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The Professional's Keyword Research Guide

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Introduction: The Value of Keyword Research

Keyword research, an important facet of search engine optimization and Internet marketing, draws a distinct parallel to traditional market research. Just as successful ad campaigns contain content that appeals to their target demographic, successful websites implement keywords that have the highest relevance and conversion rates. Each search engine uses its own unique algorithm that is made up of various ranking factors. These factors determine which web pages to display for a particular search. While the engines purposefully do not reveal all of the factors that make up their ranking algorithm (for a potential list of factors, please refer to SEOmoz's Search Engine Ranking Factors article:, they do acknowledge that an extremely important element of the ranking formula is a site's placement and prominence of keywords. The search engines employ text matching to help them determine relevance. Thus, when a user searches for “green eggs and ham,” a web page with that precise text is far more likely to rank well than a page containing the synonymous “lime-colored hen spawn & pig parts.” Employing popular keywords and phrases (terms that users frequently search for at the major engines) on your website and in your marketing will attract the highest levels of traffic and potential customers. Researching keywords for your website is integral to your Internet marketing campaign for three core reasons. First, it brings valuable search traffic to your site. Secondly, providing relevant keywords to searchers will enhance their user experience. Lastly, keyword research is a great way to find other areas of opportunity for your site's success.

1. Search Traffic
ComScore Networks reported that Americans conducted 6.7 billion searches online in December 2006 (, a figure up 1 percent from November 2006.

Furthermore, in July 2006 reported that of all the search phrases worldwide, most people (28.91%) use two word phrases when conducting a search (, followed by 3 word phrases (27.85%), 4 word phrases (17.11%), and 1 word phrases (11.43%).

Based on this data, it’s clear that search engine users overwhelmingly choose a few select words in their quest to find information, connections, or products. While millions may be searching for products or services that you offer, they won’t find you if you’re not targeting the same keywords they’re using to conduct their searches. In addition to wanting to find what they’re looking for, users also want to find relevant results quickly. JupiterResearch and iProspect published a study in May 2006 that found 62% of searchers click a listing on the first page of search results (, and 90% click on a result that’s listed on the first three pages. Therefore, if you’re not optimizing your site and ensuring that you’re targeting relevant keywords, it’s likely that your site won’t be listed within the first few pages of relevant search results, meaning most searchers won’t find your site, product, or service when they perform a search.

2. User Experience
A positive search experience is important to users, search engines, and the websites that appear in the search results. In December 2006 Convera published a study of 1000 search professionals about their search engine usage ( A mere 21% felt that their search query was understood by search engines, while only 10% said that they always found what they were looking for on the first try. Although search engines have become increasingly salient many search engine users still don’t know how to conduct successful searches that return the desired results. Thus, it’s essential to research keyword combinations relevant to your business's website in order to instill confidence in your readership and create a positive search experience.

3. Finding Areas of Opportunity

Keyword research is a great way to discover your users' interests. When planning content or brainstorming new ideas to expand your site or business's offerings, the keywords your users search are a goldmine of information. You'll be able to see exactly what topics interest your customers, what ancillary topics are of value and which products or services are more/less popular than others. The applications for keyword research are limitless – write a new article, design a new product, launch a clever marketing campaign, find forums where users discuss related topics and services, build a relevant tool, or even expand your business to serve new regions or demographics.


Brainstorming Keywords

The first stage of researching keywords for your site is generating a list of terms and phrases relevant to your industry and what your site or business offers. The brainstorming phase should ideally result in a list of several dozen to several hundred keyword searches that will bring relevant, qualified visitors to your site. 1.

Initial independent brainstorming recommendations

While there’s no wrong way to brainstorm, these recommendations should help determine an initial course of action:

List all of the most important words and phrases currently on your siteRecord important/valuable words and phrases on your competitors' sites Put yourself in the mindset of your customers, vendors, and your industry professionals; what would they search for to find the content you provide?


 Use a thesaurus to research synonyms for your core keywords Create a taxonomy of all the areas of focus in your industry. It can be helpful to imagine creating a directory for all the people, projects, ideas, and companies connected to your site.


Keyword Estimate and List Generation Sources

The following is a list of resources that provide keyword suggestions and search estimates. Keyword suggestions are any terms and phrases a tool provides that are related to your site's services and to your existing list of keywords. Search estimates are the number of searches for a keyword in a given amount of time (one day, thirty days, ninety days, a year; the time frame varies with each tool). Don't think of these counts as accurate —each tool pulls data from different sources, so it's impossible to say which has the “most accurate” count; rather, you should think of search estimate figures as a relative way to see which keyword is searched for more often than others. For each site, we’ve provided general information about its data sources, membership fees/usage costs, the type of information displayed, and how you can use it when brainstorming keywords.


Overture Keyword Selector Tool

What it provides: Overture’s Keyword Selector tool provides a count of the number of searches performed for a particular keyword in the past month. It also provides other search terms related to the keyword you entered and displays the search count for those terms.

When using Overture, it’s important to keep in mind that the tool does not distinguish a difference between singular and plural terms. For example, searches for “shoe” and “shoes” will return the same count.


Another thing to remember when using the tool is that it will often rearrange your search query in its results. A search for “balance new shoes,” for example, will return “new balance shoes” in the top spot.

Overture, therefore, is not an ideal tool to use if you want to research the number of searches for specific, exact terms, since it returns more generalized data. Where it gets its data from: Overture is now owned by Yahoo!; therefore, its Keyword Selector tool derives its data from Yahoo! and its affiliate search engines. Yahoo! was reported to have received 28.5% of the search market share in December 2006, as indicated by the most recent comScore press release ( (Keep in mind that the accuracy of comScore's search market share statistics is questionable and that the data is inexact, because comScore buys logs of information from ISPs and then aggregates it. The comScore data can be inaccurate because it's unknown which ISPs the data is being derived from, and the data could also be skewed due to a geographic and/or demographic bias.) How it’s useful: The Keyword Selector tool is great for getting an idea of which terms are being searched for more often than others. By looking at the results for “shoes,” it’s easy to see that “womens new balance shoes” are a more popular search query than “cheap new balance shoes.” The tool is also good for expanding your list of keywords, since each time you enter a term, it provides a list of terms that are semantically related to your keyword.

Cost: Overture's Keyword Selector tool is free to use; however, due to its immense popularity, the tool often times out and is slow to return results. It may be more time-efficient to sign up for a Yahoo! Search Marketing account and use their keyword recommendation tool to generate terms and phrases. (See our summary of YSM further down this list of tools.)



What it provides: Wordtracker offers the following features:

Keyword Researcher – When you enter a keyword or phrase in the search box under the “Research” section, Wordtracker displays the most popular search terms that include the keywords you provided, the number of searches per day recorded for those terms, and a prediction of how many searches are typically performed per day.

You can alter your search with the following settings: 1. Simple Search – Matches keywords in any order and separates uppercase from lowercase

2. Exact/Precise Search - Matches exact keywords only and keeps uppercase and lowercase separate

3. Compressed Search – Matches keywords in any order and combines uppercase and lowercase

4. Comprehensive Search – Matches your query with wild cards (e.g. “li*t would match “lightning and “little”) and keeps uppercase and lowercase separate

5. Misspelling Search – Provides a list of misspellings for on the search term you enter. Matches exact keywords only and combines uppercase and lowercase.

