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SEO Website Audit

Why Use Keyword Research Tools?

January 17, 2007



I recently started subscribing to your newsletter, and since you offered to
answer questions, I have one for ya!


Keywords. I have been designing web sites for 5 +/- yrs, so I am aware of
what they are and how they are being used / can be used. I’m not saying I am
an expert, just that I’m not a novice. Oh! And I read the LED Digest! ;-}
[An awesome internet marketing newsletter. - Jill]


I realize keywords can be used in Meta tags, although their importance there
is now debatable. Keywords should also be used in the content. Got all that.

So here’s the question: How does one use something like Wordtracker?


I am obviously missing something because I have heard some folks rave about
these services.


If I have a site about dogs, a few keywords would be canine, dog, k-9,
puppies, etc. and I would use those in my text when and where I can. I can
understand using the service for finding which keywords are searched for the
most, and I can even accept one might find words one never thought of


But other than that, what good does knowing “Britney Spears” (the poor
pathetic thing) is searched on 8 million times in a particular week? What?
I name a puppy picture after her?? ;-}


I think you may see my problem better than I can describe it, at least I
hope so!


Can you enlighten me?


Thanking you in advance,


Nancy C.


++Jill’s Response++


Hi Nancy,


Great question!


From the sounds of it, you may not have seen all the features of the
subscription keyword research programs such as Wordtracker and/or KeywordDiscovery.

You are 100% correct that knowing the top words searched is of no value at
all. Some may think they want to optimize for the top words searched, but
that would be silly and futile. You can bet that the top 100 words searched
each week (heck, probably the top 10,000) are going to be way too
competitive to realistically expect to achieve high search engine rankings
for them.


You might be wondering what “competitive” means in terms of keywords. In
basic terms, the competitiveness of any given keyword or phrase is based on
how many pages online there are in the search engines’ database which are
optimized for the keywords in question.


Many people do a search at Google using their keyword phrase and erroneously
judge their competitiveness based on the number of results that are
returned. For example, if your phrase is “search engine spam” you might
type that into Google (without quotation marks) and see that there are about
40,400,000 results for that phrase.


That’s not much help in determining how competitive that phrase is, as it’s
simply telling you that there are over 40 million pages that Google knows
about using the words “search,” “engine,” and “spam” somewhere on the page,
in the indexable code, or in links pointing to that page.


Now, you could get a bit closer to determining the competitiveness of a
phrase by putting it in quotes when you search for it in Google. Doing that
with our phrase “search engine spam” returns about 150,000 results. See how
that’s a huge difference from 40 million? The search with quotes ends up
showing you how many pages Google knows about that have that exact phrase
somewhere in their indexable code or in links pointing to the page.


Still, just because a page is using a given phrase doesn’t mean it’s
actually optimized for that phrase. Many of those 150,000 pages may not be
optimized at all, and might be easily beatable in the results with just a
bit of work.


To narrow down the field a bit more and have Google show you only pages that
have been optimized (at least in some rudimentary fashion) you can type your
phrase into Google using the “intitle” command. For our phrase, put this
into the Google search box: intitle:”search engine spam” — this command
returns all the pages that have used the phrase “search engine spam” in
their Title tag. As most of you know, keywords placed in Title tags are
given a ton of weight by all search engines. If a page is using a phrase in
its Title tag, it’s safe to assume that it’s been optimized, at least a
little bit.


Google returns about 1,040 results for pages with that phrase in the Title
tag. Big, huge difference from that original 40 million! At this point,
it’s clear to see that those 1,000+ pages are indeed your competition.
Further study of them will be in order to determine just how optimized they
actually are. Many of them are probably using the phrase *only* in the
Title tag and might be easily beat in the rankings with just a little work
on your part.


Now, compare the intitle results for “Britney Spears” and you’ll find about
985,000 that have her name in their Title tag. So you’d have to have a page
that was better and more relevant than the nearly million others that are
about Britney Spears. Trying to be better and more relevant than 1,000
other pages is daunting enough, but 1 million? Just not worth the time and
effort, in my opinion.


So now that I’ve illustrated why using keyword research tools to find the
most-searched phrases is a useless exercise, let’s get back to the original


What exactly are keyword research tools good for?


They are great for finding the keyword phrases that people are actually
searching for when they would be looking for your products or services at
the search engines.


So in your page about dogs, no, you don’t want to use the keywords “canine,”
“dog,” “k-9,” “puppies,” etc. Absolutely not! Optimizing for one-word,
general keywords such as those is just as bad as optimizing for “Britney
Spears.” Our handy-dandy intitle search for “dogs” shows us about 5,650,000
results, and about 1,200,000 for “canine.” Those are not optimizable


In SEO — and more specifically when researching keywords — the idea is to
find the phrases people use in which decent search engine rankings are also
attainable. Sure, you can guess at phrases like we used to have to do in
the old days, but why guess when you don’t have to?


What you need to do is go to the Research Keywords section of Wordtracker or
KeywordDiscovery and start typing in your brainstormed phrases. The tools
will let you know which are used by real people at real engines and which
are not. They will also provide you with other ideas for phrases you may
not have thought of. You can even put in a single word such as “dog” and
get back every phrase that has “dog” contained within it. From there, you’d
want to narrow it down to the phrases that most relate to what your site
offers and which are also attainable in the rankings.


Be sure to research phrases for each page of your site. Certainly your site
is not just about dogs in general, but about specific dog things. Maybe you
offer all kinds of dog chew-toys. If so, you’ll want to research all the
phrases that have to do with this, including things like “squeaky rubber
bone,” etc.


Using our previous example, some quick research at KeywordDiscovery shows
that the phrase “search engine spam” gets searched upon less than once per
day, so it’s not an ideal phrase to optimize for, in my opinion. Still, it
does show up on their radar, and I imagine it might bring some traffic now
and then if I had a page optimized for it. I see my buddy Alan Perkin’s
“Classification of Search Engine Spam” paper is in the top 10 for that
keyphrase. I’ll have to ask him if he gets much traffic on the phrase. And
who knows, maybe this article will eventually show up in the results for it
too once I upload it to the archives.


These types of phrases are known as the “long-tail” and really don’t need to
be specifically optimized for, as simply writing articles that utilize them
is often enough to show up in the results. But that’s an article for
another day!


Hope this helps.



Post Comment

 Victoria Walmsley said:
I never knew about the 'intitle' command; every day's a school day!
Thank's very much - great article.
 Mayur said:
I never knew about intitle word, but i am still confused as to how to use these tools. Are we suppose to use keywords that has less searches or less competition? I have been searching for this info since today morning.
 Jill Whalen said:
You want some decent search volume with low competition.