DIY SEO: Keyword Research

All Keywords Are Not Created Equal

Welcome to Part 2 of the free do-it-yourself SEO Guide. We’ll discover the keywords that you’ll want to rank well for in the search engines and we’ll be using these keywords to optimise your web site in Part 3: Website Optimisation.

Contents
Keyword Discovery
Keyword Research Tools
Culling the List
Keyword Relevance
Assessing Competition
Grouping and Mapping Keywords

The value of keyword research must not be underestimated. If you optimise your site for just the keywords that are obvious to you, without research, you are setting yourself up for failure. Ranking well for multiple, commonly used keywords in your market can bring your site a huge amount of targeted traffic. For every product or service there are potentially thousands of distinct keyword combinations that a user may enter in a search engine. The more variations of common keywords your pages rank for on the first page of search results, the more traffic you will receive.

There is a balancing act when selecting your keywords. You want keywords that lots of people are using when searching for the services/products that you offer. However, you generally do not want to optimise for single keywords, irrelevant, too broad or overly competitive keywords. Lucky for us there are some great free tools that can assist in the research process. Ultimately, selecting the right keywords takes consideration of the intent of the visitor using each particular search term. More on that later, lets get digging into the keywords.

Keyword Discovery

Start with a blank spreadsheet. If you don’t have Excel, you can use free alternatives like Open Office or Google Docs.

Brainstorming
To get started note down all of the obvious keywords that come to mind. This will include the main services you offer, the names of the top products you supply and any terms you believe would be relevant to see your site on the first page of search engine results for.

Try to keep in mind that the keywords should contain two or more words. Trying to rank for single words on your own is probably not realisticly acheivable. Single keywords are often too broad and too competitive anyway.

Example: if you were Dentist based in Perth, and you somehow managed to rank for the word ‘Dentist’ you would receive a lot of untargeted traffic from around the country and possibly other countries. Most of these visitors would leave after a few seconds when they realised that you could only service Perth. However, if you got to page one for ‘Perth Dentist’ and/or ‘Dentist Perth’ you could expect a lot of relevant visitors from the search engines.

Locality
If your business can only service a particular area, or you have shop front locations you should consider adding these locations to your main keywords as additional keywords on your list.

Tip
Don’t forget to consider acronyms, stemmings and related terms. Also add both the plural and singular versions of your keywords, they are separate in the eyes of the search engines, and in number of competing sites.

Analytics
If your site has web analytics installed you can see which keywords people are currently using to find your site. You may find a few keywords you had not thought of to add to the list.

Keyword Research Tools
Once you have exhausted the above ideas, it’s time to see if a keyword tool can suggest some keywords you hadn’t thought of. In keeping with the principal of using on free and straight forward tools, I suggest you checkout Google’s External Keyword Tool. It’s the same keyword tool found within Google Adwords, but you don’t have to be an Adwords Advertiser to access it.

If you are an Australian business, with Australian clients, make sure you have selected Results are tailored to English, Australia (see screenshot below point 1).

google-external-keyword-tool

Run through your existing keyword list, entering your keywords one at a time (see screenshot above point 2). Keep the Use synonyms option ticked (see screenshot above, point 3) – it will reveal more keyword ideas.

Once you get your first list of results you have the option to sort and filter the results in a number of ways.
For the most relevant results you should select Exact Match and sort the results on Local Search Volume. However if you are getting a lot of ‘Not enough data’ results in the Local Search Volume column, which is often the case for Australian results, you may need to use Phrase or Broad match. Very basically, exact match only counts for when people use the term you entered exactly as you entered, phrase match return results for when people search for the term you entered with extra keywords around it and Broad could be any keyword Google thinks is related to the term you enter. If that doesn’t make sense, you can read more on keyword matching options here or just try each of them and see the results for yourself.

google-keyword-tool-results

Which ever match type you use, make sure you use it consistantly for every keyword you enter into the tool. In your spreadsheet you should make a note of the Local Search Volume for each of the keywords you add to your list – so it is important to keep the match type consistant for comparable data.

