Keyword Research – The foundation of SEO

Keywords, Potential Reach, Potential Impressions and Total Results

The foundation of every search is someone is looking for something. If nobody would have any questions then there would be no searches at all.

The “someone” who might be looking for “something” is a potential viewer of search results. The number of all people combined that could potentially search is considered the potential reach in SEO.

The something he or she is looking for is considered the keyword. Keywords can be short or long and also consist of a number of different words, which is called a keyword phrase.

For example if you want to go for dinner you might type the word ‘restaurant’ into Google. However you might not find what you are looking for since your keyword is too broad. You can search for something more specific like ‘italian restaurant’.  Now you are finding restaurants that serve Italian food. However you still have not found the restaurant that you would like to go to because you have not specified where you would actually like to have dinner. If you extend your keyword phrase further to ‘italian restaurant downtown new york’ you will get results where you can probably pick up the phone and make a reservation.

The more specific a search is the more precise the results will be.

The example above also gets across one more important metrics that is important for SEO, which are potential impressions. Potential impressions are the number of times a result could be shown to the potential reach for a specific keyword.

The number of people who are looking for an Italian restaurant in downtown New York is limited to a certain number of people. Most likely people who live close to downtown New York or people who are planning a trip there. Other keywords have other restrictions. For example, if someone wants to buy a fitness machine online there are plenty of online stores that carry these products. So location is not such a limiting criterion for this kind of search. However it still has restrictions from a shipping perspective since shipping across boundaries is still more complicated and more expensive. Or, if someone wants to learn about Greek history location does not matter at all since an article about Greek history can be read anywhere from anywhere in the world. The limiting factor there might just be the language the article is written in versus how many people are able to read that language.

The last important metrics is the total number of search results for a keyword. The more results exist the harder it is to be found.

Every SEO strategy should start with determining the potential reach followed by defining the “right” set of keywords and potential impressions for them. And last but not least you can determine the difficulty of ranking high by determining the total number of results for a keyword.

EXAMPLE:

The following example is a guide that shows how to do this in practicality. The example develops a SEO strategy for the following markets: Australia, Singapore and New Zealand.

The company is an SEO consulting company that just started a blog and wants to define a SEO strategy to promote it’s newly created blog.

Step 1: Determine the potential reach

There are various tools available on the Internet to determine the potential reach for a particular location. Given that Google is the most used search engine on the Internet with the most data I would recommend that you create a Google Adwords account to do this task.

Simply go to http://adwords.google.com and sign up. It is free. Once signed up log into the site and create a new campaign. (You won’t actually launch a campaign. This is for the purpose of research only).

As part of the new campaign setup you will need to choose a location. Click on Advanced Search. A popup will open up that let’s you type and choose a location. Next to the location you can see the reach within that location. According to Google the definition of reach is: “Reach is an estimate of how many people in a location could see your ads.”

Location Reach

Location Reach

Google also explains how the reach is calculated: “Your estimated reach may differ from census data, because reach calculates the number of unique cookies from people visiting Google sites. Reach also varies due to the number of devices or browsers per person, length of activity, and number of temporary visitors to a location.”

The following table shows the reach by location based on Google Adwords.

Location Reach
Australia 46,100,000
New Zealand 5,310,000
Singapore 4,840,000

Step 2: Compile a list of keywords

Obviously since the web asset to be promoted is a SEO Blog the first keyword that comes to mind is ‘seo blog’. But what are other keywords that should be part of the SEO strategy as well? Well Google has another tool that comes in handy for this exercise. Within the Google Adsense account click on ‘Tools and Analysis’ in the top navigation and choose the ‘Keyword Planner’ item.

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner

This takes you to a menu where you can choose what to do next. Click on ‘Search for new keywords and ad group ideas’. Type the phrase ‘seo blog’ into the ‘Your product or service’-field and hit the ‘Get ideas’-button.

search for keyword ideas

search for keyword ideas

Select the ‘Keywords’-tab and scan through the results. The total number of results might be overwhelming. For the keyword term ‘seo blog’ the total number of keyword ideas is 570. In order to narrow down the list the tool provides you the option to filter the results by ‘Only show ideas closely related to my search terms’. By turning this option on you can narrow down the list to only 79 keywords.

keyword ideas closely related

keyword ideas closely related

keyword ideas

keyword ideas

Next download the list in form of a CSV file to your local machine. The list looks like the one below. It has several columns that hold the various metrics that help you determine the importance of each keyword.

The ‘average monthly searches’-column gives you an indication for how often the keyword is used per month.

The ‘Competition’-column tells you how many other Adsense users are bidding on the keyword. A value of 0 means there is no competition and 1.0 means that there is a lot of competition.

The ‘Suggested bid’–column tells you how much Google suggests to bid on the keyword. ($12.02 for seo blog is pretty crazy).

