about to criticize Google or Microsoft. They are hugely successful companies that are far larger than anything I've done. God bless 'em. Maybe the Google person was simply busy or an orifice. Always go with the simplest explanation in cases like this.

Mark: Should Google buy Twitter and why?

Guy: Who knows? You can make the case that in these times, Google should focus on its core business and "get back to basics”. You could also make the case that Google should hedge its bets and broaden its business. Pick one.

Mark: I'm loving, one of your latest new ventures. For those who don't know about it, can you tell them what it's for?

Guy: It's an online magazine rack that aggregates RSS feeds for over 500 topics that range from Adoption to Zoology, with Baseball, China, Economics, Food, Macintosh, Shoes, Tech, and Venture Capital in between. Think of it as aggregation without aggravation. Where Google helps you answer the question, "How many people live in China?" Alltop answers the question, "What's happening in China?"

Mark: Does the Alltop business model have revenue streams other than advertising?

Guy: Nope, not yet, but every day is an adventure in this kind of business.

Mark: I know you listen a lot to your Twitter network. To what degree are you using the 'wisdom of crowds' (rather than editorial judgment) to choose which sites are listed in Alltop?

Guy: I'm not a big believer in the wisdom of the crowd. I believe in the wisdom of a few people who really care and know about a subject. That's the kind of people that we have found on Twitter.

Mark: As a listing and link in Alltop becomes more valuable, are you worried about being 'gamed' by online marketers? That is, the mavens and connectors being infiltrated by the manipulators?

Guy: Good content is good content - that's what we care the most about. I'll be damned if an online marketer is going to game me although anything is possible.

Mark: As Alltop becomes more popular, demand for more categories will increase and gaming will increase. At some point managing this becomes difficult (I'm reminded of Yahoo's directory and, of course, dmoz). What's your plan to deal with this?

Guy: Work harder and hire people smarter than me.

Mark: All businesses need to reach a critical mass and perhaps Alltop (with its ad revenue-based model) does so more than many. What's the plan for achieving this?

Guy: We're just going to grind it out: adding topics as fast as we can; adding and removing feeds to make each topic as good as possible; promoting this quality via Twitter and my various platforms; and recruiting evangelists as we go.

Mark: One of Alltop's goals might be to get significant visitors from search engines for searches related to its categories and topics. Do you have an SEO strategy and plan for this?

Guy: Sure - aggregate good content and ask them to use our badges and widgets.

Mark: Have you used any keyword research to help you? If not, would you like some help?

Guy: Nope, not at all. Don't even know what it is. Help is always appreciated.

Mark: Did you really get approached about the Yahoo job?

Guy: Yup, one of the more interesting decisions I've ever made. What's $2 billion, right?

Mark: ($2 billion is how much Guy estimates turning down the offer to be CEO of Yahoo in 1999 cost him.)

To help recover some of those lost billions with some increased traffic to Alltop, below I make good on my offer to help the site with some keyword research and I throw in some SEO tips because it would be rude not to...

Get a keyword strategy

Decide which keywords you are targeting. This is worth doing because some keywords are searched with more than others and some will bring you more response. Here's what you might do for Alltop...

Alltop covers many unrelated topics - from Accounting to Zoology. But some generic keywords are relevant to all these topics like news, blogs, articles, stories.

You can look for more words using Wordtracker’s Related keywords tool but I’ll stick with those for this quick exercise.

I want to know how often each of those keywords is used to search with so I’m going to start with an exact match search (including plurals) in Wordtracker’s database of real searches, using news, blogs, articles and stories as the seed words. Here’s what I found:

News is the standout keyword so I think I’ll research that a bit more by searching Wordtracker with ‘news’ as the only seed word but with a ‘broad’ match.

Wordtracker shows me 1,000 different keywords containing ’news’ and sorts them in order of popularity. The image below shows the top four and gives me a keyword to consider targeting: ‘breaking news’ appears to be searched with more often than ‘news’.

I’ll leave it to Guy and his team to decide if ‘breaking news’ is editorially appropriate for Alltop but I think it is.

