It’s one of the most important steps to any successful internet marketing campaign. It’s also one of the most challenging. You can easily find hundreds of “how to” articles on doing keyword research and you’ll also find a handful of paid and free keyword research tools on the web.
The problem is none of them are very accurate. In this article I’ll highlight how I personally do keyword research – both identifying keywords and finding search volume.
The Status Quo
The Google Keyword Tool, set to exact match, has become the status quo for keyword search volume data. You type in relevant keywords and get a wealth of information including: search volume, cost estimates and related keywords. It’s a great start. The problem with this tool is that it’s not reporting every one of the 34,000 searches per second happening every hour on Google. I base this opinion off the client work I’ve done over the last 5+ years – namely matching up the estimated traffic to the actual traffic received once the site is ranked along with long term PPC data.
Turning to other keyword tools with the goal of finding accurate search volume is not the answer. You’re not going to find any one tool with more accurate information than Google. Especially if your keyword research is geographical in nature.When using the Google Keyword Tool and looking for localized keyword research I will typically find no more more than a handful of keywords with any search volume. For instance if you type in “Plumbing Albany NY” you’ll get under a dozen separate keywords that have search volume.Do you really think every single person in Albany typed under a dozen unique search phrases into Google over the last 12 months? Absolutely not. Some people in Albany just typed in “plumber” while others used zip codes, counties, abbreviations as keyword modifiers that simply is not being reported. Ready to find the missing search volume data?
Step 1 – Identify Your Customers & Their Language
The first tool you’ll need to use is the most powerful tool in existence – the human brain. Use your noggin to research & compile information about your visitors and their problems. After all many searches are simply questions that need answering. You want to go broad here and remove the geographical data for now. You want a list of common keywords related to the target niche along with relevant synonyms and modifiers. It should look something like this:
My list is just an example. Make your own columns, as every niche will have a unique set of keyword data. List everything you can think of. Once you have a solid list you want to expand this list further by finding common synonyms to the keywords you already have. Onelook offers a free online dictionary tool that finds synonyms very fast and easily. By typing toilet into the tool, I see the other ways people may search relating to it – commode, lavatory, water closet, etc. You’ll need to use your brain and do some quick research to make sure you’re identifying relevant synonyms.
Step 2 – Creating Your Key Phrase List
Now, armed with a list of keywords and modifiers, you’re ready to create a list of phrases. To do this I’ll take my list and head over to one of the many keyword combiner tools available online. You’ll need to split up your list into groups that make sense and combine them in a later step. The goal here is to take these keywords and create actual search phrases. For instance I would take my appliances, services and identities lists and combine them into something like “Toilet Repair Contractor”. Now you’ll want to find your relevant geographical keywords. 5minutesite offers an amazing tool that will return an extremely detailed list of cities, towns, suburbs and even zip codes based on a radius you set. Make a relevant list of geographical keywords, and then combine this geographical list with your original list. Now you should end up with a list of keyword phrases including “Toilet Repair Contractor Albany NY”.
Step 3 – Finding Actual Search Volume
For this step we’re going to be using Google Adwords to run a quick PPC campaign. While it costs money to advertise via Adwords, Google offers a program called Engage. You can sign up&watch a few videos on how adwords works. Once you complete the basics you will receive a number of $100 vouchers to run Adwords campaigns. It’s not instant – you’ll wait about a week for the vouchers. The goal of Engage is to offer training and sales material to PPC professionals. I’m assuming you’re doing client work here, which would pair with the engage program perfectly.
Once you’ve gone through the steps, or got a voucher elsewhere, you’re ready to start your campaign. Setting up a new Campaign is pretty simple – Google has a very simple guide here if you’ve never done it before.
There are four very important things you need to remember when setting up the account:
- Select your geographical targeting carefully. You only want the specific markets you’re targeting. You can do this by choosing a specific city, state, metro area or using the custom shapes.
- Set your daily budget to the $100 voucher amount. You want as much data as you can get. By setting a lower budget you will miss impressions if you get enough clicks.
- Write Ads no one would click. Seriously this is the opposite of what you want. You want these ads to run as long as possible and collect as much data as possible.
- Enter your complete list of keywords as exact match if you’re a PPC novice. If you’re experienced set up some phrase matching to cast a wider net. Make sure to add basic keywords like “plumbing” to ensure you account for people searching without including geographical terms.
Since your budget is maxed you need to keep on top of your campaign – if you go over the $100 the money will come out of your pocket.
Step 4 – Harvest The Data
Once you reach the budget stop the campaign, go to your keywords tab, and click the “see search terms” right under the main chart. You’ll now be able to associate an exact amount of impressions, or searches to each keyword phrase. Take the amount of time the campaign ran and use it as your multiplier. If it ran 1 day multiply by 30. 5 days multiply by 5. You’re trying to find a monthly amount of searches as a baseline.
Is exact Search Data Really Necessary?
No. You can be successful with and without exact search volumes. Is it really exact? No. You’ll only be able to run it a few days which is far from being statistically significant. Is it helpful? Absolutely! You’ll have search volume numbers for phrases the Google Keyword Tool would otherwise report as zero. Simply knowing people are searching for specific phrases is extremely helpful to your campaign strategy – especially if you’re still in the planning stages.
Kevin works at Website Technology Services – an Atlanta SEO agency that focuses on Search Engine Optimization & Marketing. Kevin is responsible for all aspects of website design, development & marketing. With 10+ years in the industry, his favorite part of the job is keeping up with the constantly evolving ecosystem of search.