Keyword Researcher also allows you to evaluate your search results with the “Evaluate” tab, which allows you to analyze competition data from Google, MSN, Yahoo!, or other smaller search engines, directories, or news outlets, and pay per click data from Yahoo!.


Keyword Universe – Provides a list of keywords and phrases that are related to the search term you provide, then gives you a search count for those terms in its Popularity Search.


Full Search – Based on the single generic term you provide, Full Search will return a list of similar keywords and a count of the number of times those keywords appeared in the meta tags of 200 related web pages.


Keyword Projects – Stores your keyword research projects. At any given time, you are allowed one active project and four stored projects.


Reports – The Short-Term Report is the past 1000 search terms from the last 48 hours. The Long-Term Report is the top 1000 search terms that have been repeatedly or consistently searched for from the last 90 days. (We declined to include a screenshot of these reports, as many of the terms included in them are a bit risqué and may be offensive to some people.) Free Keyword Suggestion Tool – Wordtracker has a free keyword suggestion tool ( that is similar to Overture's Keyword Selector Tool.


When you enter a keyword/phrase, you'll see Wordtracker's count of the total number of searches performed across the web in the last 90 days. You will also see a list containing both the keyword you searched for and similar keywords, along with their predicted daily search count.

Where it gets its data from: Wordtracker compiles a database of 330+ million search terms from Dogpile and Metacrawler. This database is updated every week. Nielsen reported Dogpile as having a 0.6% share of total searches across the web in January 2007, while Metacrawler is estimated to have less than a 0.4% share of total searches (source: How it’s useful: Wordtracker is great for finding out how many searches were performed on various keywords. Although it's not 100% accurate and should not be relied upon for precise data figures, it is a good tool to use in order to get a general idea of which keywords are searched for more often than others. Cost: Wordtracker offers different subscription options ( that range from a one day membership for

$8.26 to a one year membership for $275.24. The free tool with limited features is also available. We recommend checking out the different types and choosing a package that will work best for your company.


Google AdWords Keyword Tool Estimator and Google AdWords Traffic Estimator

What the Keyword Tool Estimator provides: Google's AdWords Keyword Tool Estimator provides related terms, search volume estimates, search trends, and ad cost estimates for any keyword or URL that you enter. 1. Keyword Variations When you enter a keyword, the AdWords Keyword Tool will return keywords related to the term you entered and the match type (where you can specify if you want your searchtargeted keywords to be a broad, exact, or phrase match).

You can also choose to display the following information about each keyword:

Keywords Search Volume (screenshot displayed above) – displays the keyword, related terms, search volume from last month, advertiser competition, and the match type Cost and Ad Position Estimates – each keyword's estimated average cost per click and estimated ad position



Search Volume Trends – each keyword's average search volume, search volume trends over the course of one year, and in which month the highest search volume occurred


Possible Negative Keywords – the option to add a negative keyword for any keyword phrase that does not pertain to your business. This feature is not necessarily useful for researching keywords; rather, it is more valuable when planning your Adwords account bids.

You can also opt to have the results for your keyword show synonyms for your term, which is a great way to find similar, relevant terms for your keywords. 2. Site-Related Keywords By choosing this option, you can enter a webpage URL and AdWords will return various keywords grouped by like terms.

Like the Keyword Variations option, you can opt to display the following information about each URL's keywords:
  

Keyword Search Volume Cost and Ad Position Estimates Search Volume Trends

You can also opt to have AdWords display keyword suggestions for other pages on your site that are linked from the URL you provided, and you can choose to un-group keywords by common terms.

What the Traffic Estimator provides: When you enter one or more keywords in the Traffic Estimator, the tool will return estimates of the search volume for each term, their average cost per click, their ad positions, the clicks per day, and the cost per day. The Traffic Estimator is found under the “Tools” section in Google AdWords. Enter your keyword in the box (enter one if you want to see data for just that keyword; enter more keywords if you want a comparison). You can enter your keyword the following ways:

Broad match – entering your keyword without any parameters means it will be broadly matched; this means that if you bought an ad for this keyword, it would appear in the search results when any of the words in your keyword phrase are combined and used in a search. For example, your ad for search engine optimization would appear in the results for a search on “search for train engine optimization.” Exact match – putting brackets around your keyword (e.g. [search engine optimization]) means your ad would only show when a user types in the exact keyword phrase that you are targeting. Phrase match – adding quotation marks around your keyword (e.g. “search engine optimization”) means your ad will show when a user types in a phrase that contains your keyword. For example, your ad would show on a search for “how to do search engine optimization.” Negative match – using the minus sign/dash mark in front of an undesired keyword (e.g. -spam) before your keyword (e.g. “search engine optimization” for a phrase match) means that the term does not apply to your services, so therefore your ad won't show for the corresponding search (e.g. “search engine optimization spam”).




When using the Traffic Estimator for keyword research it's best to enter your keywords as “exact match” for direct comparison. After you've entered your keywords, you can leave the currency and daily budget blank. Next, select your language and location targeting (we typically default to “Countries and territories” and enter “United States”).

When you hit “Continue,” you'll see data for each keyword you entered. For strictly keyword research purposes, the best column to focus on is Estimated Clicks / Day. You can compare each keyword's estimated clicks to see which term is more likely to be searched for and clicked on than others. In our example, internet marketing is estimated to have 36-45 clicks/day, while search engine marketing has 10-12, search engine optimization has 13-16, and seo has 15. Based on this data, it's clear that internet marketing is the most popular term of the four; however, since it is likely to be a more competitive term, it would also be advantageous to optimize for the other three terms listed.

Where the tools get their data from: Google's Keyword Tool Estimator and Traffic Estimator get their data from Google's search database. Google was reported to have received 47.3% of the search market share in December 2006, as indicated by the most recent comScore press release ( How the tools are useful: The AdWords Keyword Tool Estimator offers a lot of useful information about your keyword campaigns, such as suggestions for similar keywords, an estimate of the keyword's popularity, ad costs and positions, general search volume trend information, and keyword campaign suggestions for your site or your competitor's site. The tool is great for compiling a lot of general information about a keyword. The Traffic Estimator provides a decent estimate of your keywords' clickthrough rate. Based on the estimated clicks/day, you can get a relative idea of which of your keywords are the most popular and can potentially bring you the most traffic. Cost: The Keyword Tool Estimator is free to use. The Traffic Estimator is also free, but unlike the Keyword Tool Estimator, it is not accessible from an external URL; therefore, you have to sign up for an AdWords account in order to use the Traffic Estimator tool.


Yahoo! Search Marketing

What it provides: After you select your time zone and geo-targeting preference and provide three keywords/phrases that you want to target, the Search Marketing tool will generate a list of related keywords and an “estimated searches” bar.

