Use this tutorial to conduct keyword or market research. You should do market research for any article writing or promotion.
This tutorial will take you through the steps of creating the following deliverables for your online marketing campaign:
- Industry Research Spreadsheet: list of competitors and industry leaders, complete with rankings, targeted keywords, and incoming links
- Master Keyword List: list of industry keywords including number of monthly searches and amount of competition
- Prioritized Keyword List: list of top 10 or 20 keyword phrases you should target to get the fastest and highest rankings. This means these keyword phrases should have the best ratio between demand (searches) and supply (# of sites)
There are a couple of paid keyword research tools you can use to identify great keywords in your client’s market. These include:
I recommend you download this free software to do some of your keyword research:
I prefer to use nichebot because it provides vital information that can’t be obtained for free – information like the number of sites optimized for each keyword.
This piece of information makes for more efficient market research. Why? Because one can search a keyword on Google and see that it has close to 1 million search results. That gives the impression that it would be far too hard to rank for. Yet, it’s possible that only 100 sites are optimized for that term. That is the only real competition you face – because as soon as you optimize a webpage for your term, it will automatically rank above any sites that are not optimized.
(Note: “optimized” means that the keyword appears in the title tag of the page.)
Although this information will better identify great keywords to target, it is by no means required. Besides, with Web 2.0 technologies, what matter most are overall theme across an entire website and long-tail keywords that are easy to identify. They traditionally have low search results on Google.
Therefore, for the purpose of this
tutorial, we’re going to discuss ways to conduct market research for free.
Research the Competition
You may not particularly care for your competition. But in researching your market or industry, be on the alert and watch your competitors.
You can learn a lot about your market and how best to capture it by looking at what your competitors are doing well and where they’re doing badly. Capitalize on their strengths to find out what works without researching it yourself. And just as important is to turn their weaknesses into your strengths by outsmarting them in those areas they are neglecting or ignoring.
Step 1: Download the Alexa Toolbar
Alexa is a great market research tool for several reasons:
- It tracks and displays the popularity ranking of a web site in terms of how many visitors it has. An Alexa ranking of “1” means it is the most visited site in the world (Yahoo.com). If it has an Alexa ranking of “10,000” that means there are 9,999 web sites that are more popular (10,000 is a REALLY good ranking by the way).
- It also indicates what sites are linking to a site
- It also says which sites are similar—this is where you identify your competition! (Combined with the benefit above, it enables you to see who links to your client’s competition.)
- You can also use Alexa’s “way back machine” which tells you what changes were made to a web site by its owner and how the layout and feel of the web site was changed.
- It also tells your friends and colleagues which sites you have visited by a simple click of a button.
You may not like having the actual Alexa toolbar on your browser because it tracks your actions. If you have Firefox, you can download a wonderful extension called SearchStatus that will give you Google Page Rank and Alexa Rank (right click on either rank bar for access to additional information).
Personally, I like having this information for all my web surfing and marketing activities. But an alternative exists: www.goodkeywords.com. It’s free!
Step 2: Identify & Research Competition
First: Create a list of any competitors/partners in your market. Yes, you have them! You want to know who the industry leaders are —companies that are in the same business as you are and who have done a good job at researching and targeting their market.
Second: visit your website and each of your competitors’ sites. Use the Alexa toolbar (or Firefox Extension) to identify all related sites.
Third: Create a spreadsheet with the following columns:
- Alexa Ranking
- Page Rank
- Homepage Keywords
- Other Keywords (see if their internal pages have different targeted keywords. If not, this is a good sign that your client can rank far better by creating targeted content!) Don’t review every internal page, just a few…particularly any articles – if you can find them
- Search Rankings
- # of Incoming Links
Where to Get the Information:
Website :Make note of the name of the company
URL : Record the URL of their home page
Alexa Ranking :If you have the Alexa toolbar, it gives the rank. If you have the Firefox extension, it displays a bar similar to Google’s Page Rank. Hover your mouse over the bar to see the actual numerical ranking.
You can also use Good Keywords tool.
Page Rank :You can get the Google toolbar, or use the Firefox extension to get the page rank.
Home Page Keywords :While on the site’s home page, click “View” in your browser window, then “View Source” or similar. It will display the source code for the website and at the top, you’ll see meta tags between the <head> and </head> tags. Look for a list of keywords and copy those down.
Other Keywords :View the source code of a couple of internal pages, particularly those with a lot of content or article pages. See if all internal pages have the same keywords or if each one has only one or two keywords (this will be obvious in the meta tags).
Most large sites put the same keywords in the meta tags of all their internal pages. If this is the case, you are in luck, because their sites are not well optimized for SEO!
