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The ultimate guide to keyword research

SEO is undoubtedly the most important tool when it comes to increasing traffic to your website. And selecting the best keywords and phrases is vital

If you are new to keyword research, we recommend you read Keyword research — a beginner’s guide. However, if you are ready for more in-depth guidance, this ultimate guide is comprehensive and full of valuable advice. It is written by Glen Allsopp, a young entrepreneur who has built websites with large followings using SEO and social media. He shares a lot of his knowledge on his popular website, ViperChill. Here, he reveals the secrets of effective keyword research.

Utilising the power of the keyphrases that people use online has enabled me to make a full-time income since February 2009. I spend my life doing nothing but using my own tactics, coupled with powerful resources, to analyse industries in order to get more website traffic. And, in-turn, make more money. This is known by many as Keyword Research.

It is this keyword research that has allowed me to get 981,000 unique organic search visitors to a 3 month old website, grow blogs faster than I ever thought was possible and – more than anything – allowed me to be free from a boss and the 9-5 grind.

I say this because I want you to understand how important keyword research actually is. You may know one or two places where keyword research can be applied, such as in deciding on a keyphrase to build an affiliate website around or when generating blog post ideas. In reality though, keyword research involves so much more than that.

My aim with this article is to show you the dozens of uses that keyword research has, unique ways to find popular terms, and how to capitalise on your findings. After all, keyword research ultimately allows us to see exactly what consumers are looking for online. Until the internet came along there was no way to get such important insights in so many industries.

As I hope you expect of me by now, I have dedicated days to this blog post and given it my all. As such I have no doubt that you’ll learn something new, and hopefully get a lot of value from what I have to share. Ready? Let’s get started…

The Three Types of Keyphrases

Though keyphrases can be used for much more than just focusing on certain terms and trying to get search engine rankings for them, that is personally a big part of my own strategy (and my income). Keyphrases in this sense are simply queries that people type into the likes of Google or Bing in order to find whatever they’re looking for online.

Most SEO’s generally split keyphrases into two main categories. The head, and the tail. I tend to side with a smaller group of people and prefer to split the billions of keyphrases out there into three groups. The head, the body, and the tail.

Head Keyphrases are generally just one or two words, and very popular. Terms like Facebook, Marketing, Forex and eBay are examples of this.

Body Keyphrases are generally two to three words, and get searched for less than Head keyphrases, but there are more of them. Examples of Body keyphrases could be Facebook Banners (surprisingly popular), Online Marketing, Forex News and eBay Motors.

Tail Keyphrases usually contain three or more words and individually get searched for less than Head and Body keyphrases, but again, there are more of them. Examples of tail keyphrases include Online Marketing Expert San Diego and Forex Trading Software Online.

I have made a graphic to represent this information which you can find below:

Tail Keyphrases
(Note: Graphics in this post are not to exact scale)

To be even more specific, in this example model let’s say that Head keyphrases account for the top 1,000 keyphrases used online while Body keyphases make up the top 1,000 to 10,000 keyphrases. Anything beyond that, in my own model, is known as the “Longtail”. Even though each long tail keyword is generally searched for just a few times per month, long tail searches surprisingly make up over 70% of all queries.

To help you visualise this, I’ve made another graphic:

Tail Keyphrases Red

To take things even further, it may surprise you to learn that keyphrases with 7 words in them actually make up around 1.78% of all searches performed online. While that’s a tiny fraction, remember that it’s a tiny fraction of a number which exceeds 90 billion (searches per month) in total, for Google alone.

Finding Keyphrases for Traffic and/or Money

Finding keyphrases header

When finalising which keyphrases I want to focus on for various projects, I never focus on Head terms. Since these are the top 1,000 searches online each month, they’re often brand names (e.g. Yahoo) or broad terms (e.g. marketing), where it’s not so obvious what the searcher is looking for.

Instead, I personally focus on Body and Tail phrases. As a rule of thumb, I view body searches as anything getting between 1,000 and 200,000 exact searches per month (I’ll show you how to find this out in a moment). Tail phrases then will get less than 1,000 searches per month each.

We’re going to begin by looking at my most popular sources for each type of keyphrase, and then look in-depth at how to apply keyword research to both blogging and affiliate marketing.

