SEO Tutorial (5 Powerful Concepts Of Keyword Research)

by Steven Liew

in Internet Marketing,Market Research,Search Engine Optimization

Keyword Research

This is part 2 of my SEO Tutorial series – Keyword Research. In the previous article, I explained about how search engines work. Moving forward, I want to explain the concept of how humans interact with search engines, how you can empathise with your users and tap into their mind, and eventually, how you can reveal the keywords that they use in their search query. For many, this is known as Keyword Research.

I know some readers will probably go:

Steven, why are you teaching the ‘dry’ concepts? I want to learn the -REAL- stuffs! Please teach your strategies, give me your blueprint, etc!”

If there’s anything you want to take away from this article (or the entire SEO tutorial for that matter), Keyword Research is the ONE thing that will determine if your SEO Campaign makes it, or not. And believe me – patience is not only a virtue; it’s a necessity for SEO. So please bear with me while I go over the concept of it.

Case Study: A Real-Life Example of Human-Search-Engine Interaction

Let me start off with an example of how a user interacts with a search engine. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to illustrate to you than to use myself in this example.

In the last 2 years, with the sudden craze of iPad which led to the outbreak of other competitors coming up, I was beginning to take interest in pc tablets myself. I mean, why would anyone want something that is huge, cannot fit into your pocket, and has to be carried wherever you go? And if any reasons close enough, don’t we have laptops or netbooks already?

I fired up Google and entered: tablet pc. 112 million results, great. I scanned the first page and found nothing I need. I then entered another query: advantages of tablet pc. 5.3 million results. Ah, finally something decent from the first page.

I won’t go into the advantages in terms of the technical implementation, but overall I was convinced that having a tablet pc allows you to combine the mobility of a notebook & pen, and the functionality of a laptop. Also, as a mobile gamer myself, playing in a much larger screen definitely improves my gaming experience.

So the next thing I wanted to know was what the hottest tablets pc in town are. I fired these queries: best tablet pc 2011 & top tablet pc 2011. I looked through all the tablet pc that were listed in the reviewers’ order. And I was down to choosing between an iPad 2, an Asus Eee Pad Transformer, or a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Next, I thought that it was a good thing to do comparison between my 3 choices. So I entered these search query strings: Asus Eee Pad Transformer vs iPad 2, Asus Eee Pad Transformer vs samsung galaxy tab 10.1, & ipad 2 vs samsung galaxy tab 10.1

After a good research, I finally settled with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

In fact, as I write this post now, I still can’t purchase it until I renew my mobile contract with my provider. I will make a post of it once I get my hands on this baby!

Of course, I wouldn’t say this is exactly how a user will interact and it really depends on the market and products. Some people will further expand to check on prices (most hot gadgets’ pricing are controlled so there was no need for me to do that); some people will head straight to product reviews / comparisons if they know the subject well, and so on. But this is how a typical interaction would be like.

If you follow me so far, you will notice that I started off with a keyword of my subject (e.g.: tablet), then I slowly expanded it by adding 1-2 keywords (e.g.: advantages of tablets pc) and finally I started to use very targeted keywords (e.g.: Asus Eee Pad Transformer vs iPad 2) to find out more about what I was looking out for.

There are many subtle conclusions to be drawn here. Let me list them out for you:

1. When a user doesn’t know what exactly to look out for, he/she will usually enter only the main keyword(s)

The end result is that you will get results that you probably are not interested in, just like the case for me.

2. I usually do not go to the 2nd page and beyond for most (if not all) of my search results pages. This might not be applicable to everyone, but I believe that the general users will feel about the same way as I do.

I mentioned about this in my Search Engine Optimization article, and I want to re-iterate this again as I feel that it really is very important to have your website appear in the first page of Google. The second page of Google receives less than 15% CTR only!

3. I started narrowing down a little to my search for the advantages of tablets pc. I added 2 more words to my keyphrase “advantages of tablets pc” and the results dropped from 112 million pages to 5.3 million pages

2 things here – The narrower a search query is, the more targeted search page results you get. What this means, is that if you are searching for ‘tablet pc’, you will get search results that tell you about the disadvantages, advantages, pricing, why it’s called tablet pc, etc. You will only be sending in cold traffic. And you don’t want that. Really. Which is why I later used “advantages of tablet pc”.

Another thing to note that the number of web pages dropped by 2113% when I narrowed my search a little. This affect our Competition Analysis, a concept that I will be covering more in detail in the next section.

4. After being convinced that I want to buy a tablet pc, I started to look for the top / best tablet pc for year 2011, and then I compared products and read all their reviews extensively. Finally, I made my buying decision.

Did you notice that my keywords became longer as I was slowly being converted from a cold traffic to a hot traffic?

Key Concepts of Keyword Research

Key Concepts of Keyword Research
With this example laid out (and I hope it’s a clear illustration to you), here are the key items that you will need to know about Keyword Research:

  • Length of Keywords
  • Keyword Trends
  • Commercial Intent
  • Keyword Search Volume
  • Competition Analysis

Length of Keywords

The length of the keywords makes a very big difference in the search engine results, as I have already explained in the case study above.

In general, there are 3 groups of keywords that are categorised according to their length:

Short-tail Keywords

– Contains one or two keywords. Example: “chair”

Medium-tail Keywords

– Contains two or three keywords. Example: “leather chair”

Long-tail Keywords

– Contains more than three keywords. Example: “cheap leather chair uk”

Typically, the short-tail keywords have the most number of searches done online, and long-tail keywords have the least. However, as you already know, long-tail keywords are the keywords on hot traffic’s mind. Optimising pages for long-tail keywords will bring in targeted traffic.

