Some real-life advice on keyword research

June 2, 2008 •

I’m working on an SEO copy job for a natural therapist, at the moment. They’re doing their own keyword analysis (with a little help from me along the way). Over the weekend, they spent a lot of time thinking about and researching their keywords. Having never done any keyword analysis before, they found this process fairly confusing, and they came to me for some advice this morning. I thought I’d post their question and my answers. Hopefully someone will find the exchange useful.

Client: Using SEOBook’s Keyword Tool, we came up with a list of possible keywords:

  • “Digestive system” – 3336 hits from google
  • “Digestive disorders” – 74
  • “Natural health” – 205
  • “Step by step” – 391
  • “Naturopath” – 158
  • “Naturopaths” – 61
  • “Natural therapy” – 30
  • Specific words – ailments and conditions – got higher hits and may be included on a specific page. E.g.: Autism, ADHD, Coeliac disease, Irritable bowel.

My Response:

  1. I can combine “digestive system” and “digestive disorder” into “digestive system disorders”. Google is smart enough to recognise this combination, and would index you in searches for both. (Note that all things being equal, a site that targets the exact phrase “digestive disorder” will outrank you, but all things are rarely equal! This sort of approach makes very little difference to your overall SEO presence.)
  2. I wouldn’t target “step by step” at all. Not in isolation, anyway. People who search for “step by step” could be searching for anything; if you managed to rank no.1 in the world for that phrase, the vast majority of your visitors wouldn’t be interested in natural therapies at all. They’d be interested in all sorts of things. However, because we still use “step by step” in the copy naturally, you’ll be indexed in searches for “digestive system disorders step by step”, and things like that.
  3. I’d recommend targeting “naturopaths” over “naturopath” (see reasoning for combinations discussed in point 1 above). You’ll notice if you search for either, there are results for all sorts of similar words, including “naturopathy” and “naturopathic”. This shows you that Google is smart enough to find relevant sites even if the word isn’t EXACTLY what the user searched for. The only time it isn’t is when the user actually includes the quotes in their search. This would happen very rarely.
  4. With only 30 searches reported, “natural therapy” might not be a very good phrase to target. There is a lot of competition for it. Do a worldwide search and you’ll see there are approx 10.5 million results. That means you’d have to work quite hard to rank for it, and you’d only get a very small reward (‘cos not many people are searching for it).
  5. Specific conditions – I’d recommend targeting only the ones that you’re really keen to win work from. i.e. If you really want to attract a lot of the traffic that’s searching for “autism”, then by all means target it. But if it’s only incidental, I’d think twice. There would be HEAPS of competition for this word. Probably for most specific conditions. So only choose the ones you really want. You can include the others, of course, but don’t make them your primary or secondary keyword phrases. Concentrate on the phrases that will bring you the most qualified traffic.
  6. A note on using targeting specific words on specific pages… Generally speaking, targeting words or phrases on one page only will be pretty ineffective. Normally you need to have a lot of content related to the keywords you’re targeting – a lot more than just one page If google sees a lot of content, it assumes there must be something useful in there.

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