SEO on a Nickel - A quick method for keyword research and selection
This might not seem like the most original post in the world, as a lot of people have covered the topic of keyword selection before, and done so quite well. One thing I've noticed that's usually missing from these posts, however, is a practical and quick methodology with some examples. So today, I'm going to walk you through an example of how you can make some smarter decisions on keyword selection.
First, the tools you'll need to pull this off:
Second, the overall concept of what we're trying to do:
When I talk with clients I ask the three basic questions in keyword selection.
- What keywords will bring the most traffic to your site?
- What keywords are likely to bring traffic that will convert into leads or sales?
- How feasible is it to rank highly for that keyword?
Ideally, you want keywords that meet all three criteria. My typical rule of thumb for a site is to try to rank in the first three results, because at the fourth listing you'll only get around 6% of clicks (so says the numbers from AOL).
So here's the process, in order of activity for a quick way to select your keywords.
- Identify the target pages you will be optimizing for
- Create a list of keywords that pertain to the product/service offered on each page (you can have 5, you can have 50)
- Toss those keywords into the Google Keyword Tool and export them to a CSV (make sure you use the drop down in the upper right corner to select "exact match" - this will give you more accurate estimates for purposes...and no, these are never exact) . If you're looking for additional ideas, let the keyword tool run a scan of the page itself, or a few competitors' pages. Export and combine these numbers, using whichever volume, global or local, pertains to your page/site.
- If there's strong seasonality in your business, you may want to look into grabbing Microsoft's Ad Intelligence Tool, which will help demonstrate possible opportunities and threats for keywords in terms of seasonality.
- With this initial list, start weeding out the keywords that don't match or are too general. Once you have that in place, sort by volume - high to low. Now go down the list with your second piece of criteria in mind - likelihood to convert. Here, you can toss things out like "athletic shoes" in favor of "discount running shoes" if your page has a heavy emphasis on low cost running shoes.
- At this point your list should be cut down pretty substantially, so now it's time to look at feasibility. With the SEO Quake Toolbar installed, just turn it on before you do a search on each of your keywords and you'll have some intelligence available to you in your search results - such as the page's PageRank, Yahoo SiteExplorer's stats for links to the page (L) and links to the domain (LD). The lower these numbers are, the more likely you can quickly achieve this ranking. Other items to look for include whether or not it's the site's home page (typically stronger pages, more likely to capture links) and whether the page title contains the keyword (the page title is always the clickable link in search results. In the example below, the keyword search was for "keyword 1" and it is in the title, so that would be something to take note of.
Coming back to my previous comment, I usually aim for the top three positions. So if you're in a hurry, I'd grab the metrics I've mentioned and build a table for all of your keywords based on these metrics and one more - PageRank of the site's home page. Here's my logic behind each metric.
- PageRank of ranking page - If Google has determined the page has authority and trust, you'll need to acquire some, too
- PageRank of site's home page - This is usually a quick indicator of whether the entire domain has a high trust score, which can also be a problem if you're trying to outrank a seemingly menial page on a behemoth of an authority site (this is why Wikipedia is so hard to outrank)
- Whether or not the page is the home page - as I said before, this is usually a site's strongest page, so it can be some extra work to outrank it with a subpage, or it may always be a threat if there are a lot of home pages around you who suddenly decide to start getting aggressive with SEO
- Page links - If a page has a lot of links and a high PageRank, that usually means the page has some good links and/or is attached to a strong domain. This is a red flag if this number is high, and an even bigger red flag if it's a sub page with a large number
- Domain links - another domain strength metric, the home page may not be responsible for all the links, so if the site's pulling in links from all angles, this is another major hurdle to climb
- Keyword in title - this is the most important on page element, so if the other sites are fairly serious about your keyword, you should see this bolded all over the titles on the first page of search results, if not, there may be opportunity.
If you take this approach, you'll build a spreadsheet like the one I have assembled below, where you can go through and quickly select your best opportunities based on the above criteria.
I hope this walk through is helpful for those of you who may not have all the time in the world or the tools available to build a helpful process for keyword selection. If you want to read more on this wildly fascinating topic from people much smarter than I, I would suggest the following:
- SEOMoz's 10 Steps to Advanced Keyword Research
- Search Engine People's Proven System
- Hobo's Keyword Research For Beginners with Aaron Wall
- 5 Steps to Effective Keyword Research on the Search Engine Guide Blog
About Adam Henige
Adam Henige is Managing Partner of Netvantage Marketing, an online marketing company specializing in SEO, PPC and social media. Adam heads the SEO and link building efforts for Netvantage and has been a contributing blogger for industry publications like Search Engine Journal and SEOmoz.