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  1. What Your Clients Should Know About Keywords in 2016

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    You depend on your clients for success, and they depend on you for results, but sometimes, simple misunderstandings or inefficiencies can get in the way of an otherwise perfectly functional relationship. Of particular note are “best practices” in SEO that are no longer best practices, or elements of SEO that are poorly understood. A client may demand a certain approach even if it may end up hurting their campaign, or they may blame you if they aren’t getting results in the exact form they wanted.

    Few SEO areas are as hotly debated or as dynamically evolving as keywords—in research, targeting, and optimization. Keyword-based strategies still exist, and are still effective, but they’re almost unrecognizable from their older counterparts, and as a result, many clients enter into an agency agreement with unfounded expectations or preconceived notions about how keywords are supposed to function.

    It’s your job as an agency to stay up-to-date on the latest best practices for keyword-based optimization, and make sure your clients understand these standards perfectly well. Otherwise, you risk damage to the relationship when they believe your side of the bargain to be unfulfilled.

    A Brief History of Keywords

    First, I want to address some of the old ways that keywords permeated SEO as a sharp contrast to the way they’re used today. You may already be familiar with these standards, and you may believe some of them to still be how the search world works. If you or your clients currently still accept or operate by this old model, you’re in desperate need of an update.

    Google’s search algorithm once relied on exact keywords matches to produce results. If a user searched for “chicken tacos,” for example, it would scout for all the pages on the web that featured the phrase “chicken tacos,” and then sort them based on how many times that phrase was used, along with the authority ranking of the site itself.

    This led to a series of practices designed to exploit this keyword basis for search; companies would research the most competitive keywords, then stuff them into page titles, body copy, and anchor text for links in order to maximize their relevance for those terms. Analysts would then monitor ranking progress for those specific keywords, gauging campaign effectiveness on this upward trajectory.

    If you’re still using these strategies today, the same way you would have a decade ago, there’s something wrong.

    The “Modern” Era of Keyword Optimization

    There are a number of interrelated factors for why keyword-based optimization is so different today than it was several years ago. Make sure your clients are aware of these factors, even if it’s only at a cursory glance, to help them understand the “modern” era of keyword optimization.

    The looming threats of Google Panda and Penguin

    Hopefully, your clients already know what Google Panda is. At its core, Panda is a quality update, focused on content, designed to penalize sites with low-quality content in any capacity, and reward sites with higher-quality content. One of the biggest offenses Panda targeted was “keyword stuffing,” the act of deliberately placing targeted keyword phrases in the headlines and bodies of articles throughout your site in an effort to achieve higher ranks. Panda introduced natural language detection and quality evaluation into Google’s algorithm, weeding out any articles or sites that were thought to be using too many keywords in their content. Today, if you try too hard to squeeze unnatural-sounding keywords into your content, you’re going to trigger this algorithm—plus, you’ll turn your readers away.

    Google Penguin, equally recognizable, offered a similar quality update for links, rather than content. The old-school keyword practice here was to build links with anchor text that included your target keywords, or at a minimum choose offsite articles with headlines that included the keyword in question. Thanks to Penguin, the “quality” of links is more easily detectable by Google, so if you try to stuff keywords here, you’ll also be penalized.

    The bottom line here is that domains that try to exploit keyword stuffing are going to be penalized, no matter what.

    The rise of Hummingbird and RankBrain

    Google Hummingbird came out back in 2013, and completely overhauled the way Google evaluates user queries. Rather than taking a look only at keyword phrases, Google introduced a semantic focus to the search engine, making it capable of evaluating and meeting user intent. Instead of mapping instances of keyword phrases to exact matches on the web, Google now dissects the intention behind a user’s query and attempts to grab results that meet that intention. In some cases, this results in radically different SERPs, but Google still relies on keyword detection to understand the subject matter of various sites and web pages. The power of keywords has been weakened, but not obliterated.

    RankBrain is a machine-learning modifier that was added to Hummingbird just last year, and it’s a sign that Google’s semantic capabilities are only going to grow more sophisticated. RankBrain’s purpose is to better understand complex and ambiguous long-tail user queries, essentially boiling them down to a more manageable level for Hummingbird to take over.

