4000+ Words on Keyword Research
So, I’m trying to forge out into covering some new topics here, but I just wanted to put a few things to rest about keyword research and SEO first. So in this lengthy blog post, I’m going to lay out how I use Market Samurai to do keyword research.
(FYI: This blog post is filled with affiliate links for Market Samurai, Traffic Travis, and Niche Profit Classroom. If you are considering getting one of these programs, it would really make my day if you got through my affiliate link)
Am I an idiot for revealing my precise keyword research strategy below? Or will the daunting 4,000+ words in this post be enough to deter anyone from actually reading it? You be the judge of that.
When I first started building websites in August 2009, I was led to believe that keyword research wasn’t really that important. I was taught to just go after any keyword phrase with three or more words and more than 1,500 searches per month.
This was really bad advice. I probably should have known better, but for one reason or another, I just decided to put 100% faith into what I was taught.
This resulted in me trying to rank for keywords like “lose weight fast,” which I stood almost no chance of ever ranking for.
In order to rank for very competitive keywords like “lose weight fast” you would likely need hundreds (if not thousands) of backlinks from authority sites, maybe a few links from .edu and .gov domains, you’d need to build a massive website with several hundred pages of content on a high PR domain name, and even then you still might not get ranked.
On the other hand, if you do some research, you can cut your workload down significantly.
You can get plenty of targeted traffic from search engines if you take the time to really research your niche and find some keywords that have much less competition and in some cases are not obvious to your run-of-the-mill marketer.
Why go after the keywords that everyone else is fighting over, when you can sneak though the back door and bypass all the struggle?
Wouldn’t it be easier if all you needed to do to rank on the front page for search results was to do some basic on-page SEO, and get 10 or 20 backlinks?
This guide will show you everything I know about keyword research and the exact method I use to do keyword research myself.
What You Need to Do Proper Keyword Research
I use a tool called Market Samurai to do keyword research. This tool is not free, but personally, I find it to be the absolute best keyword research software out there and it is more than worth the cost if you are serious about doing SEO and driving traffic from organic search results. As of the time I am writing this, you can get a free-trial of the Market Samurai software to try it out for yourself before deciding if you want to purchase it.
However, if you are on a shoestring budget, you can also try out a free program called Traffic Travis. Traffic Travis is similar to Market Samurai (however, it only runs on PC, while Market Samurai runs on both PC and Mac operating systems). There is a paid version of Traffic Travis, but if you’re just getting started, the free version should be enough to get you off the ground.
The reason I prefer Market Samurai over Traffic Travis is because, in my experience, Market Samurai gives better results. However, I have not used Traffic Travis for keyword research in probably about 9 months, so they may well have improved it since then. Plus, I have a Mac and Market Samurai is much more convenient for me to use on my computer.
In this guide I’ll show you how I use Market Samurai to do keyword research. If you get Traffic Travis, you should be able to adapt what I show you here to work with that software fairly easily.
Keyword Research with Market Samurai
Once you start up Market Samurai and create a new project for your website, you’ll want to start hunting for some good keywords that will help you avoid most of the competition.
To do this, you start by entering in “seed keywords” into Market Samurai.
These keywords aren’t necessarily keywords you are investigating. Think of these more as ideas that might uncover new keywords to rank for.
For the purposes of this guide, I’m going to do research for a hypothetical weight loss website. Many people believe that the weight loss niche is too competitive to make money in, however, if you do proper keyword research, you will discover that there is no such thing as a niche that is too competitive, only keywords that are too competitive.
So, our website is about weight loss. Examples of “seed keywords” could be things like:
Exercises for Weight Loss
Food for Weight Loss
Supplements for Weight Loss
Weight Loss for Women
Weight Loss for Men
Weight Loss After Pregnancy
Weight Loss Without Dieting
Weight Loss Without Exercising
Boost Your Metabolism
You get the idea.
Again, these are just ideas or hunches that we might have that could uncover potential keywords.
How to Think Up Seed Keywords
Chances are good you’ll have a really boring website if all your keywords are things like “lose weight fast,” “fast ways to lose weight,” “lose weight quickly,” “rapid fat loss,” and “how to quickly lose weight.” Plus, you’re probably just scratching the surface of your niche and not really touching on the important topics and unique situations.
If you’re like me and you’ve been stick-thin you’re whole life, how do you start to gain an understanding of a niche that you may potentially know nothing about in order to think up these “seed keywords?”
Here are some quick tips:
Browse through magazines or books on the topic. I like readings women’s fitness magazines, since not only can you learn about topics within your niche, but you can also learn marketing tactics that the editors of those magazines use to help entice people to buy the magazine.
