Updated May 1st, 2018 — version 264

The UnFair Advantage Book
Winning the Search Engine Wars

Chapter Five, Keyword Research and The Buying Process

Chapter Five
Keyword Research and The Buying Process

Keywords are the cornerstone of search engine optimization and Internet marketing. Keyword Research is arguably the most important activity you'll engage in as you begin your search engine optimization and marketing (SEO/SEM) efforts. Simply put, Keywords are key to web marketing success and a profitable online business.

Your objective is to find your most valuable keywords, the ones that make you money. Never assume you know which keywords people are using to search for your products or service, that's a fool's approach to keyword research. Instead you must ferret out the money keywords by following the buying process. By doing so you will learn that...

The only type of keyword that consistently converts to sales
is the last one used before making a purchase.

The take-away point is that...

High traffic keywords do NOT typically generate high conversions or high profit!

Amateurs often attempt to rank high for broad, generic search terms that are relevant to their product or service. But, in reality, you won't make many (if any) sales even if you rank number one for a generic search term like cell phones. Experts know that cell phone BUYERS only use generic terms when they are researching a potential purchase. But, when they are ready to buy, they will search for something very specific like Motorola Droid Maxx best price no contract or samsung galaxy s4 i9500 16gb international version black color right before they actually make a purchase.

In other words, the keyword-based customer buying process always involves what we call a long tail keyword search. This is invariably a phrase with descriptive terms and perhaps a geographical location that accompany a generic keyword like lawyer. For instance, personal injury lawyer in tampa specializing in defective products would be the type of long tailed keyword (actually a phrase) that a person would use just prior to making a purchasing decision.

Let's look at a real example of how the keyword-based customer decision making process actually works. Recently I was in the market for a bluetooth headset. I started by searching for bluetooth headset reviews to learn which units came with the best recommendations. In doing my research I learned about bluetooth multi-point and bluetooth 2.1.

That led to learning about and narrowing down my search to three possibilities: the Plantronics Voyager Pro, Motorola Command 1 and the Bose AE 2 bluetooth headsets. I decided on the Plantronics unit and my final search, the money search, was: Plantronics Voyager Pro Plus.


The graphic above shows that our product search begins with a very generic search phrase (keyword), in this case, bluetooth headsets. As we would expect, there's lots and lots of traffic for that term but not a lot (if any) sales. And, although amateurs might be tempted to target that generic keyword, experts know it's the very specific money keyword (phrase) that will actually produce sales. In the case of purchasing pay-per-click traffic, this is critically important to know. The worst possible amateur mistake is paying for expensive high volume generic keyword traffic that does not convert to sales.

Of course this is a simplification of the process. There are often a variety of factors that increase or decrease the due diligence that consumers apply to the buying process. Generally speaking, the lower the price point the less research a consumer will bother doing. On a high-ticket item however, you should expect the buying process to be more extended. For instance a survey by Polk and Auto Trader found the average new car buyer spent 18-19 hours in research mode and searched for special offers, rebates and incentives 42% of the time.

As previously mentioned, the money "keywords" are actually a phrase. And, in SEO jargon, any keyword phrase of three or more keywords is called a Long Tail Keyword. Such keywords are very specific to whatever you are buying or selling. The good news is that long tail keywords are usually less competitive, making them easier to rank well for, and they're more likely to convert to sales.

The Keyword Discovery Process

The first step in your keyword discovery process is low tech. All you need to do is ask people how they would search for your product or service. If what you offer solves a problem, then ask them what they would search for to solve that problem. Ask your employees, your vendors, and your customers. Then start asking friends and associates. Heck, you can even ask the cab driver; you get the point. ASK! ...it will be the most cost effective and potentially productive aspect of your keyword research.

While you're in the asking phase, be sure to look for slang, jargon, and dialect. Remember that different people oftentimes search for the same things using different words. For instance, some people use PLC to search for industrial computers. The search term murdered out is jargon for a flat black car with flat black wheels. People who live on the upper peninsula of Michigan are called Yoopers. If you're selling fire extinguishers to car enthusiasts, it's good to know that American drivers might store them in the trunk while British drivers might store them in the boot. And, did you know that re-pop is slang for reproduction? That's why it's critical to ask!

