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Keyword Research for Search Engine Visibility

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Reader Question: I am a member of a group of small B&B’s (bed and breakfasts) who are planning to develop a “brand” for our district [something along the lines of "country hospitality on the coast"] We are interested in finding out what key phrases would be the most popular search terms used by our potential guests. We’ve collected customer profile data on our existing guests to establish the demographics of the target markets that we are aiming for. Now we would like to determine the best key phrases before registering a business name and deciding on a Web site URL etc. I’ve tested WebPosition Gold 2 but it only seems to operate with an existing site. Is there a way to do this with WP Gold 2 or is there another tool for this purpose?

Answer: There are a number of places that you can do keyword research without having to spend any money. It will take a little time to gather all of the data and sort it accordingly, but spending the time and effort on quality keyword research is one of the best search engine marketing strategies.

Free keyword research tools

One of the best places to perform keyword research are the search engines themselves. Many of them offer a feature called Related Searches. The Related Searches will give you an idea of what the majority of people search for on that particular search engine.

For an example, I will use a single health-related keyword, asthma, throughout this article. If I were working on a client site related to asthma, I would perform many different types of keyword phrase combinations.

In AltaVista, when I perform a search for “asthma”, I see a list of keyword phrases on the right side of the page, underneath a headline called “Refine Your Search.”

  • Allergy Asthma
  • Asthma Attacks
  • Asthma Education
  • Asthma Research
  • Asthma Symptoms
  • Childhood Asthma
  • National Asthma
  • Children
  • Copd
  • Patients
  • Prevention
  • Treatment

Great! I see plenty of possible keyword phrases. As a Web site owner, maybe I should include a set of articles or links about childhood asthma and the symptoms. But let’s see what the other search engine databases show me before I get too far ahead of myself.

In Teoma, when I perform a search for “asthma”, I see a list of keyword phrases on the right side of the page, underneath a headline called “Refine – suggestions to narrow your search.”

  • American Lung Association
  • Allergy Asthma
  • Asthma Management
  • Indoor Environments
  • Allergies

  • Information About Asthma
  • Information On Asthma
  • Asma
  • Asthma Information
  • Asthma Allergies
  • About Asthma
  • Allergy Asthma Information
  • Immunology

Interesting. I see here that the word “allergies” appears to be common in both AltaVista and Teoma.

Next, I’ll perform this search on Yahoo. It’s a little trickier on Yahoo. Here’s the step-by-step process:

1.Type in “asthma” (without the quotes) in the search box. Click Enter.

2. When the results page opens up, you’ll see that the file tab called “Web” is highlighted. Click on the file tab that says “Directory.”

3. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. All the way until you see the search box. Right below the search box, in a small font, you’ll see the word “Related” with a number of keyword phrases next to it. Click on the hyperlink that says “More.”

4. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. All the way until you see the search box. Right below the search box, in a small font, you’ll see the word “Related” again with a number of keyword phrases next to it. Click on the hyperlink that says “Show All.”

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. All the way until you see the search box. Then you will see all sorts of keyword phrases related to asthma, listed below:

  • allergy asthma
  • children asthma
  • asthma treatment
  • asthma attack
  • asthma symptoms
  • asthma medication
  • causes of asthma
  • bronchial asthma
  • childhood asthma
  • what is asthma
  • pediatric asthma
  • asthma inhaler
  • asthma education
  • asthma information
  • asthma clinic
  • asthma research
  • asthma cure
  • asthma pictures (and so forth)

You can also perform related searches on Business.com and FAST Search/AlltheWeb.com.

Two other great tools are the ones used for the Overture and Google AdWords databases.

http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/

https://adwords.google.com/select/main?cmd=KeywordSandbox

Keep in mind, though, that whenever you perform keyword research, every search engine will show results from their database. Results will look different. That is why I keep the list of keyword searches in an Excel spreadsheet. It helps me see trends across all of the search engines quickly and easily.

As I said before, this whole process is a bit tedious, but worth it.

Paid keyword research tools

The most popular paid keyword research tool among search engine marketers is software called WordTracker. If you don’t have the time do perform all of this keyword research, WordTracker can be a good investment.

I do want to enter a little warning about any kind of optimization software. The software is only as good as (a) the engineers creating it, and (b) the people using it. I have seen plenty of newbies get obsessed with WordTracker results, only targeting the keyword phrases that are given higher scores.

A popular keyword phrase isn’t necessarily the best keyword phrase to target. First of all, the keyword phrase might be very competitive; therefore, it will be more difficult than usual to optimize and rank well for the competitive term. Second, a popular keyword phrase might get a site more traffic, but it might not get the best conversions. So don’t get too hung up on numbers.

Personally? I have always found a combination of a general, competitive keyword and a targeted keyword gets the best results. In the asthma example, “asthma” is the competitive keyword, and maybe “childhood” or “pediatric” is less competitive. The word “symptoms” appears to be common. So I would use the keyword phrases “childhood asthma symptoms” or “pediatric asthma symptoms.”

Then, if I had an asthma site, I would have plenty of content about this particular topic.

Got that? Good, now repeat with other keywords.

Conclusion

A lot of work? Yes, I admit that this is a lot of work. But keyword research doesn’t only help with search engine visibility. Keyword research will help you build a better site.

You will know what topics your target audience is interested in. You can write articles about various topics, articles which can help increase link popularity. You can give surveys, post results in a press release, and drive traffic to your site. Placing keywords appropriately on pages can increase site usability. Spend the time and effort to do thorough keyword research. Your visitors will appreciate it, and your site will have better conversions.

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Shari Thurow is Marketing Director at Grantastic Designs, Inc., a full-service search engine marketing, web and graphic design firm. This article is excerpted from her book, Search Engine Visibility (http://www.searchenginesbook.com) published in January 2003 by New Riders Publishing Co. Shari can be reached at shari@grantasticdesigns.com.

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Keyword Research for Search Engine Visibility
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