Keyword Research

Keyword research enables site owners to choose keywords when constructing and optimizing a website (page). Keyword research is also extensively used to manage PPC advertising campaigns or if you are looking to research and identify profitable niche markets.

When performing keyword research for constructing and optimizing a website (page) you are looking to select search terms that will reach your target audience. One of the common mistakes made by some SEOs is to avoid choosing keywords that are very competitive. Searchers tend to use a lot modifiers when they search and the more competitive the search term the more likely they are to use a modifier. Removing the possibility of ranking well for these modified searches is not a good idea. Competition can be a factor in deciding how to target a specific search term but you should never ignore a search term simply because you believe it is too competitive.

There are two basic tools for the site owner:

1. Digital Point Solutions Keyword Suggestion Tool

Digital Point’s online keyword tool compares Overture and WordTracker data side by side. It is free, quick and easy to use although it lacks WordTracker’s more advanced features. Here is a partial screen shot.

Digital Point's keyword tool screen shot

2. Google Adwords Keyword Tool

You will need an AdWords account to use Google Adwords Keyword Tool (Update: Not anymore, Google have an external version now.) but signing up is easy and well worth it just to use the tool. Although primarily designed for AdWords it is also ideal for use as a simple keyword suggestion tool. The big advantage is of course that it is using the latest Google data and you can find and select keywords based on this data. You can create keywords from a url (i.e. one page), a whole site, a keyword(s) that you enter or for AdWords users the most relevant terms in your account. The results are shown by relevance but can be ordered by Advertiser Competition or Search Volume on a scale of 1 to 5. You can also download the results as a .csv (for excel) file which makes it easy to compile master lists.

Here is a partial screen shot of a list from a keyword.

Google Adwords Keyword Tool screen shot

Here is a partial screen shot of a list from a url.

Google Adwords Keyword Tool screen shot

Most site owners will find the above tools sufficient for their needs but if you want to investigate other tools there are basically two kinds, keyword analytical tools and subscription based tools. Here are some examples with a link to the product and a link to a review of the product.

Keyword Analytical Tools:

Keyword Analyzer Review
The Keyword Bible Review
The Dowser Review

Subscription based:

WordTracker Review
Keyword Discovery Review
Keyword Intelligence Review

A word of caution though if you try these tools. The major search engines (Google,Yahoo and MSN) do not make their raw data available to anyone so these products have to obtain data from somewhere else. For example WordTracker uses data from the Metacrawler and Dogpile metacrawlers which represents a very small and not very representative sample of searches. Not only that but in order to estimate figures like the predicted number of searches for a keyword an extrapolation has to be made. In WordTracker’s case they assume Metacrawler and Dogpile account for 0.86% of all search engine queries (a dubious statistic in itself) and scale up the numbers in their database accordingly. This has the effect of compounding any errors in the original dataset and at the very least means that these derived numbers should not be taken too seriously.

A most important source of keywords that is often overlooked is your server logs. Regularly mine your server log data to find the search terms people are actually using to find your site and use these terms to construct new pages or modify existing ones. You can read more about this process in these two posts Long Tail Search and Long Tail Search Tool.

March 1st, 2007 Wordtracker have introduced a free keyword suggestion tool that will generate up to 100 related keywords.

May 11, 2007 Wordze is a new subscription based tool which has some interesting features.

July 31, 2007 Wordsfinder keyword generator.

Tutorial

8 Comments »

  1. Mutley2003 said,

    November 27, 2005 @ 6:22 am

    Your suggestion about looking at the server logs to find search terms that people are using intrigues me.

    OK, I have never obtained a server log and so I don’t know much about what is in it but I don’t see how a search engine request could get to your server log ..

    W3C ref re server logs does not say anything that would enlighten me
    http://www.w3.org/TR/WD-logfile

    I have not tried webalizer, but the sample reports shown at http://www.mrunix.net/webalizer/sample/index.html
    don’t seem to show “search terms”

    Could you explain a bit more, please?

    Oh, and thanks for the great site .. learning a lot here.

  2. duz said,

    November 27, 2005 @ 9:45 am

    Search for |digital camera| in Google and then look in the address bar, you will see a string something like this:http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=digital+camera&btnG=Google+Search i.e this is the url of the current page.

    If you click on the top result (dpreview.com) that string will now be a line in the dpreview.com server logs because it is the ‘referer’ page and as such part of the HTTP/1.1 protocol.

    Any modern log file analysis software can parse a logfile and list search terms for example http://ns3744.ovh.net/awstats/awstats.pl?config=destailleur.fr

    If your hosting service does not provide this kind of detailed report as a feature then change to another.

  3. Mutley2003 said,

    November 28, 2005 @ 12:42 am

    ok, I understand now .. from the referrer. Thanks very much

  4. cre8ivemind said,

    October 13, 2006 @ 8:12 pm

    Thanks dear, can you help me, tell me some thing about bold keywords & underline keywords, how much important

  5. duz said,

    October 13, 2006 @ 8:45 pm

    H1 etc., bold, strong, underline and other tags to indicate the importance of a keyword or phrase to a search engine is not as important as it used to be. Use them for the benefit of the reader (writing good copy) and not the search engines is the best approach now.

  6. weikelbob said,

    October 16, 2006 @ 3:54 am

    Hi Duz,

    There are 2 things that popped up that you didn’t cover in your keyword research area and would like your very knowledgable comments on them.

    1) You didn’t say anything about common sense. If digitalpoint’s and adwords’ keyword tools are ambiguous, it seems like you could look at the data and then say to yourself, “What keywords would I type in in this case” or “What’s a modifier that I would use”.

    2) In another site you once mensioned Google Sets as a tool to come up with nitch keywords, variations that you may not have thought of. In what I’ve done, this seems brilliant. How useful is Google sets in keyword research?

    Thanks Duz!

  7. duz said,

    October 16, 2006 @ 11:23 am

    Hi Bob how’s it going?

    You are right about common sense in keyword selection. It is also useful to remember that users can be in one of quite a few different modes, for example purchase oriented or browsing mode. Common sense can also be useful in anticipating which modifiers may be used in which mode.

    How useful is Google Sets in keyword research? Well ontological discovery can be very useful for ideas even if it doesn’t come up with keywords you haven’t found already. Google Suggest is another such tool that can help in this regard.

  8. robstroy said,

    June 26, 2007 @ 7:27 am

    Aside from Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery you can also use for your keyword research the KeywordSpy - a keyword research technology that will help you know your competitor’s online marketing strategies.

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