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1.2 Choosing Keywords

Keyword tag cloud

In fact, we′ll carry out the keyword research in two steps:

  • First, we′ll make a huge list of words to choose from.
  • Then, we′ll sort them out and make a short list of the most profitable ones.

Here, I have a thing to tell you: as ever, there are options, both winning, to choose between.

First on every step, I describe a free but tedious way to get what you need. It′s free but it takes one or two working days each time you go through it. Still even if you′re going to save your time and stick with the faster option, you′d better not skip other pages. You won′t regret reading them, as you′ll have a great chance to learn how Search Engines and special SEO software work.

After that, I′ll get down to the faster option: a smooth keyword tool that makes keyword research a snap and also makes a lot of work for you at further steps.

So let′s start.

1.2.1 Getting keywords from everywhere and nowhere

Option 1: Free Keyword Research DIY

Make your first list of keywords

As of now, you have to exercise your brains a while. So get ready, it′s time for brainstorming. To start with, make a list of every word or phrase you can think of that people might use to find what your site offers. Ask anyone you can to give you ideas — you never guess what alternatives your colleagues can offer.

Just like my boss often searches for Search Engine marketing — and I prefer website promotion, any of your colleagues or friends may have a different idea of how your product can be found. If there is no one to ask, use Thesaurus to search for synonyms.

And, use an Excel spreadsheet to put each keyword as a separate record in it, as you′ll need to do some calculations later.

Think of some keyphrases

After you have a list of single words, think of keyphrases. Try to combine the words you have on your list, or add other relevant words that better describe your product or service. Again, ask your friends and colleagues for input and try to find people that are within your site′s target audience to get an idea of how they would search.

Also, take into consideration variations in terminology as determined by one′s age, profession, what part of the world they are from, and so on. Remember that there are often several ways of saying the same thing.

The simple example is headphones. My dad rather calls them headsets. And Mike often says earphones.

And, first and foremost, my advice here is:

Sponge Bob advice

Answers can come from most unexpected places. Want an example?

You already know about my son Mike. Now it′s time to introduce his younger brother, Andy. He′s 9 and I call him an SEO genius.

Maybe I am cheating, but maybe I′m just a good father :) — you decide. The thing is, we sometimes play a game. I give him a word or a couple of words — and his task is to think of all possible word combinations that relate. Yeah, I′m a practical guy :), but he gets some pocket money in return!

And you never guess what ideas this little cunning brain can have! I′d never coin such combinations with my 42–year background. Besides, it′s a way to develop Andy′s imagination. Maybe he′ll turn the #1 rich guy on the planet?

And the thing is: the fewer things people know about SEO, the better keyword ideas come to their minds.

Use the web to get more

Once you have a good starting list of 20–40 words, use Search Engine databases to refine it and see what people have actually searched for when looking for similar sites. Here′re the three most popular resources for doing that:

Google′s Keyword Tool — Quite a useful thing. Select to generate keyword ideas with Descriptive Words or Phrases. Enter a keyword for the start and go ahead to get a nice list of keywords.

Google Trends

The good thing about Google Trends is that it provides keyword data for a selected time period and thus lets you see which keywords are seasonal. As they say, forewarned — forearmed. Knowing when people search for your targeted keywords and when they don′t will help you foresee potential traffic (and, consequently, conversions and profit) drops and increases.

Insert over time in Google Google Trends for "buy headphones"

The results provided by the tool are also broken down by region, city, language, category and time range. On the screenshot above you can clearly see that most of all people search for headphones in December. This can be applicable to many e–commerce products, as in December we start looking for Christmas presents, don′t we?

Google Trends also has a "Hot Searches" feature that shows the top 10 queries in a selected region on a given date. Somehow, I am not surprised that guys search for "Halloween history" on October 31st, and "santa tracker" on December 25th

However, what we are currently interested in is the "Related terms" box, where you may get additional keyword ideas for your research.

Related terms in Google Trends
Related terms in Google Trends

My experience shows that this tool is useful for analyzing some very fresh keywords that have not so many searches and are neglected in Google AdWords Keyword Tool stats.

Wordtracker is a paid service for regular use, but it offers the benefit of a free version, which can be used to complete your keyword research if you are fairly organized.

Free Wordtracker is almost equally useful as the paid one. If you enter your main keyword, Wordtracker lists out suggestions for other popular search terms that contain that particular word or phrase. However, like any free tool, it has a few downsides. For instance, it won′t store your keywords for future use, it only gives you 100 suggestions and lets you get suggestions for just one word at a time.