Search Rankings :Do this for one or three of your most popular competitors. You can download a free version of Internet Business Promoter (http://www.ibusinesspromoter.com/download/index.htm), or use a similar ranking check software.
Enter the web site’s URL you want to check and a list of the keywords in their meta tags.
# of Incoming Links :Use Good Keywords tool or the Alexa toolbar to find out the Link Popularity for each site (the amount of websites that link into the site).
Later on, you’ll add more competitors to the list, but for now, just get the above information and move on to the next step!
Develop Initial Keyword List
It’s time to get a basic idea of keywords you should target for good rankings. The idea here is to find keywords that have a sufficient number of people searching them each month while few web sites display in the search results.
As mentioned earlier, you can easily do this research using NicheBot or a similar keyword research software. However, here’s how to do it for free:
Step 1. Create a Master Keyword List Spreadsheet
First, we want to get an idea of how many people search the keywords you want to rank for, as well as those keywords you found in your competitors’ web sites.
Second, create a new spreadsheet titled “Master Keyword List.”
Third, create the following columns:
Step 2. Research Basic Themes
Type in the first keyword you want to research. For example, let’s research “gardening.”
As you can see, it tells us how many people search the term “gardening” each day. But more importantly, it’s telling us several other popular keywords within that theme.
Copy and paste the list into a new spreadsheet for your Master Keyword List.
If you see any particularly interesting keywords that also have high searches in the list, such as “organic gardening,” go back to the first screen and type that term in. Again, copy and paste the resulting list into your spreadsheet (under the first list you copy and pasted).
Repeat this with each high-level keyword (meaning the keyword is more of a theme or niche rather than a very specific phrase) you gathered from your client and from your initial research. Copy and paste each list into your spreadsheet. You’ll have to flip the searches and keyword columns, or change the order of the columns in the spreadsheet to match the results (it’s up to you. I like to organize my list by keyword, so it is in the first column). If you want, you can cut and paste the search column to its new location after you’ve finished all the keyword research.
Step 3. Research Keyword Competition
Let’s now figure out how hard it is to rank these keywords.
With paid keyword research tools, you receive this information automatically with the search amounts. However if you’re using free tools to conduct your research, you have to research the competition for each keyword, one at a time.
To save you time, do this for only those terms that are worth exploring, i.e. they are targeted to your audience and offerings and have enough daily searches to be meaningful (around 50 per day, depending on the size of the market).
Go to www.google.com.
Search each keyword with the following format:
So, if we were researching “gardening,” we would plug into the search field:
Look at the number of results. Write that number in the “competition” field. This is the number of web sites that include your keyword in their title, meaning they’re at least minimally optimized to show up for that term.
To demonstrate the importance of this distinction, try searching “gardening.” You get over 4.8 million results!
Search for only those sites that have “gardening” in their title tag. You’ll see only about 60,000 sites. That’s a HUGE difference! Only those 60,000 web sites (not the 4.8 million you obtained earlier) are your true competition. You’ll immediately outrank all other sites as soon as you create a page with your keyword in the title.
Develop a Prioritized Keyword List
Your last step is to develop your prioritized keyword list and identify the true competition you have to beat so that you gain meaningful search rankings and traffic.
Step 1. Identify Most Rankable Keywords
Create a new spreadsheet titled “Prioritized Keyword List” with the same fields (columns) as your other keyword list.
Now add to it any keywords that have a fair amount of searches and the least amount of competition. This is a ratio game. Although some keywords have less searches than others and have virtually no competition, prioritize those. Do the same with keywords that have more competition—if they have tons of searches, they’re worth pursuing.
Depending on how large your market is, and how many hundreds of terms you initially found, your priority list may be 10 keywords or 50 or more keywords.
Once you’ve identified those keywords, open up your industry research spreadsheet.
Use the IBP (mentioned earlier) free trial software, or a similar program, to discover the top ranking web sites for your targeted keywords (these are the web sites you have to beat).
Type in each keyword and get a list of the top 10 or 20 websites that rank for it (or search Google).
These web sites go to the TOP of your industry research spreadsheet and go through your original steps to again gather the necessary information for each site. Be sure to place the ranked page in the URL field, and not the home page of the site (unless the ranked page IS the home page).
In the notes field for these top competitors, list the keyword density for the ranked page. You can get this information from the free Good Keywords tool. Identify the actual pages that link into these top competitors so that your client can try to elicit incoming links from them as well.
Based on the information, you can begin optimizing your web site for the search engines and promote it with optimized articles and website content.
And that’s it!