11 Tools and Tricks for Finding Traffic Generating Keywords

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: 

  1. 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
  2. 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?
  3. Employ analyticsIt 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 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.
  8. 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. 
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

Guest Post by: Trevor Jones
Blog: http://www.gwi.net/policy/blog 
Twitter Handle: @gwimaine

Photo by Danard Vincente

Why The “Agents of Change?”

The Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference Logo 2012What’s the story behind the Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference?

For the past three years I had been running Social Media FTW, a conference on social media marketing with two partners of mine. 

While it had been a great success, I always felt that social media is only part of the solution. Few businesses or organizations can survive on a steady diet of social media. 

When people search for information online, they either Google it or ask their friends on Facebook. (Feel free to substitute your favorite search engine and social network.) Therefore, search and search engine optimization had to be part of any future conference.

In addition, more and more of us are carrying computers around in our pants or pocketbooks. Smart phones and even tablets are changing the way we seek out and gather information. 

And it’s not just mobile websites. Mobile apps, QR codes, location-based apps like FourSquare…all of these are changing how businesses and organization interact with their customers. And so mobile would have to be part of the next conference.

Search, social & mobile. These were the three channels businesses and organizations would have to master if they wanted to survive and thrive in the coming years. 

Where did the name come from?

I actually had a name I liked for another project I had been dreaming about that never got off the ground. However, a little research uncovered that the name had been used for several other conferences, including one by Microsoft.

I tucked that name away for another day…and another project.

Instead, I started with the word “accelerant,” which is how I had been describing social media. It didn’t sound right, though: Accelerant Conference? AccelerantWorld? South By Accelerant?

So an online thesaurus led me to catalyst. (The difference, in case you were wondering, between an accelerant vs. a catalyst is that while both may cause or accelerate a chemical change, the catalyst remains unchanged from the process. Now you know.)

Again, I didn’t like the way Catalyst  played with other words: The Catalyst Confab? Catalyst Expo? 

Back to the thesaurus.

One of the synonyms of catalyst was “agent of change.”

Immediately I knew I had hit upon it. 

I’ve always been something of a geek, so immediately I envisioned search, social and mobile as three agents…agents of change. Initially I had them pegged as a cross between Spy vs. Spy and Maxwell Smart, but I also imagined Alan Moore’s awesome League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Also, I knew I had to get my friend Josh Fisher on board. He’s a crazy-talented illustrator and designer, and an even bigger geek than me. 

I knew he would get it, and he did.

The Mobile Agent was originally envisioned as a Max Smart like character using a shoe phone. My wife came up with that and I thought it was brilliant, although I love the jet pack wearing, Amelia Earhart inspired agent Josh ultimately created.

The Search Agent was originally more of a 19th century British hunter, inspired by the fictional version of Sir Richard Francis Burton from the steam punk novel The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, which Josh and I had both read. (Remember: geeks.) However, when I saw the agent, he reminded me too much of Scout, the mascot for Social Media Examiner, so we went with more of a Master and Commander sailor instead.

The Social Agent was the toughest. He started off as a Nick Fury inspired character, but I thought he was too anti-social looking. We then turned him into a friendly robot. Kind of a cross between Bender and Christopher Walken’s Continental character from SNL. Big fail.

So then we went back the original social agent, but tried to make him more friendly. So, I suggested we splice in some Billy Dee Williams. Voila! 

Here they are? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

The Agents of Change

Rich Brooks

Rich Brooks - Agent of ChangeRich Brooks is founder and president of flyte new media, a web design and Internet marketing firm in Portland, Maine. His monthly flyte log email newsletter and web marketing blog cover topics such as search engine optimization, blogging, social media, email marketing, and building websites that sell. Read More