Keyword Research Tips and Tools You’ll Need to Succeed

Keyword research is easy, right? You just grab a pen and paper, think of some good words that describe your business, then pick a few you like the most and start optimizing!

This is a great example of how NOT to keyword research, but it’s the approach many small businesses still take today. Haphazard keyword research is usually a result of just not knowing enough about how search engines work, and it can be a very costly mistake. This is exactly why businesses hire SEO and content writing services to help reorganize their online efforts! SEO’s have a tough time convincing new clients there’s more to the process than just what you see on the surface.

Today we’ll do exactly that, and take a closer look at the work you’ve got to put into your keywords to capitalize on your conversions.

Looking Before You Leap: Keyword Researching Basics

That bad example of keyword selecting isn’t entirely useless…it’s just the first step in a long process. You’ll need to cook up a basic set of keywords you want to focus on going into your research. Brainstorming hinges on a couple of fundamental ideas:

  • Your keywords should be relevant to your business and your content
  • Your keywords should be related to what potential visitors are looking for from your company
  • Your keywords should be accurate descriptions of what customers will find when they click through
  • Your keywords need to be in line with your overall goals—to produce cost-effective conversions or sales from traffic each keyword brings you.

Once you have your basic list, it’s time to start digging. There are a few ways to do this, and I want to look at two of the most popular methods.

Google AdWords Keyword Research Tool

Google AdWords has one of the most powerful keyword research tools available for all AdWords users. Anyone can sign up for AdWords and use its wealth of information to their advantage, and their Keyword Research Tool is part of the entire free package.

Simply plug in your keyword, and you’ll get a detailed list of relevant keywords and phrases spun off of your original entry. You’ll also see the “Competitive” ranking for each word or phrase, along with the number of monthly global and local searches.

You’re tapping into the collected search knowledge of the world’s most trafficked search engine for your research: all the results come directly from Google’s own search data. This is excellent intelligence you can use towards your keyword decisions. To back up your findings, you can also use Google AdWords Traffic Estimator and Google Trends to compare, simulate, and measure your best keyword options.

SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tester

SEOmoz is one of the most trusted names in SEO and conversion optimization strategies, and their Keyword Difficulty Tester gives you more detailed, advanced information that AdWords won’t. Instead of just a relative word ranking for difficulty, you get an actual percentage of difficulty you’ll come up against in optimizing for a keyword. You can also see detailed results for the pages that rank for those keywords, the domain authority and page authority scores you’re up against, and all sorts of other good data points.

SEOmoz’s Keyword Difficulty Tester hooks into Google’s data using their Search Keyword API, so you’re getting the same quality of data you would get from AdWords, but with more in-depth results. The depth and value you get comes with a price tag: the Keyword Difficulty Tester is limited to Pro accounts now, so you’ll have to get one for your business or agree to share one with someone…or just hope it’s released to the public again soon.

Other Keyword Testing Tools

There are plenty of others out there, like Microsoft AdCenter’s Keyword Generation Tool, Wordtracker, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and many more. If you aren’t happy with Google or SEOmoz, you can shop around for the best fit for your business. Keep in mind that many of these alternative tools use search engine data from Bing, Yahoo!, Dogpile, and other less-trafficked search engines.

I’ve Got All This Data…Now What?

From these results, you can narrow down your keyword focus to a few phrases you want to work on. You can choose a blend of highly competitive and not-so-competitive keywords, and some in between for a wider spectrum of optimization results, or focus on optimizing for easy-entry keywords to shoot for more returns in a less competitive space. Whatever you do, you don’t want to aim for the wrong set of keywords and end up spending more money on ads and optimizations that don’t turn into better conversions for you.

You can set up keyword tests in Google AdWords by making your PPC ads show up for “exact match” searches, then watch your click-throughs and conversions each month. Be warned: you can potentially lose money doing this if you aren’t careful. These are pay-per-click ads, after all! so don’t focus on a keyword that’s so broad that it attracts way more clicks than conversions. After you’ve gotten a nice data sample over a couple weeks of testing, you can evaluate exactly how “valuable” your search results are based on your conversions from each keyword or PPC ad.

Words of Advice

  • Be sure you incorporate “long tail” keywords into your optimizations. Broad, “popular” keywords don’t account for the one-off searches that are three, four, or more words long. If you look for these long tail results in your analytics and focus on them in your future optimizations, you’ll be sure to capitalize on your efforts if and when that long tail keyword comes up again.
  • SEOmoz’s Rand Fishkin had an interesting find in his article “Be Careful Using AdWords for Keyword Research.” He essentially found that Google AdWords doesn’t necessarily show you the keywords that are best for you, just the searches that are highest numerically. You’ll have to follow his tips on how to dig further into AdWords for your more valuable keywords.
  • Semantic keyword research is something you ought to consider if keyword research is something you enjoy. That’s a whole different barrel of monkeys that we’ll get into soon.

Let us know if our blog helped you improve your keywords!

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Andrew Glasscock is currently based in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated with a BA in English, specialized in Creative Writing, with a minor in Marketing this past May. Along with copywriting, he loves being an improv comedian, playing frisbee, and dogs.

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