Keyword Research for Absolute Beginners
Google is a name that has become synonymous with search. ‘Google It’ is often the response you get when you ask someone a question they can’t answer or when they just can’t be bothered to give your query any thought whatsoever.
Yes Google does indeed do most of our thinking for us these days, so why do we need to remember anything at all, when Google is just a tap or a click away?
Well for the vast majority of people who Google away merrily everyday and whose only concern is finding what they are searching for, be it the latest pair of retro trainers or an answer to that burning question ‘Can you eat Conkers’ they can quite happily turn their entire thought process over to Google, who will always come up with the solution to any query.
However, as a website owner you need to think differently, when you look at search results relevant to your niche or business, you need to be thinking ‘How do I get my site to rank here?.
What are Keywords Anyway?
The term keyword can be a bit confusing to the Digital Marketing newbie as it doesn’t have to be a single word at all, in fact single word keyword research is next to useless when it comes to getting those all important first page rankings.
Fledgling websites are much better off targeting what are known as Long Tail Keywords, which generally speaking will consist of three, four or even more words. Long Tail Keywords typically have less search volume than their shorter siblings but make up for this short coming by being ultra targeted.
In a nutshell keywords are anything someone is typing into Google’s search box, Other search engines are available, such as Bing and Yahoo, but as Google has around a 90% share of the search engine market, we will just focus our attention on them
How do I find Long Tail Keywords?
As you can imagine finding the right keywords to target can have a massive impact on the amount of traffic coming to your website, which ultimately will have a positive impact on sales, leads and the general visibility of your business.
If your business has a reasonable budget available for Internet Marketing, you could invest in Google Adwords, which are the small ads you see on most Search Results Pages (SERPS) at the top and bottom of the page, unfortunately this form of advertising can become very expensive, very quickly, especially for the smaller business.
Organic Results, which sit in between the ads, are a much better option for those on a limited budget, organic results show up in the SERPS because Google has identified that these results are relevant to the searchers query, think of organic results as being there because they deserve to be rather than because money has exchanged hands.
Ranking organically for keywords is the holy grail of Digital Marketing and could transform your business in ways you never thought possible, the power of well written, targeted articles, should never be underestimated and is definitely a skill which should be nurtured and encouraged.
Many companies exist who will happily do keyword research for you and craft beautifully written articles for your website, while you concentrate on running your business. In fact the Graphic Assembly has recently launched just such a service as we understand that most business owners simply don’t have the time to research and write articles on a regular basis
However, the purpose of this article is to equip your business with the basic skills you or your staff will need if you do plan on writing regular blog posts yourself and climbing up Googles Rankings.,
Free Keyword Research Tools
There are many keyword research tools available today which make keyword research easier and quicker, as you would expect the better tools are quite expensive to buy, as many keyword research tools such as Long Tail Pro and KW Finder, charge a monthly fee for using their software.
In my opinion, if you are new to keyword research, spending a lot of money on professional grade tools could in fact be a waste of time, until you actually understand the core concepts involved in finding keywords that will have a realistic chance of ranking in Google.
To be honest there is no magic piece of software out there that will guarantee first page rankings, the best results will come from experience and practise, as is the case with any skill that is worth learning.
Keyword Research is not an Art, or indeed a Science, it is more a combination of both, it is a case of analysing how popular a keyword is and evaluating the strength of the competition for that keyword.
Fortunately there are free tools out there that will enable us to do this and I recommend installing all of the following apps and plugins, between them they will give you all the information you need to become a keyword ninja and dominate the SERPS.
keyword volume tool
The first essential keyword research tool is a plugin for the Chrome and Firefox browsers. Keywords Everywhere is totally free and adds search volume figures to Googles search engine results page, as can be seen in the above screenshot. As you will notice the latest version of Keywords Everywhere also gives you an expanded Google Suggests box on the right hand side, complete with volume, CPC (Cost per Click, for Adwords) and competition figures.
The plugin as its name suggests will also give you search volume figures when you search on Amazon or indeed any website that returns keywords of any description.
Keyword volume is a very handy metric for determining how popular a keyword is, ie how many times per month it is searched for.
A word of warning here though, if you only target keywords with high search volume, you will struggle to rank, as those types of keywords are highly competitive.
How do you determine how competitive a keyword is? Keep reading my friend and all will be revealed.
keyword competition tool
Another free tool which is a must have, in the arsenal of any keyword research guru is the rather impressive Moz Tool Bar by the search engine experts Moz. Formally known as SEOMOZ, an internet consulting business created by SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) expert and living legend Rand Fishkin, the company eventually morphed into a SEO software business specialising in all things search related.
Rand Fishkin has since left Moz to concentrate on other projects but Moz continues to be a well respected name amongst SEO professionals and their suite of SEO software provides valuable insights into how to dominate search results.
Once installed the free MozBar gives very useful information about the sites ranking for any given search term by displaying competition based data, within the search results page.,
The screenshot above shows how your search results pages will look after the free MozBar extension is installed.
The three main areas we are interested in are:
- PA – Page Authority
- Links – The number of links pointing to the page
- DA – Domain Authority
Page authority is a Moz metric that is intended to show how authoritative a web page is based on a number of different criteria, the actual criteria for the purpose of this article need not concern us at the moment as we are only interested in seeing if we can outrank any of the sites featured on the first page of Google.
Needless to say, the higher this figure is the more difficult it will be for us to outrank them, but please remember though that this metric comes from Moz and not Google and is only intended as a ballpark figure for comparison purposes.
