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The Ultimate Guide To Advanced Keyword Research – Part 1

Grow’s Guide To Advanced Keyword Research

advanced keyword research

We’ve spent countless hours listening with sadness to new customers who have been disappointed with so-called SEO experts.

Many of these SEO experts seem to talk a good game but they rarely seem to come through with the goods.

At Grow we call them ‘SEO cowboys’. These are the kinds of people who have no systematic way of choosing keywords, which is at the heart of good SEO.

Instead, they simply roll up, lure people into a fixed monthly contract with lots of big SEO words, pluck a few keywords out of the air and grab a fistful of your money.

On the other hand, one of London’s top SEO companies consistently gets its clients to number one for Google searches.

It doesn’t do it through dodgy SEO tricks that might get your website blacklisted, but rather by blood, sweat, tears and really knowing their SEO stuff.

A great working relationship soon led to an SEO revelation for Grow.

The beating heart (and brains) of solid SEO is advanced keyword research.

Doing the right research in the right way will always lead to better results.

We want to share this info with you, to tell you why advanced keyword research is so important and also how to do it yourself.

The Basics

Whatever your business is, you can’t ignore the pulling power of the internet. If you know what you’re doing, you’ve probably got a site up already. If you really know what you’re doing, you’ll also realise that as pretty as your website might look, if people aren’t finding it to see how pretty it is, there’s no point.

How do people find the stuff they want nowadays? Yes, they go online. And when they go online, they will use a search engine of some kind, the most important ones being Google, Yahoo and Bing.


Bing - Advanced Keyword Research - 1 Google - Advanced Keyword Research-1 Yahoo - Advanced Keyword Research-1
Each time someone searches for something, your search engine of choice sends out little spider-like programs (a.k.a. algorithms) which scurry into the web to track down the websites which match best with your search.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a process by which you make your website attractive to those little spider programs.

  • The easier your website is to find and the more attractive it is to these ‘spider-bots’, the higher up your site will appear in the search result listings.
  • The higher up it appears in the listings, especially on the first page of results, the more likely it is that people will click on your site.
  • The more people who click on your site, yes you got it, the higher the probability that they will buy your product and service.

Why Good SEO is Great

advanced keyword research

With conventional advertising, you need to pay to keep appearing in a certain spot on a website.

It’s an on-going cost where you shell out money each time.

But investing in good SEO right from the beginning is essentially like acquiring free advertising.

You don’t have to pay Google to appear as the number one result.

But SEO isn’t immediate. It will take weeks or months for your site to woo the spider-bots and to climb the search page rankings.

Only when you’ve improved your rankings will you see a noticeable difference in the number of visitors to your site.

So if you can make your website appealing enough to appear as the most relevant webpage for a specific search phrase, that’s most of the battle won.

Good SEO and Design Go Hand-in-Hand

Hundreds of millions of pounds are spent each year on design. And any designer will tell you that first impressions and appearances count.

That’s why good SEO must be combined with good website design.

Your homepage should be well-laid out and fancy enough to immediately grab the attention of the people who land there.

There is absolutely no point driving tonnes of people to your site when it is ugly and clumsy to navigate.

No matter how amazing, fantastic and world-changing your product might be, if your website hurts peoples’ aesthetic tastes, they will quickly bounce off it after a few seconds.

If it’s frustrating to use with confusing navigation, people won’t have the patience to keep browsing. And if your content isn’t clear and well-written from the very first word, again yes, people will quickly lose interest and leave the site.

Your site must be able to convert visitors into buyers.

To do that, you will need to invest in a good designer to get a look and feel that will capture the interests

Defining Keywords Correctly

advanced keyword research

Keywords are the words that ‘unlock the door’ to customers looking for your website. Keywords are a bit useless on their own though.

If you’ve got a travel company, optimising yourself for the solitary keyword ‘holiday’ won’t get you very far because:

a) No one who wants to go on a holiday just uses the word ‘holiday’ in the search engine
b) It doesn’t really describe what your company does

A better approach would be to go for ‘luxury holidays to Thailand’.

