Roving Report: Learn the Basics of Keyword Research

Keyword Research

Justin Deaville, chief commercial officer of Wordtracker, held a webinar with a group of Wealthy Web Writers recently where he stressed just how vital proper keywords are to your website’s success. While there are free keyword research tools available ― Google has one, for example ― Wordtracker is a premium service which offers research tools to help you dig much deeper into your keywords.

I’m Susanna Perkins, your Roving Reporter. I’ll do my best to summarize in words what Justin demonstrated. He showed us a lot of examples, so if you missed the live webinar I recommend you take the time to review the playback.

The Basics

Justin began with the basics for those who are completely new to keyword research.

Definition of “Keyword”

Justin’s definition of “keyword” is the words that people enter into a search engine when they’re looking for something. A keyword can be a single word, like “pizza,” “camera,” or “allergy.” Or it can be a string of two, three, or more words, like “natural allergy treatments.”

With a single-word keyword, you, as the website owner or developer, don’t know much about what the searcher is looking for and you also face a huge amount of competition. Two-, three-, and four-word keywords are more interesting because they tell you more about what people are looking for, and they are easier to optimize for.

Why Do We Care About Keywords?

If your site, or a page in your site, ranks well in search engines, it can generate an enormous amount of free (“organic”) traffic. Since we’d all rather get traffic for free than pay for it, you want to move your page up in the search-engine rankings.

Proper keyword optimization does just that.

The first thing to optimize is your Headline and Title keywords.

Your Headline, of course, is the title of the article or post.

The Title tag appears at the very top of the browser and tells you briefly what the page is about. For example, if you go to the Wealthy Web Writer page about this webinar and look at the top of your browser, you’ll see the words “Learn the Basics of Keyword Research,” which is the title of the article. This contains the same keywords (“basics of keyword research”) as the page’s URL, “

Justin advised against using just the business name in the Title tag for the home page. “Only the people who know about it will find it,” he stated. Instead, use a keyword that makes it clear what your site is about. If you look at the home page for Wealthy Web Writer, for example, the Title tag doesn’t say “Wealthy Web Writer” at all ― it says “The Writers Roadmap to Making Money Online.”

Website Structure is Crucial

The structure of your site has everything to do with your success in search marketing. In fact, if you do your keyword research properly, your keywords will determine the structure and you’ll develop content people are interested in.

Your site should be broken down into categories, and each category should have its own content. It requires planning, because each target keyword should have its own page optimized for that keyword. Different pages in your site should not target the same keyword, as that causes confusion.

As an example, Justin described a site that sells tea. The site’s purpose should be clear to both human visitors and search engines. The home page is about tea. The site is separated into three categories: green tea, herbal tea, and oolong tea.

The green tea category includes content about the benefits of green tea, Chinese green tea, and green tea with caffeine.

The herbal and oolong tea categories are similarly broken down.

This structure allows the site owner to target one keyword on the home page, “tea,” then target subsets in the category pages. When anyone, including Google or another search engine, looks at the site, there’s no question what it’s about!

Four Steps of Keyword Research

  1. Start with a single idea, then explore it (drill down)

  2. Sort the keyword results into groups

  3. Dig deep, looking for problems real people are asking about that you can solve

  4. Create optimized content that addresses those problems

Don’t create content until you’ve done your keyword research, Justin cautioned. “When does allergy season start” is very different from “I’m allergic to dogs.”

You can find more information about keyword basics in the free book of the same name, available from Wordtracker at

Justin then demonstrated the Wordtracker Keywords tool. He showed us the dashboard page and how to start finding keywords, and mentioned there are a number of help videos in the tool. He walked us step-by-step through the process of finding keywords, and then finding keywords related to those keywords.

To see his step-by-step instructions, you’ll need to review the webinar

“You’ll need hundreds of different keywords, maybe thousands!” Justin asserted. This tool can help you find the keywords you’ll need.

Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve with keyword research. Do you want to attract more visitors, get more sales? The more keywords you have, the more pages you can optimize for, the more people will visit.

Start by casting your net as widely as possible. Create a list of ideas, then explore the market around it as much as possible.

Take a keyword, and search for related keywords. You can do this for as many keywords as you want, and you can export and save the results.

Then, take your results and sort them into groups of people searching for similar things and investigate those niches in more detail.

You can also build lists of keywords grouped together into areas of interest.

“You want to go wide before you go deep,” he told us.

The Long-Tailed Keyword

The “long tail” is a longer keyword phrase that is very specific to what your site offers and what people are looking for, as opposed to the “head,” or single keyword. Some examples include:

  • Convertible wood baby crib (not just “crib”)

  • California mountain climbing tours (not just “mountain climbing”)

  • Recycled pine flooring (not just “wood floors”)

  • Environmentally friendly laundry detergent (not just “laundry detergent”)

More than 94% of traffic comes from long-tailed keywords! Long-tail keyword research is critical to success on the Internet.

Justin described a study which compared short- and long-tailed keyword searches done by real people. Picture a lizard with a one-inch head, he told us. If that lizard represented searches, its head would equal the short keywords and its tail, representing the long-tailed keywords, would be 221 miles long.

If you’re not optimizing for long-tail keywords on your site, you’re missing out on more than 94% of possible traffic.

Justin recommended an article about long-tailed keywords at and another article about keyword research at

Keyword research can be hard work, Justin pointed out. If you spend a little time at the beginning of your project to organize your keyword research, you can add keywords as your site grows.

Wordtracker provides these organizational tools as well.

What Keywords Do You Want to Target?

You’ve done your research and now you have thousands of keywords. Before you decide what content to provide, you need to first decide which keywords to target.

Wordtracker collects data on real searches done by people in the U.S. and the UK. Using their tools, you have an indication of what real people are searching for.

You can view keywords that are actually being searched for in popular categories. In the tool, when you click the word “search” next to each keyword, you are able to dig deeper and deeper into the long-tail keyword possibilities. You can continue digging as long as you want, finding more terms actually being typed into search engines by potential customers.

One webinar attendee asked Justin how we know what keywords people are using to get to our sites. He recommended Google Analytics for that, and added that if you’re already having some success from certain keywords, it’s much easier to build on that success than to start from scratch.

Wordtracker also provides tools to see your competition for selected keywords. For each keyword, Wordtracker shows you:

  • how many searches were done on that keyword

  • how many of the results had the keyword in two specific places: in Anchor and Title. This refers to pages that have the keyword in the Title and also in the Anchor text in a backlink. This measures how serious your competition is.

  • KEI, Keyword Effectiveness Index. This is the number of searches divided by the number in Anchor (see above). This will help you find any mismatches ― keywords with lots of people searching but little competition. Those equal opportunity for you.

If all the metrics faze you, Justin commented, just go ahead and start creating content. Google loves lots of content, and then you can analyze which pages are successful.

Another article which explains how to use the metrics to find great keywords is at

Free 7-Day Trial

If you’re not sure whether Wordtracker is for you, sign up for the free seven-day trial. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee.

A few other links you may find helpful:

A new tool Wordtracker has just made available is called Link Builder. Google decides whether a site should be at the top of the list based on who links to it. With a lot of incoming links, Google recognizes the site as authoritative.

Justin packed a lot into this webinar, so if you haven’t had the chance, it would be a good idea to review it.

I have a couple of sites that can always use more traffic, so I’m off to check out the Wordtracker tools for myself.


Susanna Perkins

Susanna was dragged back, kicking and screaming, into freelancing after losing her job in the banking meltdown in March, '09. One 3-month stint in an appalling temp job persuaded her to get serious about establishing herself as web writer. In March, 2012, she moved to a small town in Panama with her husband and three small dogs. After enjoying the writer's life in the culture of "buenas" and "mañana" for 2-1/2 years, she's returned to the US. At least for now.

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