I’ve noticed a bit of a stigma around keyword research.
When talking to people about SEO, and keywords, in particular, there is sometimes a feeling that it can lean towards being manipulative (eg. finding out what people are searching for and then sneaking those terms onto your site).
But when done right, keyword research is all about finding out what words people are using to describe your product or service. Once you know what terms people are searching for, you can tailor your content to ensure the search engines (and ultimately, potential customers) are finding your site.
When you properly incorporate the appropriate keywords into your site, it’s a win-win situation – your customers have a better chance of finding exactly what they’re looking for, and you have a better chance at getting highly qualified traffic.
We recommend a few tools that can help you figure out what people are searching for.
The Google Keyword Tool (free)
Who better to go to than the source? The free keyword tool from Google will suggest keywords, let you know how competitive they are, and estimate the number of searches per month for any given term.
This is a great tool if you just need to do some quick research or to use it as a starting point to get some keyword ideas. As with all keyword tools, this won’t give you exact numbers, but it will give you an idea of relative traffic potential.
In terms of evaluating competition, it won’t tell you WHO your competition is, but it will give you a general idea of how stiff the competition is for a given term: High, medium, or low.
Google Instant (free)
You may not have heard of Google Instant, but you probably use it every day. As you start to type your search term into Google a list of relevant keyword suggestions appears.
The technology Google uses to produce these results is obviously pretty complex, but we can assume that phrases higher up on the suggestions list are more popular than those at the bottom. Using Google Instant is another great way to kick off your keyword research and start brainstorming new terms. If you’re going after long-tail keywords, this is a great way to do it: Simply type in a phrase, and then add letters or words one-by-one and see what appears!
Market Samurai ($149 one-time fee)
Market Samurai contains a set of modules you can use for everything from researching your competition, finding content for your site, or promoting or monetizing your blog.
My favorite module though, and the one I use more than any of the others, is the keyword research module. Pulling in data from the Google keyword tool lets you either suggest keywords to research, or it can pull them from your existing website content.
Using the words you’ve suggested, Market Samurai generates a list of related keywords, which you can edit before the next step. The real magic of Market Samurai, however, lies in their keyword analysis.
Not only does it suggest the keywords, but it evaluates them based on factors like Adwords value, competition, SEO value (value if you ranked #1 for the term), and phrase to the broad ratio (the likelihood people are searching for multi-word terms in the exact order you typed them in).
Am I leaving out your favorite keyword tool? Let me know!