Mark Nunney introduces us to the wonder of keyword research in an extract from his book, Wordtracker Masterclass: Keyword Research - How to deliver visits, response and profits to your website in which he gives a detailed step-by-step guide to a practical keyword research process for new and established sites.
Let’s start with search engines.
Search engines help people find information and buy things.
A young man wanting to buy some fancy chocolates for his beloved might use Google to make a search with the phrase gourmet chocolate.
The single phrase – gourmet chocolate – is called the search query or keyword.
If you are selling gourmet chocolate then you want your website to be on the first page of results that Google returns for a search with that keyword, preferably at the top.
Keyword research tries to find the keywords your target customers are using and your business can make the most profit from.
You then optimize your website so it can be found on search engines when those searches are made.
Search engine optimization (SEO) begins with keyword research.
Search engines, searches and business
A staggering 100 billion searches were made each month in 2009 (source: comScore).
The different combinations of words used are almost endless, with 20% of keywords used each day being either unique or not used for six months (source: Google).
Unsurprisingly, online sales and influence are now significant for most businesses.
Something like $160 billion was spent online in 2009 (source: eMarketer).
The influence of online research on offline sales is even greater as 89% of consumers research online before making offline purchases (source: comScore). So even those who don’t buy online, decide online. See image:
And smart search marketers use social media to improve their search engine optimization.
With all that money to be made and influence to be had from search engine results pages (SERPs), keyword research is a serious business.
Keyword research uses real searches
Keyword research tools like Wordtracker use databases of keywords used for real searches. These samples are used to estimate the popularity of those keywords ie, how often they are searched with.
For example, Wordtracker might give a searches figure for gourmet chocolate of 233.
That means Wordtracker’s database of 540,689,554 (at time of writing) real searches contains 233 searches with the exact keyword gourmet chocolate.
To estimate how often gourmet chocolate is searched with (how popular it is) you have to either:
• Extrapolate from that sample number of searches with a crude formula like 233 x 200 to get a monthly estimate. ‘200’ because 500 million (the approximate size of Wordtracker’s database) is 0.5% of 100 billion (the approximate number of searches made each month on all search engines).
• Judge the relative popularity of gourmet chocolate as a keyword by comparing 233 with the searches figure for other keywords in Wordtracker’s database.
I recommend the last option above.
Google’s keyword research tool doesn’t use all the searches made on Google. It too uses a sample of real searches but it hides its sample figures and goes straight to an estimate of actual searches.
For example, for the exact keyword (aka single keyword) gourmet chocolate Google estimates 2,900 searches were made in one month in the US.
Google also gives a broad match estimate of searches. That is all searches containing gourmet chocolate (aka the gourmet chocolate keyword niche).
You can see Google’s broad match data in Wordtracker too and below we see it gives an estimate of 49,500 searches being made with keywords containing gourmet chocolate.
Is this the best, quickest and cheapest market research business can get?
Keyword research tools like Wordtracker might just be the best, quickest and cheapest market research that a business can get.
The keywords in Wordtracker’s databases are real searches and include those made by your target customers.
The wonder of keyword research is that it gives you direct contact with the behavior of thousands, perhaps millions of potential customers.
Keyword research can help with many things, including: researching new products and businesses; finding ideas for news stories; pay per click (PPC) advertising on search engines and optimizing your website for organic (non-paid) search engine traffic (SEO).
Better than your average keyword research
Traditional keyword research uses samples of real searches (keywords) to estimate the Popularity of those keywords. It might then look at the websites competing for each keyword; and make estimates about how hard it is for any site to beat that Competition and get results.
Popularity and Competition metrics can then be combined to choose keywords with a good risk (competition) v reward (popularity) ratio. Competition and Popularity metrics can be combined into one new metric, sometimes called KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index).
But this should only be the start of your keyword research process. Soon your site will have traffic and real data that shows you which keywords your sites can beat the competition for and get response from.
We are, of course, more interested in maximizing your profit than just finding some keywords to target. So we will look at how keyword research can be used for SEO for profit in the real world.
Such a journey leads inevitably to the long tail of keywords. This is the almost infinite variety of keywords used on search engines. So varied that 20% of the keywords used each day are either completely new or have not been used for at least six months.
This means that for any single (or exact) keyword you target (let’s call this the ‘head’), there are likely thousands of variations that you also want to get results for (this is the long tail). Indeed, the long tail is so big that the head can be insignificant.
So if you’re selling herbal tea, you don’t just target the keyword herbal tea. You target all keywords containing herbal tea and there will be many thousands of them. That group of keywords is called the herbal tea keyword niche.
Targeting keyword niches is key to making a profit from search engines. And we’ll give you a simple process for doing so.
On Wordtracker’s Academy, you’ll find numerous articles exploring how to use Wordtracker’s tools for keyword research to make your website more successful.
Also, the book Wordtracker Masterclass: Keyword Research - How to deliver visits, response and profits to your website gives a detailed step-by-step guide to a practical keyword research process for new and established sites.
About Mark Nunney
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 ThinkingManagers.com, 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.