One of the most important initial steps in any search engine optimization endeavor is keyword research. Without the right keyword research, you can pretty much count out any success in an SEO project. Keyword research can mean the difference between sub standard and exceptional performance of a marketing campaign. So, I would like to go through the steps that I utilize and factors that I consider while performing comprehensive keyword research for a website.
1. First, brainstorm and determine the keywords that you will target based on industry information.
It sounds more simple than it really is. If you’re targeting travel, which keywords do you want to focus on? What competition level are you prepared to go after? How many conversions can you reasonably handle? How much link building can you reasonably handle? Well, one might surmise that the travel industry, for example can include travel related keywords. To target a group such keywords and find out search data behind them, you could try brainstorming a list like so:
Travel by airplane
Travel by Bus
Travel by Train
Travel by Airplane
Travel by Plane
2. From here, we can plug these keywords into the Google Adwords Traffic Estimator to determine Global Monthly Search Volume, among other stats, to help us determine the best keywords to target for our purposes:
Global Monthy Searches: 37,200,000
Keyword: travel by airplane
Keyword: travel by bus
Keyword: travel by train
Now that we know our Global Monthly Search Volume, we can look at other factors to choose the best keywords to target. The keywords travel, airplane, and bus are all way too general. Are we looking for information on how to travel, or airplane tickets? Are we looking for information on buses and airplanes, or the best priced tickets for these methods of travel?
Depending on the exact focus of your website, you will want to narrow down your keyword list even further. These could be keywords like bus travel tickets, bus tickets, or train travel tickets, or train tickets. But, the keyword research process doesn’t stop there at the brainstorming level. Other factors influence how long it will take to see results, and how much effort you or your marketing specialist needs to put into the campaign.
Searching Google, we can find that the keyword “travel by bus” is heavily saturated. You have about 179,000,000 (million) search results to compete against. THAT is A LOT!! Before I go further, no legit white hat online marketing techniques are going to get you quick results. The whole point of the game is to develop a website and establish yourself as a long term player in the marketplace, and if you get caught using black hat techniques, your site can most likely get penalized or banned, depending on the level of offensive techniques involved, which will destroy all of your efforts up to this point. So, having said this, let’s go back to our 179,000,000 search results. How does this factor into our determination on which keywords to use?
Well, saturation is rather important. The more saturated a market is, the more effort that you will require in order to compete against those that already have a following, and so that you can reach the clients who will plunk down money for your travel services. A market that’s not so saturated means that you have much less competition and therefore even better chances at developing a market following and making some money. That’s what SEO is all about – making sure that once you get the right keywords based on a group of market factors, that you can then go after those keywords with all the knowledge in the world what your efforts will bring to the table.
Let’s take a look at some better keyword factors that can help increase your odds of success.
travel by plane – GMS 14,800
Saturation Level: 69,400,000 results
Obviously we have a lower search volume and lower market saturation, so this can be a better choice to target. But wait, what’s another factor we should consider when we are analyzing our competition and market budget? Links. The first site that comes up in the organic results is travel.yahoo.com/flights. Preliminary backlink analysis reveals 38,089 backlinks. Can you compete against this? Yes. Do you have the budget and manpower to obtain even more valuable links and develop a site that will dominate Yahoo Travel in the SERPs? Do you have the moxie required to go after such a market with such wide-reaching competition? If not, then it’s time to consider less competitive keywords.
Keywords with a competition level of less than 1,000,000 and around 5-10,000 Global Monthly Search volumes are good places to start. I AM generalizing here, so this may be rather different depending on your industry, but those are good competition levels to aim for in the beginning. If, however, you decide that it’s time to go after the ultimate keywords with the best traffic and overall conversion opportunities, be my guest. And, if you want to be rather ambitious and take on Yahoo Travel, well, feel free to do so – I’d love to be the inspiration for you to get going on a large undertaking such as this.
You may say “But Brian, I have no time for exhaustive keyword research and determining these factors that will influence my success. I want to get to the top of the SERPs quickly and easily by just picking and choosing randomly. What do I do?” Well, sir, you drive a hard bargain. You can pick and choose randomly. But, when you discover that your keywords have no search volume and you’ve been building links and doing on site optimization based on random words with no traffic, what then? Wouldn’t you rather have maximized your keyword research efforts from the beginning with traffic-laden options like in the above examples? No online marketing campaign should be embarked upon without at least ensuring that the keywords you’re targeting will deliver some substantial conversion opportunities.
Keyword research is so important, both from a strategic advantage and developing a course of action. You wouldn’t want to set out on starting a business without a business plan in place would you? The same can be said for any website that you start as well. Do the right keyword research in the beginning with the factors that are important, and you’ll see your results soar.