Where it gets its data from: Yahoo! Search Marketing gets its data from Google's search database. Note that its gauge of “Estimated Searches” is simply a bar that can be compared with other keywords' bars for relative popularity; the tool provides no actual search numbers. How it's useful: Step 2 of the Search Marketing signup provides a helpful list of keywords related to the ones you provided. This list is useful in brainstorming various relevant keywords (it can generate terms you had not thought of), and the “Estimated Searches” gauge can give you a relative idea of which terms are more popular than others. Cost: A YSM “Self Serve” signup is free, while “Assisted Setup” costs $199. Each account requires a minimum $5 deposit if you plan on advertising on their network. 5. Microsoft AdCenter Keyword Generation Tool

What it provides: Microsoft's Keyword Generator Tool generates keyword suggestions based on a search term or website you enter. 1. Search Term Suggestions Entering a keyword in the search bar will return data that is divided into two tabs: “Contains Term” and “Similar Term.” The “Contains Term” tab includes search phrases that include the keyword you provided, along with last month and the current month of search data figures. For example, a search for “scooter” returns electric scooter, scooter store, motor scooter, and scooter vespa. The term scooter vespa had, according to

Microsoft, 1,408 searches last month and has so far this month been searched for 501 times.

The “Similar Terms” tab provides keywords and phrases that Microsoft thinks are related to the search term you provided. The tool suggested the following terms that it thinks is similar to “scooter”: dirt bike, pocket bike, pocketbikes, superbikes, and copter. Like the “Contains Term” tab, each term in the “Similar Terms” tab is accompanied by last month's and this month's search data figures.

2. Search Term Suggestions Based on Website If you enter a URL into the search bar, the tool will return data that, once again, is divided into “Contains Term” and “Similar Term” suggestions. Entering returned http www seomoz org and http www seomoz org blog php in the “Contains Term” tab.

The “Similar Terms” tab contained search engine, seo tools, and seo news for the URL.

Where it gets its data from: The AdCenter Keyword Generation Tool obtains its data from MSN's search database. MSN was reported to have received 10.5% of the search market share in December 2006, as indicated by the most recent comScore press release ( release.asp?press=1167). How it’s useful: This tool is useful in generating keyword suggestions based on a keyword that you are targeting or on your site's URL. You can also enter your competitor's URL and see what the keyword suggestions are for their site. Cost:

The Keyword Generation Tool does not cost money, although you do have to create an account with Microsoft adCenter and provide credit card information in the event that you advertise on their network.



What it provides: KeywordDiscovery offers the following features:

Keyword Research – When you enter a keyword or phrase in the search bar under the “Research” section, KeywordDiscovery displays the most popular search terms that include the keywords you provided, along with a count of how many searches were performed for those keywords in the past 12 months.

Clicking on “Analyze” brings up more specific data about the search term, specifically:
 

Query – shows the term you entered as well as related terms Searches – the number of times each term was searched for (according to KeywordDiscovery's database) over the past 12 months Occurrences – an estimate of the number of pages where each search term appears KEI – The KEI, or Keyword Effectiveness Indicator, measures the value of a search term. It factors in the amount of times a term has been searched for versus how many other web pages target the exact match phrase. The higher the KEI, the more value that term has. For example, “shoes” has a KEI of 1.51 because it is searched for a lot but is also targeted by a lot of web pages. Conversely, “dance shoes” has a KEI of 4.99 because it is searched for less often and is targeted by less sites. We don't recommend using the KEI as a metric for search term value because search result numbers are inaccurate and do not provide a good gauge of a term's level of competition.




Predicted Daily – a prediction of how many daily searches are performed for each keyword


Industry Keywords – This tool tracks the most popular search terms that are bringing traffic to sites in different industries. For example, according to KeywordDiscovery, the top ten search queries related to shopping are ebay, ikea, walmart, amazon, target,, best buy, adidas, home depot, and nike.


Spelling Mistake Research – Typing the query “spell:[keyword]” in the search bar under the “Research” section will return spelling variations for that keyword, the number of times the keyword has been searched for (searches), and the keyword results for your search (queries). For example, “spell:optimization” returns results such as search-engineoptimization, searchengineoptimization, and search-engine-optimisation.


Seasonal Search Trends – If you click on the little bar graph icon next to the number of searches for a query, you'll see a graph of the search trends for that keyword over the past 12 months. You can mouse over each bar and see the number of searches for that time period. The chart can be sorted by historical data (how many searches in the past year), monthly data (number of searches broken down into each month), trend (a graph of the search trends over the past year), combination (a graph of global vs. premium search data), and market share (a breakdown of which search engines were used to search for the query).


Related Keywords – Typing either “related:[keyword]” or “crawl:[keyword]” will return return keywords that are related to the term you provided. For example, typing in “related:search engine optimization” returns results like search engine, internet marketing, seo, and website promotion.


Keyword Density Analysis – This feature checks how often keywords are found on the URL you provide, assigns a keyword density percentage to those keywords, and lists the number of searches performed for each term.

We recommend not worrying about keyword density—if you use a keyword too many times on one page, your content won't read naturally and it will appear as if you're stuffing keywords throughout your site. Instead, write your content naturally and use your keywords where they should logically be mentioned or appear; otherwise, your web pages may appear spammy. Additionally, search engines don't factor the density of your keywords as part of their algorithm; instead, they rely on term weighting, a method where the search engines aggregate keyword usage data from across the web and employ this data in a formula that determines a web page's relevance to the search term. This method is more valuable, accurate, and advanced for determining relevance. A good use for the Keyword Density Analysis feature is to enter a competitor's URL into the search bar and see what keywords the site is targeting. It's a great tool to use for competitive research.

Domain Researcher Tool – this tool requires an “Enterprise” subscription. It allows you to search for available domains that are based on popular keyword search terms. These domains have high traffic potential, as the tool shows how many users have searched for the URL. The tool is great if you want to register other domains in your industry and want these domains to be keyword-rich.


Competitive Intelligence Reports – Trellian, who powers KeywordDiscovery, also offers various Competitive Intelligence reports (which require a separate subscription). These reports include:

Link Intelligence – identifies which links are sending traffic to your competitors Search Term Intelligence – identifies which search terms/phrases are driving traffic to your competitors Search Engine Intelligence – identifies which specific search engines send traffic to your competitors PPC Campaign Intelligence – identifies which search terms your competitors are bidding on Referrer Intelligence – provides information about specific sites that are referring traffic to your competitors Popularity Index Report – monitors the Popularity Index (which is based on the number of unique sessions a domain receives) of your competitors Ranking Report – view which terms your competitors are ranking for, the rank of these terms, and any changes in ranking over the past 30 days Meta Keywords – provides a report that analyzes your competitors' meta keywords









Competitive Intelligence Executive Report – provides information about every CI Report available, as well as several sub-reports


Free Search Term Suggestion Tool – KeywordDiscovery offers a free keyword research tool ( that is similar to Overture's Keyword Selector Tool and Wordtracker's Keyword Suggestion Tool. When you enter a keyword/phrase, you'll see a list containing both the keyword you searched for and similar keywords, along with their predicted search count over the last 12 months.

Where it gets its data from: Trellian derives its keyword data primarily from aggregated reports purchased from ISPs.

How it’s useful: As highlighted above, KeywordDiscovery offers a multitude of tools that are all great for keyword research. Trellian also offers various tools that are useful for competitive research. KeywordDiscovery can almost be thought of as a one-stop shop for research since it offers a diverse set of tools, though because of the lack of specificity of the source data, we recommend compiling data from different sources in order to diversify your research and not rely on a single site for your data. Cost: KeywordDiscovery offers different subscription options (go to and click on “Subscribe”) that range from a standard monthly subscription for $69.95 to a yearly “Enterprise Subscription” for $4,455.00. Competitive Intelligence Reports range from $99.95 per month per domain (plus a $150 setup fee) to $995 per year per domain. The free tool with limited features is also available. We recommend checking out the different types and choosing a package that will work best for your company.