My Most Powerful Long-Tail Keyphrase Source

I haven’t heard anyone else online talking about this strategy (I discovered it by accident) and I’ve never revealed it before on ViperChill so you’ll definitely want to keep reading. Forums, by default, are one of the best types of websites you can own in order to get maximum search engine traffic. The pure mass of user generated content that is created on them, in an organised and crawlable way, can bring millions of free visitors to forum owners around the world each month.

Don’t worry though, this tactic does not involve owning a forum. It involves utilising a popular plugin that many of them have installed. I don’t know the name of the plugin, but basically it adds a section to all forum threads which shows the queries people typed in Google to find that page.

You can see an example of this on the bottom of a random thread on a fishing forum:

Fishing forum thread

Using this little tactic you can view the exact keyphrases that are driving traffic to other sites in your niche. Many of them are long-tail, and many of them are very easy to make money from.

Simply search for the following phrase in Google (replacing niche with any industry you want to):

  • “visitors found this page by searching for” niche

Scroll to the bottom of any of the search results that you open and you should see terms which drive traffic to these other webmasters.

Like I said, I haven’t heard anyone talking about this and I’ve never spoken about it before. I’ve recently been using  this to generate keyphrases for content ideas and backlink efforts and they have aided my own traffic levels considerably. That means that if you want to really benefit from this, then take action sooner rather than later. I have a large audience here at ViperChill (we’ve just passed 16,000 subscribers, thanks!) and the majority know a great opportunity when they see one.

Useful for: Body Keyphrases, Tail Keyphrases

A Little-Known Way to View Wikipedia’s Analytics

One little-known tool I like to use when finding out how popular a niche really is can be found at Stats.Grok.se. This resource shows you how many views each Wikipedia article gets per day. This is useful because the majority of visits to any Wikipedia page are sent by search engines. And, since Wikipedia usually ranks in the top 1-3 results (usually number 1, let’s be honest) for Head and Body terms, you can get an idea of how many searches are being made each day.

Here is the daily view count for a term I’m targeting with this website, “viral marketing”:

Wikipedia daily view count

You can even check how view counts changed over time, and view stats for literally any page on the website. This has been useful to me on a number of occasions.

Useful for: Head Keyphrases, Body Keyphrases, Tail Keyphrases

Google Keyword Tool

The Google Keyword Tool is the most popular and talked about tool when it comes to keyword research. Created primarily for people who use Googles’ Adwords service, it allows you to enter search terms and get an estimated number of monthly searches each term receives.

You can filter your results by exact match and broad keywords, and even drill down search volumes for specific countries and people speaking certain languages. I personally enter a few of the top phrases related to my niche into the search box here and then organise them by exact match results, and by the highest search volume.

“Exact match” basically means people are only searching for the term as it is shown, and it’s not missing or adding any words to the figures (like with broad match). Since I build sites for an English audience, I leave on the tools’ default setting to target anyone speaking English.

Useful for: Head Keyphrases, Body Keyphrases, Tail Keyphrases

Google Webmaster Ranking Terms

If you sign-up to Google Webmaster Tools (free) then one section of the console allows you to see which phrases people are entering into Google where your website turns up as a result. This doesn’t necessarily mean that people are clicking on your link, but that it is showing in the top results for certain terms.

This information can help you see which pages on your site could do with a little SEO help in terms of on-site tweaks or link building, which can in turn get you more search engine traffic. It’s often easier to focus on terms that just need a little “boost”, rather than starting totally from scratch with a phrase.

Wordtracker Free Keyword Tool

Though I used to use this tool a lot more in the past than I do now (I rarely build new sites), the Wordtracker Keyword Tool was a staple in my research arsenal for quite some time. Second only to the Google Keyword Tool in my opinion for stats that actually come from sources, the offering gathers its data from Dogpile and MetaCrawler.

According to SEOmoz, Wordtracker also get their data from search queries performed on Yahoo. I can’t actually find any information about this on the Wordtracker website, so hopefully someone can clarify. The thing I like about this tool the most is that it’s much easier to dig down into phrases to find even longer and less searched variations. Variations that could help get a lot of traffic if actioned upon.

Useful for: Head Keyphrases, Body Keyphrases, Tail Keyphrases

Google Trends & Hot Trends

If you’re a member of the VIP forums, go and check this thread on “How to Find a $10,000 Keyphrase in 30 Seconds“. I recently sent out the content inside to cloud niche subscribers and many said it was the best email they’ve received from me.

