The Importance of Keyword Research
SECockpit is a search engine marketing tool developed by Sam Haenni and Shane Melaugh of Swiss Made Marketing. First of all, I would like you to read the reasons why Shane Melaugh was frustrated at the current keyword research methods being used and why it inspired him to develop a product to overcome the inaccuracies and speed of the other widely used keyword research tools. The Importance of Keyword Research. In the words of Shane…
When I started out with online marketing the first thing that I discovered was the niche marketing concept and I’m sure you are probably familiar with that. I think it’s the most widespread thing to do especially for people starting out in internet marketing, which is simply the idea that you find a bunch of good keywords, create websites around those keywords, optimize them to get traffic from google and then put your affiliate or adsense links on there and that’s basically how you make money. That’s how I started out but it didn’t work. My first website didn’t get any visitors unless I visited it myself from time to time and it certainly didn’t make any money! What I did then was ask a few people who know more about this stuff than me, so I bought a bunch of eBooks and courses also signed up for membership sites to try and learn as much as possible about niche marketing, search engine optimization, getting traffic etc. Some of the stuff I learned was extremely useful, I’m forever grateful for the things I learnt about, but I also had to discover that a lot of what I was told about research and SEO is just wrong, just fundamentally and completely wrong, even some of the most respected teachers in internet marketing ‘The Gurus’ are teaching things about keyword research that is simply useless. So that’s what I want to show you, and how to do it better.
Get the First Step Wrong and Everything that Follows will be a Big Frustrating Mess
Now just a quick overview of the niche marketing process and why keywords are so important. It all starts off with the keyword research then everything follows from there, buy a domain based on the keyword, put content on the website based around that keyword, then you do promotion, SEO, link building or whatever else you do, the ideal goal being to gain a top ranking for your keyword and that’s when you get traffic and then hopefully make money. Now the problem is that if you start off with a bad keyword for some reason by using bad data or using a method that doesn’t work, then everything that follows is going to be problematic.
If you do SEO for a website and the keyword is a lot more competitive than you thought then its not going to be fun taking forever to get it ranked. What is even worse, if you don’t pick your keywords the right way you’ll often end up with a top ranking website but your not going to get as much traffic as you expected and the people that are visiting you website are not buying anything – super frustrating. On the other hand if you start off with a good keyword, if your method is sound and you have used a good data source then everything that follows after that is going to be pleasant. You do your SEO promotion knowing exactly how strong the competition is that your up against, you reach that top ranking, you get exactly the amount of traffic you expected, and because you have picked your keywords right those people are actually interested in what you have to offer and the subsequent sales follow. That is of course the goal. The keyword is so important because even if you do everything else right in this process, if you get the keyword wrong then the whole thing is just doomed to fail and will crumble like a house of cards. If you start out with a bad keyword then the best SEO or marketer in the world can’t make money from that. If you start out with a good keyword then it will all be so much easier. That is something I discovered by trial and error and that is why keyword research became so important to me. So the moral of the story is if you get the first keyword step wrong then everything else that follows will be a huge frustrating mess.
Myths and Lies
Most research tools including the google keywords tool show ‘Broad Match’ as their standard setting. For SEO the only number that matters is the ‘Exact Match’ (normally the smallest count) ‘Broad Match’ = Bigger Number = Looks Better. Everyone likes big numbers. It looks better when they say “Hey I got this site ranked for this keyword I’m getting half a million visitors a month” even though if they look at the exact match search volume it’s much less!
The second one is actually the biggest myth of all – the keyword research recipe. I’m sure you’ve seen this as well, I’ve personally seen this in at least a dozen or so courses and eBooks. These kind of instructions “here’s how to find a good keyword – you must find a keyword with at least X amount of searches and fewer than Y competing pages” So these two numbers X and Y can be anything, it can be something like “you need to find a keyword that gets at least 3,000 searches a month and has fewer than 50,000 competing pages” then you buy the next eBook or course and they say “you need to find a keyword that gets at least 7,000 searches a month and has fewer than 70,000 competing pages” I’ve seen many many combinations of these two numbers. Now when they are talking about competing pages the way you find out how many competing pages there are, you type your keywords in quotes “keywords” into Google. If for example I want to find out the number of competing pages for example the keyword “dog training manual” I type in that keyword in quotes in Google then right below the search bar it tells me about 194,000 results were found containing dog training manual, that will be the number of competing pages.
Now the logic is the lower this number is, the easier it is going to be to rank for a keyword. What Google is showing me here is how many pages it can find in total that have these three words in this exact order anywhere on the page, it can be in the title, in the side bar, in the text or any page containing these keywords. Theoretically we could say all of the pages containing these words are potentially competing for this number one spot and the more competitors I have the more difficult its going to be to get a top rank. Unfortunately this logic doesn’t really hold up because competition volume has no direct correlation to competition strength, so just because you have more competitors it doesn’t mean it’s going to be more or less difficult to rank for a keyword.
Let me give you an an example of this principle using something completely different than keyword research. Imagine you are are up for a challenge of doing 2 motor races at a race circuit using a Porsche. In race one you are up against 20 competitors who are all using a Reliant Robin with three wheels and powered by something like a lawn mower engine. I’m sure you can guess who is going to win that race. On the other hand, in race two you are up against only one single competitor but that competitor happens to be a Grand Prix driver in his Formula 1 racing car. Now you have 20 times lower competition volume but actually the competition strength is a lot higher than in race one. It’s basically going to be impossible to win this race.