Google Trends

What it provides: Google Trends allows you to compare two or more search terms to each other to see relative popularity and seasonality/trending over time. If you enter the terms into the search bar and separate them with a comma, you’ll see the terms’ trend history depicted in different colors on a graph spread over a certain time period. You can modify the results by changing the time period and/or region.

With Google Trends, users can also see Google’s estimate of which cities, regions, and languages performed the largest number of searches for a particular keyword. This data is often thought to be imprecise (and occasionally inaccurate) by experienced marketers because the results have often been contradicted by more accurate data from analytics and search advertising campaigns.

Lastly, plotted on each graph are a few articles/search results related to your keyword query.

Where it gets its data from: Google Trends gets its data from searches performed on Google. How it’s useful: Google Trends is a great, easy tool for comparing keywords and identifying which is more popular than the other. While it doesn’t supply figures, the graphs are simple to understand and provide a perfect visual of search trends over a particular period of time. Cost: Google Trends is free to use.


What it provides: KeyCompete offers the following services:

Lists keywords that your competitors use in their pay-per-click campaigns


Identifies which competitors are bidding on the same keywords as you by providing a list of domains that are advertising for the keyword/search term you provide Provides an estimation of how many searches are performed each month for the keyword you provide



Accompanies each domain listed with a color bar which shows that site’s visibility for a particular keyword (ranging from “great,” meaning the site is a top competitor, “good,” meaning it is fairly competitive, to “ok”, meaning it is low competition)


Watch Reports – receive weekly updates about a domain you provide (e.g. what keywords the domain is bidding on, ranking updates, the site’s top keywords)


Keyword Monitoring – watch keywords on a regular basis


Competition Reports – see the domains that you’re competing with and what keywords they’re using


Long Tail Adwords – examine the keywords that both you and your competitors are using/targeting; based on this list, you will receive suggestions for less costly keyword combinations. Long Tail Adwords (, along with KeyCompete, is run by Tiger Technologies (, and the reports require a separate purchase.

Where it gets its data from: KeyCompete obtains their data from their servers and from other data sources. Although they largely keep their data sources private, one of the methods they use is to scrape data from search engines and public websites. They have over 150 million keywords in their databases, from three million websites. How it’s useful: KeyCompete is a great tool for identifying which keywords your competitors are targeting. It’s also useful in uncovering previously unknown competitors and identifying potential long tail keywords (keywords that don’t get as many searches as popular ones, but have a higher likelihood of leading to a conversion because the search is more specific) to target. Cost: KeyCompete offers different subscription options (, ranging from a one day trial for $19.00 to a one year subscription for $299.00. A “Super User” subscription is also available; it costs $4,500 for a one year subscription with 5,000 daily queries, and $75,00 for a one year subscription with 10,000 daily queries. You can additionally order extra Watch Reports that range from $19.00 to $49.00. We recommend checking out the different types and choosing a package that will work best for your company. The Glossary Materials section at the end of this guide has a promotional code for purchasers of this guide who wish to buy a subscription to KeyCompete. 9.

What it provides: When you type a URL into SpyFu’s search bar, the site will return information about that URL’s paid ads, such as:
      

Their ads for the terms they're bidding on The site's daily ad budget Ad placement ranking for various terms The site’s top ad competitors Price of the ad Clicks per day Cost per day

SpyFu will also show you the site’s Alexa rank, the number of incoming links to the site, the site’s rank for various organic search terms, its subdomains, and its top organic competitors.

You can also type a keyword into the search bar and view:
      

The cost per click, clicks per day, and cost per day of that term The number of advertisers bidding on that term The number of search results for that term Adwords results Organic results Related terms that competitors also bought Other related terms and concepts

Where it gets its data from: SpyFu gets its data from its Web Scraper Plus software ( WebScraperPlus.aspx), which scrapes Google's results for information regarding ads, ad placement, and organic search listings. It is unknown whether they purchase additional data from ISPs or other sources. SpyFu is also unspecific about which engines its results pull from, or about its sources for data. How it’s useful: Like KeyCompete, SpyFu is a great tool to use if you want to research what keywords your competitors are targeting and how they’re structuring their ad campaigns. As its name indicates, SpyFu allows you to “spy” on your competition and use the information to assist in your own keyword research endeavors. Cost: Although you have to create an account with SpyFu, currently their services are free (which may change when the site moves out of beta mode).


Hitwise –

What it provides: Keyword Intelligence provides the following features:

Industry Search Term Tool – Look up the top keywords in different industry sectors. You can use keywords from this tool to create a “proven keyword list,” to aid in your research.

From here, you can create a “search term portfolio” that allows you to organize and keep track of your industry's most valuable keywords. Each portfolio report has a “success rate,” which, based on the percentage rate, indicates how successfully a user searching with that term found what he or she was looking for. A lower success rate can present a good opportunity to optimize for that keyword and ensure that you are able to provide what users want.


Search Term Suggestion Tool – Enter a keyword and see a list of variations of that term, including niche search terms (which, according to Hitwise, “tend to have a stronger conversion rate, a lower number of advertisers bidding on the keywords, and are usually less expensive to purchase”). These suggestions are “proven keywords,” which derive from terms that people actually used before clicking onto a site.

Where it gets its data from: Keyword Intelligence is powered by Hitwise, which derives its data from over 25 million people's searches across major search engines. This data comes from ISPs, which Hitwise declines to disclose. How it’s useful: The data is presented in percentages (the volume of searches, its success rate with searchers), which makes it very easy to compare the relative popularity of various keywords, but difficult to estimate the actual number of searches for a given term. Cost: III. Keyword Intelligence offers different subscription options (; click on “Purchase”), ranging from $89.95/month for a basic package to $1,899.50/year for a standard package. We recommend checking out the different options and choosing a package that will work best for your company.

Things to Keep in Mind
It's important to keep in mind that when you're using the various keyword research tools to brainstorm keywords, none of them will be 100% accurate. Rather than focusing on the exact search count of various terms, you should think of each tool as a good way to get a general comparison of two search terms. For example, if you compare two terms and see that one term is more popular than the other because it returns a higher search count, yet see that four different keyword research tools display different search counts, you at least know that Term A is more popular and searched for more often than Term B, regardless of the count discrepancy between the different tools.


Estimating Relevance, Value, and Conversion Rates

When researching keywords for your site, it's important to judge each keyword's relevance, value, and potential conversion rate. If a keyword is strong in all three criteria, then it's almost certainly a keyword you want to optimize for and implement throughout your site.

1. Relevance
When judging the relevance of a keyword, you should ask yourself the following questions:

    

What does this keyword have to do with my site? Does it logically represent my site's products and/or services? Does it fit in with my company's business model? Does it pertain to what my site has to offer? When a user searches for this keyword, would my site be an appropriate, engaging result? High vs. Low Relevance

It's important to categorize your keywords into high and low relevance. Generally, keywords of higher relevance will be more beneficial to your site in that they best represent your site as a whole. If, when judging the relevance of a keyword, you answer “yes” to the above questions, you've found a highly relevant term and should include it in your targeting. Low relevance keywords can also be great terms to target. A keyword might be relevant to your site's content but have a low relevance to your business model. In this case, if you target that keyword, when a user clicks on your site and finds the content to be valuable, he or she is more likely to return to the site, remember your brand, and potentially link to your site or suggest it to a friend. Low relevance keywords, therefore, present a great opportunity to strengthen the branding of your site.

