Keyword Research

Thursday 26 February, 2009 by


Page Rank is used to determine the 'importance' of a page but we need to use keywords to determine the 'relevance' of a web page to a particular search query. But what keywords should we choose? And how should we choose them?

In our last blog posting I introduced some of the basic concepts of Page Rank but this is only part of the picture. Page Rank is used to determine the 'importance' of a page but we need to use keywords to determine the 'relevance' of a web page to a particular search query. But what keywords should we choose? And how should we choose them?

Look at your current traffic

The first step is to look at your currently best performing keyphrases. To do this we need to look in Google Analytics and go to Traffic Sources > Keywords. You might want to look at a decent date range and select the top 100 or so keyphrases then export this to CSV for Excel. Open this up and copy the list of keyphrases to the clipboard.

More keywords... more, more, more!

Now we have a basic list of 100 or so currently performing keyphrases we need to get some more ideas. In this article we are only using free tools so now fire up your web browser and go to the popular Google Keyword Tool which is a hand tool for getting keyphrase ideas. Paste your keyword list into the suggestion box and get the keyword ideas.


Now at this point we are just looking for keyphrase ideas (we will prioritise them later) so use the shopping basket style interface to add any potential keyphrases to your list. I would recommend turning on the Estimated CPC (Cost per click) column which is turned off by default. We are looking for keyphrases that:

  • Are relevant to your business
  • Have a decent level of traffic (obviously this is somewhat subjective)
  • Have low numbers of competitors

Sort the keyphrases by traffic and go on and add lots of keyphrases to your list paying particular attention to anything that fulfils all of the above factors.

And then even more again...

Now we have a good selection of keyphrases in the right hand column, download this list to Excel or notepad. This will allow you to store a larger list than the maximum number of keyphrases allowed in the keyword tool. Remove all the existing keyphrase suggestions from the right hand column and take a good selection of the keyphrases from notepad and paste this back into the top suggestion box to get some more ideas. Repeat the process a few times until we have expanded the selection to a couple of hundred (but still relevant) keyphrases stored in notepad.

Take this notepad list and paste into Excel so we can sort them alphabetically:

Making decisions

Once you have a big alphabetised list we need to use the keyword tool again but this time to export the keyword information including the traffic, competitors and average CPC. To do this, remove all the keywords from the right hand side column (using the button at the bottom) and then paste a batch of keywords into the suggestion box. Keeping them alphabetised makes it easy to manage where we are up to.

When you have a batch of keyphrases in the suggestion box and click on the 'filter my results' link and select the 'Don't show ideas for new keywords. I only want to see data about the keywords I entered' check box. This won't find new suggestions based on these keywords but just get the data on the existing list. Fire this off and export the resulting data back into excel. Repeat the process for all of your keyphrases in batches of 100 or so so we have a complete list of all the keyphrases along with the average CPC, competitor and monthly traffic information. With a bit of formatting you should have a spreadsheet looking like this..


Now we need to put the kettle on as the next bit might take a while.

Getting current rankings

In order to prioritise correctly, we need to get information on the current ranking of each of these keywords. So fire off a Google search for a ranking checker and work your way through the list. Its worth checking at least the top 500 results and ideally the top 1000 for your website. If its got a listing (no matter how may pages down) this keyphrase should be worth looking at.


Finally we need to include some measure of the likelihood that a visitor who is searching for a particular keyphrase would 'intend' to buy your product. Now this is completely subjective but it is an important factor to include. We use a simple number system. 1 is a strong intent to buy, 4 is a low intent to buy.

Now to choose

Now we have all the data we need to make some informed decisions about our keywords. Select keyphrases that have a decent amount of traffic, you have at least some listing for (i.e. your website is relevant) and the visitors have some intent to buy your services. We do this by taking the massive long keyphrase list you have generated and splitting it up into three sections.

The A-Team: These are keyphrases that are important, high traffic, relevant and you want to target now

The B-Team: These are keyphrases that are important, good traffic, relevant but not a priority right now. This allows you to keep the number of top priority A-List keyphrases down to a manageable number

The C-Team: These are keyphrases that aren't worth optimizing as they with don't have enough traffic, enough intent or aren't relevant to your products or services.


There is no right or wrong way to conduct keyphrase research and this guide is only my suggestions on what works for us. You will find rewarding keyphrases if your research;

  • Casts a wide net and get lots of keyphrase ideas
  • Gets accurate data about the visitors & competition of these keyphrases
  • Allows you to make priority selections based on accurate data

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