In fact, according to SEOmoz, search queries with long-tail keywords make up over 70% of all queries!

More importantly, this means that if you are optimising for short-tail keywords, you are only catering for less than 30% of the overall traffic!

Keyword Trends

In my case study, I used “top tablet pc 2011” and “best tablet pc 2011” keyphrases. Notice that they contain the year in the search. In this case (as this post is created in 2011), I am searching for the current year.

Can you think of keywords that can be tied to dates (or years in this case)? What about game titles that are part of sequels where you can have part 1 and part 2, perhaps you could try to optimise for part 3 when it is not being released yet? Think about events. Think about sports. The sky’s the limit!

Keyword Trends. My mentor calls it the Tenses of Keywords. I think that pretty much summarises it 😉

Commercial Intent

Note: This section isn’t really connected to SEO, and is more suitable for Internet Marketers who are doing their keyword research for monetising. For example, Affiliate Marketing, Google Adsense / Contextual Ads, etc… For hardcore SEO’ers, feel free to skip this section.

A very important element about keyword research is the Commercial Intent. To put simply, there are two types of keywords – informational keywords & buy keywords.

Informational keywords are keywords that people use to gather information. For example, “golf swing”, “good SEO strategies”, “tablet” (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?), etc…

On the other hand, keywords with commercial intent are “transactional” keywords that people who are already in the “buying mood” use in search queries. For example, “how to improve golf swing”, “best SEO strategies”, “top 10 tablet 2011”

To illustrate the difference of these 2 types of keywords:

If I typed ‘ipad’, I’m only looking for information.

If I typed ‘download games for ipad’, I’m probably in the buying mood.

If I typed ‘download angry birds for ipad’, oh believe me, I’m ready with my credit card details!

Keyword Search Volume

Needless to say, everyone wants to rank keywords that have high search volume. Because we know that in the internet, traffic is everything. And in this section, I want to tell you about a very popular tool that I personally use for all my Keyword Research campaigns – Google Keyword Tool.

The Google Keyword Tool was primarily created for AdWords (hence it is being listed as one of the tools for it). It reveals the search volume of your keyword(s). Just simply enter the keyword(s) of your choice, and you will receive immediate results! What I personally like about it is that it allows you to apply different types of filters for your search queries.

For example, there are 3 types of search-matches phrases that you can search for.

1. Broad Match
2. Phrase Match
3. Exact Match

The Broad Match include search counts for all the possible ‘swapping positions’ among your keywords. For example, if my keyword phrase is: “Beginners SEO Tutorial”, it will also include count for “SEO Tutorial Beginners”, “SEO Beginners Tutorial”, “Tutorial SEO Beginners”, “Tutorial Beginners SEO”, “Beginners Tutorial SEO”. It is a very non-targeted match.

The Phrase Match is a lot more targeted as compared to the Broad Match, as it allows the order of the keyword phrase to be unchanged. For example, using the same example as above, it will also include count for “Easy Beginners SEO Tutorial”, “Beginners SEO Tutorial And Strategies”, “Beginners SEO Tutorial Step-By-Step”, etc.

Lastly, the Exact Match is the most targeted match type and this is the one that I use most often. The search count returned for this type will only count for your original keyword phrase.

Tip: As a general guideline, always start with the Exact Match type first when you are doing keyword research. It will give you a clear estimation on your monthly targeted traffic.

In time to come, I will write a detailed guide (with screen-shots and explanations) on how to use the Google Keyword Tool effectively, so stay tuned!

Competition Analysis

Note: What I will cover in this section will just be the tip of the iceberg. It only serves as an introductory post to let you have a general idea of why, and how to analyse your competitors. I will write a detailed guide on how to analyse your SERP competitors in a separate post.

A very, very common mistake that people make when they start an internet business is that they never really analysed their competitors. They don’t know the strength of the competitors in their niche that they are targeting. And the hard truth is – even if you have a full optimised website (on-page and a strong backlink system), if your competitor(s) is stronger than you, your will never be able to outrank it.

The final concept of Keyword Research that I want to explain about is Competition Analysis.

Generally, there are only 2 things you will need to check when you are trying to rank a website for SEO:

1. The top 10 websites of Google Search Results for the keyword(s).
2. The number of results returned from your “keyword phrase” in the Google search bar.

Ranking websites for SEO, is like running a race.

I want you to look at ranking websites on SERPs as if you’re running a race. If you want to win this race, all you have to do, is to run faster than the #1 guy, right?

What if I told you that there are a total of 10 runners, and you are starting from position #10?

And then, what if I told you that there are a total of 100 runners, and you are starting from position #100 now?

So the kind of things we will need to analyse would be how optimised our competitors are. Have they fully optimised their website locally? Are their backlinks strong (high PR)? And so on…

You will have to agree with me that if the website on #1 position in Google is a stronger competitor than #2, then effectively, we just have to pit ourselves against the top #10 position in Google, and working our way up.

But the question is – how long is it going to take? And that can be answered by knowing the number of results from the “keyword phrase”.

In Closing

I provided a case study on how a typical user would think and do with a search engine, and I talked about the key concepts of keyword research. In my next article, let’s get our hands dirty and do some on-page SEO!

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