This is a keyword phrase.

A few well-chosen keywords strung together to make keyword phrases make the search much more specific and easy to find. Plus there’s no ambiguity; it clearly describes what you’re offering.

Keyword phrases are absolutely central to good SEO practice.

Now the really important bit. Many people, so-called SEO experts included, fall down at this first hurdle: the very definition of ‘keywords’.

Many people will tell you that keywords are a bunch of words that sum up your business, your services or your products.

They’re not entirely wrong, but they’ve also put the focus in completely the wrong place, which can lead to disappointing search engine results further down the line.

A better definition is that keywords are the words that people CURRENTLY use to find your business.

The focus isn’t on you and how you want to describe your business, it’s on the language your potential customer uses when searching online for solutions to their problems.

You might be able to rattle off 15 or so keywords about your business on the spot, but if those keywords aren’t the words people are using to look for you, you won’t generate even a fraction of the traffic you want.

For example, let’s say your business offers ‘luxury beach huts in Thailand’.

For this keyword phrase, there are less than 10 UK searches a month according to Google. But if you tweaked this slightly to ‘luxury holidays Thailand’, there are 140 UK searches a month.

So there are a lot more people looking for ‘luxury holidays Thailand’ than ‘luxury beach huts in Thailand’ even though the latter might be a better description of your company.

Staying Clear of SEO Sharks

advanced keyword research

SEO sharks often come along, look at your business and then scribble out a few select words for you. Then they charge you anywhere from £200 to £1000 a month for this so called ‘service’.

The keywords they come up with might well describe your business accurately. They might sound concise, professional and even eloquent. They might even show you that tens of thousands of people search for those keywords every month.

Be careful here. Some back-handed SEO companies deliberately exaggerate the potential search rates so as to entice unsuspecting clients.

Clients are drawn in by the huge potential of the search rate and are often led to develop over-inflated expectations. SEO sharks make you think that a keyword with 50,000 searches per month equals 50,000 more customers to your site.

It doesn’t.

So when you get approached by SEO ‘experts’ with fancy web stats, you need to make sure of three things:

1. Are the searches per month local or global?

A so-called SEO expert might say that the term ‘luxury holidays Thailand’ gets over 10,000 searches a month. Is that just for the UK or is that a global figure?

A keyword with 10,000 searches is more likely to be global whereas 500 is more likely to be for the UK. Granted, this does depend on your product and how well known it is, but the point is NOT to let yourself be tempted by false figures and misled.

2. Is it broad or exact?

An exact search for ‘luxury holidays Thailand’ shows 140 local (UK) searches for those four exact words. A broad search however shows 880 local searches.

The reason for this huge difference is because a broad search also includes extra related words and synonyms like ‘5 star holidays Thailand’, ‘honeymoon holidays Thailand’, ‘luxury beach resort Phuket’ etc.

A broad search, whilst useful, can sometimes also include search terms that are related but which maybe aren’t relevant to your business like ‘luxury restaurant Bangkok’ or ‘cruise holidays Thailand’.

Tours to Japan (Exact) = 46 UK searches / month
Tours to Japan (Broad) = 5400 UK searches / month
Includes the terms: Japan group tours, Japan tourism guide, self-guided tour Japan etc.

3. How much competition is there?

A keyword with a higher search rate will also mean that it’s a very competitive keyword. Lots of other companies will set big SEO budgets to get on the first search result page for that keyword because that’s where the most clicks are.

Keywords which are already optimised for by other companies will be all the more tougher for you to crack yourself.

So again, don’t get drawn in by the high volume of search traffic, instead, as a small medium company, you should steer clear of keywords that have more than 5000 local searches a month.

The Wrong Way of Doing SEO

Doing SEO wrong - Missing targets

Choosing keywords isn’t as simple as having a coffee, brainstorming 20 or so of them in half an hour and then thinking that’s it.

There’s no bodging SEO and you’ll regret it if you do. Two not so good things can happen if you don’t choose keywords carefully, so don’t say we didn’t warn you!