Otherwise, check out the post on how I got 980,000 visitors to a site I owned from free search engine traffic. All thanks to Google Trends (and the site was only 3 months old).

Google Trends and Google HotTrends basically show you which terms around the world are popular right now. Since around 20% – 25% of searches in Google every single day have never been searched for before in the history of the search engine, you can conclude that many of the items in HotTrends are going to be based around current events.

Useful for: Head Keyphrases, Body Keyphrases, Tail Keyphrases

The Power of Questions (Yahoo Answers)

A large majority of searches performed online each day are questions. Questions are often centered around problems, and problems are something that can generally be monetised with ease. Yahoo! own a huge knowledge-base of questions and answers on the aptly named Yahoo! Answers.

Simply enter any terms relevant to your chosen industry into the search box and you’ll see relevant questions around that topic. You can even sort these by which are the most popular, to find out what that audience is really passionate about.

Useful for: Body Keyphrases, Tail Keyphrases

SEOmoz Popular Searches Tool

A bit like with Google Trends, SEOmoz gather the top terms from a number of sources around the web each day to give you a fuller picture of what really is “Hot” online. Data is gathered from Delicious, eBay Pulse, Amazon Most Popular Tags and Technorti Popular, among other resources.

The data changes each day and you can go back as far as 2009 to see which trends were popular this time last year. You can start by viewing a recent days data with the tool over here.

Useful for: Head Keyphrases, Body Keyphrases

Market Samurai Desktop Software

In all honesty, I had never needed Market Samurai (no affiliate). It is one of those tools that I would hear about all of the time, but didn’t think I would find much use for it in my research arsenal. I was wrong, but only slightly. I haven’t digged into Market Samurai as much as I could, but for quick research it certainly saves me a lot of time.

One of my favourite tool features is analysing how competitive search results actually are. Though I enjoy doing this manually to verify what I’m seeing, MS allows you to see tons of factors about every page that ranks for certain terms, enabling you to quickly diagnose reasons why you may not be ranking.

Market Samurai

At $149 it isn’t free nor cheap, but I definitely think the price is worth it. I know how much work going into creating and supporting software, and Market Samurai has already been updated a couple of times since I purchased it.

Useful for: Head Keyphrases, Body Keyphrases, Tail Keyphrases

Alexa Search Stats

Though Alexa is highly scrutinised for its inaccuracies and ranking bias towards sites in the marketing industry, one feature you can find on their website does provide some interesting insights into your competitors. Simply enter any site URL on their search form (here’s ViperChill’s page) and then on the bottom right of each page you’ll see top search phrases used to find that site.

Now and then I will find examples of this where the phrases were definitely not popular on my site but they’ll show on Alexa. For the most part though, it’s fairly accurate for most of my websites.

Useful for: Head Keyphrases, Body Keyphrases

Page Comparison Tool

I came across this little tool recently in my hunt to make sure I hadn’t missed anything cool from this article. The idea behind Aaron Wall’s Page Comparison Tool really intrigued me. Basically it tells you the most popular two, three and more keyword phrases that can be found across multiple URL’s that you input.

The idea is great, but the tools execution isn’t so much. It was picking up a lot of HTML code in the results which really messed up the stats. That being said, it’s free, and there’s a chance you can find some great terms with a bit of digging.

Useful for: Head Keyphrases, Body Keyphrases

Compete

Just like Alexa (two above), Compete share what they believe to be the top 5 search terms that send traffic to certain websites. You could then enter the URL’s of the most popular sites in your industry and see what is working for them.

Again keep in mind that these are very rarely accurate, but can often give you some good keyphrase ideas.

Useful for: Head Keyphrases, Body Keyphrases.

Google Suggest

Whenever you type a fairly popular term into the Google search box, suggestions for other keyphrases related to your term appear. These are shown by Google to help you find what you’re looking for, quicker. Based on this, it’s easy to assume that the related keyphrases are the most commonly searched over a period of time.

Google Suggest

There have been quite a few “Suggest Bombings”, where people continually search for certain search terms to manipulate the suggestions Google displays. This gives more evidence to the belief that the suggestions here are what people are really searching for.