You should also mine your webserver logs and/or Google Analytics for unique keywords you haven't yet discovered. Check your business email system, web site search engine data, and your support ticket system if you have one. Monitor relevant blogs, forums and competitors' web pages (it can't hurt to see what the other guy found). Use a thesaurus to find common synonyms. Alternate languages and spelling errors are frequently a good source. And remember to add location keywords such as your city and state whenever applicable.

The idea is to identify all of the keywords that people are associating with your product or service and the problem it solves.

Keyword Discovery Tools

Google's Keyword Planner can be used to help find related keywords and determine their search volumes. In the screenshot below we searched for RC drone.

Keyword Planner

The screenshot above shows some of the related phrases and their traffic volumes. Notice the keyword and selectable categories options. You can also filter by location and language and even select a network.

Another tool to use is the allintitle: (all in title) command. This search command tells Google to show us all of the pages that have our targeted keyword in the title tag located within the source code of the web page. The screenshot below shows how we've used the allintitle: command to search for pages with RC drone in the title tag.

all-in-title search

Our allintitle: search returned about 27,400 results. This means there are about 27,400 web pages with the term RC drone in the title tag. Since we know that keywords in the title tag are a fundamental cornerstone of SEO/SEM strategy, we know we have about 27,400 competing web pages that are currently targeting this particular keyword phrase.

Another tool you'll find useful is a keyword research spreadsheet.

keyword research spreadsheet

Here you see we've put our targeted keywords in the far left column. The next column shows the local monthly volume that corresponds to each of our keywords. These numbers are sourced from Google's AdWords Keyword Planner. Column three shows the allintitle: numbers while column four shows the number of pages found in the organic search results. In the fifth column the KEI (keyword effectiveness index) is calculated by dividing the local monthly volume by the allintitle: volume; the higher the number, the better the opportunity. In this case the search phrase cordless headsets appears to be the most under utilized keyword on our list based on a 49.82 KEI. Our spreadsheet shows the search volume to be comparatively high (135,000 searches per month) while the competition is relatively low (only 2710 pages with keyword in title tag).

Let's go back to the local monthly volume. This number is Google's 12-month network average for whatever country you've selected. In other words, it's important that you select the country that matches your target audience. If you're working in the United States, you should probably sort by United States.

Also noteworthy is the fact that Google sometimes hides the number of total Results. You may have to look at the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP) to find this number. Note also that this data can vary so don't be terribly surprised if it does. Google may find more pages, for instance. Regardless, you probably won't see a major shift in most search volumes from day to day.

Google Trends is another useful keyword research tool. It's a great way to find new search terms and determine the "hotness" of a topic. You can learn where the traffic is coming from and the language that people are using. You can also find search terms that are related to your targeted keyword as well as find related terms that are rising in popularity. You can even research the history of a topic or keyword going all the way back to 2004.

Google Trends

In the screenshot above we see the search results for RC drones began increasing about 2009. And, because we've been hearing more and more about drones in the news over the past few years, we see the traffic has been steadily increasing.

Another good source of keywords is search suggest.

search suggest

As seen above, whenever we begin entering a keyword into the search field at Google, Yahoo, Bing, or YouTube we see suggestions in the drop-down menu. These are typically based on popular searches related to that specific keyword.

For example, on the left we see Bing is suggesting RC drones for hobbyists, RC drones with video on controller, RC drones with HD camera, and so forth. These are the associated search terms that people have been using along with RC drone. And, of course, you can expect to see the same or similar suggestions at Google, Yahoo, and YouTube.

Keep in mind, however, that Google's search suggest is heavily influenced by your own search history. To remove this influence you must log out of your Google accounts and perhaps even delete your history. We suggest doing keyword research using search suggest in both logged-in and logged-out modes to see the difference and to ensure that you leave no stones unturned.

Another keyword research tool that we like is Wordtracker.

Wordtracker Tool

Wordtracker is a premium service that compiles data from various search engine sources to provide highly accurate and useful keyword-related research that is independent of (and possibly more reliable than) the search engines. They do charge a monthly fee but you can get a free trial by going to WordTracker.com. We suggest trying it out for free to see if you find it as useful as we do.