2. Value
When judging the value of a keyword, you should contemplate how worthy the term is for your site. How will your site benefit from targeting these keywords? How useful are these terms? How to Identify High Quality Keywords To identify high quality keywords, ask yourself the following questions:

How relevant is the term/phrase to the content, services, products, or information on your site? Terms that are highly relevant will convert better than terms that are ancillary to your content's focus.


Assuming a visitor who searches for that term clicks on your result in the SERPs, what is the likelihood that he'll perform a desired action on your site (make a purchase, subscribe to a newsletter, etc), create a link to your site, or influence others to visit?

It's a good idea to target keywords that indicate imminent action (e.g. “buy cranium board game,” “best prices for honda civic”), because searchers are more likely to perform the corresponding action on your site when they search for those terms than they are for terms like “honda civic” or “cranium board game.” Your clickthrough/conversion rates are likely to be higher if you target keywords that indicate an intent behind the search.

How many people who search for this term will come to your site and leave dissatisfied? Pay attention to your site's content and compare it to what other sites in the top results are offering—are these sites doing or offering something that you haven't thought of? Do you feel as if these sites offer a more positive user experience? If so, see what you can learn from these sites and possibly emulate on your own. You can also use an analytics program and check to see which of your pages have the highest abandonment rates. See what you can change on those pages to improve user experience and increase user's level of enjoyment when using your site.

3. Conversion Rates
A common misperception is that a conversion refers only to the purchase of an item on your site. however, many different types of actions users perform can be defined as a conversion, and they are worth tracking and segmenting. The Different Types of Conversions: 1. Visitors who Buy This most obvious type of conversion occurs when a visitor searches directly for a product or service using a search engine, clicks on your site's relevant page in the search results, sees that you offer what he searched for, and makes a purchase from your site. How to Track: Apply action tracking through your website's analytics program (SEOmoz, for example, uses IndexTools) using a javascript action on the “Add to Cart” or “Complete Purchase” buttons. It is a good idea to track multiple actions in the purchase process (e.g. “Add to Cart,” “Complete Checkout,” “Complete Order”) so you can measure abandonment rate between each process. 2. Visitors who Subscribe

This type of conversion can occur when a user searches for some information using a search engine, clicks on your site in the search results, and subsequently subscribes to your site's newsletter, creates a user account, signs up for email notifications, or otherwise requests information about your site or its products/services. Recently, RSS feeds have become the most popular way to receive frequently updated content from a site. Tracking these users, who will often access your content through third-party services (not on your domain), is essential. How to Track: An RSS tracking service such as FeedBurner ( fb/a/home) can help show the number of subscription signups. You can also add action tracking to your feed subscription buttons, newsletter signup pages, etc. . 3. Visitors who Share This conversion happens when a visitor shares the information he found on your site with someone else. For example, if your site has a “Share with a Friend” or an “Email to Friend” feature, you could keep track of conversions by noting each time a user used that feature. How to Track: Add action tracking to any “Share with a Friend” or “Email to Friend” buttons you have on your site. You can also attach a piece of tracking code to the automatic email that your site generates when a user clicks on the button to send to his or her friend. 4. Visitors who Link A user who links will visit your site and find its content useful, entertaining, or otherwise compelling enough to link to it from his or her own site. How to Track: Check your referring links in your analytics program. You can also check out third-party link sources, such as Technorati or Yahoo!, to see how many new links are pointing to your site. If you have a “Link to this Post” button, you can add action tracking to it to see how many people are clicking on it. 5. Visitors who Publicize

Visitors can publicize your site by mentioning it in forums, blog comments, or by writing about it on their own site. How to Track: Perform searches for your site, brand name, product's name, etc. in various search engines and in Technorati to see what is being written about you. These five types of conversions open up distinct opportunities to target various keywords. While one keyword may work well for purchase conversions, another may be well-suited to get users to subscribe to something on your site. Regardless of what type of conversion you're optimizing for, you should strive to have each keyword that you intentionally target convert well, meaning it should be relatively successful at getting searchers to click through to your site and consequently perform a specific action.


Keyword Research Process

Researching keywords is not a difficult process. It is a great way to learn more about your market and about your competition, which is extremely rewarding information. We'll guide you through a simple process to follow when tasked with the challenge of figuring out which terms to target for your site:

1. Create Initial List
The first step of the keyword research process is to create an initial list of keywords. Refer back to the “Brainstorming Keywords” section of this guide for tips on how to create your initial list of keywords. Record your initial list of keywords in a spreadsheet, like Excel or OpenOfifce.

2. Estimate Numbers
Get a count for the keywords in your list by using the various keyword research and estimate tools we mentioned earlier in this guide. For example, you can use Overture, KeywordDiscovery, and Wordtracker's search estimate tools to get search numbers for each keyword on your list. Be conscious of the fact that since each tool can provide data over different time periods, you'll have to adjust the data so that they all represent counts over the same timespan. Overture, for example, provides counts from their last complete month of data, while KeywordDiscovery provides a yearly search estimate and Wordtracker provides a daily search estimate. If Overture is providing data from December 2006, you'll have to take Wordtracker's search counts for each keyword and multiply them by 31, since there are 31 days in December. For KeywordDiscovery, you'll select “Analyze” and will then multiply the “Predicted

Daily” number by 31. This way, you'll be able to laterally compare each tool's figures because their count will represent a month's worth of searches for that particular keyword. Since each tool derives their data from different sources, it's difficult to accurately compare one tool's search count with another. We recommend taking the average of each tool you use to get a relative idea of how many searches were performed for a keyword. For example, if Overture reports that 2427 searches were performed for the word “shoelaces” in December 2006, KeywordDiscovery reported 5425 searches, and Wordtracker reported 3503, then the average count for the term “shoelaces” in December 2006 would be 3785. This number likely will not represent an accurate estimate of traffic levels for the term, but it can serve as a good relative metric for comparison. At this point, your keyword research spreadsheet will have one column for the keyword, a column for each keyword research tool, and a column that lists the average count of each tool's search estimate for that term.

3. Add Expanded Phrases and New Terms
Expand your list of keywords and phrases by adding new terms that the various keyword research tools suggest. Try to compile a large variety of keywords and phrases from the tools, and get search estimates for each of these additional keywords. Remember to only add terms and phrases you expect can provide valuable, relevant visitor traffic that converts.

4. Create Estimate Calculations
Once you have built your list of potential keywords, go through each term and estimate what you think its relevancy is to your site. You might think of this as the hardest step in the keyword research process because it requires you to provide numbers independent of keyword research tools. Nevertheless, it's a good exercise in learning how to weed through the hundreds of keywords you have compiled throughout your research process and identifying the terms you think are most valuable for your site. For example, say you are a site that sells wedding dresses. Your list of keywords includes wedding dresses, wedding gowns, bridal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, bridesmaid gowns, and prom dresses. “Wedding dresses” and “wedding gowns” will have a 100% relevancy score, because that is exactly what your site provides. If your site also carries bridesmaid dresses but primarily focuses on wedding attire, then “bridesmaid dresses” and “bridesmaid gowns” may have an 85% relevancy score. The term “weddings” would probably have a 40-50% relevancy score because while your site carries wedding dresses, you don't offer any other wedding-related products or services. Lastly, if your site doesn't sell prom dresses, then the phrase “prom dresses” would have a 0% relevancy score because that term is not relevant to what your site carries or offers.

