7.3.2 Keywords and Keyword Research Revisited
When you build a web page, website and or store, you can specify keywords for your site. Keywords are words that describe the content of your site and suggest your site should a browser search for your keyword. Many sites can have a large number of descriptive words (keywords) that legitimately describe the site; which should be specified? Besides, many sites may suggest the same keywords; how do you select the best keywords to use? It is all about correctly signposting your site.
It is not uncommon for Internet browsers to search by typing a single broad descriptive word like “dogs” into a search engine such as Bing, Google, Yahoo, etc. Often the initial search result is rejected because the results are irrelevant and or because there are just too many results offered. So, when you have got over the shock of having tens of thousands of options you may just scratch your head and try to be more specific. Results are seen as irrelevant when they match broad categories versus the specific topic that is being sought e.g. “dogs” versus “puppies for sale.” In the latter example, where there are three words, versus a single word the search text is called a “keyword phrase.” The quality or relevance of this keyword phrase may be improved if it were restated as “puppies for sale in Nairobi.” On the other hand, if the puppies sought are expected to be from international champions then adding the word “Nairobi” would probably exclude many puppies available on the world wide market.
The above example illustrates the concept of keyword relevance. When you build a site, you need to ensure that the keywords that you specify for your site are relevant. Will a person searching for your keyword be satisfied with your site as the answer to their search. Long keyword phrases are likely to enjoy higher rankings as they will often have less competition. This said, the demand to supply ratio should not alone influence selection for chiselling a slice of a large established marketplace may be easier to do than to establish and build an underdeveloped or new market. The answer lies in the purpose of the site. As one expands a keyword phrase, so one opens the door to multiple or overlapping individual keywords. Thus, instead of achieving a highly focussed result one may open the door to being swamped! The reason for this is that very few people search for phrases in quotation marks. Using quotation marks when entering search keywords in a search engine directs “exact phrase” answers. It’s not a new idea - the better the question, the better the answer!
Search, to many people, is seen as a simple matter however it really can be very complex. Set out below are guidelines to help you achieve awesome results from your keyword research.
7.3.3 What is the purpose of your research?
There are many reasons for doing keyword research but let us say that you have decided to start a business venture and that you are going to build a website that will require you to specify keywords so as to optimise your site for better search engine rankings. You want better rankings so as to attract more traffic to your site. You also wish to hashtag your content (see below for a discussion on hashtagging).
What you are looking for is what is often called a keyword “Gem.” A “Gem” is a keyword that attracts many through an Internet search and which, relatively speaking, does not have much competition. Should you optimise your site for a few keywords that are “Gems” then you will attract hits by “fishing where the fish are!”
Some corporate social clubs, for example, may only desire to provide information to their “internal public” or membership and thus may not wish to reach an “external public.”
The purpose of the website will dictate the need for keyword research. In the same way, an existing small business may seek to offer the convenience of online shopping or online range reviews to existing customers only. They may have decided that they, for budget reasons, will not try to achieve a Google page one ranking status as they have established that it is more cost effective to use the limited available funding to target their established local customer base by sending them a seasonal catalogue with their website address on it. Their customers will then know who they are and where to find them on the Internet.
Where the purpose is to only service an existing audience, membership or client base then the importance of keyword relevance is reduced, but the need for new content is increased. A static membership will stop reviewing the site if the content does not change. As the purpose moves to servicing an “external public” that needs to find your website on the Internet then keyword relevance becomes more and more critically important.
Taken as a given, internal audience marketing is a legitimate “opt-out” from keyword research and for the need to buy online traffic by way of Adwords or by Affiliate marketing. The balance of this section is thus designed to inform those that do seek to attract online traffic.
7.3.4 Research Methodology
The fact that you are reading this is likely to mean that you recognise the need for researching keywords. This boosts your chances of success immensely. There are many approaches to research, and we have set out below an approach that is affordable, expedient and effective:
1. Brainstorm Possibilities and Categorise
2. Research and Summarise
3. Establish competitiveness
4. Prune and select your “winners!”
5. Make the decisions that the research is meant to inform
7.3.5 Brainstorm Possibilities and Categorise
You should brainstorm possibilities and then research each of them. Think about what the market may be searching for - try and put yourself into the shoes of a potential customer - what keywords would you be typing into your browser? Hone in on a tight or crisp category - the wider the category, the greater the chances that you will be swamped by irrelevant results. Having a narrow focus ensures that the users are more likely to be quickly offered relevant content by your site. If the subject matter has a broad audience then having a broad focus is needed. The answer to this debate often lies in establishing the “home zone” of a buyer. By “home zone” we mean the geographic locality that suits the buyers intent. If you sought a “cute brown puppy” then you are likely to buy one from a seller that is located nearby. Alternatively, if you wanted a future “best of breed” champion you may well have a worldwide “home zone!” “Home Zone” has a critical influence on the success of your research.