    There’s a great example of RankBrain’s effects floating around:

    rank brain effect

    (Image Source: SearchEngineLand)

     

    search engine results rank brain

    (Image Source: SearchEngineLand)

    Notice how the second query is asking the same thing, but in a more complicated, convoluted way. RankBrain’s job is to take the second query and figure out that it’s just a long way of asking the first query.

    The Knowledge Graph and local SEO

    Keyword optimization gets more complicated with the rise of the Knowledge Graph and local SEO, two very different concepts that share an undermining effect toward keywords.

    The Knowledge Graph is the system of indexed information that Google uses to provide you answers to specifically or concisely answerable questions. As an example, when you type in “why do baking soda and vinegar react,” you’ll see a short explanation pop up above all the organic search results:

    knowledge graph seo results

    There are many forms and types of queries that allow the Knowledge Graph to kick in. It’s a great resource for users, as it saves them the step of sorting through organic search results, but it has the indirect tendency to divert organic traffic, and it increases Google’s capacity to provide direct answers to queries, rather than mapping queries to existing locations on the web.

    Local search has the same “diversion” and “query answering” effects, but for a slightly different reason. Here, local searches operate using a separate algorithm, which kicks in when user location data is available (or when a user utilizes geographic-specific keywords). Older local SEO techniques, like stuffing unnatural phrases like “best plumber dallas tx” into content, are no longer valid here.

    Personalization

    Personalization is also affecting the significance of keywords in the modern era, thanks to Google accounts, browser histories, and personal digital assistants, all of which can feed or use data on your history and geographic location to alter your personalized search results. Two users who search for an identical query—let’s call the “chicken tacos” reference back to the forefront—might get totally different results. One might get chicken tacos recipes, based on his/her strong disposition for recipes in the past, while another gets chicken taco restaurants. This makes it harder to predict what your users are actually searching for, and more difficult to guarantee any kind of visibility from a ranking increase. After all, your ranking increase will only be for a part of the audience doing the search in the first place.

    Are keywords still important?

    After reading all this, you might start to wonder whether keywords are important at all these days, and if not, what the alternative might be.

    The answer isn’t exactly straightforward. In response to Hummingbird, some optimizers have suggested that a suitably alternative for keywords is “topics,” which gives you more freedom when it comes to phrasing. The goal here is to predict types of user queries and write topics that address those queries, such as answering common user questions or proactively addressing user concerns. You’d do topic research, much like keyword research, tracking down popular topics and ones that haven’t been suitably covered by competitors, then produce high-quality content that naturally contains contextual clues that help Google categorize it and call it up for the appropriate queries.

    Topic-based SEO is highly effective, and a suitable alternative to keyword-optimization in some ways. However, keywords still have a power of their own, giving you shorter, more precise phrases to work with, more trackable results, and generally higher potential volume. Even though Google doesn’t map keywords from queries to pages like it used to, it still uses keyword phrases to help it understand site pages, so they’re still a valuable strategic focus in an SEO campaign.

    Doing the Research

    One of the most important parts of a keyword optimization strategy is the research. The entire point of keyword optimization is to choose the most valuable keywords to optimize for, so getting the right information (and therefore, the best list of possible targets) is essential if you want your clients to see progress. Modern keyword research is a bit trickier than it used to be, but with the right tools, the right approach, and enough communication with your clients, you’ll do fine.

    keyword research

    (Image Source: AHrefs)

    Long-tail keywords vs. head keywords

    First, you need to know the difference between basic keywords (sometimes called head keywords) and long-tail keywords. There’s no exact cutoff here, but long-tail keywords are essentially the same as basic keywords, but… well, they’re longer. These are long phrases, sometimes colloquial, like “where’s the best place for chicken tacos” instead of the basic “chicken tacos.”

    Generally, the longer the query becomes, the lower the volume and competition become. This makes them easier to rank for but also makes them yield a lower potential traffic rate with a high rank. Compared to head keywords, they offer fast-paced gains, but a lower long-term payoff (assuming you invest sufficiently in the basic keywords). They’re also great material for topic-based optimization.

    A good, balanced strategy should have both basic keyword and long-tail keyword topics as part of your research, though depending on your approach, you may qualify your long-tail research separately, or as part of your topic research.