Visit forums online dedicated to the subject and look at the things people are talking about in the various threads. Do people talk about diets? Workout routines? Calories? Metabolism? Motivation? Make note of these. These are all great “seed keywords.”
And a last idea is to visit other websites that sell some kind of product for the niche. If the sales page is professionally done, there is a good chance that whoever put it together took the time to do their own research to connect with the niche. Read through the bullet points and get an idea of what people in the niche deal with and what they likely think about.
Sifting for Gold
Okay, so let’s get back to Market Samurai and start looking for actual keywords to use on our weight loss website.
I’m going to pick the “seed keyword” for this example as “food for weight loss.”
I’ll enter that into Market Samurai as a “new keyword.”
Then, we’ll tell Market Samurai to go out and look for a bunch of search terms that are related to “food for weight loss.”
It will come back with a huge list of possible keywords. Now we need to start filtering through these keywords to find which ones have a good search volume without being too competitive.
Let’s take our list of possible keywords to be sorted by clicking on the “analyze keywords” button.
This brings us to a new page with lots of intimidating-looking check boxes and fields that you can enter numbers into. Don’t worry too much about these. I usually only worry about two factors:
The first is the search volume. Simply put, this is the number of people that search for this keyword. I like my keywords to have a minimum search volume of 30 searches per day. However, I’ll set the minimum number to 25 just to make sure I don’t miss an awesome keyword that might only get searched for 29 times per day.
The second thing I look at is the SEOC number. This stands for Search Engine Optimization Competition. What this number tells us is the number of pages on Google that have the keyword phrase written in the exact order that they are typed in. If you’ve got any experience with internet marketing, you might know this better as “phrase match” results.
This number is the number of pages that Google will come back with if you type the keyword phrase in quotes into their search box. Basically, this number will tell you the number of pages out there that are “trying” to compete for that particular keyword phrase. I put the word “trying” in quotes since many of the pages probably aren’t making any sort of active effort to try and rank for that phrase, but they are still pages that you will have to do better than if you want to rank for that phrase.
I like the SEOC value to be less than 50,000 competing pages. But I set this number to 75,000 just to make sure that I don’t leave out a really good keyword that may have a little more than 50,000 competing pages.
Then simply click the “analyze keywords” button and let Market Samurai run it’s magic. It will get rid of all the keywords on your list that have too low of a search volume or too many competing pages.
This first round of filtering is based on the Money Word Matrix that is used in the Niche Profit Classroom course. Based on the parameters listed above, you should be able to get a good amount of keywords that are “Excellent,” “Good,” or “Fair” based on their model of keyword research. If you want to learn more about Niche Profit Classroom and the Money Word Matrix, check out here.
But that’s not the end of it though. We’re just getting started with keyword research.
Look over the list of keywords that are left. Actually, read them and think about what is going on in the mind of someone that types these search phrases into a search engine.
Can you tell with reasonable certainty what this person wants?
Can you tell how eager this person is to solve their problem?
Can you, in some way, connect this person to the answer they are looking for?
There isn’t an easy way to do this, I’m afraid. You have to carefully consider each keyword phrase and think about it.
Obviously, we want keywords where we:
Know what the person is searching for
Know the person is very interested in solving their problem (eager to buy), and
Know that we can connect this person to something that they want in a way that can make us money (affiliate offer, opt-in box, your own product or service etc.).
In Market Samurai, I’ve gone ahead and checked the box next to the keywords I believe fit these criteria well enough. Then, go to the pull-down menu at the bottom of the screen and “open in new tabs.”
Reading Tea Leaves
In the final step of keyword research, we are getting serious about our keywords now and we’re taking a closer look at them to make sure that they have a good chance of working out.
By now, we’ve got keywords that have a good search volume, a relatively low number of competing pages, and have very targeted people searching them that we can hook up with some kind of offer that can make us money.
Now we’re going to look at what is actually currently on the front page results of Google to determine if we’ve got a shot at squeezing our site in there as well.
This part of the process is very intuitive. There are a couple of guidelines I can offer you, but as you’re doing this, remember to look at the big picture as well. Ask yourself “Could my website do better than one of these?”
So, we need to go to the tab of one of our potential keywords that we just opened up. Then we click on the “SEO analysis” option in the left-hand margin. Click the button that says “analyze keyword.”
This may take some time, but when this operation is finished, Market Samurai will show you a confusing-looking matrix of numbers and colors. It will take some time to get used to looking at these.
This is what each of the headings means:
DA – Domain Age – How old is the domain name, in years. Search engines generally trust older, more established sites over newer ones.
