My goal with this post is to teach you what is keyword research and how to rock it like a boss.
I’m passionate about this topic because for many years I was doing it WRONG because of some simple misunderstandings that I’m going to smash through in this post.
Ready? Let’s get going then!
As an affiliate marketer, I don’t even start writing unless I have a clear keyword target.
Every post or page of my site is optimized for a particular keyword phrase (except where I got lazy…)
Why does this even matter?
Well, do you want organic traffic from Google? Do you want to be sitting in the top results of the search engines for relevant searches?
Of course you do!
My friend, you can make this happen by leveling up your keyword research and mastering your SEO.
What is a Keyword
Ok, you probably know what a keyword is right? But just so we’re all on the same page, it’s a phrase that someone is typing into Google hoping to find a blog just like yours.
But not all keywords are created equal. Some keywords are immensely popular and received hundreds of thousands of searches each month. Others are lame-o and get less than 50 searches a month. I know which one I’d rather rank for.
Types of Keywords
We can group keywords into 3 different types – head, body or tail.
Head keywords are massively broad and totally useless for all intents and purposes. For example – you can’t tell what someone is looking for if they type in say, television. They might want to buy a TV, watch TV online, find out how TV’s work or read up on the history of TV. You just can’t tell.
Then you have body keywords. These are a lot better. There’s more words for one thing and it helps narrow down what the searcher is actually looking for. Using our TV example again – they might be searching for television repairs in Boston. Much easier to determine whether you want to target the keyword now right?
Next type of keyword is the long tail keywords. These actually make up the vast majority of searches, although any individual one has a lot less volume than the body or head keywords. However, these type of keywords are dead on specific and targeted. This is what happens when you type a question into Google. For example – how to repair your own television on a budget. You can tell exactly what the searcher wants.
So which one is best to target? A mix of body and long tail keywords. As an added bonus, if you target body keywords you will naturally start to rank for related long tail keywords as well. Win-win!
How to find Keywords
There are loads of ways to come up with keyword ideas. You can use:
- Your own brain;
- Sites like: ubersuggest.org, Google related searches, Soovle, Wikipedia…
- Suggestions from your keyword tool
How to find a Good Keyword
There are a couple of things that all good keywords have in common:
- Traffic volume
- Relatively easy competition
- Makes sense.
But here’s the thing – it depends on what you want to do with the traffic that determines whether a keyword is good.
For example, if I’m trying to sell an affiliate product, I want a strong buying keyword. I want a keyword someone is searching for when they are READY to buy. If I find one of these keywords, it almost doesn’t matter how much search volume there is (so long as there is some) as people are GOING TO BUY.
So what do you want people to do when they reach your site? Do you want to sell to them? Sign them up to your email list? This will determine the type of keywords you will want to look at.
Another important point, and one that is often overlooked is that the keyword must make sense! It’s very difficult to optimize your blog post to a keyword that is plain awkward and doesn’t make sense.
Lastly, and critically important is the competition factor. In fact, it’s so important it gets its own heading…
Know your competition
Ahh, competition – the crucial factor and you might be doing it all wrong.
If you are using most keyword tools (Google Keyword Planner, Jaaxy), the competition indicator is virtually useless.
I can explain.
Ok so lets say you have a keyword, it’s awesome, high traffic volume and wow, only 22 competition (if you’re using Jaaxy) and Low competition in Google Keyword Planner..
Then you do a Google search and see sites like Forbes, Huffington post, Amazon and a couple of other e-commerce sites taking up the entire top 10. There is very little hope you will be able to outrank these behemoths. So, that juicy keyword with hardly any competition? It’s actually not so juicy.
What just happened? If your keyword tool (Jaaxy) gives you a number value for the competition may simply be counting the NUMBER OF COMPETITORS. Ok, yes, this information is sorta, kinda relevant BUT it gives you no clue as to the strength of that competition. Which is a far more important value when you are looking for rankings.
Note – competition in the Google Keyword Planner is actually ADVERTISER competition. It has nothing to do with how many people are targeting this keyword naturally by using SEO.
How to analyze your competition
I’ve written a blog post about this in detail here – How to Find Keyword Competition – Its not just a numbers game.
But here are the key points.
A couple of factors determine competition strength, this is my non-exhaustive list:
- How well optimized the page is for the keyword (we’ll get to that in a minute)
- Domain and page authority
- Age of site
One of my favorite keyword tools (Long Tail Pro) takes all these factors into account and spits out a score to indicate the strength of competition. It certainly saves you some leg work.