    Individual brainstorming

    When you first get started generating keyword ideas, you’re going to rely on your own brainstorming (and don’t worry, we’ll dig deeper in a minute). For this, you’ll definitely want to consult with your client; they know their industry, their business, and their customers far better than you do. Together, come up with a big list of various keyword terms you think your client’s customers might search for, and try to target specific products or services if you can. This will get you started in the right direction as far as relevance is concerned.

    Start compiling your keywords in a spreadsheet; we’ll be expanding on this shortly.

    brainstorming keywords

    (Image Source: AHrefs)

    Awesome tools to help you out

    After you’ve got an initial list scrapped together, you’ll have a working foundation for some heavy expansion. For this, you’ll probably need to rely on some external tools to help you get the job done. It’s almost impossible to pull all this data in by yourself.

    Google’s Keyword Planner.

    Google’s Keyword Planner is a tool within Google AdWords designed to help advertisers plan their campaigns, but the information it offers can be used for an organic campaign as well. Plug in all the keywords you came up with (and any subsequent keywords you find with the tools below), and it will tell you the average volume and competition rating for each; this will be vital in narrowing down your list of targets.

    google keyword planner

    (Image Source: Software Insider)

    AuthorityLabs.

    AuthorityLabs is a major name in the industry, because it helps you come up with new keyword ideas, measure things like search volume and competition for each, and even track your ranks as you implement them as part of your strategy. There are also a number of filters to play with to see how keyword results play out in different scenarios.

    authoritylabs report

    (Image Source: AuthorityLabs)

    SEMRush.

    SEMRush takes things a bit further by offering a number of research tools. If you enter a specific keyword, SEMRush will help you break it down in terms of its fluctuations, current competition, and volume. You can also find related terms here, and chart differences in desktop and mobile devices.

    semrush report

    (Image Source: SEMRush)

    Google Trends.

    Google Trends is a better tool for topic research and long-tail keyword results, but it’s still useful to see how your user demographic trends change over time. Start general here, and work your way toward more niche topics; you’ll learn much about user behavior and search patterns to inform your growing keyword list.

    google trends report

    (Image Source: Google Trends)

    Spyfu.

    Plug in a competitor’s URL here, and Spyfu will tell you some of their most profitable keywords and search positions. This is useful for finding key opportunities to outrank your closest industry competitors.

    Auto-Suggest.

    There used to be several keyword idea generation tools leveraging the power of Google’s auto-suggest API. Google’s auto-suggest comes up with popular related keywords, saving you the trouble of trying to think them up on your own. However, now that Google has privatized that API, these tools don’t have quite the power they once had. Ubersuggest is among the best here.

    ubersuggest google

    (Image Source: Content Marketing Institute)

    Three factors for success

    Ultimately, you’ll want to work with your client to narrow down your list to the top potential candidates, zeroing in on a dozen or two strong keywords with the highest potential return. You’ll want to look at three factors here:

    1. Relevance. Realistically, how close is this keyword to your client’s products, services, and target niche? This is going to be a subjective question, but you can ask more critical questions here; for example, how far along in the buying cycle would a customer be if they were searching for this? How informed is a customer who is searching for this? Who wouldn’t be searching for this?
    2. Volume. The volume is another important factor, as it controls how many people could ultimately be influenced by a high-ranking site for this query. However, there’s one limiting factor that could compromise volume’s effectiveness, and that’s competition.
    3. Competition. A keyword with a lot of competition will be nearly impossible to rank for. On the other hand, lower competition keywords tend to carry lower volume. You’ll have to find a balance if you want your strategy to work.

    At this point, you’ll have a solid list of target keywords with which to begin work.

    Finding the Balance

    Modern keyword optimization is all about balance, in more areas than one. Let your clients know that there’s no one right way to optimize for keywords, nor is blunt force ever a good strategic approach in the realm of keywords.

    Splitting focus between keywords and topics

    First, you’ll need to split your attention between optimizing for keywords and optimizing for topics. As we’ve seen, both are important if you want to host a successful strategy. However, it’s not always as simple as splitting your efforts down the middle, fifty-fifty. Instead, you’ll need to actively monitor the ebb and flow of your work, and make adjustments accordingly. Are there a lot of potential news topics to cover? Start optimizing for those topics. Is your client on the verge of a page-one ranking for a specific term? Start putting more effort into that term. And of course, if you find that your progress is slowing or that you aren’t getting the results your client needs, you can make adjustments to your strategic lineup.

