DIY SEO #5: Keyword Popularity Research

Keyword Popularity ResearchAt this point between brainstorming keywords and “borrowing” keywords from your competition you should have a pretty good list of keywords.  These are keyword either you or your competition think people are searching for, but you don’t really know…not yet anyway.

What Are People REALLY Searching For?
Gut instincts are good, but they are far from perfect and just being slightly off in your keyword choice can make a huge difference.  Let’s use search marketing for example.  I’ll ask you about three SEO-related keywords:

  • Search Marketing
  • SEO
  • Search Engine Optimization

Take a guess:

Which of these keywords is searched for more often?  Or perhaps do they each get about the same number of searches each month?

All three keywords can be used interchangeably, though “Search Marketing” can refer to more than just SEO, such as including Adwords marketing.

Do you have your answer?

I’ll tell you correct answer in a moment, but for now I’ll just give you a hint.  They don’t all get the same number of searches.  In fact, choosing the wrong keyword would result in less than 2% of the traffic that the most popular keyword gets.  Less than 2%.

No Time For Guessing.
As I just mentioned, choosing the wrong keyword in the above example can result in less than 2% of the traffic as choosing the right keyword.  The other way of saying it is choosing the right keyword could bring in over 50 times the traffic!  With stakes like that, you can’t leave it up to chance or your gut.

Thankfully, there are a few resources out there where you can get some keyword popularity estimates:

  • Google Adwords Keyword Tool – This is what I use.  It’s a free tool and Google gives you a lot of additional suggestions which you may not have thought of already.
  • WordTracker – This is a paid tool that uses data from several smaller search engines to estimate total search traffic.  They also give a lot of additional suggestions which you may not have thought of already.
  • Keyword Discovery (affiliate*) – This is a paid tool that uses data from several search engines and user browser search data to estimate total search traffic.  They also give a lot of additional suggestions which you may not have thought of already.

No Tool Is Perfect.
Keep in mind with all of these tools that no tool is perfect.  The only tool that really has a decent chance of being close is Google since they have direct access to so much actual search data.  Unfortunately, Google tends to prefer to give generalities instead of specifics, so their data is not as good as it could be.  In fact, some people don’t trust the data that Google gives, which is why they would choose to pay for services like WordTracker or Keyword Discovery.

You must also keep in mind that these are predictions.  No one knows the future.  So, even if you did have access to all the search data in the world, you still would not be able to predict with perfect accuracy the search popularity of your keywords for the upcoming months.  Trends and favored terminology are always changing.

Keyword Popularity Research.
Once you have chosen which tool you are going to use, start researching your keywords.  There are three things you going are to be doing.

  1. Get the estimated search popularity of the keywords in your list.
  2. Find keywords that should be added to your list and add them to your list with their estimated search popularity.
  3. Remove keywords from your list which do not get searched for.

Note: Your keyword research tool may give you the option to return exact results or results of the keywords which include the terms you are researching.  In Google, there are three options, “broad”, “exact”, and “phrase”.  You want to get the “exact” figures.  In SEO, it only matters how many people are searching for the exact phrase.

Tip: You don’t have to look up each keyword on your list individually.  In order to do your research more efficiently, I recommend grouping very similar keywords. For example, you can group the singular and plural version of keywords or keywords which are identical except for one word which is a synonym of the other word.  These words would most likely return the same results anyway.  So, this will save you some time.  Just don’t over do it.  Keep it to about 6 words or less in each group and make sure they are very closely related.

As you get your search popularity data, create an Excel spreadsheet (or similar doc) and add your keywords and their search popularity data.  Most of these tools have a way of selecting keywords and exporting them with their data.

For most websites you are going to need to get the popularity data for a lot of keywords.  Don’t just find the most popular keywords and stop.  Chances are that your website will not be ready to compete for the most popular keywords right away (which I’ll discuss more in an upcoming post about keyword competition).  So, you want to have a long list of keywords to choose from when you start optimizing your website.  Also, it’s best to optimize just about all of the pages on your website.  So, if you have a lot of pages on your website, you’ll need a lot of keywords.

It’s OK if your list ends up having hundreds or even thousands of keywords.  Right now the two criteria you are looking for is that the keyword is actually searched for and that it is related to your site.

Additional tips and notes:

  1. Businesses
  2. Churches

Today’s Tasks:

  • Choose a tool for researching keyword popularity.
  • Look up the keyword popularity of the keywords on your list.
  • Find additional related keywords to add to your list.
  • Create an Excel spreadsheet (or similar doc) with all your keywords (including the new keywords) and their estimated search popularity.

Photo by Roebot

Oh yeah, those three SEO-related keywords…According to Google their estimated [exact] search popularity is:

  • “SEO”: 823,000
  • “Search Engine Optimization”: 135,000
  • “search marketing”: 12,100

Did you guess correctly?  If not, which did you think was most popular?

What keyword popularity research tool do you prefer?

DIY SEO #4: Getting Keyword Suggestions from Competition <- DIY SEO: Main -> DIY SEO #6: Determining Your Website’s Strength

* While we have signed up to be an affiliate, it does not effect what we recommend.  We are an affiliate because we believe the product is good and we figure if we’re going to recommend them anyway, we might as well get paid for it ;)

2 Responses to “DIY SEO #5: Keyword Popularity Research”

  1. Brilliant post, Kurt! Such an essential yet overlooked part of SEO.

    Though I must say the best part of the post might be the graphic used at the top. LOL!

  2. Fantasic post. I saw your blog on Google looking for "DIY SEO #5: Keyword Popularity Research | Christian SEO Guys". Thanks a lot.