We suggest that you begin by entering possibilities into the Google Adwords Keyword Tool that can be found at: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
At the outset, you should set the advanced options and filters to ensure that you focus on your country. Next, notice that you can set the search type. The options are:
Broad, [Exact] and “Phrase.”
I entered the word “dogs” into the Google Adwords Keyword Tool and set the Match Type to be “Broad.” The purpose was to generate a broad range of keyword possibilities. I also found 727 keyword phrases that included the word “dogs” and lowered down on the above Adwords page I found another 185 related keywords. In this example our Category is “dogs” and the suggested alternatives are sub-category options that we may consider.
By selecting “Group by suggested ad group” instead of by the similarity of keywords one can obtain further suggestions to add to your brainstormed listing.
- Use a “~” in a Google search e.g. search for dog ~breeders. The words dog and breeders will appear in bold in the search results. Words that Google considers being alternative keywords to ‘breeders” will also appear in bold. This will assist you to explore alternatives.
- An alternative to the Adwords approach is the Microsoft Advertising Intelligence plug-in for Microsoft Office Excel. http://advertise.bingads.microsoft.com/en-us/bing-ads-intelligence
The above approach to exploring alternatives will differ if you are a site owner seeking to specify keywords for an established business with an established website. In this case, it is suggested that you regard your site as “the answer.” If your site meets a defined purpose then understanding what the right question is, and which question your site answers, becomes easier to define. Essentially structuring and building your site with this question and answer scenario in mind needs to be an active strategy that is implemented to achieve a defined outcome. On the other hand, if you have a new business and or a new website in mind then research keywords to find GEMS and then write the site around these GEM keywords so that the pages are optimised to be relevant as an answer to these keywords if they are searched.
Let us look at another example and explore possibilities in the field of specialist medicine. Let us say that you are a specialist plastic surgeon and that you are relocating to Johannesburg from London. You are doing the research so as to see how your competition got to the top of the Google search page rankings and also to see how competitive the keyword marketplace is. Using the above approach or by looking up the notice board at your local medical centre you could brainstorm the following list:
Ear, Nose and Throat
7.3.7 Research and Summarise
Using the Adwords tool research each of the above possibilities but with the Match Types set to [Exact] and then summarises your findings on a spreadsheet. I suggest that you consider the applicability of what is termed search noise. If you seek browsers who are “buyers” of goods and or services, then the concept of “search noise is applicable.” We would consider “plastic surgery” versus “plastic surgeon Johannesburg” to be “noise.” A person searching the later is far more likely to be seeking a surgeon to consult (a buyer seeking services) than a person seeking an answer to a general question. As you are doing the research to relocate a plastic surgery practice, then you have in mind finding out how many people find a plastic surgeon on the Internet. Information seekers are thus categorised as noise.
Once you have an idea of the popularity of your list of keywords we suggest that you search known popular competitive sites for the use of these (or other) keywords using the Firefox browser. Once you have opened, a competitors site using Firefox right-click your mouse to open a drop-down list of options. Select the “View Page Info “ option and you will find the keywords that this site has specified under “General > Meta tags > Keywords.”
As a part of your research, you need to consider the applicability of narrowing the “home zone” which is your geographic focus. Here one considers and defines the boundaries that may be built into your keyword phrases. The Google Keyword Tool searches for keywords by country. Where your research has a focus on a location within a country, the addition of the area of focus is a useful way of narrowing the focus and at the same time of increasing the relevance of search results.
Mmm... it is a long list, and we could add a few more but let us commence with these options that were “brainstormed.” Having a list of possibilities suggests an answer to the “What” question. One must now brainstorm the “Where” question. Taking the advice that one should localise, where ever applicable, into account, one would have decided that one would be likely to travel “across town” to visit a specialist medical practitioner but that more often that not one would not travel to another city if you had the option of seeing someone that you trust in your city. Thus the searches for these keywords on a countrywide basis is unnecessary, and one would continue the research for the following more geographically specific keywords:
Ear, Nose and Throat Johannesburg
Eye Specialist Johannesburg
Occupational Therapist Johannesburg
Plastic Surgeon Johannesburg
7.3.8 Establish Competitiveness
Researching the nature of the competition is at the core of this step as is establishing the extent of the competition. An indication of the competition one may experience may be gauged by searching Google using the Advanced Search page.
Alternatively one may use specific search instructions such as:
allintext: dermatologist johannesburg
Google will offer search results that are the pages that have the word “dermatologist” and “Johannesburg” on them.
allintitle: dermatologist johannesburg
Google will offer search results that are the sites that have the word “dermatologist” and “Johannesburg” in the title of the page. You will find the title at the top of your browser page. It is the Meta Title that is defined for your website. This is the title that is the first line presented by Google in a search result.