Useful for: Body Keyphrases, Tail Keyphrases

Mine Your Own Analytics

I’ll admit that I haven’t used this for content ideas, but I’ve definitely used it for niche ideas. When I started to make a lot of money with affiliate marketing it was because I stumbled across a popular group of keyphrases that were really easy to rank for.

Even better was when I realised that these popular keyphrases could be applied to any niche (just change the niche modifier) and the search results were equally uncompetitive.

You don’t always have to use other resources to give you ideas. You could just use the data from the traffic you already get to your site to see if you can tap into other industries or write more in-depth content on certain topics.

Useful for: Body Keyphrases, Tail Keyphrases

In Summary

I know that 15 resources as interesting as these are a lot to take in at once, so here’s a little table that you can refer to in the future (or scan now for reference) to help you decide which tools to use. Please note that the table looks much better if you actually read this article on ViperChill.com

Source

Head

Body

Tail

Forum Referrals

Table tick

Table tick

Wikipedia Analytics

Table tick

Table tick

Table tick

Google Keyword Tool

Table tick

Table tick

Table tick

Google Webmasters

Table tick

Table tick

Table tick

Market Samurai

Table tick

Table tick

Table tick

Wordtracker Keyword Tool

Table tick

Table tick

Table tick

Google Trends / Hot Trends

Table tick

Table tick

Table tick

Yahoo Answers

Table tick

SEOmoz Popular

Table tick

Table tick

Table tick

Alexa Search Stats

Table tick

Table tick

Page Comparison Tool

 

Table tick

Compete Stats

Table tick

Table tick

Google Suggest

Table tick

Table tick

Mine Your Analytics

Table tick

Table tick

Table tick

We’ll now be looking into two strategy specific applications for keyword research. I’ll first take you through how keyword research can be used in blogging, and then share how I apply it to affiliate marketing.

The Blogger’s Guide to Keyword Research

Bloggers guide header

Keyword research can be useful in many aspects of blogging. There are four main topics that I want to cover in this section, but before I do that I want to share a little tip with you. If you’re using WordPress and have a search box on your blog, go and install a plugin like Search Meter to see exactly what your visitors are entering into that box.

If you use a Google Custom Search Engine on your site then you’ll be able to see this data as well. If you find that a lot of people are searching for a certain term or asking a certain question then you can write about that topic, as it’s clearly something people are interested in.

The three main sections that I’m now going to look at are:

  • Your homepage title
  • Your post headline and titles
  • Resource pages

I’ll show you which type of phrases work best for each element and which tools can help you find them.

Your Homepage Title

Many bloggers make the mistake of thinking that their blog title has to be a description of what your blog is about, or should only include their blog name. Doing so is not inherently bad, but it could mean that you’re missing a lot of search traffic.

As is the case for most blogs, your blog homepage tends to be the most powerful on your site. By powerful I mean that search engines will view it as one of the most authoritative pages on your site, since it’s likely that page will attract the most links from other websites. This makes the page better to rank for more competitive terms.

Since I plan on running a blog for years when I start it, there’s no harm in picking more competitive keyphrases which are going to be harder to rank for.

When I was running a personal development blog, I decided to use the phrase “Personal Development” in my homepage title tag. The keyphrase was targeted to what I was writing about, and received 30,000 exact searches every single month. Thanks to some backlinking efforts, I was able to rank 5th in Google for the phrase, and receive thousands of visitors each month for doing so.

It took me around 10 months in total to rank on the first page of Google for the term, but the wait is worth it since it brings in so many visitors each month. When choosing your own title phrase, I recommend that you pick a term which has between 5,000 and 60,000 exact searches per month (according to the GKT – Google Keyword Tool).

More popular terms will generally be harder to rank for, and anything with a lower monthly search count is not utilising the power of your homepage in its entirety. Try to pick something that is related to what you’re writing about.

On that note I should add that this is not a guide on how to choose a niche for your blog. 

I easily came across the term Personal Development because that was the exact topic I was writing about. Viral marketing, which is the phrase I have in ViperChill’s homepage title tag, was not as easy to come by. I don’t actually write that much about viral marketing. I simply found that the term (which was found, again, with the GKT) received a lot of monthly searches and wasn’t too competitive.

Viral Marketing search

I was right when I was quickly able to rank 4th in Google for the term (I currently hover around 4th and 5th) and now receive close to one thousand visitors per month for the phrase. Visitors that would probably never have found me otherwise.

