If you want to make money from the search engines, either via a CPC campaign or search engine optimization (SEO), you’ll need to do some keyword research before you do anything else. Keyword research helps you determine what phrases you’ll want to target so people looking for what you sell can find your products. For today’s example, we’re going to pretend we sell organic grocery totes.
Step 1: Pick a Tool
There are several great tools out there for doing keyword research. Some of them you have to pay to use but some are free. Some of the top paid tools include Wordtracker and Wordstream (both have free trials available). If you want to go the budget route, Google’s Keyword Tool is free and also delivers lots of good information.
Step 2: Conduct a Search
Let’s say we’re going to work with Google’s Keyword Tool. I already know people come to my site searching for “reusable grocery bags” so I plug that phrase into the Keyword Tool (using the “word or phrase” box) just to start with. I get back a list of keywords, along with information about “competition” and “global monthly searches”. Competition gives me an idea of how many other advertisers are bidding on keywords I am interested in. Global Monthly Searches gives me an idea of how often people search Google for those phrases.
What I’m most interested in is words and phrases that meet the following criteria:
- low to moderate competition
- moderate to high search volume
- highly relevant to my product
I can sort the results by search volume and competition so I can get an idea of what’s low competition and what’s high search volume. I may find some phrases that meet 2 of those 3 criteria. I’ll just start taking notes on which words I find that I’m interested in and what kind of competition and search volume they have. (An excel spreadsheet is perfect for storing this information.)
Let’s say I decide I am interested in
- “Environmental Bags” (medium competition, some search volume, medium relevance)
- “organic tote bag” (medium competition, low to medium search volume, high relevance)
- “market bags” (medium competition, medium search volume, medium relevance)
- “bag reusable” (medium-high competition, high search volume, high relevance)
- “grocery tote bag” (medium-high competition, medium search volume, high relevance)
- “reusable bag” (high competition, very high search volume, high relevance)
(We might pick other words and have a longer list, I am just using these 6 phrases as an example.)
Step 3: Get Out of Your Head
You’ve so far come up with some good phrases, but there may be ways people search for your product that you aren’t thinking of. You’ll want to dig deeper. You can ask friends what words they’d use to search your product (jot those down). You can also see what keywords competitors are using. Here’s how we do that:
1. Make a list of competitor websites.
2. See how much web traffic the competitors get. Try bizshark, it will estimate how much traffic your competitors get. Take note of the competitors with high traffic.
3. Enter the competitors URLs into Google’s Keyword tool (using the “website” box next to the “word or phrase” box). Now I have a list of words my competitors have optimized for. Imagine I scoped out onebagatatime.com and see they have “bags eco” and “environmentally friendly bags.” Both phrases have a lot of search volume, but medium to high competition. I make note of this and add them to my list.
Step 4: Get SEO and PPC Working Together
Now that I have my list of words (I gave examples above, but in practice, I might make a list of over 100 words and phrases by the time I am finished), I want to see if I have some hope of ranking well in organic search for some of them. (Ranking well in organic search means my website comes up first, or on the first page of results, when people search for a phrase or word.) I can get an idea of what the organic rank competition is like by doing the following:
1. Search Google to see how many web pages are using my desired words or phrases in the title tags (For example I would Google the following to see how many use “reusable bag”: allintitle:reusable bag).
2. Make a note of the number of pages using my phrase in the title tag. (for example a search for allintitle:reusable bag returns 34,700 matches)
3. Search Google to see how many web pages are using my desired words or phrases in their URLs (For example I would Google the following to see how many use “reusable bag”: allinurl:reusable bag).
4. Make a note of the number of pages using my phrase in the URL. (for example a search for allinurl:reusable bag returns 13,400 matches)
I want to repeat this process until I’ve done a competitive SEO analysis on all the words and phrases I’m interested in. Once I’m done I should have a list of some words and phrases I think I can optimize for and actually rank for. I might also have some words or phrases that are going to be tough to rank for, but they have so much search volume and relevance that I’ll want to get them into my search marketing campaign any way.
Step 5: Create Optimized Pages
Now that I have my list of words and phrases that I want to target, I need to build some landing pages. I may plan to use these landing pages as part of my Adwords effort, but I also want them to eventually start drawing some organic traffic so I don’t always have to pay to get people who search those words to come to my site.
Starting with “reusable bag”, I create a landing page that is linked off of my main website. Maybe I call this page reusable-bag.html. I give it a title tag that says “Reusable Bag” and then in the page itself I write some copy that shows my product photos and a description of of the benefits of my reusable bags. I now have a nicely optimized page and I can bid on that phrase in Adwords using that page for landing. I should get a good quality score (which lowers my inital cost per click) and I should get some clicks and conversions since I’ve generated such a relevant landing page.
I’ll want to repeat this process for all the words and phrases I’ve chosen to target.
- I recommend limiting each landing page to targeting just 1 or 2 keywords or phrases (3 or 4 tops if they are closely related). You want to keep each Ad Group extremely targeted, focused and specific. Having a lot of Ad Groups is okay. You’ll want to see how each one performs over time so you can spend extra money on top performers and nix the Ad Groups that aren’t working. You’ll want to experiment with different bid prices and monitor your click-through and conversion rates
- Create more than one version of your ads. You’ll want to test to see which ad copy is getting you clicks and conversions. Make sure your ad copy is compelling and gives searchers a very good idea of what to expect when they click. Highlight your value proposition. Some examples of good ad copy might be:
Organic Reusable Grocery Totes
A huge selection of eco-friendly bags
FREE shipping on orders over $25.00
This ad is good because it describes what I sell. It mentions our large selection as part of our value proposition. We further entice the click with a free shipping offer.
- As you’re working to optimize your Adwords ads and improve your SEO, please keep in mind that SEO has many components to it. There may be thousands of sites ranking for “reusable bags” but they may not all have a ton of inbound links. If you have a ton of inbound links, you may be able to jump ahead of them in the search results, even if their on-page optimization is just as good as yours.
If you want to get an idea of whether you could outrank a competitor who is ranking well for a phrase you want to rank for, check them out with Yahoo’s Site Explorer. Enter your URL first (next to the Explore URL button) and make note of how many “inlinks” your site has. Then enter your competitor’s URL and make note of how many “inlinks” they have. If you have a lot more “inlinks” it’s likely that you can jump ahead of them on search results pages for a desired phrase, if you get your on-page optimization right. (That means using your phrase in your title tag, URL and page copy.)
If your competitor has a lot more inlinks than you, you’re going to need to do some more link building if you want to try to outrank them.
- Although this article is about Adwords, there are other CPC options out there. Experiment with other searcn engines like Bing or comparison shopping engines like Amazon to see which delivers the best results.
Related Read: Five Steps to Effective Keyword Research