Stage 1 – Deciding What keyword Category To Get Into
Really, this is a decision that you have to make on your own. You might be really passionate about a particular business sector or subject. You’d be really surprised at what interests other people share as well. One tip is to check out Google Trends
. You can see what is popular at the moment and you can also see a chart of topics popularity. Initially, it doesn’t matter what niche or category you choose because you’ll soon find out whether there is any market for it.
Stage 2 – Determining if there is a market for the category
Once you have decided on the business category that you want to get into, you need to ascertain whether there is a market for it. Now, there are many different ways to do this, but the easiest way is to use the Google Keyword Planner Tool or the free wordtracker keyword tool
. Use the tool to analyze monthly search volumes. As mentioned, if the monthly search volume is over 1,000 then it might be something that you want to get into. You want to get a list of keywords related to your business ready for stage 3.
Stage 3 – Looking at the ‘bigger picture’ for certain keywords.
Once you have your list of keywords, you now need to have a look at the bigger picture. This will help you get an idea of the chances for ranking. This does take quite a lot of time and effort, but believe me it is well worth it.
*Note this information I am about to give you is the real juice of SEO keyword research.
I am assuming that from stage 2 you have a list of keywords that get over 1,000 monthly searches. Take the keyword and type it into Google and do the following:
Step 1 – General Search
Type the keyword into Google and make a note of the results. There are no hard and fast rules, use your own judgment. If the search results return over 100,000,000 pages, then the chances are that the keyword is quite competitive. Conversely, if the results are less than 1,000,000 then it is possible that the competition is not so bad. Use a general search to get a feel for the size of the competition.
Step 2 – Perform “inanchor” search ** very important**
The next step is to perform the following search into Google.
The inanchor search command shows us how many websites have the keyword as anchor text pointing back to their website. We may assume if they have the exact anchor text pointing back to their website that they have done some sort of linking building campaign for that keyword. Therefore, it is logical to assume that they are the competition. Generally a result of under 1,000 is good and definitely under 100,000 search results.
Step 3 – Perform “intitle” search
The next step is to perform the following search into Google: intitle: “keyword”
This result will reveal how many websites have the keyword in the title tag. It is generally accepted by most SEO professionals that the title tag is extremely important for SEO, as it is one of the first things that the search engines look for. This command can help give us an approx figure of the number of websites competing for this keyword. Granted, some websites may have put these keywords in their title tag by accident, but the majority have put it there for a reason; i.e., they want to rank for a particular keyword. No hard and fast rules about the numbers, obviously the lower the better.
Step 4 – Perform “intitle” and “inanchor” search
Now you want to perform both the inanchor and intitle search term. Input the following into Google
This will give you an approximate result of serious SEO competition. Smart SEO marketers will have the keyword in the title tag and will be building backlinks using the keyword as the anchor text. Therefore, I think this helps to give us a fairly good idea of the competition. Remember the lower the search results from this command the better. Results of less than 1,000 may indicate to us that we can beat them with a relatively small amount of backlink building. The higher the number the more competition.
Stage 4 – Analyzing the top 10 websites for your keyword
That concludes stage 3. Hopefully by now you have chosen a keyword that has a good monthly search volume and relatively low link building competition. However, we can’t stop there. You now must analyze the top 10 websites on page 1 of Google. So far we have only compared the number of competitors, not at the strength of the competitors. It is my opinion that you only need to try and beat the first 10 websites. After all, your goal is to rank number 1 or at least get on the 1st page for the keyword. So we now need to analyze the strength of these top 10 competitors.
Step 1 – Type keyword into Google
The first step is simple, type your keyword into Google and make a note of the top 10 results.
Step 2 – Take each site and have a look at its backlinks.
The second stage is to have a look at the backlinks that each site in the top 10 results shows. Now, as I have mentioned before, I believe that it is impossible to get an exact result on the number of backlinks that a site has pointing to it, however we can still get an idea.
Try going to Moz Open Site Explorer or One Utility
. Enter the domain name and have a look at the number of backlinks the site has pointing to it. The more back links means the more backlink building competition for you.
Step 3 – Have a look at the age of the domains.
Most SEO pro’s believes that older sites are more trusted by Google. Do a quick search to ascertain the age of the domain.
Step 4 – Have a look at the onpage optimization of each site.
For each site go to the homepage and then right click “view source.” This will allow you to see the source code. Check to see if you can find the following:
A. Keyword at the beginning of title tag.
B. Keyword in the keyword tag
C. Keyword in the description tag
D. Keyword in the h1 tags.
E. Keyword sprinkled throughout the page.
An absence of these might indicate that the site isn’t properly SEO optimized and could mean that you could take advantage of this. Check out On-Page SEO check list guide. It is my opinion that it is ‘off-page’ factors, i.e., the number of back links that a site has pointing to it that is the most crucial!
Stage 5 – Analyze if any sites have your keyword in the url.
The search engines put some weight on keyword rich domain names. If one of the sites in the top 10 results has the exact keyword you want to rank for as the domain name, then it may be harder for you to beat it.
Stage 6 – Check the Page Rank of the domains.
Page rank, is not used publicly so much anymore as in the form of a Page Rank tool bar, is a way of Google showing us how important it thinks a web page is. You want to have a look at the overall domain authority of the top 10 websites. Now it is quite possible to outrank a site with a higher page rank than yourself, however it is useful to help build an overall picture of the domains strength.
Stage 7 – Check for prominence of social shares
Social signals are becoming more of a ranking factor to determine the popularity of a page. You can use tools like NinjaOutreach or Buzzsumo
, to search for content that about a particular keyword phrase or topic to see what articles resonate the most with target audiences. This useful because it can show what is trending and what is shared the most across all social networks.
Perform all 7 of these steps and you should be able to get a good feel of your likelihood of getting your site on the 1st page of the top 10 websites. This is a lot of information to take in, especially if you are just starting out in SEO.
Stage 8 – Check, Update and Test what Content works the Best
You should examine your content to ensure it provides the best, most complete answers to satisfy a query, whether you are trying to rank for an informational page or selling a product/service. Also, you should always be testing what is the best calls to action, images, and user experience for a particular page. Check out some of our landing page optimization services. You can use heatmap analytics software like Crazy egg or Hotjar to figure where users are clicking or leaving your page to improve your conversions.
Hopefully, by now you can see the importance of it. So before you do any search engine optimization make sure that you perform proper keyword research. Visit our blog for more information.
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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2011, but it is updated regularly to reflect the latest SEO “best practices” understanding of long-tail keyword optimization.
Check out our “Best Practices” Guide for On Page Optimization below.