Keyword Research: Thinking Like a Detective

This is part two of the series: Getting Started with Keyword Research.

There’s a lot of talk about conducting keyword research, but what is the purpose of keyword research, anyway? There are three primary reasons for conducting keyword research: more website traffic, better sales, higher search engine results page positioning. So, whether you’re an Internet Marketer hoping to peddle a product or a blogger who wants to spread her message across the globe, learning how to conduct effective keyword research is essential to the success of your blog.

Whether you’re developing your list of keywords to increase organic search results or to conduct an ad campaign, thinking like a detective will help you in the process. The first four questions a keyword research detective should ask are:

  1. What questions are your potential readers/customers asking?
  2. What answers to those questions are being supplied by your competitors?
  3. What gaps need to be filled?
  4. How can I optimize my blog using the information I’ve found?

What questions are your potential readers/customers asking?

We touched on this question briefly in the recent post, “Reading Your Reader’s Mind,” but today we’ll go into more detail.

Step One — Gather a list of “seed” words using the following methods:

  • Brainstorm — Preferably with some friends, either in person or over the phone. Ask a few people, “If you wanted to find my blog but forgot the title, what would you type into a search engine?” Write down the their responses.
  • Find What Others Think — Type some of the words your friends came up with during their brainstorming sessions into Google (Google actually provides a list of suggested searches at the bottom of every Search Engine Results Page). Add these to your list.
  • View Your Site’s Search Strings — See what phrases browsers used to actually find your site previously by looking at the search strings (located under Webalizer in your domain’s cPanel). Add those words and phrases to your list.

Step Two — Grow your list of potential keywords.

Now that you have a few “seed phrases” to get started, let’s plant them so you can grow more. Type your list of phrases and words (one at a time) into a free keyword research tool and add the results to your list. Your list is about to grow significantly, so you may wish to set aside your pen and paper and copy and paste your word list into a notepad or text edit document.

There are many free online keyword research tools to choose from, but here are a few of the top ones:

Step Three: Picking the best phrases for your site’s purpose.

The list of words you have now should give you a good indication of what questions people in your audience are asking. For example, I started my keyword research with a simple word: blogging. I then grew my list into a group of questions my potential audience wanted answers to:

  • How to start a blog?
  • Why start a blog?
  • Where to start a blog?

The above list is still fairly broad. There were more specific questions I found through my research, such as:

  • How to start a business blog?
  • How to start a sports blog?
  • How to start a music review blog?

Type your favorites into the Google AdWords tool and view the Global Monthly Search Volume for your selected phrases. If there are tens of thousands of searches per month, the phrase is likely too broad or too competitive. It’s better to have a narrow, specific phrase aligned with your blog’s purpose than a broad phrase that you’ll likely have difficulty ranking well for.

Your research will help you discover phrases you might not have considered. Select the ones that are most suited for your blog’s purpose. For me, phrases such as “How to start a successful blog?” and “How to start a popular blog?” were important but still a bit broad.

Step Four — Narrow your list.

Look to the far right column in your list of keywords and phrases that the Google AdWords tool has returned. One of my more narrow search results was:

  • How to start a blog for your own business?

This is a good example of a long tail search for a real question by a real person that I can answer. The phrase isn’t too broad, and it’s not too competitive.

Now that you’ve investigated and discovered some of the questions your audience is asking, the next step is to find out what answers to those questions your competition is answering. Oh, and before you can know that, you’ll have to learn who your competition is. We’ll learn more about that on the next SEO Saturday.

Until then,

Happy Blogging!

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3 comments ↓

#1 Carolyn on 01.27.10 at 9:52 am

Great stuff, Linda! Power to the bloggers! -Thanks, Crittersister

#2 Reaching Your Keyword Research Goals | On Blogging Well on 01.30.10 at 8:30 am

[…] on How to Customize Disqus CommentsAngie on 41 Free Ways to Drive Traffic to Your BlogCarolyn on Keyword Research: Thinking Like a DetectiveCarolyn on Writing PIER-fect PostsRajeev Edmonds on How to Customize Disqus […]

#3 Mark McCulloch on 02.02.10 at 10:23 am

I have been researching this for a very long time now and I have not been able to find such top quality information untill I came to your blog today.

Mark McCulloch

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