Viral Marketing Google search

The Quick Win Title

I’ve wrote about quick wins a few times on this blog so I won’t go into them in too much detail here. Quick Wins, in the way that I view them, are basically extensions of your main keyphrase that you use in your homepage title tag. For example, a long-term keyphrase (more competitive) could be viral marketing, whereas a quick win keyphrase for my homepage could be viral marketing case study.

Since the phrase is longer and less popular, it’s likely that the phrase will be much easier to rank for. You can even help your efforts towards a long term phrase – like viral marketing – with link building for the longtail phrase, since they mostly contain the same words.

I find that Quick Wins apply more to affiliate ventures than they do to blogging, however, since the longtail version of a keyphrase is rarely smart to have as the branding phrase of your blog.

Post Headlines and Titles

Some of the keyword research tools mentioned above are excellent for coming up with post ideas for you to write about. Two of my favourites, for this specific purpose, being Yahoo Answers and Google Suggest. The Google Keyword tool, as usual, is also a great tool to help you with brainstorming.

When I was looking for post ideas a few months ago, I returned to the GKT and started entering some of the broad topics that I cover here on ViperChill. “SEO”, “Split testing”, “Affiliate marketing” and others were just a few of my queries. One query which let me to taking action, was “Social Media”.

Through this I found that the related keyphrase – social media strategy – gets searched for 6,600 (exact) times per month. At quick glance the search results didn’t look particularly competitive and social media strategies were actually one topic that I wanted to cover.

I contacted a number of friends online to see if they would share their best tactics with me, and then compiled all of the resulting answers into one huge blog post. It gained a ton of links and, in time, started ranking on the first page of Google for ‘social media strategy’.

One thing I should add is that the headline I used for the post and the title that is shown to search engine spiders / web browsers is not the same. The headline for the blog post is actually “Social Media Supremacy: [...]” as shown below:

Social media supremacy

Whereas in the title tag of your browser, or in Google search results, you’ll see “Social Media Strategy“…

Social media strategy

I did this on purpose, simply because I couldn’t find an easy way to use the actual term, social media strategy in an enticing way that was likely to help me get eyeballs on the post and backlinks in return. I changed the title using a free WordPress plugin you can find on my huge guide to WordPress SEO.

I’ve managed to attain other rankings for popular keyphrases by following a very similar strategy. ViperChill currently ranks 2nd for the phrase WordPress SEO, which gets over 6,000 searches per month. Below you can also see me ranking first for the term “Guest Blogging” which also gets a few thousand searches every single month:

Google guest blogging search

My best advice for your posts headlines is to use all of the tools (above) that you have available to you. Any one of them can spark ideas which can help you write on popular topics. I’ve personally found that really covering a subject in-depth is the best way to ensure that you get backlinks to your post and start ranking for your related terms.

It’s not just the internet marketing niche where I’ve had success with this either. I ranked 2nd in Google for the phrase ‘Personality Development’ when I used to own PluginID, from following the exact steps I’ve just outlined. The phrase received 30,000 exact searches per month and while it wasn’t something I had previously heard of, was a topic I decided to research and write about.

At the end of the day, I always recommend that you write for your readers instead of search engine spiders. But if you can add some little tweaks to your approach and get more search engine traffic, that doesn’t affect readability, then there’s no reason not to in my opinion.

Your Resource Pages

The final blogging area that I want to look at is actually something I need to implement a lot more myself. Since your homepage is your most popular and powerful page, it makes sense that you generally go for the most difficult keyphrases with that page. But, as mentioned, not something too difficult.

Instead of just writing posts about certain topics, you can also create strong resource pages which are then targeted with internal SEO efforts. Just like with the post ideas section, any keyphrases you come up with here should be relevant to what you’re talking about and generally a word or two more than your main keyphrase, as they are likely to be less competitive.

A good example of a blogger using Resources pages coupled with internal SEO for search traffic is Brian at Copyblogger. Brian knows that people are going to be clicking on the navigation bar links a lot, so he wants to direct people to pages that are going to show the true value of his site, and get people to take some form of action.

Copy Blogger header

You can see from the graphic above that the site is targeting some very competitive keyphrases with the terms found in the navigation bar. Though the terms are competitive, the site does actually rank on the first page of Google for most of them.