1. The first is when you choose keywords which are too generic and which have a tonne of other companies pushing and shoving for that phrase.

You can use that keyword in your site but due to the number of stronger competing companies out there with better SEO techniques, stronger links and better content (in both quality and quantity), your little website will be quickly outgunned and you’ll never get to the coveted Page One of search results.

This means that your website will be bumped by the bigger boys right down towards the bottom of the search results, to the second or even third page; pages which hardly get a look in.

For example, if you’re a boutique travel agency, you don’t stand much chance going up against the likes of Expedia, Last Minute and Thomas Cook for the keyword phrase ‘holiday deals’ now do you?

To even squeeze yourself onto the first page for highly competitive keywords requires a significant investment in time and money.

It’s safe to say you will sink a lot of manpower, time and money before you really see significant results and get a return on your investment.

So unless you have a huge budget to spend and very long term targets, you’ll save yourself a lot of grief by putting the time in at the start and carefully select the right keywords that aren’t too competitive.

2. Whilst there isn’t much competition for your keyword, there isn’t much traffic for that word to begin with.

Let’s go back to our previous example, a niche business selling luxury beach huts in Thailand.

no traffic advanced keyword research

You probably won’t have much competition for the words ‘luxury beach huts Thailand’ but as we’ve seen those words together barely get 10 searches per month. So while you might be number one in the search results for ‘luxury beach huts Thailand’, less than 10 people per month will click your link.

Remember too that the figure of 10 people per month is only an average estimation and the real figure might be a lot less.

How to do it? Putting your Toe in the Shallow End

To get started doing proper keyword research and to do it cost free, you can go straight to the source at Google.

Google Adwords Keyword Planner can give you info on the triumvirate factors of relevance, PPC competition (how competitive the term is in PPC) and traffic.

Based on your initial keyword search, it will give you about a hundred more relevant keyword ideas of what people are currently searching for.

It’ll also tell you the number of searches for that keyword phrase each month, globally & locally.

Google’s Keyword Planner will also indicate the level of PPC competition each word carries as Low, Medium or High. Given how detailed everything else is though, these three terms feel a little disappointing…

Still, try it out, dip your toe in and see how the water feels!

Software That Will Help You Choose The Best Possible Keywords

You need software that does everything that Google’s Keyword Planner does and that gives you much more in-depth analysis so you can beat the competition.

Your ideal software will tap into Google’s Keyword Planner to give you keyword ideas and traffic volumes but it should also give you loads of information about your competitors.

Looking at the competition table below for the phrase, “luxury holidays Thailand,” it’s immediately obvious that the software we recommend is in a completely different league to the simplistic ‘High’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Low’ competition values of Google’s Keyword Planner.

advanced keyword research

With its powerful competition analysis tool, you can see how well optimised your competitors sites are and size them up to see if you can take them on for that particular keyword (in this example the keyword phrase is ‘luxury holidays Thailand’).

Infiltrating Your Competition’s Castles

This level of competitor data is vital. For example, a site might look fancy, it might look strong and formidable like a castle, but scanning it through specialist SEO software might reveal that its SEO nuts and bolts are old and rusty. It might also reveal unmanned entrances and secret passageways.

Again, this is where Google’s Keyword Planner is limited. The ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’ values are only shallow scans of your competitors. Google might say a site is High Competition purely because it’s an older site. (DA = domain age in years in the table below)

What specialist software will show you is that the site is poorly optimised for external website links and in using keywords to name headings and images (tagging). Knowing this can mean that you beat that site for a keyword phrase.

The software can even tell you the type of people visiting those sites and how long they visit for! This software gives you all the juicy in-depth intelligence and information about your competitors.

This enables you to pick your keyword phrases knowing exactly how much work you will need to do to get to the first page of Google. It will also help you avoid picking keyword phrases that you will never get anywhere with.

Often, battles aren’t won by strength alone but by sharp, accurate intelligence about the other side, as Sun Tzu would surely agree.

The comparison parameters shown at the top of the image below are what we’re interested in – these are the equivalent of the horse’s stats. You’ll have to understand these to understand the level of your competition.