PR – Page Rank – This is how important Google thinks this page is. 0 is not very important at all (like my blog, for example); 10 is the most important type of webpage you can imagine.
IC – Indexed Content – Basically how many pages are on the domain. Larger sites are favored over smaller sites, since it is assumed that large sites are serious about producing quality content.
BLP – Backlinks to the Page – The number of backlinks that point to this specific page.
BLD – Backlinks to the Domain – The number of backlinks that point to any page on the domain.
BLEG – Backlinks from .edu and .gov Domains – Many people consider backlinks from Universities (.edu domains) and Government sites (.gov domains) to be particularly important. These can include other “authority” domain types like .ac.uk and .mil as well, but .edu and .gov are the most common.
DMZ - DMOZ – Whether the domain is listed in the DMOZ Directory. You can submit your site for free, but don’t expect them to list you or do anything really.
YAH - Yahoo – Whether the domain is listed in the Yahoo Directory. Pay Yahoo $300 and they’ll list your site for one year. If you shell out money, it means you’re serious about building a quality website, apparently.
Title – Does the keyword appear in the Title of the page?
URL – Does the keyword appear in the URL of the page
Desc – Description – Does the keyword appear in the meta description of the page?
Head – Does the keyword appear in the head tag?
CA – Cache Age – The number of days since the Google Bot visited the page. Active pages are supposedly better.
Now, we are most interested in 2 of these values, but don’t forget to keep an eye on the big picture too and go with your gut-level instinct. The 2 values we want to pay most attention to are:
BLP (Back Links to the Page) – This is the number of backlinks that link directly to this page. If you can get more backlinks with your own marketing plan than any of these pages has, then that is a good sign.
I don’t know what your personal strategy is for getting backlinks, but I use article marketing and I can easily get at least 10-20 backlinks without too much effort. If I see a lot of pages with less than 10 backlinks, that is a good sign for me. However, if I see a lot of pages with over 50 backlinks, I know that I might have to struggle to rank for that keyword.
PR (Page Rank) – Page rank is how important Google views that particular page. PR10 is reserved for extremely important pages such as www.WhiteHouse.gov or www.Google.com (of course…). PR0 is for websites that are new or of low quality. Most decent websites that have been around for awhile have a PR of about 3 or so. I’m no master of getting high PR, but I can get a PR of 1 or 2 pretty easily for a new site with a little bit of time.
Now this next step may seem a little odd, but bear with me…
What I do next is to add up all the PR values of the pages on the first page results of Google and then divide by the number of results on the front page.
The above SEO matrix is for the keyword “extreme weight loss methods.”
If you add the PR values of all the pages on the front page of Google, you will get 20.
Then divide that number by the number of results on the front page of Google (10 in this case), and you’ll get 2.0
Generally, I like to go for a PR average of 2.0 or less, but I will consider going for PR averages that are slightly higher if I think the keyword is particularly good or if I generally get a good feeling from the rest of the SEO matrix.
There are some other clues that a keyword might be easy to rank for.
One of these is if the same domain is listed twice (or more) on the front page. Generally this means that there isn’t much competition if Google has to back to the same domain more than once just to fill up the front page results.
This matrix is for the keyword “protein diet menu.” Here you can see that two of the results are from the article directory www.buzzle.com.
Another clue is if there are a lot of marketer-friendly websites on the front page. These include things like Ezine Articles or articles from other article directories, Web 2.0 sites like Squidoo or Hubpages, or answer-type websites like Yahoo Answers and WikiAnswers.
Most marketers are lazy and probably don’t promote articles they submit to directories or other Web2.0 sites that they build very well. Usually they make these sorts of sites just to funnel traffic to their own site or just to get a backlink to their site.
If these kinds of site are showing up on the front page, you might have an easier time with these keywords. If nothing else, you can simply write and Ezine Article or Hubpage or whatever for the same keyword, promote it a little bit in order to replace their Web2.0 page with your own.
Here you can see that for the keyword “easy diet plans” there are a few of these types of websites ranking.
www.buzzle.com and www.ezinearticles.com are both article directories, and www.hubpages.com is a web 2.0 site that many internet marketers use.
One last clue that you might be able to outdo the competition is if the front page is full of exact-match domains for the keyword. For example…
Take a look at these websites and see if they are a low-quality site that some marketer built for the sole purpose of making money, or if they look like someone actually cared enough to build a quality site.
However, in some niches, it is pretty obvious that someone just went around buying domains and putting up low-quality sites.
Remember it is a good sign if you see other marketers ranking for a keyword. All you have to do is be just a little bit better than the other marketers (which generally isn’t that difficult) and you can out rank them.