The keyword ‘breaking news’ will also be considerably easier to get results for than ‘news’ for which there is much more competition, as Wordtracker shows us with the following results (the third column shows us how many websites compete on Google for the listed keywords):

It is always worth digging deeper with your keyword research. For example, our first search above said ‘stories’ was more popular than ‘articles’. But these words can be searched with in many different contexts and our context is ‘news’. So I do another Wordtracker search with the seed words ‘news articles’ and ‘news stories’ and get the results shown in the following image:

Now I’m more interested in ‘articles’ than ‘stories’.

Because Alltop already has traffic, you can also study your traffic stats and find out which generic keywords you are currently most successful for. For each keyword, look at the number of visits and any measures of response you are tracking, like page views per visit and bounce rate (I'd say 'sales' but you don't sell anything yet).

Target the keywords you are already successful for because it's easier to get more success from these than new ones.

This process should be done in much more detail, but for this discussion let's imagine the above keyword research reveals that the generic keywords you should target are:

  • breaking news
  • stories
  • articles
  • blogs

You can combine them with each of your site’s topic names to give some obvious longer keywords to consider prioritizing. For example, for the Facebook topic:

  • facebook breaking news, facebook blogs, facebook stories,

Here's what to do with your keyword research...

On your home page

Use your target generic words in these positions:

  • Page title tag, eg 'All the top breaking news, articles, blogs and stories from Alltop'
  • Description tag, eg 'All the top breaking news, articles, blogs and stories from Alltop – the online magazine rack – updated every hour'
  • Page headline. You don’t have one and we don’t need to mess with your design for SEO
  • Intro copy. Don't stuff the keywords in any way. Instead, write real copy that uses variations on your keywords.
  • Outro copy. Consider adding a new location for text at the bottom of the page which you use to write in a little more detail about the site and its content. It’s only natural that this copy should use your target keyword and variations on it like singular, plural, synonyms and similar words.

Topic pages

I'll use the SEO topic page as an example. Your target keywords are:

  • seo breaking news, seo articles, seo blogs, seo stories

... and variations thereof, including:

  • search engine optimization news, search engine optimization blogs, search engine optimization articles.

The pattern for other topic pages is to target:

  • <topic> breaking news
  • <topic> articles
  • <topic> blogs
  • <topic> stories

Use the topic's target keywords as you did on the home page but (because you have one) we'll add the headline to the list of places to consider.

Note: when used with your topics, the keyword ‘news’ (as in ‘seo news’) will be more popular (and likely just as responsive) as ‘seo breaking news’. We are first targeting ‘breaking news’ keywords because it will be easier to get results for them. You will soon get results for ‘news’ searches for some topics and when you do, your priorities can shift those more ambitious targets.

Give all pages their own unique URL

To help users, Alltop has grouped its topics into categories such as Work, Health and Sport. The 'Sport' page, for example, lists links to all the sport topics.

The sports category page, for example, has the following URL:

... which is hidden from users but can be seen displaying on Google results pages like this:

Note that there are no clues there to tell search engines or users what the page contains – it’s the same for all category pages.

These pages need friendly URLs like, unique page titles, description tags and intro text that use the same techniques outlined above for the home page and topic pages.

This will help search engines know about the topic pages the category pages link to. And it will help users and Alltop's SEO efforts.

Prioritize your most important categories and topics

Every business has to prioritize and websites are no different. Alltop covers hundreds of different topics and you must choose those that you want to promote the most.

Start by choosing your top 20 topics and link to their pages from your home page. This will give those pages more of your site's inbound link power than others.

About Mark Nunney

has been a successful professional SEO since 2000. He is CEO of The Website Marketing Company and he publishes Leadership & Management Review from, the business management website.

Mark wrote SEO for Profit, Wordtracker Masterclass: Keyword Research book and co-wrote Wordtracker Masterclass: Link Building with Ken McGaffin. He is also the founder and project manager of Wordtracker Strategizer.

You can follow Mark Nunney's SEO on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ and read a Q&A here.