Keyword Discovery can also be quite helpful, as long as it′s free. The drawback is again, that you can only ask for suggestions for one keyword at a time, and won′t be able to check more than 100 keywords daily. Besides, like the rest of free tools, it won′t store your keywords for the future

Keyword Discovery results
Keyword Discovery results

Übersuggest is another free keywords suggestion tool to help you expand your list of keywords.

SEMRush is a valuable tool too, especially if you have a subscription. Among other reports, it provides you with related keywords, and the list of domains that rank for this or that term.

SEMRush results SEMRush results

Spy on competitors

Let us be honest: each SEO is a spy. As any marketers, we always keep an eye on our competitors to get more ideas. So don′t miss a chance to borrow some nice keywords from your peers.

One of the ways is to use the free Google Keyword Tool again. Choose some keyword phrase you′d like to use and enter it in Google′s search field. That′s a way to find the top websites you would have to compete with

Here′s an example of how it′s done:
Say, you sell headphones. First, type in buy headphones in Google to see who your main competitors are.

Top sites for the 'buy headphones' keyword in Google Top sites for the "buy headphones" keyword in Google

On the screenshot above you see your online competitors. To make the research more efficient, you may perform a quick examination of each of them to decide whether you ACTUALLY compete with it or not.

For example, we are definitely not interested in competing with Wikipedia (though, unfortunately, you′ll probably have to), and are less interested in peeping into the keywords targeted by a large e–commerce website where all types of products are sold (like Tesco, Amazon or What we need are websites selling the range of products similar to yours. That′s why for deeper analysis we selected … wait for it …

Now you copy this URL ( to the clipboard, go to Google Keyword Tool, and instead of entering keywords, enter your competitor′s URL into the "Website" field.

Now wait a couple of minutes, and Google will surprise you with a great list of keywords your competition is using. How about noise cancelling earphones or in ears headphones? Might bring you visitors, too.

Google Keyword Tool Google Keyword Tool

On the second tab (Ad group ideas) the ideas are sorted by groups (pretty obvious, right?), which allows you to quickly select the groups of products you offer and would like to promote.

Now check some more competitors the same way — and see how your keyword list grows bigger, with the new keyword ideas you′d never think of!

Another way to see what keywords are targeted by your competitors is to check their meta <keywords> tags. At the dawn of SEO it was believed that these tags had some influence on rankings. Therefore, SEOs began stuffing these tags with keywords they wanted to rank for. Of course, such manipulative tactics were quickly noticed by Google with the tags becoming unimportant, but some people continue filling them with keywords or simply do not delete the existing ones.

Whatever the reason may be, there are some meta keywords on

Meta keywords Meta keywords

Now it′s your turn. Go to your competitor′s website main page, click Ctrl+U and there′ll appear a page with the source code, at the top of which you′ll see the desired Meta keywords tag. It can be found in the , i.e. at the top of the source code page. You can either scan it yourself, or click Ctrl+F and start entering the word "keywords". After you enter a few letters, the tag will be highlighted.

Put human mistakes at your service

By the way, it′s a good thing to consider misspelled keywords. Your SEO in Practice guide is the rare SEO book that will mention it, but that′s a great way to get new ideas without even using any special keyword tool.

Think of misspellings that may occur for the keywords you want to target. People do make mistakes when they type in search terms. And this does happen more often than you might think, believe me.

Want to check it yourself? Type gaurantee in Google. I′ve just checked and found 2,720,000. Those are the smart guys! Or even better, try sports equiptment. Brings 7,390,000 results! So as you see, people do misspell words, use them on their sites, optimize for them and get a good portion of traffic

Misspelled keywords results Misspelled keywords results

Now come on, let′s make a "Welcome" sign for all absent–minded guys: use a couple of misspellings on your site — and you′ll get your portion of traffic.

So keep misspelled keywords, since if you misspell them, others might do the same and find exactly your page. And, for the time being, just put misspellings on your list.

Everyone loves the local guy!

It′s sometimes very useful to localize your keywords. For instance, a guy from Bronx won′t search for simply car wash. He will type in car wash New York, or even more likely car wash Bronx. So if you optimize for a localized term, you′ll get more visitors who want to get what you offer exactly where you offer.

Therefore, if your business location matters, what you have to do now is, create keyword combinations with local names.

Tiny variations make a great matter

Most Search Engines (like Google and Yahoo!) make a distinction between singular and plural forms, as well as stemmed variations — gender forms, or "–ing", "–ed" forms.