    Keyword density

    You’ll want to include keywords in your blog posts, and meta data, and really, throughout your site. But thanks to Panda and Hummingbird, if you include too many, you’ll end up getting your client’s site penalized. What’s the solution? The old method was one of percentage, making sure your targeted keyword phrases don’t appear more than 2-3 percent of the time. However, a better solution is to avoid stuffing keywords at all; the less you think about it, the more naturally you’ll write, and the less you’ll have to worry about a penalty.

    For starters, only choose keywords that you can work into your content naturally, and then, work them into content titles only when they’re appropriate. From there, they’ll probably appear naturally as you complete the content work. For some keywords, this is easier said than done, but your first job is choosing the right keywords to begin with.

    How to observe rank changes

    Reporting is a big deal for agency-client relationships, and keyword ranks tend to be a sensitive issue. You’ll find your clients want high ranks, as fast as possible, and may grow irritated if they aren’t getting the ranks they want (or overly complacent if they are).

    First, set the expectation that ranks aren’t everything. Yes, you have target keywords and your goal is to rank for them, but you’ll be rising in rank for dozens of long-tail keyword phrases you didn’t even know you were optimizing for (thanks to your brilliant content marketing strategy). Plus, keyword rankings can only tell you so much—what’s really important is your inbound traffic.

    Second, set the expectation that ranks are volatile, and aren’t entirely predictable. Your rank may change from day to day, and may appear differently for two different people in the same room. There’s a degree of relativity to be expected in the modern realm of keyword-based optimization, so try not to let your efforts be judged too precisely.

    The Importance of Communication

    When it comes down to it, the vast majority of issues with keyword-based optimization can be avoided with a bit of proactive communication with your client. Here are some of the most important points to touch on, early in your relationship.

    • SEO isn’t magic. There’s no secret formula for how to get ranked number one for a given query, and even if you did, this isn’t a shortcut to positive ROI. This delusion needs to end now.
    • Keywords carry lots of misconceptions. The biggest is that keywords and queries have the same one-to-one relationship they did back before Hummingbird took over.
    • Keywords are still relevant. Despite the fact that Hummingbird is prevalent and topic-based optimization is a viable strategy, keywords are still very much a relevant (and some would argue, necessary) part of a modern SEO campaign.
    • Not every strategy is a guarantee. Strategies are just that—strategies. Not every stock investment you make will pay off, but you can be informed and make an educated decision about how to move forward. SEO is all about making the most educated, reasonable choices you can—and they won’t all pay off the way you thought they would.
    • Mutual work to find the right balance. If you want to be successful, you need to work together with your client. They know far more than you do about their business, and you know far more than they do about SEO. Only by pooling your strengths and making up for each other’s weaknesses will you be able to develop a strategy that really hits home.
    • Adjustment and refinement. You aren’t going to have a perfect keyword approach the first time you make the attempt. Only through adaptation, adjustment, and refinement are you going to find a strategy and a rhythm that works for your brand.

    If you make these points clear, and you follow the keyword strategies I’ve outlined above, you should have no trouble keeping your client happy and up-to-date with the latest best practices in keyword optimization.

    The Future of SEO Keywords

    It’s hard to say exactly what the future holds for keywords (or SEO in general). But I suspect that the world of keywords and topics is only going to get stranger. Technologies like Hummingbird, RankBrain, the Knowledge Graph, and digital assistants are evolving at a remarkable pace, and all of them are, in some way, making it harder to get your site ranked for a specific keyword term. Overall, keyword focus is only a part of SEO—building your authority, earning links, providing great content, and offering the best user experience are other fundamental pillars you need to worry about. So instead of trying to perfect the keyword side of things, hedge your bets, and try to develop the best overall strategy you can with your clients.

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  2. How to Find LSI (Long-Tail) Keywords Once You’ve Identified Your Primary Keywords

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    LSI keywordsFor many SEOs, keyword research is all about finding keywords with a high number of monthly searches and low competition. Some of the more advanced will move on to long tail keywords, or keyword phrases, or look to local keywords to help lower the competition and leap to the top of the search engine results page.