Now carefully review the list and see which of the keywords will be relevant to you and which keywords can you safely remove.

keyword ideas csv

keyword ideas csv

I eliminated a total of 11 keywords from the list. My final list is the one shown below:

  • seo blog
  • blog seo
  • free seo blog
  • seo wordpress blog
  • seo blog optimization
  • seo blog writing
  • seo moz blog
  • how to seo your blog
  • danny seo blog
  • seo company blog
  • seo service blog
  • seo your blog
  • seo for my blog
  • seo specialist blog
  • daily seo blog
  • how to seo my blog
  • do blog comments help seo
  • seo tips blog
  • local seo blog
  • seo blog comments
  • seo blog software
  • seo blog tips
  • seo marketing blog
  • seo services blog
  • best seo blog
  • seo for blog
  • top seo blog
  • seo expert blog
  • seo blog posting
  • seo blog commenting
  • wordpress seo blog
  • seo blog sites
  • seo blog posts
  • seo link building blog
  • blog commenting seo
  • blog for seo
  • wordpress blog seo
  • blog seo optimization
  • best blog software for seo
  • best blog for seo
  • best blog platform for seo
  • blog commenting for seo
  • blog seo services
  • blog comments seo
  • blog seo software
  • blog comment seo
  • blog post seo
  • blog tags seo
  • blog and seo
  • blog comments for seo
  • blog submission in seo
  • seo software blog
  • seo sem blog
  • seo friendly blog
  • seo blog wordpress
  • seo tools blog
  • seo for wordpress blog
  • seo my blog
  • seo techniques blog
  • seo training blog
  • seo blog templates
  • seo consultant blog
  • seo basics blog
  • seo for your blog
  • blog seo tips
  • organic seo blog
  • seo guru blog

Step 3: Determine the number of potential impressions

Now that you have your list of keywords that are relevant to the web asset that you would like to promote you need to find out what the potential of these keywords is.

The way you do that is again with the same tool within Google Adwords. However this time you choose ‘Get traffic estimates for a list of keywords’.

get traffic estimates for keywords

get traffic estimates for keywords

Now copy and paste you list into the ‘Enter keywords’-field or upload your CSV file. Then hit the ‘Get estimates’-button. On the following screen enter a large amount into the field ‘Enter a bid’. You want to find out what the true potential is so you want to get your average position as high as possible. The number of impressions that you now see in the list below will tell you how often your add would be shown if you would spend this kind of money. Since you put a large unrealistic number into your bid you would outspend everyone and always show on top of the page for all searches. The same will happen if you manage to get your organic search result on top of the first page.

daily seo impressions

daily seo impressions

So in our example we would get 41 daily potential impressions for the keyword ‘seo blog’. You can ignore the conversion rate. It is proven that the conversion rate of the organic results is higher than the conversion rate of the paid results.

Step 4: Determine the number of total results

In this step you simply determine the number of results for your keywords. The way you do that is by going to Google, Bing and Yahoo and actually entering the keyword into the search field.

google results seo blog

google results seo blog

For our example Google tells us that there are about 267,000,000 results within Google. This means that your competition is fairly significant. Google has this many pages in their database that are all relevant for the term ‘seo blog’.

bing results seo blog

bing results seo blog

Bing shows that it has 29,900,000 results in their database for the same keyword and Yahoo shows the total number of results at the bottom of its page as 30,200,000 results.

yahoo results seo blog

yahoo results seo blog

Step 5: Track your rankings

And last but not least it is important to find out how your website is currently ranking for the keywords that you defined in step 2. Plus, now that you have done your keyword research you will define your SEO strategy to improve the rankings of your website for the keywords you defined.

To track the ranking of your keywords on a daily basis go to http://SiteOlytics.com and create an account. Enter the URL of your website and create a profile.

create profile

create profile

Now click on ‘Keywords’-tab in the left navigation and then again click on ‘Add keywords’ in the left navigation.

track keywords

track keywords

Copy and paste your keywords into the field ‘Multiple keywords’ and hit the ‘Add’-button. The keywords will be copied over into the right field named ‘Save keywords’. Click the ‘Track Keywords’-button at the bottom of the page to start tracking your rankings.

keywords added

keywords added

On the next screen you will see a confirmation that your keywords were saved and a link to where you will be able to view the results going forward. The ‘Keywords Overview’-tab will show you the number of keywords that you are tracking and how many of them are ranking on the first 20 pages of Google, Bing and Yahoo.

keywords overview

keywords overview

Conclusion

At this point you are done with your keyword research. You understand your potential reach. You have a well-defined list of keywords. You know the potential impressions your keywords could achieve. You have a sense of your competition and you know how your website is currently ranking for the keywords.

For our example the result of the keyword research looks as follow:

Keyword: seo blog

Potential Reach:

  • Australia:  46,100,000
  • New Zealand: 5,310,000
  • Singapore: 4,840,000

Potential daily Impressions: 42

Total results:

  • Google: 267,000,000
  • Bing: 29,900,000
  • Yahoo: 30,200,000

Current Ranking:

  • Google: Not in Top 20 Pages
  • Yahoo: Page 10, Position 5
  • Bing: Page 10, Position 3

What’s next?

Doing the Keyword Research is the first step of every SEO Strategy. Now that you are done with that it is time do define your SEO Strategy to improve your rankings.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to use the box below to communicate with me.

Roland Oberdorfer is a Managing Director and Co-Founder at SiteOlytics Inc. Prior to his current role Roland was the CTO of HP’s consumer direct organization and the General Manager for Web and eCommerce at NIVIDIA. You can find him on Google+ and on Facebook.

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