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Keywords Basics Part 5: How to narrow down your keyword list

Narrowing down your keywords on Wordtracker - the leading keyword research tool

In this fifth in the Keyword Basics series of articles Owen Powis explains how to narrow down your list of up to 2,000 keywords gleaned from Wordtracker's Keywords tool to just a few per web page.

 

Consolidating your keywords and increasing traffic

Wordtracker’s Keywords tool provides up to 2,000 keywords in any niche. From that list, we suggest that you choose just 2-3 keywords for your page. We’ve written in the Keyword Basics article, Finding Keywords elsewhere about how you can use Wordtracker’s filters to narrow down your keyword list.

Often, a filtered list will still contain more keywords than you could possibly target. It’s often necessary - and always wise - to use common sense when choosing keywords. Below, we’ve listed some common sense suggestions for finding prime keywords with great potential.

Google wants to provide searchers with relevant content. So, it uses a complex algorithm to deliver the results it thinks you want. Understanding how Google chooses its results allows us to narrow down a keyword list.

Let’s use the following as an example of a list that we want to narrow down:

used cars for sale
used car for sale
for sale used cars
used cars sale
second hand cars sale
second hand cars for sale
second hand car for sale
secnd hand cars for sale
cheap cars for sale
cheap car for sale

1. Stop words

Our first common sense filter will look at stop words. These are terms that we use to make things read well and sound like real English. Google will ignore them as they don’t affect the meaning of the search.

Typical stop words are:

  • in
  • how
  • and
  • when
  • if
  • or
  • the
  • it

Most of the time, a page targeting a keyword that contains a stop word (such as used cars for sale) should be able to rank for the keyword when it has no stop word (in our example, used cars sale).

The exception to this rule occurs when a stop word is intrinsic to the meaning of the phrase. Search Google for Shakespeare’s famous phrase, to be or not to be, which consists entirely of stop words and you’ll see lots of relevant results:

To be or not to be search results

As we can see, Google tries to consider the user’s intention when delivering its results. So we should do the same. As a user I want to find web pages that are well written - in proper English. So when confronted with two keywords that are identical except for the stop words, choose the term that’s easier to read.

If we apply this thinking to our list, we can remove the keywords in bold:

used cars for sale
used car for sale
for sale used cars
used cars sale
second hand cars sale
second hand cars for sale
second hand car for sale
secnd hand cars for sale
cheap cars for sale
cheap car for sale

Great, so now our list is a couple of keywords smaller, but we can still narrow it down a bit more. To do this let’s look at plurals.

2. Singular and plural keywords

Singular and plural terms are largely treated as the same by Google. Rank for the singular (used car) and you are likely to rank for the plural (used cars), too. So:

  • Look at your keyword list and identify the keywords - singular or plural - that gets more searches.
  • Choose the keyword with the higher volume.

In our example, plural searches are more popular (high volume). So, we’ll get rid of the terms with the lower volume:

used cars for sale
used car for sale
for sale used cars
second hand for cars sale
second hand car for sale
secnd hand cars for sale
cheap cars for sale
cheap car for sale

3. Miss Spellings’ improper English

Frequently, users mis-spell or mis-order keywords when they search. Google has got better and better at identifying when this has happened.

Nowadays, Google just shows the results that it thinks users want and gives the option to view the results for the actual search.

You can see an example from Google’s results below. The user has misspelt second as secnd. Google recognizes the mistake and shows results for the correct spelling:

Misspellings

Google removes misspellings from its searches. So we should do the same to our keyword list:

used cars for sale
for sale used cars
second hand for cars sale
secnd hand cars for sale
cheap cars for sale

4. Make sure your keywords are easy to read

Our final common sense tip is to identify keywords that are easy to read.

Where two keywords contain the same words but in a different order, do not target both keywords on the same page. This can look like keyword stuffing, which Google hates.

It is likely that one variation will appeal more to the reader, as it will be easier to read. This is usually the more popular (higher volume) variation. So, choose that one.

It is likely that targeting one term will also capture traffic for the other.

If a keyword uses words in an order that seems illogical yet has the higher volume, try a Google search for that keyword. The results Google delivers may give you some clues about why.

Let’s use this piece of logic on our list and remove the term in bold:

used cars for sale
for sale used cars
second hand for cars sale
cheap cars for sale

This now leaves a list of three keywords, which can be used as the primary and secondary keywords for our page.

In this scenario I would choose used cars for sale as the primary keyword as it has the higher volume and gives the best description of the page’s content. I would choose the long tail keywords second hand cars for sale and cheap cars for sale as my secondary keywords.

We have now narrowed down our list of 10 keywords to three by following some common sense logic and an understanding of how a search engine works.

There are always exceptions to any best practice methods, so watch out when you see different behavior from the search engines. A good way to check whether two keywords are likely to be viewed as the same is to Google them both (make sure you are using a private browsing window to avoid personalized search results). If the first 20-30 results match closely, it is likely that the terms can be combined.

 

Keyword Basics

Here are links to the other seven articles in this series:

Keyword Basics Part 1: How search engines work

Keyword Basics Part 2: Finding keywords

Keyword Basics Part 3: Understanding a keyword's structure

Keyword Basics Part 4: Targeting your primary and secondary keywords

Keyword Basics Part 6: Keyword mapping

Keyword Basics Part 7: Using keyword modifiers

Keyword Basics Part 8: Building keyword rich inbound links

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