Conversely, when researching keywords for your site, if you see that “prom dresses” gets a lot of search traffic and the competition for that term is low, you may have just identified a good business opportunity. If you start offering prom dresses on your website, you could potentially dominate the search results for that term. Estimating keyword relevancy not only eliminates the least relevant terms from your keyword campaign, but also highlights opportunities for expanding your services in order to capitalize on less relevant, highly trafficked terms. 5. Estimate Competition and Difficulty There are various ways to estimate how competitive a keyword is and how difficult it will be to target:

Use the various keyword research tools mentioned earlier in this guide that offer competitive research. Tools like KeyCompete, SpyFu, AdWords Keyword Tool Estimator, and KeywordDiscovery all have features that allow you to see what terms your competitors are or should be targeting. Search for a keyword and see which sites are being displayed in the top 10-30 results. See what terms these sites have in their title tags and anchor text. Pay attention to sites in your industry that repeatedly rank in the top results when you type in various related keywords, as these sites are your main competition. It's also a good idea to study your top competitors' web sites to see how they're targeting keywords and converting visitors, and if they offer anything unique on their site that you could implement on yours. SEOmoz's Keyword Difficulty Tool ( is great for analyzing how competitive a search term or phrase is. The tool estimates the difficulty of ranking well for a keyword that you enter. Since each report can take several minutes to run, you can opt to have an email sent to you once the report is complete; that way, you can do other keyword research while your report is running. To run a Keyword Difficulty Report, enter your target term or phrase into the tool, then enter the number of times that term was searched for in the previous month, as reported by Overture's Keyword Selector Tool.



After you provide the required data, the report will run and return that keyword's difficulty score. For example, we ran a report on the term “web design” and found that it has a difficulty score of 87%. The information included with the score states that this term is “exceptionally competitive,” and that “top rankings [are] only achievable with [a] highly established site and overwhelming link strength.”

Included in each Keyword Difficulty Report is an explanation of the factors that are considered in order to assign a difficulty percentage to each keyword, a list of Google and Yahoo!'s top ranking sites for that keyword, and each site's Page Strength score, as indicated by SEOmoz's Page Strength tool (

Things to Keep in Mind
It is crucial to know each keyword's difficulty and competitiveness, because it allows you to adjust your optimizing efforts accordingly. If you want to target a term that is highly competitive, then you'll know to work harder to optimize your site for that term. If you find that there are several keywords that are not very competitive and will not be difficult to optimize for, you can take advantage of this knowledge and target these terms more easily than you would for highly competitive keywords.


Conducting Live Test Campaigns

Another great way to research keywords is to set up various test accounts with the major search engines' paid ad programs. Even if your site doesn't have a paid advertising campaign and would rather focus on organic search engine optimization, setting up test accounts is the only way to get truly accurate numbers of how many impressions (number of searches) a term/phrase has over a certain period of time. We've provided a general process on how to create test accounts for Google (, Yahoo! (, and MSN ( While each search engine's paid ad platform may vary slightly, the overall process is similar enough that we'll take you through a general step-by-step that is applicable for all three sites. Keep in mind that although the campaigns you'll create will be used primarily to compile impression data, you will still need to spend some money in order to run these campaigns (the amount of money depends on the popularity of the term and the level of bidding competition). 1. Create an account at one (or more) of the search engine's paid ads program site. These typically require an email address & credit card information. 2. Identify the keyword(s) that you want to purchase inside your paid search account. These are the terms you want to get hard data on – exact numbers of searches each day/week/month. 3. Create an ad for that keyword that will remain in the search results 100% of the time. This may involve increasing the price you're willing to pay, tweaking the landing page quality, etc—be aware of each search engine's requirements and adhere to them accordingly. 4. Be wary of creating an ad that targets a “broad” keyword phrase. When attempting to get exact data, you should typically target ads to searches that are “exact match.” For example, in an exact match for the term “apple iphone,” only searches with the precise phase “apple iphone” will be served your ad, rather than a “broad match” campaign, where searches for “apple iphone release date” or “i hate the apple iphone” would receive your ad (thus skewing your impression data). 5. Make sure your ad points to a quality landing page that is appropriate to the ad. Even if the landing page doesn't have an action to perform, ensure that it is relevant to the displayed ad so that the ad won't run the risk of getting pulled for not being a quality result for searchers. 6. Geotarget that campaign to the right area for your market (e.g. countries and territories, regions and cities), and pick which search network you want them to

appear. (Google's AdWords, for example, has the option to show your ads only on Google or on their entire search network, which includes their affiliate search engines.) Watch out for targeting the “content networks” at the search engines which include (for Yahoo! and Google) contextual ads on websites (which are not searches, but merely page views). 7. Watch the ad's' impression stats (how many times users searched for the keyword/ phrase your ad is targeting) over the course of one to two months' time to get a good idea of the true volume of searches.

Interpreting PPC Test Data
Be sure to keep in mind the following tips when running a campaign and interpreting its data: 1. Make sure your ad displays the full length of time you're running your campaign. If, for whatever reason, it's not showing for a few days, your impression data won't be as accurate. 2. Be aware of seasonal trends. It's important to be aware of whether a keyword can fluctuate highly from season to season (e.g. “valentine's day presents,” “air conditioners”) so you can recognize that the demand you saw for one month of the campaign may not always be that consistent. 3. Also keep in mind that media mentions/popular news items can cause wild search fluctuation (e.g. “air conditioner falls and kills madonna”). Recognize that anomalies might exist, and use Google Trends to identify both anomalies in news items and seasonal search trends. While this process is a more time-consuming way to research keywords, it is a great way to test various terms and see how many people are performing searches using the keywords you wish to target. Studying each ad's clickthrough and conversion rate also gives you an idea of how well you can write ad copy or content for your site, and it gives you an opportunity to improve your site's user experience if you discover that your landing pages are poor or that your conversions are low.


