Search engine optimization (SEO) is best thought of as a daily habit for the working webmaster Anytime you post an entry on a blog, anytime you plan to publish a new article on your site, and certainly anytime you do something as momentuous as writing a tagline for your website or a new product, spend a few moments doing keyword research. Keyword research tools allow you to enter the keyword of interest and get information about how others use that keyword on the web. You’ll normally get some kind of indicator of how often that keyword is searched for, plus a list of related keywords and the frequencies of
search for those keywords too.
Keyword research tools are therefore a great way to get more traffic on your web pages. If the term you think of isn’t quite the same way others phrase it, you may find that you can change the keywords you plan to emphasize without changing the meaning of the web page you’re creating. For example, you might think that the keyword guitar hero price is a strong one. But (at least at the time of writing) the Trellian Keyword Discovery tool tells us that guitar hero 3 price gets 5 times as many searches.
A brief note: This article uses the terms keyword, key phrase, and search term interchangeably. Key phrase denotes the possibility of more than one word at a time and the words you’d most likely use for keyword
metatags. Search term works better when discussing the different key phrases you use while experimenting to find the best combination using the keyword research tools listed in this article.
Most SEO and article marketing specialists suggest the following approach for best search engine optimization results. Fire up one of the keyword research tools listed here. Enter the keyword (or keyphrase) you’re interested in and see what results are yielded. Follow keyphrases related to the ones you get to ensure you cover a good set of keywords for your article (or other web page). For example, I wrote an article on free clipart, but it turns out that most people separate the words, as in free clip art. Keyword research also told me that free images and royalty free images were similar search terms, but much less so free stock photography as I had assumed.
My workflow is normally different from that suggested by SEO and article marketing specialists. They often recommend you do your keyword research before writing the article, and it’s an approach I respect. One could view it as something akin to writing an outline for the article, so there’s no need to reject that approach out of hand. I prefer to write a tightly themed article, however, and do my keyword research afterward. To me, every article is a sales piece, even if it’s just selling the user on the opportunity to browse some great free content on my site. In my experience (which I don’t necessarily feel will be yours), doing keyword research first dilutes my focus, because instead of keeping firmly on point, I start to second–guess myself. I get distracted wondering how to incorporate the new keyphrases the tools suggest. Instead, I write a first draft of the article based on one very specific theme. Only when I’m finished do I revisit the salient keywords.
Keep in mind that none of these tools can be 100% accurate. No search engine has indexed the entire web and, far more important, algorithms differ from tool to tool. These are minor quibbles. Any market researcher would have mortgaged his mother’s house, sold off his firstborn child, and possibly maimed a Boy Scout to get his greedy little hands on any one of these keyword research tools before the Web existed. We are immensely fortunate to have tools that distill such unimaginably massive amounts of data into such clear, simple results.
Seo Book is a fantastic resource for the working webmaster, and their Keyword Suggestion Tool does not disappoint. Its home page has an informative video and the search results are chock full of links to additional tools for each keyword returned. It shows estimated results from WordTracker, Google, and MSN. You can then drill down further into Yahoo! Suggest, Google Trends, Google Traffic Estimator, Google Insights, Quintura, and more. My favorite of all these tools, though every one mentioned in this article is a worthy competitor for my SEO affections.
The Google AdWords keyword tool has quickly become the 800 pound gorilla of the keyword research world, and its clean user interface belies a deep and rich feature set. Unique among these tools, it lets you enter a URL instead of merely populating a text box with a set of keywords. Think about it: competitive research meets keyword tool, along the lines of Spyfu. Each related keyword it returns is given a box of its own, with a set of keyword suggestions for that returned keyword, sorted by relevance. Phew! Just take a look; it’s a lot easier to see than to read about. The emergence of the new Google Search-based keyword tool (below) gives rise to an obvious question, however. Where does the AdWords keyword tool obtain its data, if not Google searches?
Trellian’s tool spans multiple search engines. Its free online version gives a wide variety of variations on your search.
Getting targeted traffic to your site is the meat and potatoes of working webmaster’s life. The best way to obtain targeted traffic on a low budget is to post helpful messages to forums related to your site’s area of interest. How do you find out what forums serve your market? BoardReader is an incredibly efficient way to do so. Just enter a keyword and BoardReader returns the answer to that question on a hot steaming platter laden with fresh forum posts. Spelunk around its options because you can narrow the search to posts, topics, forums, or images.
If you’re starting from scratch with BoardReader use the forums results first, because it shows you not only what forums the posts appeared on but how often they came up. The icing on the cake is that a forums search shows a list of sites where the search term appeared, another results set with related threads, another with the latest threads, and finally a list of hot threads.
Of course there’s nothing stopping you from then using a tool like Quantcast to find out which of those forums has the most web traffic. These two methods give you pinpoint accuracy in determining the best places to contribute.
BoardReader has also quietly introduced some invaluable new search options, namely videos and Twitter. Videos are another unsung traffic getter, so you can see at a glance where the hottest spots to post videos are.
BoardReader has yet another trick up its talented sleep, and that’s Trendy, a tool that can give you trends ranging from last week to last 6 months to anytime based on up to three keywords. A great power user feature is that you can create a permalink to a Trendy search. Add that to your bookmarks and you can return every week or so to check trends.
Wordtracker’s paid keyword research tool is widely considered on of the best in the business, and its free version more than lives up to that reputation. Webmasters of faith will appreciate that it has two additional settings to filter out adult or even questionable material. To me its most surprising advantage is that
in my somewhat limited experience it gives much more reliable statistics regarding the popularity of its search terms. I have achieved Google page one results with a number of keyphrases in niche sites and Google’s own keyword tool seems to inflate the search frequency wildly. Wordtracker is a great sanity check on your search terms, or at least it’s returned results much closer to what my web stats indicated.
When you’re the new kid on the keyword research block, you have to try harder. Quintura does that by letting you embed code in your site that shows its results in a nifty little tag cloud. You are supposed to be able to embed its results in your own web pages but couldn’t get it to work (pilot error, no doubt). It also searches images, video, and Amazon.
The KwMap keyword research tool displays a vaguely threatening graphic with its search results, bearing an HR Giger-esque double octopus tentacle thingie whose purpose I do not fully grasp. But its results are useful, with related terms floating around the tentacle thingie, a list of related websites below (its best feature, in my view, and one the other keyword research tools should emulate), and an alphabetical keyword list. In addition there’s a “personalized keywords” column that always returns keywords of clickz.com, for reasons that escape me.
SpyFu is powerful hybrid of keyword and competitive research tools. Enter a keyword and you’ll find what it costs to advertise for that keyword, popular websites for that keyword, and what keywords advertisers bought in addition to that keyword. It also shows clicks/day, cost/day, related terms, and related concepts. Another suite of tools that market researchers would have given their eyeteeth for just a decade ago.
Google has recently debuted a keyword research tool that matches its results to that of a candidate website. It is included here mostly for completeness because it is mostly meant to be used with sites for which you have Google AdWords accounts.