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Archive for December, 2007

How I do keyword research for SEO projects

Friday, December 14th, 2007

Today I’m going to offer a couple of paragraphs about how I do keyword research as part of any SEO work I do for clients. It’s very easy, it takes a fair bit of time but it is easy to do. I want to share it with you because I feel it will be useful for you and also I believe in 100% transparency and want my clients (and potential clients) to know that. Google too believes in 100% transparency as illustrated by the following paragraph taken from their What’s an SEO? Does Google recommend working with companies that offer to make my site Google-friendly?

Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.

Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you.”

OK on to keyword research, a very fundamental part of any SEO campaign. I use a number of different online tool resources. I do not think its a good idea to rely on only one source of data as the simple fact of the matter is no one tool can ever provide you with 100% accurate data. That’s why I always tell my clients that the specific figures from these tools are not important, what is important however is the relativity of one keywords count with another keywords count so you can see in a general sense which one is more popular.

The three main sources of data I use are the Google Adwords keyword tool, the free keyword discovery tool and plain old Google itself. I’ll elaborate on these a little.

The Google Adwords keyword tool located at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal, allows you to see the average search volume of your keywords (and keywords which the tool deems related to your keywords) for a specific or multiple regions/languages. You could for instance get an idea of how popular a certain word is in the UK or how popular another word is in the spanish language worldwide.

, allows you to see the average search volume of your keywords (and keywords which the tool deems related to your keywords) for a specific or multiple regions/languages. You could for instance get an idea of how popular a certain word is in the UK or how popular another word is in the spanish language worldwide.Google.ie listed under UK search engines.The keyword discovery tool is located at http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.html. This tool returns a figure representing the amount of times a certain keyword or keyphrase appears in the keyword discovery database. The KD guys claim to have a database of 36 billion web searches. Again the specific figures are likely to be inaccurate but it’s how they compare to each other that count not the figures themselves.

I’m thinking about signing up for a full blown account so I can program a tool in PHP or ASP.Net against their API to make my life easier (well the keyword research part of it anyhow :-)). I’ve found Wordtracker and the Yahoo/Overture keyword tool to be lacking a bit when compared to something like Keyword Discovery, so KD is ‘in’ at the moment. In fact my only beef with keyword discovery stems from the fact they scored straight F’s for geography, history (or whatever you want to call it) when they included Google.ie in the list of UK search engines which they apparently take data from.

On Google.com, I get the amount of competiting pages for a keyphrase to try to determine how difficult a keyphrase will be to optimize for. I don’t like many other tools and consultants simply type the phrase in and take that figure. This is wholly inaccurate because it returns all pages that just happen to have your keywords in them, they are not your real competition. I use a special allintitle:keyword1 keyword2 query which allows me to see how many pages are really about the same thing I want to optimize for.

I put all this data side by side in excel and then examine it. Clear patterns will emerge. Basically what I do be looking for is keywords which have a good amount of popularity but which are not super competitive. The next SEO consultant will most likely do things completely differently, it’s all really about what works for you. By the way and speaking about SEO consultants Dave Davis has released the latest version of his Google Global Firefox Extension which allows you to see what the Google search results that you are viewing look like from different geographical locations. This is very useful if you want to compare organic search results in different countries or if you want to see how your AdWords PPC campaigns appear in different regions.

SEO themes, what is your site really about?

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

These days I’ve been advising a lot of my clients to have their 3 or 4 core keywords present a couple of times not just on the page they are hoping to rank well for (most often the home page) but to also have occurances of them spread out over a couple of pages and thus in their site in general. What this does is allow Google to see a website as a whole with a central theme running through it.

Themes of course are nothing new to the search marketing industry, however many SEO consultants will still simply talk about page relevancy (sometimes referred to as keyword density) and not relevancy of a site as a whole. I believe themes are important to search engines like Google because ‘faking’ relevancy for a website is a lot harder and more involved than ‘faking’ it for a single page. I use the term ‘faking’ here to basically refer to optimisation of a sites content, which lets face it folks is unatural. This for Google all comes down to their desire to provide the best and most natural (and naturally deserving) search results.

A websites core topic or theme can also be established (or more correctly reinforced) by Google and the other search engines by examining component words of all incoming links to a site. Imagine for example akamarketing.com got 40 links distributed with 4 different anchor texts such as ’search engine marketing’, ’search marketing’, ’search engine optimisation’, ’search engine marketing Ireland’. Certain words appear constantly throughout all or most of these anchors and thus suggest that overall my site is about ’search’ and ‘marketing’ more so than it is about ‘optimisation’ or ‘Ireland’.

Taking themes into consideration when your conducting SEO for a website is not hard, personally I just like to use the ‘What Googlebot sees’ feature within the ‘Statistics’ section of Google webmaster tools located at http://www.google.com/webmasters/. The information here is from the horses mouth and as such is very accurate. Below is two screen samples for what Googlebot sees of akamarketing.com. The one on the left shows what words appear most often on the site, whereas the screen sample on the right shows the words which appear most often in external links to the site.

Most often appearing keywords Most often appearing words in external links to akamarketing.com

Most of my plans about what type of keywords I want akamarketing.com to rank well for revolve around SEO focused keywords and keyphrases as this is my area of expertise (alleged expertise :-)), so by looking at the above data to ‘zoom’ in on this core topic/theme I should (hypothetical of course as finding time these days is pretty much impossible) ideally be geting lots of backlinks with words like ’search’, ’seo’, ‘marketing’ etc. to sync with my sites top keywords (in terms of keyword density) and thus make my theme more ‘believable’.

Similarly if your site was to have certain words appearing often in its external links (on the right) but not in its overall content (on the left) then I would suggest adding more of these words on X amount of pages, assuming the words in your backlinks are indeed the words you are actively targetting (for the most part they should be). X can only be determined by yourself after looking at your own data and determining where your target words ‘rank’ (in terms of overall frequency of use) already.

While themes do not allow for direct optimisation of pages for specific words or phrases I certainly do think that Google (and many more search engines) use them to ‘confirm’ or ‘reinforce’ their ’suspicions’ about the topic of a page and thus they affect where it will rank for its target keywords which overlap the overall website theme. Imagine for instance two sites, siteA and siteB, which sell garden tools. siteA and siteB both have only 10 links into their home pages with the exact phrase ‘garden tools’ in the anchor text, the component words for external links will be the same. Now say that Google sees the most frequently occuring words of siteA as ‘grass’, ‘flowers’, ’soil’, ‘lawn’ and ‘garden’ in that order and the most frequently occuring words of siteB as ‘garden’, ‘lawn’, ‘tool’, ‘gardens’, ‘tools’ again in that order. All other things being equal (including keyword density of both home pages) I believe siteB will outrank siteA in Google for the phrase ‘garden tools’ and many related ones too as the underlying garden theme is more obvious in siteB. As usual your thoughts, questions and rants are always welcome.

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