Best Practices for Keyword Targeting

The following are best practices to optimize pages for specific keywords, for both organic SEO and pay-per-click traffic:


Targeting Keywords in the Organic Results

When optimizing your site to target specific keywords in the organic search results, we recommend including the appropriate keyword(s) in the following context: 1. Title Tags

Appearance in Search Engine Results

It’s not a good idea to jam keywords into your pages’ title tags. Users see title tags primarily in search results, and if the title tags are stuffed with keywords, they’ll appear spammy and can discourage people from clicking through. We also don’t recommend targeting too many keywords in one title tag; rather, focus on including the keywords that are most relevant for that particular page. For example, if your company is Emerald City Boat Tours and your company provides water tools of Seattle, you wouldn’t want your title tags to read like this: Emerald City Boat Tours | Boat Tours City Tours Sightsee on the Water Space Needle The above title tag is unattractive in appearance, repetitive, doesn’t read logically, and has the overt appearance of keyword stuffing. It’s also important to keep in mind that in the SERPS (search engine results pages), title tags cut off after 66 characters. To a searcher, the title tag used earlier would look like this: Emerald City Boat Tours | Boat Tours City Tours Sightsee on the Water S…

Lengthy title tags that cut off mid-sentence do not look appealing in search results; therefore, it’s important to maintain a balance of brevity and relevance when writing your title tags. If Google has problems spidering your site, they will use the DMOZ description of your site as your pages' title tags. If your site has not been submitted to DMOZ, then Google will use your page’s URL as its title tag. Either instance can be problematic, as the keywords you’re targeting in your title tags aren’t being seen by either the search engine or by searchers. To tell Google to exclusively use the title tag you’ve provided, include a “NOODP” tag ( <meta name=”robots” content=”noodp”> ) in your page’s code, and the title tags you’ve written for your site will be used. Yahoo! and MSN also support the “NOODP” tag, and Yahoo! recently started supporting the “NOYDIR” tag ( <meta name=”robots” content=”noydir”> , or <meta name=”slurp” content=”noydir”> ), which tells them not to use Yahoo! Directory titles or snippets for your URLs in their search results. Brand vs. Keyword-Focused Users often only read the first few words of a title tag, so it’s generally a good idea to start your title tags with what’s most important to your company and to what you want to emphasize more. The benefit of being brand-focused is that “SERPs branding” (becoming a recognized brand name in the search results) can create a sense of familiarity and a positive association to your site for the searcher. Since you have established your site as an authority, searchers are more likely to click on your site if they see it listed in the search results. A couple good examples of positive SERPs branding are IMDb (the Internet Movie Database: and Amazon ( When searching for anything movie-related, a user might feel inclined to click on an imdb page if it appears in the results, because the site has established itself as an authority on movie trivia, upcoming projects, actors and actresses, etc. Similarly, Amazon has become ubiquitous with online shopping. They offer a wide variety of products, often at good deals. A user searching for a product to buy may gravitate towards Amazon's product page in the results because the site has created a brand that is thought of as trustworthy, reliable, and reasonable in price. If your site is more brand-focused, it’s a good idea to start your title tags with your brand name and then follow up with the keywords you’re targeting. Emerald City Boat Tours would want to begin their pages’ title tags with “Emerald City Boat Tours” and then follow them up with their keywords. If you’re trying to

target terms like “tour,” “tours,” “touring,” “city,” “water, and “sightsee,” then some of your pages’ title tags could look like the following: Emerald City Boat Tours | Touring the City of Seattle Emerald City Boat Tours | Sightsee Around Seattle by Boat Emerald City Boat Tours | Water Tours of Seattle Emerald City Boat Tours | Tour Seattle’s Biggest and Best Hotspots If, however, you want your site to focus more on keywords, we recommend starting your title tags with your keywords and ending with your brand name. In this instance, the above title tags would look like this: Touring Seattle | Emerald City Boat Tours Sightsee Around Seattle by Boat | Emerald City Boat Tours Water Tours of the City | Emerald City Boat Tours Tour Seattle’s Biggest and Best Hotspots | Emerald City Boat Tours Some debate exists over whether you should structure your title tag with your keywords first or your brand name first (see Quite frankly, we feel that the structure depends on your site. If you're a car dealership, then it would be better to list your keywords first because you're not likely to establish your dealership's name as an authority or name brand (e.g. Honda Civics, Accords and Other Models | The same goes for other searches where people wouldn't hold a brand name in high regard, such as cell phone deals, computer parts and accessories, song lyrics, mortgage information, shopping for clothing, etc. If, on the other hand, you're an up and coming craigslist-type site, then you would want to establish your brand as much as you can so that people would recognize your site as the place to go for online classifieds (e.g. Joesboard | Seattle Classifieds for Jobs, Apartments, and More). The bottom line is that your title tag structure is contingent upon what your site's goal is. If you want it to build a brand presence, then list your brand name first. If you're in a competitive sector where brand names matter less than the product or service offered, then put those related keywords first in your title tags. Keyword Cannibalization

It’s important to be conscious of keyword cannibalization, which is inadvertently targeting the same keyword on multiple pages. Say, for example, that Emerald City Boat Tours wanted to target the keyword phrase “space needle,” so they included it in several different title tags on several different pages: Boat Tour to the Space Needle | Emerald City Boat Tours Space Needle Tours | Emerald City Boat Tours Emerald City Boat Tours | Space Needle and Other Destinations Emerald City Boat Tours | See the Space Needle, Contact Us Now, when a user searches for “seattle space needle,” the search engine has to figure out which of the above four pages to display to the searcher. These four pages are all competing against each other for rankings, which also dilutes their ability to outrank the competition. As a result, the search engine might serve up Emerald City Boat Tours' Contact page and not the page about the Space Needle. The user won’t think the result is relevant and probably will not click on it. To avoid keyword cannibalization, include a diverse range of keywords in your title tags and make sure that each title tag is unique and accurately describes the focus of its corresponding page. 2. Meta Description Tags

The meta description is the little blurb that describes the content of the page listed in the search results. The meta description is only visible in the SERPs (and

to users who view the source code of your pages), and the description cuts off after around 155 to 170 characters. While the meta description tag doesn't need to be optimized for search engines, it is nonetheless extremely valuable in that, to searchers, it acts as your page's ad copy. Therefore, it's important to ensure that each of your pages has a unique meta description so that users can differentiate one page from the next in search results. Targeting the same keywords over and over again in multiple meta descriptions can result in keyword cannibalization and will confuse searchers as to which of your pages is most relevant to their search. Again, the purpose of the meta description is to compel the searcher to click on your result in the SERPs; in this sense, it is foolhardy to stuff keywords into your description tag because to a user the description of your page will look spammy. Based on the following meta descriptions, which result would you rather click on? “Emerald City Boat Tours seattle city tours touring seattle cityscape view seattle from the water great deals on tour packages group discount rates book now for your tour” or “Emerald City Boat Tours offers affordable boat tour packages of Seattle. See views of the beautiful cityscape, mountains, and the Space Needle from the lake.” The latter description is much more enticing to a searcher. It looks more professional and relevant, and it also targets keywords like “boat tour packages,” “affordable tour packages,” “tour space needle,” etc. Like the title tag, if the search engines cannot effectively crawl your site, they will use the ODP or other directory description instead of the one you have written. To tell the search engines to exclusively use your meta description tag, make sure to include the NOODP and NOYDIR tags in your code. 3. Header Tags

Header tags display text in a larger size than the rest of the text on your site, so it’s logical to make sure that you include important keywords in them. Furthermore, when search engines crawl your site, they’ll consider the content within header tags to be especially important, meaning searchers are more likely to see your site’s page when they search for keywords that are included in your page’s header tags.

