How to Conduct Keyword Research for a New Website

Posted by Zarko Zivkovic - July 14, 2011 - SEO - 5 Comments
keyword research pro

Would you like to rank for a keyword like “business”? 101,000,000 monthly searches broad and 550,000 exact searches a month! Well I bet you would like that, ha? Let me ask you something, what kind of website would you run if you ranked for such a keyword? That is a tough one I know, just take a look at the top 10 for that keyword: Wikipedia, Business Week, Business.gov, BBC, New York Times, Fox Business… You get the picture; you think you can do that without a trust fund? I guess not, and if you had a trust fund you wouldn’t need to rank for any keyword. So what am I rambling about and why?

The basic thing you need to remember when starting your keyword research, and you should make this your principle, is aiming for realistic keywords that will get your conversions in your market. There is no use ranking for a keyword like “business”, or even worse, keywords like “real estate” that are usually geographically tied to a location. What good would it do for a local company from Sweden to rank internationally for “real estate”? None, unless they have some prospects to expend their market, but if you are starting out in internet marketing you can only dream about this. So what we will cover in this post is how to find keywords that will get you targeted traffic, the kind of traffic that we all want, users that are interested in our ramblings and our products, and not some Siberian housewife that got lost in the search (no pun intended).

business

The Head, The Body and The Tail

Yeah, it actually is like the good, the bad and the ugly, but in this case we love the ugly. You see head keywords are one or two word generic keywords that get amazing number of searches per month, like “business”. Ranking for them is close to impossible without an amazing budget. Body keywords are two or three word keywords that have less searches per month, which meals less competition mostly, so in our example we can say that “business magazine” is the body. The tail would be a three or more words keywords like “New York Business magazine”. The last one has the smallest number of searches, but targets a specific area and can bring highly targeted traffic.

Even though head keywords have the greatest number of searches individually, over 70% of all searches made is, guess what, made of long tail keywords. So instead of targeting one head keyword, we can target few body keywords or dozens of long tail keywords and get some serious traffic build to our websites with less effort. So that is the theory behind keywords, the ugly truth, do small, aim big. Let’s take this to the next level and talk about some actionable tips regarding keyword research.

Keyword Research

How to Find Traffic Keywords

Let me just say that in our business traffic=money!

Let’s first talk numbers, we won’t look at head keywords, but body keywords usually should have between 1,000 and 100,000 searches, in some cases even more, and tail keywords have less than 1,000 monthly searches, some have more, but there is a fine line between some body and tail keywords.

So if we go for one body keyword and 10 tail keywords, when we start our website, we actually aim for 5,000+ visitors a month traffic that can rise exponentially just on those keywords even without adding new ones. One body can have 1,000+, in most cases that is 10,000 or more, and 10 long tail keywords can go from 3,000 to 10,000 searches a month without variations. The numbers look great, but this is just theory, to see those numbers in our Analytics account we need to achieve top ranks. So how do we find these keywords with such numbers that we can actually rank for with some content optimization and link building?

It is quite easier to do so with an aged website, you can easily find tail keywords that are brining traffic to your website by looking at webmaster tools or using wordpress plugins like incoming search queries, but it is a totally different story with new websites that can’t rely on statistics. Google adwords keyword tool will show you approximate numbers, but they will not tell you the exact competition nor will they show you how those keywords are being used and if you are really going to get that amount of traffic. Here are a few ways I find traffic getting (money getting) keywords for new websites.

First stop, Google Trends. Before I even consider a certain set of keywords I use Google Trends to see if the head keyword is on the rise. That gives me an idea of what I can expect from this market in the near future. It doesn’t have to be on a rise, but just make sure it’s not falling. Next step visit Google Keyword Tool and compile a list of keywords you can use, sort out body and tail keywords. Don’t pick 15 keywords, go wide, choose 100 keywords and then narrow down.

Thanks to Google another way to see if any of these terms can lead us to unexplored but potential profitable keywords is to try searching for them. Just type in your search query in Google and note the suggested searches. Note down promising ones by checking the number of searches in Google Keyword tool, after that visit my personal favorite suggest tool, Google Sets.

Once you found your basic list of keywords you can see if there is anything more you missed by providing Google Sets with 5 keywords of choice and let it come up with a few more predicted keywords, in most cases these are really nice keywords we can use in our campaigns. The last two steps to make sure that you now have the right keywords are checking your keywords in WordTracker and SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tool.

There is a free version of WordTracker you can use. We use wordtracker to compare Google’s data, as relying only on one source is never a smart thing to do. And for the last we use Keyword Difficulty tool to get some sense of the competition and our chances for actually ranking for that keyword. Unfortunately, this is a premium tool, so you will have to pay to use it, but you can also check your competitors manually. It takes more time, but would you try a market before checking out the competition? I don’t think so.

One basic difference between my personal method and different methods suggested on the net, is that I like to pick people’s brains and use as much sources as I can. I often use Topsy and social media to find some cool keywords, and I like to compare my data before I make a decision. This may sound like a lot, but trust me when I tell you, keyword research is the best part of SEO, this is the part where there are no limits and everything looks possible. Once you go pass the keyword research you will see how good your decision making skills were, as depending on your choice you may have a hard time achieving decent ranks and traffic or have a walk in the park.

One final note on choosing keywords

Even with Keyword Difficulty Tool you should check the competition manually to get an idea of what you are going up against, this is probably the most important part of keyword research. Look for relevancy, is the whole site keyword related or just one standalone page, are they are strong brand or a blog run by a single person, link velocity, social branding, brand mentions in SERP’s and user interaction. These are simple ways that can tell you if your competitor is really a competitor or not without having to rely too much on tools or technical data.

About the Author

Zarko Zivkovic

Zarko is an experienced SEO strategist and link builder working as a link building team leader for Dejan SEO company. He also writes for Dejan SEO and Practical SEO Blog.
5 comments
Dave
Dave

A nice post . Sometimes it is hard try and convince customers, some of them are so tightly focused on 1 or 2 key terms that they refuse to even acknowledge longtail or other terms. For the customers that really do take onboard advice, a long term organic strategy is often very effective with them ending up very happy. My recent post SEO Tips For Your Photoblog

TrafficColeman
TrafficColeman

I see keywords all day long and one thing I came to realize is that long tail keywords do all the work. So target those my friend.. "Black Seo Guy "Signing Off" My recent post How To Dominate Affiliate Marketing With A $5, 678 A Month Check

Ellen
Ellen

Thanks for sharing your process. I've never used Google Sets and it looks like a great tool to use. I use Google Insights rather than Google Trends but it appears to bring back similar data. Google Insights breaks terms down into metro area which is very helpful for local business websites. Thanks again! My recent post Local Business Web Hosting for WordPress Websites

Zarko
Zarko

Coleman, I think I was very clear in the article about long tail: "over 70% of all searches made is, guess what, made of long tail keywords" The best way to start off with new websites is to target the body and the tail and skip the head... My recent post Unique Root Domains and SEO

Zarko
Zarko

Hi Ellen, the thing about Google trends is that they are the root to Google insights for search, a bit older, I actually use both, you can see a link for Insights right under the search box. The best way is to combine them, but trends is a must as I need to identify what keywords are currently trending. Of course, once we dive into local business that becomes a different story, and we always do :) My recent post Link Building Tip #4 – Competitor Link Analysis & Acquisition