Taking all of this into consideration, here is an example of a keyword that I would personally try to rank for:
The keyword is “no carb food list” and as you can see, the competition isn’t that difficult.
We can guess that the person searching for this term is on some sort of diet, and hence they are trying to lose weight.
We can give them a list of foods that have no carbs in an article and then recommend a low-carb diet program to them in ClickBank, for example.
When you look at the SEO matrix, you can see that there is:
one domain name listed twice,
an average PR value of 1.8,
a few pages that have a low number of backlinks,
none of the pages have perfect on-page SEO, and
generally a feeling that the competition isn’t unbeatable.
This is the kind of keyword you have a great chance of ranking for.
A Note on Search Match
There are three types of match-type data when it comes to analyzing keywords. These are Broad Match, Phrase Match, and Exact Match.
Broad Match – These are the people who are searching for any phrase that contains the words in your keyword. For example if the keyword is “no carb food list” people might be searching for “list of no carb foods to eat” or “list of foods with no carbs.”
Phrase Match – These are the people who are searching for any phrase that contains the words in your keyword in that specific order. For example “no carb food list for a diet” or “what is a no carb food list.”
Exact Match – These are the people who are searching for just the phrase that is exactly the keyword. In this case it would be “no carb food list.”
I take all of these into consideration. Broad, Phrase, and Exact Match
But I Heard of Some Guy on the Warrior Forum Who Said That Broad and Phrase Match Data Are Worthless!
There is this meme that seems to be going around these days that says that the only thing you should pay attention to is the Exact Match data since that will show you the number of people who are actually typing a particular phrase into a search engine like Google. and that all other keyword data isn’t even worth considering.
Sure, I pay attention to Exact Match phrases, and if I think I can rank for a phrase that has a good Exact Match search volume, I’ll go for it. But if you’re only pay attention to Exact Match searches, you’re leaving a lot of potential traffic (and money) on the table.
Why should you go after redonkulously competitive keywords, doing battle with top-notch SEO pros with huge armies of linkbuilders and multi-million dollar corporations with huge marketing accounts to hire said SEO pros?
Did you know that something mind-blowing 25% of all Google searches are completely unique and no one in the history of time has ever searched for them before?
That means that if you’re slugging it out with all the “big guys” for that keyword that get 10,000,000 Exact Match searches every millisecond (or whatever), you’re completely ignoring at least 25% of all search traffic (actually much more!).
I’d much rather rank on page 1 for some keyword that only gets a modest amount of traffic than on page 5 for some ultra-competitive keyword. And based on how I do SEO, I draw a lot of water for long-tail Broad Match search results.
But if you still don’t believe that Broad Match data is worth anything, here is a video that explains the importance of all three types of data.
Go with Your Gut
Finally, make sure that you trust your own intuition about keywords. Keyword research is an art and no amount of memorizing numbers is going to find you the perfect keyword. If you get a good feeling from the keyword, just go ahead and use it. You never know what you can rank for if you put in some work.
Remember to Take Action
As bad as I consider the initial keyword research advice I got when I was first getting started (over 1,500 searches per month and 3 or more words), I understand why I got such simplistic advice.
Many people get caught up in “Analysis Paralysis” when they are first getting started. And keyword research is generally one of the first things people learn when they are getting started.
Don’t get caught in the habit of wasting all your time searching for the “perfect” keywords. They don’t exist (or if they do, I have yet to find them).
You will get so much more accomplished and you’ll get far better results if you just pick keywords that are “good enough” and start taking action.
Sure, planning and preparation is important, but if you find yourself spending all of your time mulling over things and not moving forward, you’re stuck in “Analysis Paralysis.”
Set time limits for doing things that you know you could easily get carried away with, such as keyword research. For me, I can probably do all the keyword research I need for a new niche website in about one day of solid work. I may not be able to get “the best” keywords in that one-day time frame, but I can get keywords that are “good enough.”
Now get busy and remember to put what you learn here into action!
Market Samurai – This is in my opinion, the best keyword research tool on the internet and more than worth every penny that it costs.
Traffic Travis – This is a free alternative to Market Samurai if you’re on a tight budget.
Niche Profit Classroom – This is a training course that shows you how to build a profitable niche website from scratch. What I really like about Niche Profit Classroom, however, is the keyword research techniques that they teach such as the Money Word Matrix.
Download This Post as PDF - Some of the images on this post may be too small to read. Or maybe you just want to print this out for yourself. If that’s the case, you’re in luck because this blog post used to be a PDF report that I called Keyword Apocalypse (Stupid name, I know, but cut me some slack!).
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