If you could know what books people want to read before you start writing your next book, or if you could find out what products and services people want before you even get your business license, wouldn’t you want that information? It could save you tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention the sting of failure. Market research tells you this information, and it has traditionally cost thousands of dollars to conduct. You could still go with market research firms and focus groups, but why, when you can have a keyword expert put together a customized keyword research report for you? You could also do it yourself, if you have the time to learn how. This post will give you some inside information from a keyword research professional.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research tells you what people are looking for when they use the internet. You don’t have to do market research the old way anymore. It’s too expensive and time-consuming, and for some things it’s not as effective. You can get all the information you need to get started or to refocus your business a lot faster and for a lot less money now.
For the DIYers in the audience: There are keyword research tools available, some paid, some free. Site Build It! offers an excellent tool, which costs about $400 a year to use. At the other end of the spectrum is Google’s Keyword Planner tool, which is free to use. You have to sign up for an Adwords account if you don’t already have one, but you don’t have to spend any money on ads to use the tool.
Choosing good keywords
You want keywords that enough internet users are searching for, but not too many, because too high a number means it’s too general, and that won’t help you land business. You want to find the intersections between things like “enough searches” and “terms that are specific enough” and “people are making money with it” and “not too much competition.” I have a system I created for finding the ones that are likely to be the best keywords. The client has to use their own judgment, though, because no matter how good a keyword might look, if it just does not fit their offering, it just does not fit, and needs to be tossed.
One tip: be transparent, not clever. Always create titles, headings, and subheadings that are (or contain) exactly what a person would type into a search engine to find what you’re writing about. “How to do keywords and SEO for posts” is a much, much better heading than “How my breakfast ended up on the bottom of your shoe.” Wait… that does sound like it would be interest-grabbing for some readers. I have a hard time coming up with bad headings now. I doubt anyone would enter that into a search engine, though, and that’s my point. Use words and phrases that someone would type into a search engine.
Here’s what I wrote to a client who had me set up a blog and put together a keyword research report for that blog he was getting ready to start.
You might know some of this information already. If so, don’t be offended. I’m assuming little to no knowledge. If you have any questions, just let me know.
The “all” tab contains all of the data that I didn’t already eliminate. With a report this size, you may think that I didn’t eliminate anything, but I actually cut about half of what’s here now: about 5,000 keywords. It may be overwhelming, and you may want to look at the other tabs first. You can sort any data on any page using the sort feature.
Here are some of the guidelines I use:
Searches between 5,000 and 100,000 a month are a good range for your main keywords to have. More than 200,000 searches a month, and you’re probably in an area that is too general, and the searches will not be targeted searches. You want targeted searches for your posts.
More general categories are okay for your tabs, or in the case of a blog, static pages. You can put links on those pages to individual posts.
The “CPC” column, or cost per ad click, gives an idea of how much advertisers are paying, on average. The higher, the better. If they’re paying a lot for a term to appear in an ad, they’re making money selling products/services associated with it. More on the Google Adwords program another day.
The “Competition” column doesn’t mean how many people are writing about that keyword, it just means the likelihood that an ad will show up on a page that has that keyword. The higher the decimal there, the better, when it comes to getting ads to show up on a post. It means a lot of products/services are being sold using that keyword.
Lower competition and higher search volume is okay for tabs/static page titles, but I wouldn’t use them for individual post titles.
For individual post titles, you can use keywords that have fewer searches, but you usually don’t want to go below 1,000 searches a month, preferably 5,000 or higher when you can. Disgregard both of those numbers if it’s a pretty important topic to you. Again, use your own judgment. These things are just guidelines.
Generally speaking, the more specific the keyword search is, the easier it is to get your post to show up for it, if Google thinks your post is relevant. Never try to “game the system.” Always match your content to the keywords you use on a page or post. Google takes many things into account when determining what rank to give a particular post or page. You want your posts to have good keywords in the title, headings, and body.
You want to link from one post or page within your site to another post or page within your site, whenever possible. Use in-line text links. For example: To tone your arms without weights, try these tricep dips. Make tricep dips link to another post or a video within another post.
For headings, you can use any keywords that fit, of course. I’d try to use the ones that aren’t ideal for a post title but still relate to the post’s topic. Related keywords are good to use, but write for your reader: things should make sense.
For good SEO, a post or article should look like this:
Title, using main keyword at or near beginning of title Introductory paragraph, using main keyword near end of first sentence
Heading that contains related keywords Short paragraph
Heading that contains related keywords Short paragraph
Short paragraph with a link if possible
Conclusion paragraph with a link if possible, and repeats the main keyword
Use the main keyword no more than 5% of the time (don’t “keyword stuff” the post). Just write naturally, and you should be fine. Use related keywords whenever possible.
You’ll find that a lot of the keywords do not fit what you’re trying to do. I’m including them, though, because you can write posts about why people don’t need them, and why your way is better. If it’s a term that gets a substantial number of searches, it can lead people to your site, then you can educate them once they’re there.
You can highlight the keywords any color you want. I’ve used green in all of the columns for the ones I think are good. The more cells that are colored green for a particular keyword in the report, the better, but don’t feel that you can’t use a word/phrase because it doesn’t have green. Use your own judgment. This data is just information for you to use in making decisions.
Keep this document so you can refer back to it.
If there are any keywords that you are just sure you’ll never use, don’t delete them. Cut and paste into another tab on this spreadsheet, and you can look at them again every few months.
People are almost always surprised that things they (at first) thought they’d never use ended up coming in handy.
There are many that are very similar to each other. To simplify your list, feel free to keep the best and cut and paste the rest into another tab. Again, don’t delete them.
In the keyword research reports I create for clients, in addition to having a worksheet that lists all of the keywords so they can be sorted by different variables, I have tabs that segment the keywords into the main topics and others that segment them by use, such as which ones to use on static pages, posts, headings, best ads. In this example, things related to weightlifting would go on one worksheet and words related to nutrition would go in another.
Keyword research definitely has a difficult learning curve, but with the right tools and some good advice, or with the right service provider, you can get what you need out of it. In the last 24 hours, I conducted keyword research on two different topics and wrote the outlines for three books from it. It’s a powerful skill to have. As always, may you be blessed as you do what you do best and farm out the rest.
Jennifer Harshman is an educator, writer, and editor who has read more than 15,400 books. Since 1992, she’s helped hundreds of writers and micro-business owners define and communicate with their markets. She loves dogs and her family and is a keyword-research geek, crunching numbers late into the night, just for the joy of it.
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