How to Do Effective Keyword Research
If you're working on search engine optimization whether it's to help rank your company website in the search engines or you want your own articles to have high SERPs, it's important to learn how to do proper keyword research.
Before writing around a niche topic you should ensure these three things:
- Your niche is something you can realistically compete in
- Your niche can gain the kind of traffic you're looking for
- Your keywords are things people actually search for
Getting Started: What You'll Need
You will need some tools before we move on, to help you find out how much you can make with Adsense. Don't worry, they are free!
You can go the easy route and install Firefox and SEO for Firefox which you can learn about (and download) on the list of 7 Must-Have SEO Tools. SEO for Firefox will help you find the PageRank of sites in Google SERPs. If you don't feel like using it, you can just use any of the many websites that have a PageRank checking tool.
You will need some sort of spreadsheet software (other than Google Docs.) Microsoft Excel is great, but I'll be using OpenOffice Calc in my examples since it's free and works great.
Setting Up Spreadsheets for Keyword Research
We're going to start with a bit of work in our spreadsheet so that it's all ready for our keyword research. Go ahead and open up a new Calc Document and name it something like "Keywords" and hit save. Fill out the spreadsheet by putting the word "keyword" in A1, "[searches]" in B1, "CPC" in C1, "Monthly $" in D1.
In the D2 cell we are going to input a function which will do some math to find out how much a particular keyword can earn per month. The example will use the HubPages function.
After you paste the function into cell D2, hit escape on your keyboard. Then, right click on cell D2 and then click "copy." Then, click and hold cell D3. While still holding cell D3, pull down your mouse, selecting several cells on column D3. Pull down until cell D500 or further (so you can do research on several keywords without having to constantly add the function to cells.) With all those cells in column D selected, right click, and hit paste.
Input this code in D2 if you earn with a niche site:
Input this code in D2, if you earn with HubPages:
Your Keyword Spreadsheet: What it All Means
You can edit the function as you see fit. As you become more and more familiar with keyword research and making money with AdSense, you will find yourself making changes to your spreadsheet functions based on your own experiences. You'll need to know what the function means in order to be able to tweak it to your liking. Here's what it all means:
Let's assume for a second that you get to the tippy top of Google SERPs. Even though you're #1, not EVERYONE will visit your site. Let's say about 56.36% of searchers click your site/page. (56.36% of searchers click the top search result.)
Take the number of searches a keyword gets per month and multiply it by 0.5636 to see how many visits per month your site could get if it is number one. This is expressed in our function with the bit that says (B2 *0.5636.) That says "Give me 56.36% of the number that I put in cell B2)
The CPC (or cost-per-click) is how much advertisers pay per click to Google. You can figure that Google pays out about two-thirds to publishers like you. What Google pays out to you is called PPC (or pay-per-click.) According to Google, they pay AdSense users 68% of the revenue brought in from a click. To figure out the pay-per-click, just multiply the cost-per-click by 0.68. Since CPC is in cell C2, the part of the function that is (C2/0.68) essentially means "get 68% of what's in cell C2."
HubPages users are on a 60% ad rotation which means that 60% of the time a person views your hub, the ad that shows is from your AdSense account. So here we will multiply the number of views your page could get times the pay-per-click times 60% (or 0.6.)
We're left with one last bit of multiplication: the 0.015. This number could really be anything depending on your niche, but you should figure (to be on the safe side) that 1.5% of the all people that visit your page will click an ad. This is called your CTR. CTR varies HIGHLY between niches. If your ads are closely related to your content, then your CTR could be much higher. If you write about things that don't trigger ads that are related to your content, then visitors won't really click the ads thus lowering your CTR.
What Is a Niche?
When writing online, you will quickly realize that you should write in what is called a "niche." Niches are essentially honed-down specialized topics. By focusing a blog or website around a specialized niche, you can more easily dominate Google SERPs.
How do you find a niche? Write down a list of things that interest you. Feel free to be really broad since this is just brainstorming for some ideas.