    These are all great strategies, but to truly show your skills as a keyword ninja, and find those untapped gold nuggets, you have to know how to identify long-tail, LSI keywords.

    What are LSI Keywords?

    If you were to search for a definition to LSI, or latent semantic indexing, keywords you would find answers all over the map. Most people will tell you that LSI keywords are simply synonyms for your keywords. The belief is that by finding similar terms for your primary keywords you can make your content look a bit more natural while adding more possible search terms into the mix.

    However, this rudimentary explanation of the term doesn’t do enough to serve our purposes. If you want to master the LSI keyword we have to get elbows deep in what it means. I wrote an article specifically for that purpose: “Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI): What is it, and Why Should I Care?

    Wikipedia describes LSI as having the, “ability to correlate semantically related terms that are latent in a collection of text;” a practice first put into use by Bell Labs in the latter part of the 1980s. So it looks for words (keywords or key phrases, in our case) that have similar meanings and words that have more than one meaning.

    Take the term “professional trainer,” for example. This could mean a professional fitness trainer, a professional dog trainer, or even a professional corporate trainer. Thanks to LSI, the search engines can actually use the rest of the text in the surrounding content to make an educated guess as to which type of professional trainer is actually being discussed.

    If the rest of your content discusses Labrador Retrievers, collars, and treats, then the search engine will understand that the “professional trainer” being referenced is likely a dog trainer. As a result, the content will be more likely to appear in search results for dog trainers.

    Another case would be where multiple synonymous terms exist in the same piece of content. Take the word “text” for example. If this were a keyword for which you were trying to optimize your page, words like “content,” “wording,” and “vocabulary,” would all likely appear within the content because they are synonyms and/or closely related terms.

    The benefits of LSI keywords

    The most obvious benefit to LSI keywords is that your keyword reach becomes broader by using synonyms. As I wrote in my article “The Rise of the Longtail Keyword for SEO,” “they are playing an increasingly essential role in SEO.”

    In addition to the broader reach, your content will rank higher in search engines because of the supporting effect of the LSI keywords. Repeating your keywords over and over throughout the text in an attempt to achieve the perfect keyword density (which, by the way, is a completely outdated SEO term and tactic) makes the content read awfully funny; and the search engines are smart enough to detect this sort of manipulation, too. Using synonymous keywords helps make your content a richer experience for the reader, and more legitimate (and thus, higher ranking) to search engines.

    Finally, LSI keywords help keep you competitive for your primary keywords in the right context. If you are optimizing for the term “professional dog trainer,” you’re less likely to be competing against the other types of professional trainers in search results.

    Great, how do I find LSI keywords?

    The search for LSI keywords starts with your primary keywords. They are the foundation of your SEO efforts, so if you don’t have these identified yet, then go back and find these first. Once you have them you can get started with LSI keywords. How do you find primary keywords? See my article, “The Definitive Guide to Using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool for Keyword Research.”

    Contrary to what you learned in high school, the thesaurus is not your first stop to find synonyms for your LSI keywords.

    The easiest way to find out what the search engines think are terms related to your keyword are to use the search engines themselves.  Go over to Google, and start typing your primary keyword into the search box. Note all of suggestions that are provided and you will not only have a list of related keywords, but a list of keywords that Google knows are related.

    Once you’ve made your list, hit enter to perform a search for your keyword. Scroll to the bottom of the results page, and look at the Searches related to <your keyword>. This will also give you some insight as to good ideas for your LSI search terms.

    Google’s Keyword Planner

    There have been a few changes, other than the name, when it comes to Google’s new Keyword Planner, but anyone familiar with the old Keyword Tool should be able to navigate through it with no problems.

    You can use it to find LSI keywords, and the process is simple. First, click on Search for keyword and ad group ideas and enter your primary keyword in the Enter one or more of the following box and click on the Get Ideas button at the bottom. On the following page, click on the Keyword ideas tab to get a look at not just a list of recommended LSI keywords, but their monthly searches, competition and other metrics that can help you decide which ones to target.

    Paid keyword tools

    Like anything else in SEO, there are plenty of software packages and services you can buy that will help you in your search for LSI keywords. The downside to these is that you are paying for something that you can get for free. The upside is that the training and support that comes along with most of these purchases will help you learn how to find these keywords more easily.

