DIY SEO: Step 0 – Keyword Selection

Sep 27, 2008 | SEO for WordPress

This is the second post in our DIY SEO for WordPress series.

Compile Your Keyword List

Write down all the keywords from the list you generated using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool that have high search volumes and low advertiser competition. I won’t try to give you cutoffs or thresholds, because every market is different, so make your selections relative to the list you generated.

Write down keyword ideas you think should have appeared on the list. These will come from that ‘gap’ between what you think your site’s about and what the search engines see. Include the keywords you would like to target based on what you want the world to know about you and what you do. (Remember, use your ideal customer’s vocabulary.)

Ask for help from friends, relatives, kids (yes, kids!) to generate even more keyword ideas. Getting outside your own brain is a very useful tactic to employ. If you are a parent coach, ask your friends and relatives, “If you were to search online for the kind of help I give parents, what words would you type into the search engines?” This is where the keywords you probably haven’t thought about will likely show up. For example, I might tell you I’d search for information on ‘how to deal with stubborn kids’ or ‘effective discipline for ADHD kids’. Notice the words ‘parent coach’ weren’t a part of my answer.

A Word About How People Search

Most people search one of two ways:

Broad match means that if you type in maid service Tulsa without any quotes around it, the search engine will bring back a list of results in which any of those words appear. That means it’ll bring back results that contain maid and service and Tulsa in any order, and possibly along with other terms. Your results could also show singular/plural forms, synonyms, and other relevant variations. As of today, this search returns 112,000 results in Google.

A phrase match is a search with quotation marks around the phrase. The search engine will bring back a list of results that contain the phrase maid service Tulsa, in this order, almost as if it were one word instead of three. As of today, this search returns 18 results.

Big difference.

We’re going to deal with broad match numbers, though, because that’s the way most people enter search terms…no quotes.

Gather Relevant Data

Now that you have a list of potential keywords and keyword phrases, it’s time to see how valuable they might be to you and your site.

There are a number of factors you can research about any given keyword, but let’s concentrate on two for our basic selection criteria: search volume and competition. I suggest you create a spreadsheet and create three columns to start:

Col A: Keyword/Phrase
Col B: Search Volume
Col C: Competition

Load it with your keywords and keyword phrases from the list you compiled.

We’ll use the free version of WordTracker to find out search volume, and we’ll pull the competition numbers from Google searches.

First, let’s do the search volume. Enter your keyword in the keyword box and click the “Hit Me” button. WordTracker will then return to you a list of all the keywords in its database that contain the keyword or phrase you entered, as well as the search count for each. (Keep your eyes peeled for good keywords and phrases you don’t have on your list…and add them! You always want to be on the lookout for great keywords and phrases!)

The count is the total number of times that a keyword has been looked up in the past 110 days using WordTracker’s 300+ million keyword database. This database is the *complete* log of all requests made at the Metacrawler/Dogpile Metacrawlers (WordTracker doesn’t use search engines because of software robots/position checkers distorting the results but the lookups are very similar).

Enter the count number for your keyword or phrase in Column B.

Next, find the number of search results for your keywords and phrases by conducting searches for them in Google.

Enter your keyword or phrase and click search. Google will tell you how many results it brought back. (Click the picture to the right for a larger view.) Enter that number in Column C of your spreadsheet.

Repeat this process for each of your keywords and phrases in Column A.

Choose Your Keywords and Phrases

Now you’ve got some data to help you choose which keywords and phrases are best for your site.

You want to choose 10-20 keywords that are a good mix of single-word and multi-word phrases, that have higher search counts and lower competition numbers. Paring down your list of a couple of hundred keywords and keyword phrases to just 10-20 sound a bit daunting, but you’re going to be eliminating LOTS of them because they don’t have any search volume (why use a keyword no one searches?) or they have way too much competition (ranking in the top ten of 21,600,000 results will be a bit of a trick.)

Remember, though, to leave those one-word keywords that really describe who you are and what you offer, because though you won’t rank well for them, they do help categorize your site. In our example, that means keeping “maid service” (because it describes your service), and “housekeeper” (for the same reason, and because it’s actually a better choice than “housekeeping” because more people search for it and there is less competition.) If geography is important to you, keep a few phrases that include your city, or use your city as a keyword, itself.

How Else Would You Have Known?

Conducting this kind of research is tedious, yes, but SO IMPORTANT. How else would you have known that “housekeeper” is a better keyword than “housekeeping”? You might have thought housekeeping was better without this research. Heck, I might have, too. But that’s why we do this critical step before we go to all the work to optimize our sites. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do a few (shoot – maybe even several!) hours of tedious research and make the rest of the work I do pay off for me, than wing it and make the rest of the work I do a waste of time.

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