I have previously written an introduction to the keyword research which covered the basics of keyword research, how to do it and what kind of keywords you should look for with your research.
The keyword research primer post also introduced the Google Keyword Tool for those who are unfamiliar with it and the basic concepts like keyword density and keyword phrase. This post builds on the foundation of the first post and gives a second look on keyword research.
After reading this post, you'll know how to find good keywords and how keyword research is used to find those good keywords and phrases for search engine optimization, SEO, which you can use to drive traffic to your blog or other site you want to promote. Using keyword research and SEO to get traffic is called Search Engine Marketing, SEM.
What the-- Keyword Research?
Keyword research is a practice used by search engine optimization professionals to find and research actual search terms people enter into the search engines when conducting a search. -Wikipedia
The main purpose of keyword research is to find good keywords and keyword phrases that people are searching for and are related to the topic of your blog, with the intention to utilize those words to attract search engine traffic.
Using different tools, like the free Google Keyword Tool, keyword research is done to look for search terms that are related to your blog and topic(s) you're covering. Using the tools you can dig deeper into the topic to find keywords and phrases that have good keyword characteristics (more about that in just a second) and specific (so whoever finds your site with those words will very likely find what she searches and stay).
When doing a keyword research, you can either
- look for one good keyword phrase you can use in a blog post, or
- do larger research looking for a list of keywords and phrases you can use on your blog over time.
In short, there are three characteristics that can be used to evaluate keywords and keyword phrases
- search volume
- advertiser interest
Average Monthly Search Volume
Search volume is a simple concept. You'll be looking how many people enter that keyword into the search engine every month (on average).
Search volume is often best evaluated at the monthly level, but looking at the daily search volume can give you an estimate how much daily traffic potential that keyword or keyword phrase has.
When looking for the monthly search volumes, look for broad match numbers, as you want to know the maximum potential the keyword or phrase has.
The Number of Competing Websites
Keyword Competition is about checking how many competing websites there are for that keyword.
Deeper keyword competition analysis takes a look at how many "serious" competitors that keyword has, e.g. sites and pages that have been fully or partly optimized for that keyword or phrase.
For the basic competition check, use a phrase match, putting the phrase in quotes and do a search with the term to see how many results come up.
Advertiser interest (or commercial value estimate) show if the keyword is interesting to the advertisers. For example, the Google Keyword Tool shows the level of advertiser competition for a word, meaning how many and how much advertising is done on that keyword or phrase.
High advertiser competition means that there are many advertisers doing pay-per-click advertising for that keyword and low competition means that there are only a few or no advertisers spending money on that keyword on the search engine.
Of the three characteristics, advertiser competition is the one that offers additional information that can tell if a keyword or phrase is particularly interesting. And if you're looking monetize your blog with AdSense, the advertiser competition and average cost per click for the word become very important.
On this post, we won't be looking much on the advertiser competition, but more so on the search volume and competition numbers.
What Kind of Keywords To Look For?
In short, high search volume, low competition. Or at least, avoid low search volume, high competition keywords and phrases.
And speaking of phrases, as I pointed out in the keyword research primer, it is often good (read: easier) to go after keyword phrases that have enough search volume and relatively low competition.
If you'd be building a blog or website about golf, it would not be very wise to start competing for the keyword "golf", for various reasons, but to name a few:
- one word is rarely specific enough for you to know that the searcher wants
- one word can and is often part of a phrase which changes the meaning
- e.g. "golf bag" vs. "Volkswagen Golf" (that's a car, just in case you don't know)
- one word is used in so many websites, that there's very little change that you'll get any traffic from it any time soon, if ever
You can start looking for the keywords with one word, but when picking the keywords, pick search phrases with at least two words in them, preferably more.
The longer the phrase, the lower the search volume, but on the hand, the phrase will be more specific and targeted and very likely has much less competition.
So now we know that we should be looking for high search volume, low competition keyword phrases.