  • DA – Domain Age. As far as the search engines are concerned, websites are similar to wine in that a well-aged one is more desirable.If your website is only one year old and all of the websites on the first page for a particular keyword are 10+ years old, it might be wise to look at another keyword to target.
  • PR – Page Rank. Page Rank is Google’s website ranking algorithm, which assigns a numerical measure of importance from 0-10 to a website. The higher a website’s PR, the greater perceived authority it has to Google.Your website will start at 0, and the recommended way to build Page Rank is to obtain links from other websites to yours. Finding a keyword in which the top competitors have a relatively low PR will make getting to the first page much easier.
  • CF – Citation Flow. This is similar to Page Rank, as it measures the authority of a specific page. However, CF is an index (1-100) based on a daily analysis of websites; Page Rank is updated fewer than five times per year. Basically, Page Rank will give you an idea of the website’s historical performance, while Citation Flow will give you the website’s current performance figures. Is a website in decline and susceptible to usurpation, or is it maintaining its high reputation well?
  • TF – Trust Flow. This is another index that looks at the trustworthiness and authority of the pages that are linking to that website. Search engines understand that a website that’s getting links from established and trustworthy websites is likely to contain the information that people are looking for, so you’ll want to look for keywords with pages that have lower average TF scores, unless your website already has a strong score itself.
  • BLP – Page Backlinks. This counts the number of links that the specified URL from the competitor’s website has received from others. The real magic of this metric is that this software allows you the option to actually see a list of the websites that have linked to that URL. This means you can analyse your competitors’ link-building strategy, and then emulate it to build your own website to a similar or superior level. You might, for example, notice that they’ve got a few links from a reputed website that allows guest posts. You could then approach this same website and enquire about submitting a post that links to your website.
  • BLD – Domain Backlinks. This is the same as page backlinks, except that it counts the number of links for the website in general. So, instead of counting the websites that link to example.com/thailandholiday, it counts all the websites that link to every page on example.com. You can again see a list of these websites with the software.
  • BLEG – Education and Government Backlinks. This counts all of the links that a page has received from a government (.gov) or educational (.edu) website. Receiving links from high authority domains like these is quite difficult, and is therefore seen by search engines as a very strong indicator of a website’s quality. If your competitors for a particular keyword have lots of these links, you’ll be fighting a difficult battle to rank against them. However, the SEO software again offers the ability to see the government or educational websites linking to the page, so you could analyse this to see if you could also obtain links from those websites.

Market Samurai – All the Competitor Intelligence You’ll Ever Need

marketing learning curve

A word of warning here: The software we recommend isn’t a simple app you can just pick up and start flinging around your advanced keywords straight away as if it were Angry Birds.

Rather, it is a proper SEO tool that lots of people use day in and day out. Because of that, it can be tricky to work everything out without some background in SEO or at least a quick crash course in some of the jargon.

At the same time, don’t worry too much as there is no specialist technical skill required. We have trained up a number of people at Grow who had no SEO experience to be able to use the software in a short space of time.

The good news is that there are loads of bite sized training videos that show you how to use the software. These videos are a great resource to get you clear on the principles of SEO as well as a hand-holding step-by-step guide to using it.

We hope that this guide will help you steer clear of SEO sharks and that it puts you on the path to becoming your own SEO expert!

We suggest you take a 7 day free trial of the software to see if it’s for you.

Get your 7 day Free Trial of Market Samurai now

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Comments

  1. Indeed a great post about Keyword Research.

    There is no doubt that Keyword Research is the most important part of building a successful website. Without targeting the right keywords, We can never drive traffic and sales.

    Keyword research is important as much as making a PLAN before doing something really great. 😀

    When I started my blogging carrer, I never knew what keyword research is, I always cover articles on random keywords and that was the reason, I wasn’t getting traffic and sales because I was running in the wrong direction.

    But When I learned about keyword research then I found my mistake and started working on it.

    In this guide, You have covered keyword research in a very detailed way and It is very much helpful to so many readers including me.

    So Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article with us. 😀

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