Once you have completed this process for each of the existing keywords on your list, and each of the new keywords revealed by the Google keyword Tool, you should have quite a decent list of potential keywords.

Culling the List
You don’t want to end up with a list of 100+ keywords to optimise your site for. For a do-it-yourselfer I suggest starting with around 20 core keywords. If you have a lot of core services or products that warrant more than 20, that’s your call. You can research as many as you feel necessary and optimise the additional when you have more time and experience, having done the first 20-odd.

Consider how many pages you have on your website and the content of each. You only want to optimise each page for 3 or 4 keywords max or you will end up diluting the ranking ability of each.

You list should be taking shape, it may look something like this:

keyword-list

Keyword Relevance
Review the keywords you have collected and make sure they are relevant to you.

You must understand you can not optimise any page for any keyword.

Take a Dentist for example. If the dentist has a page for each of his main services (checkups, whitening, veneers etc) he could optimise each page for a handful of the best keywords for each of those services.

However, if he does not have a page dedicated to tooth whitening, he should not attempt to optimise his contact page for the tooth whitening keywords – as the content of the page does not support the keywords, there is no relevancy. He would have to either plan to create a new page dedicated to that service and keep the keyword on his list (recommended), or drop the keyword from the list.

Assessing Competition
Another way to cull some of the keywords from your list is to drop anything that is too broad, which usually has such a huge amount of competition that you may never rank for it.

There are a couple of ways to get an idea of the amount of competition there is for a particular keyword. One of the ways a lot of SEO’s do it is by using the allintitle: command in Google.

allintitle-searchallintitle-results

Another common method is doing a Google phrase match search for the keyword.

phrase-match-searchphrase-match-results

Once you have the number of competiting sites for each keyword your list should look something like this:

keyword-list-competitors

For a do-it-yourselfer I would recommend sticking to keywords with less than 50,000 allintitle: competitors, or less than 250,00 phrase match competitors – unless it is an absolute core keyword that you can not live without – just be prepared for a long battle.

It is important to note that both methods only give you an idea of the number of competing sites (those of which are savvy enough to have the keyword in their title tag anyway) – however, it cannot reveal the strength of those sites.

Researching the strength of the competiting websites is probably beyond the scope of a do-it-yourself guide, but it involves inspecting each of the top 30 results to asses how well optimised their site is and how many links, and the quality of the links they have to the ranking page. You might be in a better position to asses this, once you have completed week 3, having assesed these factors on your own site.

Grouping and Mapping Keywords
If you have a number of keywords relevant to a particular service or product, you should group them together as a visual aid for mapping the keywords to a page. You can do this by simply colour coding them, this is particularly helpful for big lists.

Your list may now look something like this:

grouped-keyword-list

Once you have grouped all related keywords you can map them to the relevant pages on your website by Adding a page column to your spreadsheet and noting the URL for each group.

If you have a group of keywords that will be important for your site to rank for, but no existing page relevant to those keywords, make a note or enter ‘new page’ in the page column. Get onto your developer, or make a note to make a page for those keywords when you have a chance.

Your list will now be looking something like this:

keyword-research-list

Conclusion
Hopefully by now you will have a great list of around 20 keywords to optimise your site for. It might be worth saving the list, closing it and leaving it for a day. Come back to it the next day and make sure that all of the keywords in final list are actually relevant and attainable.

If you are happy with your keyword list, well done! You are ready for Part 3: Website Optimisation.
If you are not sure about how good your list is, I’d be happy to give it a once over and give you some feedback.

4 comments

  1. Paula   •  

    Brilliant guide – thanks very much for this guide. It’s nice and easy to understand.

  2. David O'Donnell   •     Author

    Thanks for the feedback Paula, I’m glad you found it easy to follow 🙂

  3. michael   •  

    What a fantastic document, really easy to read and follow. Thanks

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