What Kind of Search Volume I Should Look For?
You look for as high search volume as possible, but to narrow the search a bit, it's best to leave really high volume keywords out of your list (or use them to find longer, more targeted phrases).
As a rule, a keyword phrase you plan to do more time-consuming optimizing or targeting should have at least a thousand searches per month. Going below the thousand searches per month line will mean that you will be spending time (or money) for little results.
When looking for keywords to target, but not do excessive optimizing for, you can look for phrases with search volumes starting from 300 or so, but of course higher the better.
Good Keywords Have Low Competition
The competition is a bit trickier, but as a basic rule, low competition phrase is something that has less than ten thousand competing websites for it, phrase match (the searching with the keyword phrase in quotes).
If a phrase is relevant to your blog and topic and has less than 10000 competing websites with phrase match put that phrase on your keyword list no matter what the search volume is.
If there is even a little bit of search volume for that word, you can use at some point, but of course focusing on the most potential traffic generating keyword phrases first.
Putting It All Together
- Use Google Keyword Tool to find phrases relevant to your niche
- Keep the match type as "broad" to see the maximum traffic potential
- Search for the phrase in Google
- Use quotes to get phrase match
With the above we have some basic rules we can use for keyword research and quick competition analysis:
- search volume at least 1000 (300+) a month
- less than 10000 competing websites (lower the better)
In real world, finding these kinds of words can be tough, especially in the more competitive markets, so if you can't seem to find phrases with low enough competition you'll have to work harder to get ranked for that word, or dig deeper into lower volume words and use those.
For an individual blog post, you can (and should) target keyword phrases with search volume in the 300-1k range in your posts. If the competition is very low, even better (as long as the keyword actually has some kind relevance and means something).
By targeting a low competition and low search volume phrase, you can get results without extensive SEO, link building and other activities like that, so ranking an individual post for a phrase can be done by just using that word.
Good Keywords = Traffic
To summarize the first step into the world of keyword research and using the keyword phrases found for search engine optimization:
- Finding good keywords (300+ search volume per month and less competing websites the better, preferably < 10000) and
- using those keywords in your post title and title tag for that post/page.
Looking at both search volume and keyword competition, there is nothing wrong with taking a keyword with search volume of 300 or so, if it's very relevant to your blog and niche AND it has very little competition.
Good keywords have the potential to bring you traffic with very little investment.
And all traffic you get from search engines like this if FREE (apart from the time / money spent on finding the good keywords)
Small (Traffic) Numbers Add Up
When you get to the top of the search engine result pages (SERP) for that phrase, you'd be getting decent traffic from it every day, which can add up nicely over time. Add 100 posts like that and you'll be getting somewhere with that traffic alone (especially as search engines are not the only source of traffic as you know).
As you do a proper keyword research and come up with a list of keyword phrases like this and use them when planning your blog posts, putting the phrase in the post title (and title tag manually or with a plugin), you'd be doing more than your average blogger out there.
When your researched keyword list is filled with low competition phrases that have enough search volume, over time those posts will pile up and that 5 visitors per day for a post will soon be 50+ when you have ten posts up.
- Copyblogger: Keyword Research for Bloggers: A Comprehensive Guide
- WordStream: SEO Title Tag Formulas: How to Create High Performance Title Tags
- SEOmoz: 10 Steps to Advanced Keyword Research
Questions, comments, feedback?
As this is one huge topic to cover this article only covered the basics, but even the basics will get you far if you put some time into it.
There's always the possibility to hire someone else do this for you and outsource the whole keywords research and search engine optimization part of blogging, but doing keyword research and bit of SEO yourself will make you realize that it isn't that hard and seeing search engine traffic grow after doing little bit of work is a great feeling.
Because of that, I wrote this post and as I've learned a whole lot about the subject over the years, I'll be happy to answer your questions if you have any...
Thus, if you have a specific question about keyword research or search engine optimization, put your question in the comments or shoot a message to me with the contact form.