To check this out manually would take some time (but is well worth doing for pivotal blog posts).
The exact steps you need to take to work this out manually is detailed in this post: How to Find Keyword Competition – Its not just a numbers game.
So what is a good sign in your keyword competition?
- Keyword not optimized in url, title, meta description.
- Low domain and page authority
- Not many links
- Site isn’t very old
Also, quick hint – if you see forum posts or something like Yahoo Answers or Quora in the top 10 search results, that’s a great sign!
Keyword Research Tools
You won’t get far in keyword research without the right tools for the job. I’m going to quickly discuss three popular keyword tools, two are premium (paid) tools – however, one has a free trial and one has a $1 for 10 day trial. I highly recommend giving one or both a test drive, just to see what’s out there.
Google Adwords Keyword Planner
I know a lot of people are using Google Keyword Planner because it’s free. However, I discovered in my research for this post that there are several fundamental flaws to the Google Keyword Planner.
Firstly, keyword data discovered through keyword tools that use your own Google adwords account will be influenced because Google factors in your search history.
I’m also going to summarize this awesome post I found at Moz – it contains lots of talk about averages and standard deviations, so if that’s your thing, you can go read it over there. Basically, the Google Keyword Planner is inaccurate because:
- Google rounds the average traffic numbers. When you think about it, this should be obvious. When was the last time you saw 14,689 as a traffic result? The problem is…
- Google rounds up or down into these things that have been dubbed ‘buckets’. The keyword returns the result of the closest bucket, but as volume gets greater the distance between buckets increases so there could be a difference of ~80,000 searches for some keywords.
- Google doesn’t want you to have all the cards. They hide some fantastic keywords that are highly related to your query and instead…
- Google recommends some really strange related keywords sometimes.
- Google is inconsistent about combining traffic volume for misspellings and variations of things that mean the same thing and are redirected to the correct spelling. So – sometimes the traffic volume will be combined showing both options to have the same numbers of searches. And sometimes the traffic volume won’t be combined – so this might make a stellar keyword look just average because the phrases that are remapped to it aren’t being added to its volume.
Jaaxy (Free Trial – 30 searches – some functionality locked down)
I rather like Jaaxy. It’s not just a keyword research tool – it also tells you if domains are available and can check out your competition’s stats, you can also use it to check your rankings for a certain keyword.
If you want to read more on Jaaxy, I’ve written a review of it here.
Basically, Jaaxy is a really fun tool to use with lots of features. But don’t listen to me, test it out yourself:
Long Tail Pro ($1 trial – full functionality)
This one could be my favorite keyword tool apart from two points –
- It’s not browser based.
- It’s relatively expensive.
Apart from that, it really shines in the competition analysis department. Unlike the other two keywords, Long Tail Pro shows you the top 10 results for each keyword and will analyse all those key points of competitiveness I mentioned above and return a value that relates to how difficult it would be to outrank that site. This feature is gold.
If you want to read a bit more about it, I’ve written up a review here.
How to Optimize for Keywords
Back in the day, sites could get ranked just by sneaking in loads of keywords to the point of being unreadable. It was LAME and turned certain parts of the interwebs into a steaming pile of you know what.
Google is getting smarter and smarter. They’re onto those scammy old tactics and penalize sites that try to get ahead using them. Google has also gotten better at working out what a site is about, without us having to beat the spiders over the head with it via over-optimization.
The aim of the game now is to optimize just enough to make it easy for Google to categorize you, but not so much that they think you’re Spammy McSpamfest.
This was a very long winded way to say use your keywords in:
- Your url
- Your post’s title
- The first few sentences of your blog post
- The name and alt text of your images
And you’re good.
Keep in mind that SEO is a long term strategy. You won’t see immediate results overnight (especially if your blog is new) but it will eventually lead to traffic.
This all sounds like too much work…
I know, right. So how about a super awesome plug in to take away some of the hard work and give you a rating on how you’ve done?
If you’re on WordPress, get yourself some Yoast SEO plugin. It will help you nail your on page SEO. It gives you a score and tells you how well you’ve done and what you need to work on to better optimize your page. Plus it’s all around useful with loads of features.
You can read more about it here.
All this stuff about keyword research and SEO might seem intimidating, but it’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it and once you get the right tools for the job. Its not a quick way to get traffic and you won’t really see results for a while, but once you do you will definitely be patting yourself on the back for putting the effort in.