On Emerald City Boat Tours' website, their page about the different types of tours offered could have the following phrase displayed in an H1 tag: Seattle Tour Packages That way, “seattle,” “tour,” “seattle tour,” “tour packages,” etc. are all keyword combinations that can lead searchers to the site’s Tour Packages page. Including each page’s most important keywords in header tags is a great way to let search engines know that these terms are particularly relevant. 4. Text Content

Another simple way to optimize your site for specific keywords is to include them in the body of your site. Emerald City Boat Tours would logically want to include the words “seattle,” “tours,” and other related keywords throughout their site. The search engines will pick up on the fact that because these words are consistently found throughout your site, they must be associated with your business. Do not worry about keyword density, which is making sure that a particular keyword appears a certain amount of times on one page. If you mention the keyword too often on a page, search engines may suspect your site of spamming. Instead, write naturally and be conscious of using your keywords a few times throughout the page. Search engines' analyses of on-page text content has become exceptionally advanced; thus, writing great copy with the user in mind will deliver far more benefit than stuffing keywords into your text. 5. URLs

Having one or two keywords in your domain is a great way to tell search engines that your site explicitly relates to the keywords embedded in the domain. For example, a perfect domain name for Emerald City Boat Tours would be Search engines will see that “emerald,” “city,” “boat,” and “tours” are three keywords that are relevant to the site because they’re all found in the site’s domain.

Notice that “seattle” isn't in the domain name. Even if your site already has a domain registered that doesn’t include your top search terms, you can still include them in your URLs. Emerald City Boat Tours can still target “seattle” in its URLs. For example, the site's tour packages URL can look like That way, search engines and users can see that “seattle,” “boat,” “tour,” and “packages” are all relevant keywords. The last thing the site would want to do is have a URL that looks like this: f=/c/a/2007/02/22/NSG8FO6DLF1.DTL&type=food. What's wrong with this URL?

The site is missing out on a prime opportunity to target its top keywords in its URLs. If a user is searching for the article, a better URL would be, which targets the title of the article in the URL. Users who look at the URL won’t have any idea what page it will serve up, which weakens the site’s usability. Another URL option would be, which tidily sums up the article for the searcher. The URL has unnecessary dynamic parameters. The URL has an unnecessarily deep folder structure. Http:// makes logical and appropriate use of two folder structures, “articles” because the page contains an article, and “food” because the article is food-related. It has an unfamiliar extension (.dtl). It employs both lower and uppercase letters. It's standard to stick with one convention (either lowercase, which is more widely accepted s being the standard, or uppercase) rather than mix and match the two.


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URL structure should be both search and user-friendly. Appropriately including your keywords in your URLs tells search engines that your site has relevance to those keywords, and it tells users that your site offers information on what he or she is searching for. 6. Internal Anchor Text

When linking to other pages within the site, you want to avoid writing anchor text that says “Click here to see our rates.” Search engines assign some relevance to words that are hyperlinked, so you want to make sure that you’re using your keywords in your anchor text. Some internal links on Emerald City Boat Tours' site could be “Most Popular Tour Packages,” “Types of Seattle Tours,” “Tour Rates,” “Sightseeing Specials,” etc. Each of these internal links contains one or more relevant keywords, so when a search engine spiders the site it will see the links and is likely to associate your site with the keywords embedded in them. 7. External Anchor Text

When buying or building links and submitting your site to directories, you want to make sure that the links pointing to your site contain relevant anchor text. Include your keywords in a way that the links will read as informative and not spammy. Which of these two links would you rather click on? “Emerald City Boat Tours sightsee seattle tour city touring downtown” “Emerald City Boat Tours—fun boat tours of Seattle” The second link looks more trustworthy, legitimate, and professional, and it still fulfills the function of implementing keywords in the external anchor text.


Targeting Clickthroughs and Conversion Rates with Search Ads

When optimizing your paid ads to target specific keywords, we recommend including the appropriate keyword(s) in the following context: 1. Ad Title The title of your ad will be the first thing users see – it must draw the user into the ad to encourage a read of the ad content. Ad titles that contain the exact text that a user searched for is far more likely to get a click. Thus, it's wise to create ads with as much specificity as possible. Although many ad programs will let you create one ad targeting many different Ad Copy Employing your targeted keywords in your ad copy results in higher clickthrough-rates. Don't stuff the keywords in needlessly, though – use them in an intelligently-written fashion in well-crafted copy for best results. URL Search marketing programs allow you to use a display URL that differs from the actual URL the link refers to. Use this as an opportunity to craft a short, user-friendly, and keyword-laden URL.




Click-Through Rate (CTR) In Google Adwords (and Yahoo! Search Marketing), click-through rate heavily influences your ad's position, the price you pay and your propensity to be displayed in the results. All of the factors mentioned above, along with creativity and rigid testing can help you to drive up your ad's CTR.


Landing Page Quality Google (and perhaps Yahoo!) is using landing page quality to approve/deny ads, measure how relevant landing page is and determine price and position of ads in their search results. Keywords used, quality of site design, relevance to the topic and user experience all figure into this somewhat subjective and secretive scoring mechanism.


Conversion Rate Google, Yahoo and MSN all offer integrated analytics to track conversions. When you set up a PPC account, you insert code from the service onto the page and it will track the unique “actions” (i.e. an “add to cart,” form submission or signup). Higher conversion rates, like landing page quality, will influence cost per click prices, placement in the results and how often your ad is displayed.


Final Thoughts: Best Practices for Keyword Research & Targeting

The practice of keyword research seems straightforward at first – type a few relevant terms into a tool, get some results, target the good ones on your site, and watch the traffic roll in. In practice, however, the intricacies of every portion of this process make it invaluable to know the ins and outs of keyword search marketing. A few of the most important takeaways from this document include:

Keyword Tools Provide Relative Numbers, not Accurate Predictions Be wary of using the keyword tools to forecast exactly how much traffic will come to your website. The vast differences in the estimations provided and the disparity of sources can mean that even the highest rankings won't bring in the level of visitors predicted (or that the predictions will be dwarfed by reality). Use the tools to determine which terms and phrases are more popular than another, but don't trust anything but real numbers garnered through test campaign experience to predict real volume.


Brainstorm Terms Cautiously Remember to think about the value of a visitor who's come to your site via the term or phrase you target. The more specific the query, the higher the chance of conversion, so don't rule out less voluminous searches. The keyword tools can be great sources of brainstorming material, but they all require a solid starting point, and it's up to you to know enough about your industry to determine what keyword niches will provide value. Keyword Targeting Title tags, URLs, headlines, and text content are all good places to put your important terms, but beware of stuffing or spamming – the engines may penalize your site. It's also wise to remember that anchor text can have a huge impact on rankings – make sure to include keyword in anchor text when relevant. The Long Tail Oftentimes, the greatest amount of value in search referrals comes from the “long tail” of rarely-searched, low volume keywords. You can attract these visitors by writing consistently fresh, updated content on your site in the form of a blog, wiki, article list, newsletter, or even user-generated content. Keyword Cannibalization A common problem in keyword targeting is to attempt to attract the same search terms on many different pages on a site. While occasionally targeting the same keywords on a couple pages is unavoidable, be wary of using the same terms on every page's title tag and header. Instead, write more detailed pieces to target long tail terms and link back to the high-level, targeted page with the proper anchor text.





Glossary Materials
1. Sample Keyword Research Worksheet We've provided a sample keyword research worksheet for you to use while you're compiling data. This worksheet is just a guideline to get you started—feel free to ignore or add any additional columns of data as you see fit. You can download this worksheet at: articles/sample-keyword-spreadsheet.xls 2. Promotional Codes
 – enter SEOMOZ in the Promo Code section of the signup page (, and you will receive either $100 off the Annual KeyCompete subscription or $300 off the Annual Super User Subscription

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