Look for keyphrases which can help you create a great resource for your readers on topics that people actually search for. You can ‘sculpt’ the pagerank of your pages to focus on passing their juice to these second tier terms and get more search engine traffic in return.

The Affiliates Guide to Keyword Research

Affilates Keyword research

My keyword research guide for affiliates does have similarities to the bloggers guide above, but contains a few fundamental differences. Before we get started, I want to say that I’ll personally be focusing on researching keyphrases as an affiliate who relies on SEO, not PPC. I’ve made the majority of my income online thanks to affiliate keyword research and free search traffic, so have never really needed to delve into the world of PPC.

However, there will be quite a few things I say in this section that do apply to Pay Per Click marketing, if that is your area of focus. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll highlight the main sections were going to cover here:

  • A Dose of Reality
  • Finding What Drives You
  • Shortening Your Keyphrase List
  • Checking for Longevity
  • Analysing the Competition

If this five step process sounds interesting to you, then keep reading.

A Dose of Reality

When I first got started in affiliate marketing, I did so purely because I wanted to make money. Though I was partly working in industries that I cared about, for the most part I really didn’t care about the product I was recommending. At the time I hadn’t really made any money online, so was skeptical that a solid income each month was attainable.

If you haven’t made much money yourself, then maybe you can relate to that.

Though I did have some success in industries that I didn’t care about, I want to make it clear that it wasn’t for me. I eventually discovered that there are tons of ways to make money in affiliate around your passions so there’s no reason not to try and do so.

That being said, there are popular ways to make money without having to care about the niche you’re in. Since I want to keep my personal biases aside, I should really talk about them as well. One popular strategy employed by a lot of internet marketers is to “intercept” sales that are made online.

It’s not easy to take a cold (read: new) website visitor and convince them to buy something. But, it’s very easy to make money from someone who is already looking to buy something. Do you know what most people do when they want to buy a product?

More often than not, they head straight over to Google and look for reviews about that specific item.

Marketers caught onto this so they build review sites, intercept the sales process, and then convince people to purchase the product through their affiliate link. Because the customer is already on the verge of buying something, you can convert them very easily, and make a lot of money for doing so.

This isn’t a totally new idea, but the application of this idea is something I think people go about in the wrong way.

A Real-Life Example

(This example was sent to CloudNiche)

If I head on over to Clickbank now, I can see the top product in the Make Money section is a product called Commission Crusher and the top product in the Health section is Diet Solution.

  • There are 388,000 (!) results for “Commission Crusher Review” in Google
  • There are 260,000 results for “Diet Solution Review” in Google

Just change the niche and you’ve already eliminated one third of your competition. Still, there’s two problems to point out here.

1. Focusing on make money products means there is a ton of competition

2. Focusing on anything in Clickbank ensures there’s a lot of competition

Fortunately, you can implement this review strategy for literally any product out there. An easy way to find these products is to use Amazon. A good friend of mine, who is currently teaching English in Thailand, is making a good income from selling kitchen appliances on Amazon. Seriously.

If you sell enough of a product, Amazon increase your commision rate, so you make even more money per customer you send their way. The greatest thing about Amazon is that you can see the most popular products in any category, and products people are looking to buy. With just 30 minutes research you can usually find popular items where there are no results in Google for their review related keyphrases.

I won’t reveal the keyphrase I sent out, since there have to be some perks to getting Cloud Niche emails from me .

Finding What Drives You

The reason I don’t focus so much on industries I have no interest in is not only because I can make money writing about what I love, but because doing so makes the overall affiliate process far harder to follow. If you’re using a guide like Cloud Living then sure, it’s easy to pick a random niche in the beginning stages, but it’s not so easy when you have to build a website and write articles around a topic you have no interest in.

Most people online are looking for something to fill a need. People playing games might just want to avoid the school or office work they could (should?) be doing. People reading weight loss blogs may be doing so because they want to attract members of the opposite sex.

Some people really want to quit their day job and leave the rat race, so they read sites like this one. Generally, everything anyone does online is to help them personally, whether you like how that sounds or not. This is probably why Seth Godin refers to eMail as Memail. We care about ourselves, naturally.

To understand what other people might be interested in online, I look at what I’m interested in.