As this is a beginners guide to keyword research, I will not go into any great depth about the strategy of link building, this is a subject that requires an article of its own, again for the purpose of simple keyword research all we need to know is that we would ideally like to see a lot of sites in this SERP with none or very few links pointing to it.
Similar to page authority, this metric gives us some idea of how powerful or authoritative an entire domain is. As you can see from the above screenshot Quora, a popular question and answer site has a rather impressive domain authority of 92, so has rather a lot of punch behind it.
As you do more and more keyword research you will notice other big hitters dominating search results, such as Amazon and eBay who both have domain authority well into the 90’s but don’t get too discouraged by this as it doesn’t necessarily mean that our humble little website can’t outrank them, more on this later.,
KW Finder is a rather impressive keyword research tool, which we mentioned earlier in this article and, yes, to get the most out of it you will have to pay a subscription.
However, as this article is about doing keyword research for free all we need to do is sign up for a free account and Mangools, the company behind KW Finder, will allow us a rather meagre five free searches a day, which will at least allow us to double check the information gleaned from other sources and make sure we are heading down the right path.
We now have three very useful tools which will allow us to measure the competitiveness and viability of keywords and allow us to make an informed decision on which keywords to target.
The question now is what keywords should we put into these tools? How do we know what people are actually searching for? What sort of terminology is our target audience using?
The first place to start is inside your own head, depending on the nature of your business, write down what keywords you would use to find the products you sell, or the service that you provide.
At this stage don’t worry about search volume or the level of competition, simply log down all of your ideas in a spreadsheet and we will sort out the wheat from the chaff later.
The tool works by inputting a source keyword or phrase into the generator, for example as this article is about keyword research, I simply used ‘keyword research’ as my source phrase and the tool returned over 800 keywords relating to keyword research, such as ‘best keyword analysis tool’, ‘find seo keywords for a website’ and ‘keyword research best practice’ all of which could be used as the title of a possible article, or as potential sub headings within an article.
Once again I would take the phrases that I could possibly write about or find interesting and then add them to my spreadsheet. As Ubersuggest also gives you search volume I would possibly add these figures to my keyword spreadsheet as well for future reference.
Answer the Public
Answer the public is a rather quirky little website that outputs questions people are asking based around the keyword or phrase you enter. For example I once again used keyword research as my source and the tool returned suggestions such as ‘is keyword research dead?’ ‘What is long tail keyword research?’ ‘How to do keyword research for blog posts.’ These are a few amongst many others.
Again I would log down any I found of interest in my spreadsheet.
Another source of high quality keyword suggestions is Soovle, which not only gives you information on what people are searching for in Google but also what sort of searches they do on Amazon, eBay and Wikipedia. This can often show up unique keywords that no one else is targeting, a golden nugget of a keyword.
Putting it all Together
By now we should have a pretty hefty list of keywords in our spreadsheet, so it’s time to narrow the results down and decide on which keywords to target for maximum exposure of our article.
At this point I should point out that the article you write for your website should be written for the benefit of your readers primarily and not purely to rank in Google, of course ranking on the first page of Google would be very nice from a business point of view, but having an article that genuinely helps people solve a problem or gives them useful information will eventually give you more credibility amongst your readership, which will ultimately lead to high Google rankings for that very reason.
However, we have worked very hard on writing our article, so it would be nice if someone out there actually read it.
So we need to narrow down our keyword list based on the information gleaned from Keywords Everywhere and MozBar.
How you do this is very subjective and really depends on how much authority your site already has. For the purposes of this article, which is aimed at beginners after all, I will assume your site has next to zero authority.
My recommendation for a new site would be to target keywords with next to no competition initially and as your website grows target more competitive phrases at a later stage.
Purely as an example, I would like to refer back to the keyword phrase ‘can you eat conkers’ which we used earlier.
As you can see, Keywords Everywhere is telling us that ‘can you eat conkers’ gets on average 1,300 searches per month. This average is spread out over twelve months and I suspect that the majority of these searches actually happen round about September when the conker season officially starts.
Further down the page I have circled a result from half way down the SERP for this keyword. Sitting at number five is a website with low page and domain authority, less than twenty for both PA and DA is good from our point of view, the more sites we find like this on the first page of Google the better and theoretically our chances of ranking increase substantially.
So far this keyword is ticking all the right boxes, it has a good average search volume and it has low competition sites sitting on the first page.
So now I will use up one of my five free searches in KW Finder and see what they say. As you can see by the screen shot KWF tells me that I could possibly rank for this keyword, giving it a difficulty factor of 46 out of 100 but ideally as a new site I would like to see a difficulty factor around 25 or less.
Now this is where experience comes into play, KWF is telling me it’s possible to rank and I can see low competition results in the top ten that I am pretty sure I can outrank, but ultimately the decision to write an article about conkers is up to me and I have to decide if I will get a decent return on investment for my time and effort.
KW Finder also provides a few alternatives to my initial keyword, so if I feel that my first choice is a tad too competitive I could be tempted to target a similar but less competitive search term.
I would rather be on the first page of Google for a search term that only gets 10 searches a month, than be on page 5 for a search term that gets 1,000 searches per month.
So pick only battles that you stand a chance of winning and don’t stress about it too much, a great idea and a well written article is more important than finding the right keywords, it just pays to give it a little thought instead of shooting in the dark and hoping for the best.