Here are some things I came up with:
These, by far, aren't niche topics, but it's something to get us started in finding a niche. A niche is more specific than any of the interests I came up with, but we'll use my list to come up with a great niche!
Using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool
You may have heard of the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and wondered how exactly it can be used to find keywords for a niche site or for a hub. It's actually fairly simple -- I'll show you how to use it here.
On my list of ideas, I wrote that I liked dogs, so we'll start with that. Go to adwords.google.com and login (or create an account if you don't already have one, then login.) To get to the keyword tool, click "Reporting & Tools" and then click "Keyword Tool."
Under word or phrase, type "dogs" and click "search."
On the left deselect "broad" and, instead, select "[exact]". This is because you want to see the information for when people search for just "dogs" and not other things with the words dogs in it like "I like dogs" or "dogs bite." You will notice in the spreadsheet, I have keyword written with the brackets around it. I have like this in the spreadsheet to serve as a simple reminder to make sure I use [exact] in the Adwords Keyword Tool.
Note that the tool doesn't just give information about the keyword [dogs] but other similar keywords. This is extremely helpful in finding more honed-down niche keywords.
In your spreadsheet, put the word "dogs" under the heading "keywords" (since it's a keyword.) On the AdWord Keyword Tool, note the number of Global Monthly searches. Put this number under [searches] in your spreadsheet. Also, put the dollar amount of "Approximate CPC" from your Adwords Keyword Tool under "CPC" on your spreadsheet. You will see that the "Monthly $" is automatically filled in. This is because of the function we added earlier. Handy!
Refer to the chart below for help.
How to Find Long-tail Keywords
Wow! If I ranked #1 in Google for the keyword "dogs" I would make $1500 a month from just that one keyword!
That would be amazing, but it's nearly impossible. I know this without even researching the keyword any further, but if you're new to keyword research, it's important to learn how to find out whether a keyword is doable.
Since you have SEO for Firefox, we can take a quick look at the Google search results page (SERP) to see if this keyword is something we can rank for.
Do a quick Google search for the word "dogs" (without the quotes.) You will see there are a bunch of blue links under each result. Click the little question mark next to PR for each of the search results.
Generally I look at the title of each search result and make sure they have the keyword in the title. If the keyword isn't in the title, then it's possible you could beat them in the SERPs if you put the keyword in your title. More importantly I look at the PageRank.
PageRank is a number (0-10) that essentially says how important a site is. If you see a site that is ranked 5-10 in the Google SERPs, ditch the keyword. It's highly difficult to rank against those sites.
If you're new to SEO try something more realistic like ranking against sites with a PR of 0, 1, or 2. Even a PageRank of 3 can be difficult to rank against, but not nearly as difficult as a 5 or higher. Just go with your skill level. If you've never done SEO before, don't try to compete against a site with a 4. If you are experienced, you probably don't need this guide.
As you can see, [dogs] will be too difficult to rank for. Go back to the AdWords Keyword Tool and look at other keywords. Even words like [dog clothes] may be too difficult to rank for, but go ahead and hone into [dog clothes] by replacing [dogs] in the keyword tool search area with [dog clothes.] The keyword tool will give you words related to [dog clothes] that perhaps you can rank for. It's trial and error. If you spend time with the keyword tool, you'll learn the types of keywords that'll work and the ones that won't.
Keywords to Avoid
Keywords that have a CPC of just 0.05 are usually worthless unless you get a ton of clicks. Generally these are the type to avoid unless dominating the niche will be cake. You have to decide if the possible monthly earnings are enough to make up for the time spent developing content around the niche (and getting backlinks.)
Another type of keyword that you'll generally want to avoid are one word keywords like "France", "Coffee," and "Red." These types of keywords are not long-tail and usually have really high PageRanks.
That said, keywords that are things that people seldom (or never) search for are kind of pointless. I usually avoid keywords with less than 500 searches per month.
It's a good idea to save your spreadsheet when you're doing your keyword research so you have something to refer to later. Your spreadsheet is an invaluable resource, so it's important to keep it around.
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