Author: Ryan Cole
Pay-per-click advertising is great for generating instant traffic to your site, but how effective is it in the long term? Ideally, you’ll continually optimize your campaigns, but you may come to a point where your return on investment levels off and there isn’t any tweaking left to do. This could take weeks or months, and it may lead to a fantastic ROI, but there’s something better than a fantastic ROI – an infinite ROI.
If you invest nothing but your own time into optimizing your site for placement in the organic search listings (the free ones), that’s what your ROI will be – infinite.
Search engine optimization is the best thing you can do to maximize your online marketing results. For the uninitiated, search engine optimization (SEO) refers to methods of making web sites “friendly” to the different search engines. Optimizing your site doesn’t necessarily guarantee high search engine placement, but you’ll have a much better shot at it than those whose sites aren’t optimized. And the core of search engine optimization – the foundation upon which you’ll base your entire optimization strategy – is the choosing of keywords.
Anyone reading this article is likely to know that you can’t simply guess when it comes to keywords. It’s possible to do everything else right but still fail miserably because you optimized your site for keywords that don’t get any searches. So, at the heart of any optimization strategy lies solid keyword research, and the best way to do it is to use a tool like Wordtracker.
Wordtracker is a keyword research tool that uses metacrawler information to pull keywords and keyphrases from search query databases. (Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that – neither did I.) What it means is, Wordtracker helps you find relevant keywords and then tells you how often they get searches. Here’s how to do it:
First, you’ll need to sign up for an account. You can get a free trial, or you can get a paid membership for a day, a week, a month or a year. The free trial is severely limited and not very helpful; it shows results only for MSN, and it allows you to research just 30 keywords at a time. You’ll want results for Google and Yahoo! most of all, and you’ll have to go through hundreds or thousands of terms before you find the really juicy keywords you’ll want to optimize for. That’s why I recommend signing up for a one-day membership at first. You’ll get to try Wordtracker with all the features enabled, and a day’s membership only costs around seven bucks.
Once you have your account, log in to the members area. Click on “Keyword Universe” (top left) and you’ll get a screen prompting you to enter a search term. Enter a generic term as a jumping-off point. For example, if you run an online dating site, you should enter a term like “get dates online” or “internet dating.” It doesn’t matter if the term is incredibly broad; we’ll narrow it down in the next step.
Let’s go ahead and use the dating example for this exercise. I’ve entered the term “online dating,” leaving both the lateral and thesaurus match options checked. This gives us a lot of different related terms we can expand upon, including a bunch that we might not have come up with on our own.
I’ll now click on “online dating” in these results, which brings up a new box on the right side of the screen. This is a list of all the search queries for the term “online dating” that appear in Wordtracker’s database. The first column (“Keyword”) shows the search query; the second (“Count”) shows the number of times the search query appears in the database; the third (“Predict”) predicts the number of searches for that query in any given 24-hour period; and the fourth (“Dig”) lets you “dig deeper” to find even more specific variations of that query (click on the shovel icon to dig deeper). Clicking on a search query in this list will add it to your keyword basket, or you can choose to add all of them at once. I’ll add them all, and then click on the blue arrow in the bottom right corner (“Click here for step 3”).
Now we have a few options. “Export Keywords” sends the list to a text file that you can print out or cut-and-paste. “E-mail Keywords” lets you e-mail the list to yourself or anyone else. “Competition Search” is what we’re really after, so click on that. This will bring you to a screen that lets you choose two search engines to check for competing sites. Definitely choose Google, and you’ll probably want to choose either Yahoo! or MSN for your second one. Leave “KEI Analysis” and “Quotes” set to “Yes,” and then click “Proceed.”
We now come to a page that ranks our keywords by KEI, or Keyword Effectiveness Index. You’ll notice that each search term has been assigned a KEI value. The higher this is, the better the search term; i.e., pick a search term with a high KEI value, and it’ll be easier to optimize your site for it. Each term has a different KEI depending on the search engine, so be sure to check the same terms in different engines, depending on which ones you want to rank on.
According to Wordtracker, KEI is determined by comparing the number of competing sites for that term with the number of times it appears in the Wordtracker database. A KEI value of 10 or less means a poor keyword, between 10 and 100 is a good keyword, between 100 and 400 is an excellent keyword, and 400 and up is a great keyword.
The results for “online dating” don’t look very good. Our best term for Google is “dating agencies online in somerset,” with a KEI value of 84.941. If this happens to be your niche – that is, online dating agencies in Somerset – then this is a fantastic keyword. For most of us, this would be pretty useless. We can see that the next one down is “top online search adult dating service hiv positive dating” with a KEI value of 22.091. Again, probably not quite the niche we’re in, and the KEI isn’t nearly as high as we’d like it to be.
At this point, you’d go back to step one, choose a different result, and repeat the process all over again. With some patience, you’ll uncover those juicy niche keywords with high counts and low competition, and these are the words you’ll optimize your site for.
Heard enough? Now go sign up for Wordtracker!
About the Author:
To see a version of this tutorial with screen shots from Wordtracker for each step, visit the article page at The Internet Marketing Blog.
Go here to learn more about Wordtracker.