Keyword research – Finding out what your customers are searching for

October 9, 2006 •

Before you can start optimizing your web copy and meta tags, you need to know what words you’re optimizing it for. What words do you want to rank well for? To answer this question, you need to know what words your customers (or potential customers) are searching for. This is called performing a keyword analysis.

Keyword analysis involves a bit of research and a good knowledge of your business and the benefits you offer your customers.

There are several websites specifically designed to make keyword analysis easier. Two examples are:

  1. Overture’s inventory tool. This tool is free and very easy to use and understand, but (last time I looked) it only tells you how many searches have been conducted in the previous month for your keyword (and similar keywords).
  2. WordTracker. WordTracker is a much more powerful tool, but you have to pay to use it (you can subscribe for a day for around $10). WordTracker helps you find the most appropriate keyword for your site by telling you what people are really searching for. Here’s how it works… You type in a word which summarizes what you do, and it tells you how many times that word has been searched for in the last month. It also tells you how many other websites are using that word as a keyword (i.e. targeting the same customers you are). Based on this information, it rates the word. The ‘best’ keywords are the ones that a lot of people are searching for but which few websites are targeting. WordTracker even suggests and rates alternative related words.

TIP: When you’re using WordTracker, bear in mind that it’s just talking about numbers, and numbers don’t always tell the whole story. So don’t just jump in and use the best rated keywords; you need to consider your own situation. It may be the case that you’re forced to select a keyword phrase which is not rated particularly highly. There are two situations in which this might happen:

  • You’re in a niche market with relatively few customers searching for the keyword. In this situation, you’ll probably find it relatively easy to reach the top of the rankings, but you won’t generate a huge volume of traffic when you get there.
  • A lot of your competitors are targeting your keyword (it’s hotly contested) but it’s the only one you can use. If you target it, you’ll just have to work a bit harder on your backlinks in order to rank highly. When there’s a lot of competition for a keyword, it’s likely that the traffic payoff is good once you reach top.

Feel free to comment...
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Keywords and copy…. essential elements of niche marketing | Beyond Niche Marketing wrote on October 16th, 2007

[...] Over and over again, marketing experts EVERYWHERE beg and plead with business owners to begin with their target audience in mind.  A much touted key to success is to write copy with the end user in mind instead of writing copy for the search engines.  After all, heavy traffic without conversions to sales is not the key to a profitable online experience.  But writing with the end user in mind eventually leads us back to targeting a niche market. An interesting thing happens when you start thinking of your target audience… you begin to include elements in your copy that reduce customer anxiety. [...]

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Linda Suttie wrote on July 23rd, 2009

Glenn I've read that WordTracker is only useful for the U.S. and only uses American terms e.g. gas instead of petrol, trash instead of garbage. I've read that Google Keyword Tool is better and it's free. What are your thoughts?

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Glenn Murray wrote on July 24th, 2009

Yes, WordTracker was US-centric last time I checked. I prefer Google's tools from an accuracy point of view. WordTracker's good for its ability to think laterally though. Apparently Keyword Discovery has an Australian-only option.

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