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Keywords – are they still relevant?

Absolutely — even after Panda, Penguin, and all the other animals Google is choosing to throw at website owners, it’s still vital to know what people in your market are actually searching for.

Of course long gone are the days of stuffing your site with keywords and that being enough to get you into the top ten.   And actually only recently gone are the days of pointing lots of links to your site using the same keyword again and again, and that working.

That said, Google still needs to determine for which keywords to rank your site, so including relevant ones on your site (but not over doing it) is still very worthwhile, as well as building a varied profile of quality links pointing to your site with varied linking text.

So whether you’re looking to put a huge list of keywords together for article writing ideas, on site optimization, a pay per click advertising campaign, or for link building, here’s a few proven ways to putting an absolutely huge list together surprisingly quickly:

Step 1 – Using Keyword Tools

Keyword tools should be your first port of call whenever you’re thinking of researching keywords.   They’re easy to use, often very accurate (but do take some of the traffic numbers with a pinch of salt), and many of them are free to use.

Let’s initially get started with the best known one:

The Google AdWords Keyword Tool

This keyword tool comes free with your Google AdWords account, and you don’t even need to be actively advertising to use it.

You may need to pay a small initial fee when opening an account which gets applied to your advertising budget, but you can then pause your advertising immediately if you choose so that you don’t end up spending any more, and that way you have access to all the tools in your account, without any advertising expense.

To get started with the AdWords keyword tool simply enter a root keyword and Google will come back with dozens, or even potentially hundreds of related terms.

Unless you’re looking for very niche keyword ideas, your root keyword will generally be quite a high traffic phrase, and then Google itself will do the hard work of drilling down into niche terms and reporting those to you.

Examples of very broad and high traffic root keywords would be:

  • Car insurance
  • Make money online

Examples of niche root keywords that will return you far less related keywords would for example be:

  • Car insurance for a Volkswagen beetle in New York
  • Make money online selling crafts on etsy

Then from the results Google sends you, you can take some of these and run these through the keyword tool to produce even more results, potentially building a list into the thousands quickly.

And Google does offer a number of ways to either broaden, or narrow the keyword search — you can specify whether you’re looking for global keyword searches or country specific searches, and you can also broaden or narrow the results you get by asking only for closely related keywords, or allowing broader results to be returned.

Plus, Google offers the functionality of “scraping” keywords automatically from your competition’s website using this tool.   To use this feature simply enter your competitor’s web address in the suitable part of the tool, and Google will examine their site quickly and return with a list of terms they’re targeting.

Further Keyword Tools

Microsoft’s search engine Bing offers a keyword tool as well.   If you sign up for Bing Webmaster Tools (it’s free) that’s another free tool to give you keyword ideas and suggestions for building your list.

Plus there’s a number of paid options including the well known WordTracker.

The benefits of getting keyword ideas from multiple sources in this way helps to greatly broaden your list, and break out of the ‘Google rut’ so to speak, as the vast majority of website owners depend on the Google keyword tool, but seldom look further when researching keywords in their market.

Step 2 – Diving Deep Into Your Market

Really understanding your market is a fantastic way to learn what people are really interested in, what their problems are, and what they’re actively searching for.

This is one particular benefit of working in a market that you’re passionate about, or have been in for a long time, as it becomes very likely you’ll know the subject well, will be interested in keeping up with developments, and will understand (even empathize with) the mindset of the people in your market.

It will help you to understand:

  • Which keywords are particularly relevant to your market.
  • Which are the hot topics that more and more people are starting to search for.
  • What the evergreen topics are that are consistently of interest to people in your market.

The more you understand your market the more you’ll be able to think of keywords that your potential customers are searching for but that your competition hasn’t considered yet.

And actually, as is often the way when you know a subject particularly well — you may have already acquired much of this knowledge without even realizing it, so sometimes by asking yourself the right questions you can produce a list of fantastic keywords directly from your own mind.

Consider asking yourself, as many times as you need to:

  • What is a broad keyword phrase that people in my market search for?
  • What is a niche keyword phrase that people in my market search for?
  • What’s the latest news in my market?
  • What products have just been released?
  • What’s a current hot topic?
  • What’s an up and coming topic?
  • What are newcomers to the market always interested in?
  • What are the topics in my market that people are consistently interested in?

Or if you’re not quite up to speed with your market yet, or just are looking for some easy ways to stay up to date with your market (this is especially an issue in certain technical markets) you may find the following helpful:

  • Blogs Make a point of regularly visiting the leading, most regularly updated, and most authoritative blogs in your market, to help you keep up to date with what’s happening and what people are talking about.It’s suggested you try and find anything from ten to fifty blogs in your market, and either visit them daily, or even better subscribe to their RSS feeds using something like Google Reader, so you can browse headlines quickly all in one interface.
  • Forums Forums in your market are often full of people looking for answers and giving updates on hot topics.   These are a potential gold mine of the keywords that people are using in your market.However, you’ll also find with a lot of forums the noise to signal ratio (lots of people talking, but not much of any interest) is very high which initially can make it difficult to know what to ignore and what to pay attention to.Just like with blogs, making visiting forums a daily habit can help you keep track of the pulse of your market, but it’s important (if you want to be productive) not to spend too much time reading and posting on forums as they can be a tremendous time sink.
  • Magazines As old fashioned as it may sounds, one thing magazines are good at is finding out what the hot topics are in a market and writing about them.Often however, when an idea reaches magazines it’s gone mainstream so keyword ideas from magazines are unlikely to be something you find that no one else does, but it can still be good for ideas.
  • The News Depending on how niche, or broad, your market is, just paying attention to the news may give you ideas of what a lot more people are going to be searching for in future, allowing you the opportunity to get in front of those people.For example — before 2007 the term “Credit Crunch” likely had never or rarely been used before, but it rapidly became one of the most searched for terms and is still heavily used to this day.   So being one of the first to jump on such new terminology as it gets created can help you get a significant jump start on your competitors.And if you are one of the first people to publish an article online focused on a particular keyword, before everyone else starts targeting that term, it’s likely you’ll appear in the top ten, if not number one spot for that term, since the current competition will be low.

Step 3 – Look at Your Existing Visitors

Looking through the keywords people are using to find your site already may give you plenty of ideas for further and related topics to write about.

You may actually be amazed once you really start looking through your Analytics account at what keywords people are using to get to your site and which are the most popular topics on your site.

For example – if one of your articles is getting a disproportionate amount of search traffic, why not write a follow up to that article, to get even more traffic?

You may have initially published:

  • How Facebook & Twitter is Increasing Anxiety in Teens

And if that article is proving popular, why not capitalize on it by producing a sequel.   Let’s say:

  • How Teens Can Safely Use Facebook (Without the Dangers of Increased Anxiety, Bullying, or Cyber Stalking)

Of course Google does now hide many of the searches that people use to arrive at your site, but still a significant percentage of keyword searches used to reach your site can be seen so that should give you plenty of ideas.

Step 4 – Spy on Your Competitors

For businesses – the upside, and downside, of the internet is that everything’s just “out there”.

Your website is out there for all your competitors to see and examine, but on the positive side – so are theirs!   So take advantage of that:

  • Their blog may give you ideas for keywords and articles
  • Their site source code may show you which keywords they’re interested in (the keywords attribute of the meta tag)
  • You can go to Google and use the ‘related’ command (syntax is: to find sites Google thinks are related to your competitors, and research them too.
  • You can use tools like Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer,…etc. to examine the links pointing to your competitors.   This will show you which keywords they’re using to link to their sites, for even more ideas.

Step 5 – Google Autocomplete

As you type in your searches at Google, Google now of course starts offering extra keyword suggestions (and also related searches at the bottom of the page).

When this change happened this annoyed many people, but for most people it’s now become something we don’t even think about, and is often a source of hilarity.   As one example:

  • Why am I scared of c

Brings up:

  • Why am I scared of commitment
  • Why am I scared of cats
  • Why am I scared of clowns

And there’s plenty of other interesting and amusing examples.

But from a keyword perspective – this can be useful for more ideas of keywords to target in your market.

A couple of particularly overused keywords, especially when trying to get traffic for any product name searches are:

  • product name scam
  • product name review
  • product name complaints

Bonus: Step 6 – A Couple of Further Tips

Building a keyword list can be a one time activity that then keeps you busy for months.   But it’s even better if keyword research becomes a regular event so your list keeps growing, becoming more diversified, and also changes as your market changes.

So once you have thousands, even tens of thousands of keywords, how do you use them?

  • Article ideas Writing site content and blog posts around keywords means you’re creating content that your market is actively searching for.Of course the more niche the term you’re targeting, the more likely your article is to rank well for that term easily, but on the other hand it’s a niche term because not that many people are searching for it.Whereas targeting keywords that get a lot of traffic can be a goldmine if your article or blog post ranks high, but there’s generally fierce (and entrenched) competition for such terms so competing can be difficult without significant time and financial investment.If your site has existing authority, going after high traffic terms might work well for you quickly.   But with a new site, going after more niche terms just to start building up the content and traffic on your site may be the best approach, before then slowly moving to more high traffic terms.
  • Link building It’s important these days not to overdo keyword linking (using the same keyword too heavily when building links to your site) and with a large keyword list it becomes much easier to hugely diversify the keywords linking to your site.
  • Advertising If you’re advertising using keywords (pay per click in particular) then a huge and diverse keyword list can be a competitive advantage.   You may find many competitors only advertise on the most obvious of keywords, losing a lot of potential business because they’re not found on niche terms that valuable customers are still searching for.   

And one final point regarding working with keywords — make sure to remove duplicates from your list.   If your list is in Excel, then Excel 2003 onwards offers you the functionality to remove duplicates easily through the Data menu then Filter option.

Or if you just have a long list of keywords with no extra columns (number of searches…etc.), free text editing software like TextPad allows you to automatically sort your list and remove duplicates instantly, so that you don’t end up working on the same keyword more than once by mistake.

Check out our previous articles!

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Posted by James Robinson

James Robinson writes for, a keyword analysis engine that allows you to easily and quickly analyse a site, evaluate its keywords, its on-site SEO, and also find many related sites you may not have thought of.

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