So don′t forget it may be very useful for you to target different forms of the same words as well. It′ll bring some portion of searchers to your site.

Maybe not that many of them, but as long as you make a sale, it′s worth the effort.

Like, if your main term is birthday cards, it′s wise to consider birthday card as well. Come on, type these terms in Google! You get 140,000,000 results for birthday cards — and 232,000,000 for birthday card. Now, if you optimize for both terms, you′re the smartest!

Now the talk comes to using software for keyword research — that′s for getting new keyword ideas, checking how profitable they′ll be and tracking positions of the already selected ones. So go ahead, your SEO book shows you how simple and fast it can be with a brilliant keyword tool.


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#1727 2010-12-04 06:09:53 Fran De la

Hi Dan Thank you for all the nice tips, your knowledge put this progran on asecond to none position. I have spend lots on money just experimenting with different SEO programs and I have learn more with this and with your coaching, that I learned abot SEO in the last 15 years.

I am stil learning and I have many questions, but I now I will find the answer as I progress. to me this is the best investment I made.

By the way, one question I have, once I find the higher key word. Do I have to go th the html editor on the page source, and enter those keywords manualy, or do the progam does that.?

Sincerely, yours,

Francisco De La Cruz
cima capital Resources.

#1730 2010-12-07 10:46:45 Dan Richmond

No program will write text on your site for you, you will need to edit the page elements yourself using any way you usually do it. It's not only about adding the keywords but also keeping the text appealing and readable.

#1702 2010-11-25 02:44:11 joseph hudgins

using misspelled keywords is a great tip. These keywords are important because we all spell wrong and do it more than once a day especially searching the web. A lot of times we do it without even noticing so thanks for pointing that out. Spying on your competition and using there keywords is a great Idea and is used everyday in every business around the world. That's how you stay on top of your competition. Google keywords I love it.

#1625 2010-10-23 05:06:49 GARY BRYANT

Hi Dan,

First of all thanks for this valuable information. I am still new to the internet deal, and I have re-read the chapter above three times and still can't understand when you are showing how to find keywords that a top competitor for a keyword you want to possibly put on your own site and compete for (in this case, it was petfoodsdirect and the keyword phrase was "dog food") the picture shows the competitors keywords that they have on their pages? Then you just to a conclusion I can't understand:

Now wait a couple of minutes, and Google will surprise you with a great list of keywords your competition is using. How about premium pet food, or dog care products? Might bring you visitors, too.

I don't see "premium pet food" or "dog care products" at all on the picture. So, am I supposed to come up with a synonym for the keywords used by the competitor and create my own keyword that I don't even know what their search volumes are yet? Or, maybe, those keywords were in the there, but they got cropped out of the picture? Can you please elaborate on this important concept? I just can't get it yet...

#1630 2010-10-25 07:10:37 Dan Richmond

> I don't see "premium pet food" or "dog care products" at all on the picture.

Sorry, did not think it would be taken so literally. "Premium pet food" and "dog care products" are found in the table produced by the Google AdWords keyword tool while analyzing your competitor's site although yes, they are not on the picture. That's the idea of the section - use the keyword combinations and variations found by all kinds of methods and if they bring traffic (have a decent number of searches) - use them on your site.

#1612 2010-10-16 23:00:51 kislay kumar

Dear Dan,

I am kislay, working with my website <a href="">
</a>. It's website hosting and domain registration company.infact my products are best and i know if people visit it they shall buy. but when i was going to start with keyword reseaching, I saw that there is huge competitor in this categorie i was little upset to see that but I know nothing is impossible in this world. It would be better if you will give some advice

#1631 2010-10-25 07:15:54 Dan Richmond

So what exactly is your question? After a quick glance at your site I can say everything looks fine... Obviously except for the video that starts buffering and playing by itself :)

#1602 2010-10-13 12:52:47 sophie yuan

Dear Dan,

I am woking a new website and need to add products and categories on there. I am confused how to make good categories and products name. I used your softwear nemed Rank Tracker and get keywords suggestion from related keywords suggestion. Those keywords are high KEI, but the search volumn is not so high, it is range from 10000-1000000. we are planning to optimize this size after i complete it. Do you have any suggestion about making products categories and products name? can i use those keywords from related keywords?

Looking forward to hearing from you,


#1635 2010-10-26 11:40:34 Dan Richmond

Not quite sure what your question is. Yes, you can use the keywords you got from the suggestor. The higher the competition the harder it will be for you to reach the top ranks, of course, but at the same time high search volume will guarantee you a lot of rewarding traffic.

