Usually, our primary goal as Internet marketers and online businesses is to drive traffic to our web site. There are several tools for driving traffic, including banner ads, social media marketing, and offline advertising, but for most of us the most important component of getting found by qualified customers is via a search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
To generate search traffic, we need to build content around keyword phrases related to our products and build links to help us rank for those terms in the search engines. We can also buy our way into the search results using pay per click advertising. Either way, the first thing we need to do is identify the keyword phrases our customers are searching for, and because we only have so much time and money, we’d like to find the phrases that are the easiest and cheapest to rank highly for in the search results.
It’s a tall order, but there are a few tools and tricks that I’ve found helpful for finding keywords that we can compete for that generate traffic. Here are eleven of my favorites:
- Use long tail keyword phrases. Long tail keyword phrases contain three or more words and are generally used by buyers with a specific idea of what they are looking for that are narrowing their search. Search volumes are lower for long tail phrases. As a result, they are less competitive and easier to rank for than short tail phrases, giving you a better chance of generating traffic from your content creation efforts. An added benefit is that because your buyer has narrowed their search from, for example “cameras” to “Cannon PowerShot SX40 HS,” they are further along in the decision making process and therefore more likely to actually buy something from you.
- Geo-target – This is another form of long tail phrase that specifies location. If being near your customer is important for your product or service it can be very powerful. As with other long tail phases, geo-targeted searches are less competitive and better qualified. “Car repairs in Portland Maine” is a great example of such a search. Wouldn’t you agree that it is far more likely to match the right buyer and seller than the short tail phrase “car repairs” which might give you a dealership in Albuquerque?
- Employ analytics – It is much easier to move up in rank for a phrase than it is to rank for a new phrase. Start by seeing what phrases generate traffic today and your position in Google for them. If you are in the top 100, but not in the top 3 generate content to try and move up. Remember, the top 3 results in Google get 58% of clicks so moving up pays big dividends. You can find this information in Google Analytics by clicking Traffic Sources, then Search Engine Optimization, then Queries.
- Scope out your competition. When you know what words you’re already getting traffic from, the next obvious question is “Where are my competitors getting traffic?” The great news is that there is a free tool out there that will tell you your competitor’s top paid and organic phrases called spyfu.com. Scope out the words they’re ranking for – there may be a few winners that you never thought of.
- Get some free advice. At freekeywords.wordtracker.com you can punch in your favorite short-tail phrase and see several long tail alternatives, along with a count of daily searches. Unless you can easily determine a competition score (see below) you may want to start with the lowest volume suggestions, which will generally be the least competitive.
- Get a second opinion. There is another free keyword tool at keyworddiscovery.com. You can see 100 variations on your keyword there, with daily search volumes.
- 7. Consider blended search. Log out of Google , clear your cookies, and do a few searches on your favorite keyword phrases. Look at the “Everything” option in the results. Are their videos displayed? How about photos? If not, these might be exceptional places for you to rank for a phrase that you could never capture with text based content.
- Check your competition score. There is a free keyword analysis tool Google AdWords that will tell you the daily searches for that phrase and several long tail variations. It will also tell you how competitive they are on a low-medum-high scale. There are also a number of paid tools that give you competition scores including HubSpot’s Keyword Grader, the paid version of Wordtracker, and SEOMoz’s keyword research tool. Low and medium scores are worth working on – highly competitive keywords may be a lost cause.
- Off-topic, on-target. This is a powerful tactic I learned from Christopher Penn. Sometimes, all the keywords associated with your product are highly competitive. What to do? Consider generating content around a less competitive topic that is relevant to your audience. It will attract users to your site, and you’ll have an opportunity to tell your product story along the way. This can also be very powerful in creating social media engagement, where someone may not me very passionate about, let’s say, residential broadband Internet, but may feel very strongly about working from home.
- Google Insights for Search – This is a free tool from Google that shows you the fluctuations in search volumes for a keyword phrase over time. It’s an excellent tool for identifying the seasonal changes in search volumes as well as longer term trends.
- Dust off your Thesaurus. Sometimes, we marketers don’t even think of the words our customers are searching. As crazy as it sounds, something as old fashioned as a Thesaurus can sometimes uncover hidden gold you would never come up with on your own.
Photo by Danard Vincente