In a real world situation like this, its intuitively clear that the amount of competition has nothing to do with the difficulty of the competition. So in a racing situation what you would ask yourself is not how many cars are in the race but things like, what is the horse power of the competing cars, top speed of the competing cars, acceleration of the competing cars, what are the driver experience levels etc. Those are the kind of things you’d want to know because those are the kind of things that make a car go fast around a track and not how many cars there are!!
If we take this back to search engines, the goal is to get to the top spot, so you don’t want to ask how many pages (cars) am I competing against, you need to ask about the things that make a page rank at the top of the results. You need to ask how well is this website optimized, is it an old established website, is it a fresh website, is it an authoritative website one with tons of pages and tons of backlinks going to it. One of the most important ranking factors is how many backlinks are going to this page, not only how many but what are the quality of these backlinks, are they high or low quality. If you know that about the top ten pages for a given keyword, then you will know how difficult it will be get onto the first page or number one spot of the google results with your website.
How to Find this Data?
There is a way to do this completely for free. You can download a plugin that works together with the Chrome and Firefox browsers. This plugin is called SeoQuake. Once enabled simply type any keywords into Google. Once again the ranking pages will be shown except now with new data under each ranked page. It will show you the page rank of each page, how many pages are indexed, how many backlinks are going to the page and how many backlinks are going to the entire website. It also shows you when the website was registered, the domain age and other variables. This information will give you a good idea of how difficult it will be to rank for any particular keyword and the strength of the competition you’re competing against. If you really wanted to process this information you’d have to open up an excel spreadsheet and copy / paste this data over for an overview, this will tell you what sort of page rank you’d have to aim for, how many backlinks to build and so on, to rank for that particular keyword.
Too Much Work! – That’s Why We Have Keyword Tools
The positive side of the SeoQuake plugin is it’s free. The downside is it takes much too much time and work. If you want do all that its going to take forever, that’s why we have keyword tools to automate the process.
Keyword Tool Problems
I personally really like buying and trying out software tools. I’ve pretty much tried out every software tool out there and they all have their problems. I want to give you an example of the kind of problems that you can encounter with keyword tools. As an example I’m going to use Market Samurai simply because it is the most popular keyword tool out there. The same applies to all of the big keyword tools. As I said I have tried them all.
In Market Samurai there are 3 steps to the keyword research process. You have the first one which is Keyword Generation, this is pretty typical, you type in a keyword and you get a list of variations of that keyword returned. You can select them and go into the Keyword Analysis. This is basically the problem. What you get in Keyword Analysis is the total number of searches, traffic estimation which tells you how many visitors you get for a number one ranking, then you get various competition variables like SEO Competition (SEOC), Title Competition (SEOTC) URL competition (SEOUC) and so on. The problem is what is this SEO Competition number? As an example ‘dog training’ produces an SEOC of 9,600,000. So that’s exactly the thing you want to avoid as this is supposed to give you an idea of how competitive the keyword is but it’s actually counting the number of cars in the race instead of telling you how fast these cars are! So in other words this is unfortunately useless data.
In addition, this data for SEOC was taken from a ‘Broad Match’ search and not from a ‘Exact Match’ as you need to switch from the default setting of ‘Broad Match’ The myths I talked about earlier are both represented in this tool.
Now the third module in Market Samurai is actually brilliant as it gives you a list of the top 10 results for the keyword, page rank, number of backlinks, on page optimization factors etc. So this is good stuff the kind of information we want.
The problem is that it takes about one and a half minutes to populate this data for one keyword! Also there is a step in between where it’s a bit of a problem because if you have a list of say 500 keywords in the keyword research module, how do you decide which keywords to look at. The only thing you can go by is the amount of searches so you can eliminate keywords with very low search volumes that can leave you with hundreds of keywords, now if you want to analyze all of them that’s going to take for ever. If you analyze 200 keywords that’s going to take two and a half hours or longer depending on how fast you can click! You also have to be there all the time because you have to double click on the next keyword each time one search is completed. Your only really going to analyze 10 -12 keywords before you get totally fed up with it. This is not a good way to pick profitable keywords.
Now there is a third problem with keyword research tools and that is many of them get their backlink data from Yahoo Site Explorer. The problem is that this method used to be a reasonably good way of finding out how many backlinks are going to a specific page, but its no longer a good source as YSE is being phased out this year and are currently not updating anymore so the data is simply getting worse.
What to use instead of YSE
Now there are alternatives you can use instead of YSE and the best one out there is SEOmoz. They are probably the leading search engine experts online. These guys are so crazy about search engine optimization they actually built their own server farm with their own bots that crawl the web. They are basically simulating Google to find out the perfect way to rank websites. Think about that, they are so crazy about SEO that they go and build their own Google simulator! SEOmoz have an amazing amount of data, not only backlinks but generally what makes websites rank. This data is the best alternative if you want to find out how strong your competition is, how many backlinks, pages and so on, this is the best data you can get. Of course it comes with a price at $99 per month for the PRO package.
Keyword Research Matters – The reason I’m talking about keyword research for so long is it really makes a huge difference to whether or not you end up making money.
“Search in Quotes” – If there is only one thing you remember from this, searching in “quotes” is like counting cars instead of looking at how fast the cars are!
Real Ranking Factors – With any of the keyword research tools out there be aware of the blind spots that the software is telling you.
You can see how SECockpit solves these problems here…