What are my passions?

  • Travelling
  • Internet marketing
  • Driving
  • Reading useful, non-fiction books
  • Partying (I think my “record” is around 36 nights out in a row)

After I have these written down, then I’ll do the same for fears and problems I have in my life, or I’ve had in the past. Things that I know about. Generally I don’t need to write down these things as I know what I like, fear, and have issues with. However, it’s useful to have a written record for the next step of the process.

Shortening Your Keyphrase List

Once you pick a few topics that you’re interested in, it’s time to find popular keyphrases around those topics that people search for online. The best tool I can recommend to you for this is, just like in the blogging section, the Google Keyword tool.

Simply enter all of the passions, fears and problems that you’ve listed down and then run them through the tool. You’ll then get back a list of keyphrases which are relevant to your initial input. Ideally you’re looking for phrases which get between 2,000 and 20,000 exact searches per month.

This is on the lower scale of the body keyphrases, and usually means terms won’t be too competitive (there are exceptions, of course).

Keyword ideas

After your first filter (how many searches the term gets), start removing keyphrases based on ones that don’t really interest you. The phrase “make money online” may be relevant for this blog, but it’s not personally something that I would want to try and rank for, irrelevant of how competitive it is.

You should be left with two dozen or so terms. The next step I take is to ask myself whether the keyphrase entered in Google would result in a targeted visitor that I could monetize. In other words, does the keyphrase indicate that someone is likely to purchase something?

Trust me when I say that not all traffic is created equally. I would rather have 100 highly targeted visitors landing on my websites each day than 10,000 people who are not actively seeking the information that I have to offer.

Checking for Longevity

With all of the phrases you have left, run them through the Google Trends tool. I made the mistake of not doing this when I started out in affiliate marketing a few years ago (though in my defence I don’t even think the tool was available then) and spent a lot of time focusing on markets that were getting smaller over time.

To show you what I’m talking about, let me give you an example. A couple of months ago I noticed that the domains MinecraftForum.com and MinecraftForums.com were available on Namecheap.com for $1,800 in total. Minecraft is a game where the focus is on playability, rather than visual effects. It has made it’s sole creator, Notch, millions of dollars over the past year alone.

If I run Minecraft through Google Trends, I can see that at the moment this is one of the hottest games on the internet. I almost purchased the domains the very second that I loaded up this chart (and the Alexa graph for active Minecraft forums that already exist):

Minecraft graph

However, the pattern that Minecraft is going through generally tends to die down pretty quickly. The popularity of the game can only keep growing for so long. Maybe it would have been a good investment, and it still may be (since the game is coming out on iOS and Nintendo 3DS), but other popular games have not always maintained their huge growth…

Mafia Wars graph

The last thing you want to do is focus on a term that is not going to be popular in a few months, so make sure you don’t skip this step.

Analysing the Competition

This step is to simply find out how difficult it is to rank in Google for the terms I want to get traffic for. I’m only going to get a good portion of those thousands of searchers if I’m somewhere in the top five results. If my site is back on page two, I would only get a trickle of search traffic each day. If you don’t know already, the major factor which defines where a page ranks on Google is the number of backlinks that the site / page has. Backlinks are simply hyperlinks from one page to another, like me linking to my about page in this sentence.

My next step was to find out how many backlinks the top searches for this page had. Here are the steps involved:

  • Search for your desired keyphrase in Google
  • Take the URL of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd results
  • Head on over to Yahoo or OpenSiteExplorer as they’re far better at showing links than Google
  • Type (without quotes): “link:oneofyourURL’sgohere -site:thedomain.com“
  • Write down the number of results that Yahoo shows

Note for step four that after -site: you type the domain name. So, if a result for personal development was johndoe.com/personal-development, that would be my URL, but “johndoe.com” would be after -site:

Run this five-step process for all of your keyphrases and you should have a good idea of how many backlinks it will take to rank for them.

If the top three sites all have tens of thousands of backlinks, it’s unlikely I’m going to try and outrank them as that could take me years. If they have a few thousand, on the other hand, I still might give things a try. I don’t believe that I can get thousands of quality links to my site (although, saying that, ViperChill has 25,000) but I do believe I can get far better quality links than my competition.

I’ve written a huge guide to link building (not as huge as this one, don’t worry) that should teach you all you need to know.

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