    The secret operator

    Actually, this is no real secret, but if you place a tilde (the squiggly line ~) before your primary keyword in the Google search engine, it will provide you with the results for synonyms to your search term; for example, ~professional dog trainer.

    Reading over the titles and descriptions of the results, you’ll be able to find some good LSI keywords. If you want to leave a term out of the results, add that phrase to the query with a minus sign in front of it. For example: ~professional dog training –dog grooming.

    Like your primary keywords, you need to make sure that you don’t over-do it when it comes to LSI keywords. A few closely-related terms will be sufficient to help your SEO efforts. And like your primary keywords, don’t try to insert LSI keywords into the text where they don’t fit.

    Remember, latent semantic indexing will only help you if you are writing good content for your readers. LSI keywords will give the search engines the information and evidence they need to understand what your content is saying and reward you accordingly.

    Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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  3. Affiliate Marketing Tips: Keyword Research

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    Affiliate marketing is a lucrative segment of the Internet retail promotion industry. Briefly, it refers to marketers selling other people’s stuff for commission.

    Affiliate marketing continues to attract many online sales specialists because it’s still one of the best and fastest ways to make money online. If you could use a few great affiliate marketing tips, you’re in luck: this article will walk you through the steps for finding the best set of keywords for your affiliate marketing campaigns.

    Finding the right keywords for the markets you wish to dominate online is a critical step toward online marketing success. Without determining the words that your target audience is using to find the products or services you wish to market, you can’t properly optimize your pages for those keywords. And if you don’t do that, your business might as well not exist online.

    It’s keywords that will enable your customers to find you. So let’s look at some of the basic strategy involved in finding the right set of keywords you need to optimize your affiliate pages.

    Use Google AdWords Keywords tool
    There are many great keyword tools out there that offer comprehensive keyword research services. Some are free and some are available on a subscription basis. But one of the best that many marketers swear by is Google’s very own AdWords keywords tool. It’s free and it’s extremely reliable.

    There are a number of steps you have to take in order to get to the precise set of keywords you need with this awesome tool. Let’s assume you’ve already signed up for Google AdWords keywords tool. Here’s how to dig for those keywords.

    Step 1. Key in the primary set of words or phrases for your products or services in the “Word or phrase” section.
    For example, if you’re running a keyword research for affiliate marketing business that has to do with gadgets from China, key in the terms “gadgets from China.”

    Step 2. Choose exact match types in the “Match Types” section on the left sidebar of the page.
    Choosing exact matches allows you to see the precise number of searches that occur on a monthly basis for the different specific keywords that relate to the term “gadgets from China.”

    Step 3. Click on the “Advanced Options and Filters” link just below the word or phrase section.
    Selecting the country. If you’re targeting the entire online market, choose All Countries under the “locations and languages” section. On the other hand, you can choose a specific natiion to see how many searches are coming from, say, the U.S. for the search terms you will be optimizing for.

    Selecting the volume of competition. Under the “Filter ideas” section, click on “Competition” and select “Low” to show results for keywords with low competition. Finally, click on the “Search” button.

    There’s an excellent reason why you should choose keywords that have low competition. First, if you are an affiliate competing in a highly competitive market, it could take somewhere between three to six months before you see your first sale. Second, choosing keywords with low competition is the easiest to rank for. Some could rank you on the search engines within a matter of a few days.

    Assuming you’ve chosen keywords with low competition, put priority on those with a high number of searches, but don’t discount the ones with only a couple of hundred keywords.

    Conclusion
    There you have it, folks: quick and easy affiliate marketing strategy for finding the right keywords for your online marketing campaigns. Follow these easy steps when you prepare all of your campaigns, and you will find that competing online is easy, once you have identified the right set of keywords.

    If you are just starting out in affiliate marketing and you would like to explore some of the options that could boost your campaign, contact us today.

     

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  4. How to Perform Keyword Research with Google AdWords Keyword Tool

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    Google AdWords LogoKeyword research is crucial to online marketing success, because keywords still govern the way people find information online. Keywords help us accurately find the information that we are looking for among the flood of information on the Web.

    As such, proper keyword research with quality keyword research software allows you to understand what set of keywords consumers are using to find what they need. It also allows you to select proper keywords for an SEO campaign based off key metrics such as search volume, competition, and seasonal demand.