“dermatologist Johannesburg” will return results for these two exact words in this order. Searching without the quotation marks will return results for pages that have these words somewhere on the page, and they need not be in order or next to each other.
Using a wildcard in a search
“dermatologist *in Johannesburg” will return results for searches where the 1st and last words are as specified however the * or wildcard word may be replaced by another word e.g. dermatologist from Johannesburg
For a summary of a wide range of specific search instructions go to:
You can also use the Google Advanced Search page to achieve most of the results that one may achieve with specific search instructions. See:
7.3.9 Prune and select your winners
Once you have gathered the information, one needs you need to prune the less attractive ones from the list and categorise those that are applicable. Distinguishing between possible “buyers” versus information seekers is also suggested. Having done this, your “pruned” summary may look something like the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet page on the next page. If you were only interested in the plastic surgery topic, then the reason for looking at other specialisations is to see how they perform versus your subject area. If “plastic surgery” offered poor prospects and you only looked at this topic then you may miss any good ideas that the other specialisations may have used for success. Often ideas for optimisation can come from completely different industries. Research the keywords of successful sites and then look at the sites and see how they present their content. Could you use the content framework for your site?
The Microsoft Excel summary can be simplified to have three columns; keyword, average monthly searches and competition. The competition could be assessed as low, medium or high. The searches would be a number, and the keywords would be all relevant keywords. At this stage, you need to master the art of the “inexact sciences!” At the bottom of the 1st column have the total number of relevant keywords. Given many keywords, it may indicate that there ir is a broad vs. a narrow market for the product. The total of all searches will give you a total search volume and then you can do a “1,2,3” averaging on the competition.
The purpose of this is to “inexactly” but systematically predict sales as follows:
- Determine the volume as above and multiply it by -> x
- The Click Through Rate that is projected. Let us say that there is a search volume of 1,000 searches. Given that you reach a Search Engine Ranking of page 2 say, what will be the Click Through Rate? It could be say, somewhere between 10% to 30 percent. You will need to assess the characteristics of the product, the pricing, guarantees, competition, etc., to be able to guesstimate the Click Through Rate. Of importance is that you play this calculation at different percentages to assess the sensitivity of the product to what may be seen as a quantification of a “first impression.” -> x
- Next, multiply it by a conversion rate that may be say, somewhere between 1 to say 7%. Here the nature of the product will have a big impact on the time to decide and whether or not browsers are buyers or not.
When you have done the above for all the products and options under consideration you will, ultimately, need to file all the paperwork that will constitute an influencer to your final decision on demand. If your budgets require you to be risk averse, you will be able to limit consequences by your choice of components in the supply chain. But, more of that later.
The quantitative analysis above begs comment:
• Can it be that there are some 6,000 sites with the keyword, plastic surgery and or plastic surgeon Johannesburg?
• Here collaborative evidence should be sought
• Yes, it is a competitive industry - However it does mean that it is a successful marketplace.
• You will need to “chisel your way in?”
• Note: Gynecology is the USA spelling.
Make your decisions
• Given the research, one would be in a far better position to take a decision than before the research was conducted.
• You will have an informed idea of what keywords to specify for your website and around which your site’s content should be structured.
7.4 Dig Deeper
Research the trends
In the marketplace towards establishing seasonality, cycles or direction. Is it a fad? Is it a growing market?
Google Trends: www.google.com/trends/ While it has less of an African focus, you may, depending upon the topic, find trending information.
Amazon Best Sellers: www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers/zbbs It is another place that may be useful.
Terrapeak: www.terrapeak.com offers a service that does much of the analysis for you on eBay sales and Alibaba sourcing. At $7.49 per month, you get the baseline analysis on what’s selling on eBay. At $14.99 per month, they add research reports on Alibaba sourcing, competitor research and marketplace research. While the focus is not on the African market, it does offer trending information that may be useful.
YouTube: www.youtube.com See if, and to what extent the product features. Pinterest and other social media sites. See if there is a significant exposure. You will most probably have done much of the work on social media sites already.
7.4.1 Competition and customer base.
Establish who the main competitors are and where they are located. It is possible that you may have a “home Ground” advantage in the local marketplace if the major competitors are foreign.
Given that you establish your business in a local marketplace it is likely that you will, on balance, get local support if you can offer an equivalent product or service.
7.4.2 Selling Price
The selling price not only impacts upon profitability but it also has an impact on demand. Are their exclusive high-priced versions of the product? Are there low-cost product clones? These matters need to be assessed as they will impact upon the risks of achieving predicted sales targets.
Does the product lend itself to customers subscribing to it? If so it enables a more predictable level of demand.
7.4.4 Sales Volumes
Sales volumes will impact upon the likelihood of being out of stock if budgets do not afford you the option of buffer stock comfort.