Keyword Research – What Exactly is This?

Most of the Internet marketing gurus correctly teach that the starting point for any on-line venture is something called keyword research. What exactly is keyword research and how do you do it?

“Keyword research” in its purest form means that you can discover the actual search terms used by paying customers who are in the market for goods and services similar to what you offer.

Your ability to obtain this information is quite amazing, if you think about it. Television and radio advertisers spend millions of dollars a year on “interruption” marketing, with trial and error as the only means to test the effectiveness of their message and copy.

On the Internet, by contrast, your customers announce their entry into the marketplace by typing in a search term and you can review the terms they are using.

When I was in law school and in subsequent continuing legal education courses, the science of jury selection and jury dynamics was considered a key component of success as a trial lawyer. In fact, most good trial lawyers take the time to interview jurors after the verdict to find out what they did right and what they did wrong. Often the points that the lawyer saw as being key were basically ignored by the jury, while a seemingly minor point led the jury to decide one way or the other.

Keyword research is like having the right to convene a daily meeting during the course of trial to interview the jurors so that trial tactics can be changed during the course of the trial. It is a huge advantage and its results can be applied to any form of advertising.

There are many tools that one can use to conduct keyword research and I would be interested to hear more about the tools that you use. Here is a non-exclusive list:

1. Overture search term tool

2. Wordtracker (paid)

3. Keyword Discovery (paid)

4. Shawn Pringle’s tools (free)

5. Google Adwords keyword tool (free)

6. Good Keywords (free)

All of these tools are designed to help you discover the terms that your customers are using on a daily basis. For example, if you sell umbrellas online, Overture reports that there were over 55,000 searches for the term “umbrella” last month. By contrast, there were 6400 searches for “rain gear” and 3650 searches for “parasol.” If I was building a web site to sell umbrellas, this data would be helpful in many ways – domain name selection, page optimization ,pay per click choices, etc.

Even more importantly, keyword research keeps you from interjecting your personal preferences into business decisions. You may have grown up in a household where the term “parasol” was used. Does it matter what term you would enter into the search engine? No. It matters what your customers would use.

I remember performing keyword research for a legal site I was building. At that time, the term “Atlanta bankruptcy attorney” had more traffic that did “Atlanta bankruptcy lawyer.” Why? I don’t know and I don’t care. I built my site around the term “Atlanta Bankruptcy Attorney” and after optimizing the site and obtaining quality incoming links, within a few months it was the number one free result in Google.

What tools do you use for keyword research and how has it changed your business?

–Jonathan


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