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HOW TO: Keyword Research

Keyword Research
When you build a webpage, website and or store you are able to 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 so, which should be specified? In addition many sites may suggest the same keywords so, how do you select the best keywords to use? It is really all about correctly signposting your site.
It is not uncommon for internet browsers to search by typing a single 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 generally seen as irrelevant when they match broad categories versus the specific topic that is being sought eg "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 Johannesburg." On the other hand, if the puppies sought are expected to be from international champions then adding the word "Johannesburg" 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 keyords 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 chizeling a slice of a large established marketplace may be easier to do than to establish and build an under developed 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, 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.
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.
What you are looking for is what is often called a keyword "Gem."  A "Gem" is a keyword that attracts many through 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 site will dictate the need for keyword research. Where the purpose is to service an existing membership 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" then keyword relevance becomes more and more critically important.
Research Methodology
The fact that you are reading this means 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 competiveness
  4. Prune and select your "winners!"
  5. Make the decisions that the research is meant to inform
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?  Home 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 quickly be 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 upon the success of your research.
We suggest that you begin by entering possibilities into the  Google Adwords Keyword Tool
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:
In the example above we entered the word "dogs" and set the Match Type to be "Broad." The purpose was to generate a broad range of keyword possibilities. We also found 727 keyword phrases that included the word "dogs" and lower down on the above Adwords page we 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 keyords one can obtain further suggestions to add to your brainstormed listing.
The above approach to exploring alternatives would differ if you are a site owner seeking to specify keywords for an established business with an established website. In this case we suggest that you regard your site as "the answer." If your site really 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 thye 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 keyords 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. You are doing the research so as to see how your competition got to the top and also to see how competitive the keyword market place is. Using the above approach or by looking up the notice board at your local medical center you could brainstorm the following list:
Ear, Nose and Throat
Eye Specialist
Occupational Therapist
Plastic Surgeon
Research and Summarise
Using the Adwords tool that is illustrated above research each of the above possibilities but with the Match Types set to [Exact] and then summarise your findings on a spreadsheet. We suggest that you consider the applicability of what we term 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.
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 upon 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. We must now brainstorm the "Where" question. Taking the advise that we should localise where ever applicable into account we have decided that one would be likely to travel "across town" to visit a specialist medical practioner but that more often that not you would not travel to another city if you had the option of seeing someone that you trust in your own city. Thus the searches for these keywords on a countrywide basis is unnecessary and we will continue our research for the following keywords:
Acupuncture Johannesburg
Audiologist Johannesburg
Chiropractor Johannesburg
Dentist Johannesburg
Dermatologist Johannesburg
Dietician Johannesburg
Ear, Nose and Throat Johannesburg
Eye Specialist Johannesburg
Gynaecologist Johannesburg
Homeopath Johannesburg
Occupational Therapist Johannesburg
Paediatrician Johannesburg
Physiotherapist Johannesburg
Plastic Surgeon Johannesburg
Podiatrist Johannesburg
Psycologist Johannesburg
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.

Quoted phrases
"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 click here.

You can also use the Google Advanced Search page to achieve most of the results that one may achieve with specific search instructions.:
Prune and select your winners
Once you have gathered the information one needs 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 this:
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 own subject area. If "plactic 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.
The above summary 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 "chizel your way in?"
  • Note: Gynecology is the USA spelling.
Make your decisions
  • Given the above 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.
Other Matters
Keywords in SEO Meta Tags
Search engine meta tags are:
  • Meta Titles ( the top title line in the google search result/ the text at the top of your screen)
  • Meta Description ( the following few lines of text in a Google search result
  • Meta Keywords ( the keywords that are presented for search engine crawler collection)
It is important to not overload a page with meta keywords and it is critical that the site content refers/uses the meta keywords on the site's pages. Balancing the focus on keywords in the Meta tag with page ulilisation will ensure keyword relevance and this will significantly enhance keyword effectiveness. How many keywords should you specify? There is no answer to this question - many agree that 10 is too many and as you lower the number so you will find that more people will support the number as being ideal. We suggest that you research the keyword marketplace and find as many GEMS as you can. Then use these on your site without over using them. If you do this then you will be well positioned on this matter so that you are able to move on to other matters that need SEO ( Search Engine Optimisation) attention.
Where one suspects that many may have difficulty in spelling a keyword one should test it to assess the relevance of the word. If you add a misspelt keyword to your site then you will need to use it on the site. This may give a negative impression to browsers for remember that all to often the first impression gained is the last! A regularily used way is to acknowledge the matter as follows:
  • Comment on the spelling eg At times I have found the word "dogs" spelt as "dags"
  • Add the acknowledgement eg dags (sic)
Domain Names
  • Consider using a keyword rich domain name such as  The negatives relate to length and the positives relate to ease of remembering the name and it is keyword rich.
  • Try and find a balance.
< That's it >
Once you have the keywords that you feel are relevant and which are popular then add them to the Search Engine Description page on your website. You will find this in your Members Portal after you have logged in on your site.


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