    But with all the research tools available out there, which one should you use?

    Here’s a hint: Marketers are vying for a prime spot on Google. Doesn’t it make sense to use a keyword tool owned by Google?

    Google’s own Google Adwords Keyword Tool is one of the best keyword research tools available. This is largely due to the fact that most other keyword research tools pull data directly from Google’s tool via API. While 3rd party tools often do a better job of displaying Google’s data and combining that data with other data to present proprietary or unique insights, they are broken as often as Google changes its keyword tool (which, lately, has been daily).

    Since most 3rd party tools draw on data from Google’s keyword tool, my experience with them has been one of unreliability. Furthermore, the proprietary data insights that are often provided by 3rd party keyword research tools are often misleading, inaccurate, or downright useless.

    Add in the fact that Google’s keyword tool is free, and you have a compelling case. Let’s take a close look at this awesome keyword research tool.

    The interface

    In recent years, Google Adwords Keyword Tool’s interface has gone through several transformations, but the latest has resulted in a cleaner and simpler-to-use interface.

    Google AdWords Keyword Tool

    On the main interface is the word or phrase box, where you type the keywords you’re researching. Right below it are Website and Category.

    Right below the main box on the interface is the Advanced Options and Filters feature, which lets you more specifically target your research to certain countries, languages, and devices from which traffic is coming.

    On the left are several features that let you customize your research further by selecting the match types of the keywords you’re looking for, whether broad or exact.

    Step by step: zeroing in on the right keywords

    For the sake of illustration, I’ll walk you through the steps on how to do research for keywords based on Exact Match, which I recommend using for SEO campaigns.

    Let’s say you’re gunning for “LinkedIn Marketing”.

    1. Type “LinkedIn Marketing” on the Word or phrase box.keyword
    2. You can leave out category for the keywords we’re using here, but for accuracy, I recommend you choose the most appropriate category for the keywords you’re researching.
    3. Click on the Advanced Options and Filters feature.AdWords Tool Advanced Options
    • Choose the country you’re targeting
    • Select the language
    • Select the device you wish to know where traffic is coming from
    • Be sure to include information such as Local Monthly Searches, Competition and Global Monthly SearchesAdWords Keyword Tool Advanced Options

    4. On the left hand side of the page you’ll see Match Types

    • Select “Broad” if you wish to see how “LinkedIn Marketing” is broadly used on searches
    • Select “Exact” if you wish to see the numbers for “LinkedIn Marketing” using exactly those termsAdWords Keyword Exact and Broad Match

    Now it’s time to move on to the next phase of the research – gleaning information from the results.

    The Keyword Ideas section shows the main keywords, i.e. “LinkedIn Marketing” and the list of variations for the keywords, the Competition and the numbers for Local and Global Monthly Searches.Keyword Results

    The list of Keywords column shows results for the main keywords and its variations. In the case of Exact Match, the column shows the exact set of words or phrases consumers use to learn about “LinkedIn Marketing”.

    The Competition column shows how competition looks whether it’s Low, Medium or High. Aim for keywords with Low competition. Keywords with low competition will have a better chance of hitting the first page of Google’s search results.

    But don’t discount keywords with Medium to High competition; you can target them for your long-term campaigns.

    The Local Monthly Searches column shows the average number of searches for the keywords in a specific country or region in a typical month. Global Monthly Searches, on the other hand, shows the average number of people worldwide looking for information on “LinkedIn Marketing”.

    For easy reference, you can download the results in spreadsheet format by hitting the Download button right above the Keyword Ideas section.

    Combine insights from Google’s Keyword Tool with data from an SEO competition comparison tool such as my personal favorite, Market Samurai (that’s an affiliate link – thank you for clicking, if you do!). If you or your clients’ website metrics stack up to the competition, then go for it.

    Conclusion

    The Google Adwords Keyword Tool is an excellent keyword research tool. While it doesn’t give you exact numbers (not that any tool can), it’ll provide you with a good idea of which keywords to use as well as which ones to avoid. It’s clean, simple, and reliable, and when combined with insights from an SEO competition analysis tool, it gets the job done efficiently and effectively.

    To find out more about keyword research and how to select the right keywords for your business’ SEO campaign, contact us!

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