#1641 2010-10-28 05:45:26 sophie yuan

Thank you, Dan.

#1583 2010-10-02 13:31:44 Edward Beckett

Regrading the Excel Spreadsheet method of keyword research. This is the identical way I do my keyword research. And it works. Not bragging here, but I've made quite a living from SEO over the last five years and this keyword research model is damned near the bullet-proof way to find the best keywords ...

I like to think that I'm fairly thorough about doing keyword research. I set up my spreadsheet with color coded - formulated formatting in each column. So, after I grab about 150 keyword ideas from Google's Adwords Keyword Tool External ... in my first column, I import the new keywords. In the second column, I look-up the same keyword(s) in Keyword Discovery. In the third column, I have the amount of searches per month (via keyword discovery) and in the fourth column I've customized my spreadsheet to display which keywords are going to have the greatest KEI. I use my own metric here ... I typically find that keywords that are searched for 100+ a month are good enough for conversion. However, that also depends in the amount of keyword saturation in my target SERP » Google. So, I also add that metric in too ...

For the keyword saturation metric, I take the keyword and rap it in quotes like so - "Link-Assistant Affiliates" - and then perform the query in the search engine (Google of course.)

What this gives me is the amount of sites that have the phrase "Link-Assistant Affiliates" In the title of their site ... thereby giving me the competition level I have to consider.

For competitive markets - I like to go after any keyword with less than 100,000 competitors. For less competitive markets I might go with 75,000 and below. In this instance I referring to tier-one and two keywords, not long-tails. For long-tails, I would go with anything under 25,000. You've got a hell of a good chance of getting significant rankings with less than 25,000 competitors.

Using all of these factors, my spreadsheet gives me a total overview of the keywords I want to use in my SEO campaign.


#1634 2010-10-26 11:36:40 Dan Richmond

Nice, thanks for sharing that!

#1485 2010-09-04 02:23:44 eugenio balasa

I hope cos this website is "dedicated for me"
I need to know for an ex:
My wife have and recently we ad an category adds My question is if the site has 8 categories and 30 subcategories,the keywords and keyfraze can put in the backend section of each of subcategory in the sense that, if a sale is, selling houses, selling cars, etc. so we put the 80-100 keys in every subcategory in keywords box? like subcategory is Rochii Mireasa ( wedding dress ) here the key are: Rochie de mireasa, Rocii mireasa, roci mireasa, rocii miresa, rocie mireasa, rocie miresa, rochie mireasa, rochii mireasa, rochii de inchiriat, Rochie alba, rochii albe, rochii de inchiriat, rochie, we do for all the subcategori?

#1448 2010-08-31 16:31:42 Ivo Ignatov

Hi everyone! :)

I think when I make SEO for Google the best way is to use Google keyword tool.

What is your opinion?

#1420 2010-08-18 21:25:04 Vladimir Arkhipov

I simply could not fall asleep after have found your site!

#1424 2010-08-19 10:15:55 Giuseppe Pellegrino

The same for me !!!

#1397 2010-08-15 03:10:29 anca balasa

Hello Dan. This is very usefuly, now I start my work t0q a lot

#1423 2010-08-19 06:31:25 Giuseppe Pellegrino

Ciao Anca Balasa,
ho esaminato il tuo sito ed ho applicato gli insegnamenti di questo sito ai primi due paragrafi del primo capitolo. Il tuo maggior competitor in Romania è, le sue parole e frasi chiave sono le seguenti:
modele rochii de mirease, accesorii nunti, decor nunti, pantofi mireasa, marturii, organizari nunti, rochie nunta, rochie mireasa, rochii ocazie, rochi mireasa, decor nunta, modele rochii, rochi mireasa demetriis, nunta alba, site nunti, accesorii mireasa, rochi mireasa alba, moda rochii, rochii bucaresti, rochii, luminari nunta, organizare nunta, nunta, moda pantaloni, nunti targoviste, nunta bucaresti, nunta targu jiu, moda funci, rochiii nunti, rochie nunta, moda incaltaminte, nunti bucaresti, restaurante nunti,pozi rochii mireasa, invitatii nunta, moda sport.
Queste sono le keyword e le frasi del tuo maggior competitor sotto la keyword: Rochii de mireasa.
Come puoi notare anche tu, tra le diverse parole figurano anche dei mispelle !!!

#1422 2010-08-19 05:46:40 Giuseppe Pellegrino

I went to see your website, I like it wery much, now I would like to apply on your website the 1st an the 2th paragraph of this lessons, now I go to study your competitor's kwywords on google.

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