Tags Posts tagged with "Keywords"

Keywords

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In the world of pay-per-click advertising, a keyword can have different variations. For Google AdWords and Bing Ads, there are five variations, called “match types.” Each one has a specific use that can be leveraged by savvy PPC marketers to improve performance.

Broad Match

This is the default setting for new keywords in most platforms. As its name suggests, it also gives search engines the most latitude when matching your keyword(s) to a specific search query. Both the search query and the keyword can be multiple words. With broad match, your keyword can match a query with the words in any order. It can also match synonyms.

For example, if your keyword were “red shoes,” your ad could appear for multiple search queries, such as “buy red shoes,” “shoes that are red,” “ruby shoes,” and “ruby slippers” — ruby is a shade of red and slippers are a kind of shoe.

Broad match is sometimes too expansive, as in the example above. But it can be good, too. Google reports that as many as 20 percent of monthly searches are unique, meaning it’s the first time the searches have appeared. As an advertiser you don’t want to have to generate 20 percent more keywords each month and hope you guessed right. Broad match can help you catch those new queries. And if you’re interested in a little more control, consider the next match type: modified broad match.

Modified Broad Match

To modify your broad match keywords you simply add the “+” sign in front one or more words. So “red shoes” becomes “+red +shoes.” The benefit is that the modifier tells the search engine your ad should only be eligible if the word marked with a “+” is present.

So now our keyword “+red +shoes” would be eligible for searches like “buy red shoes” and “shoes that are red.” But it would not be eligible for searches like “ruby slippers” or “magenta shoes” or “red Nikes.”

Brad Geddes, a well-known AdWords practitioner, recently said that modified broad match was something that most PPC marketers seem to miss or not know about. But I nearly always recommend using this match type instead of broad match. The only exceptions would be where volume is the main objective. Then you would use many negative keywords, which I’ll address below.

Phrase Match

If the order of keywords in a search query is important for intent, then consider phrase match. For example, if you advertise on “California hotels,” you don’t want to show up for searches on “hotel California.” Phrase match also allows your ad to show when someone adds words before or after, like “best California hotels” or “California hotels near Disneyland.”

To use phrase match, put quotes around your keyword when uploading it into the interface. Note that while I used quotes for broad match above to ensure clarity for this article, use those in the ad interface only when you want to indicate a phrase match.

Exact Match

I’m a control freak about my keywords and campaigns. If you want to indicate to the search engine exactly which words must be present, the exact order they should be in, and that you don’t want to show if the searcher adds something before or after, then exact match is what you want. It is by far the most restrictive match type and will lead to the fewest impressions. However, since your keyword matches the search query exactly — and hopefully matches your ads and landing pages — you would expect to see better performance.

Here is what the four match types look like.

Of the four match types, "broad" is the most expansive and "exact" the least. <em>Source: WebRanking.com.</em>

In September 2014, AdWords introduced close keyword variations, which some have called “exact-ish” match. Here is the explanation from Google.

We’ll show your ads for close variations of your phrase and exact match keywords to maximize your potential to show your ads on relevant searches. Close variations include misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stems (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents. So there’s no need to separately add close variations as keywords.

So even if you are using phrase match and exact match, Google is still taking liberty as to when it shows your ads. This brings me to our last keyword type: negative keywords.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are phrase and exact match keywords in reverse. With negative keywords, you instruct the search engines what you don’t want to show up. For example, a shoe advertiser using “red shoes” as the keyword could add a negative keyword for “ruby” or “slippers” to keep from showing on “ruby slippers.” She might also want to include “loafers,” “sandals,” “flip flops,” or any other type of shoe that doesn’t match her inventory.

Similarly, a hotel advertiser using “California hotel” as the keyword may want to include negatives like “eagles,” “lyrics,” or “song.” Negative keywords give you additional control to ensure you aren’t spending money on clicks from queries that are irrelevant.

To be sure, keyword research is critical. But making sure you use the correct match types can have as major impact, too, on your final results.

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Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a three-part series on optimizing ecommerce pages for search engines. “Part 2: Keyword Mapping” and “Part 3: Keywords to Content”we published subsequent to this article, below.

In its purest form, optimizing content for search engines consists of modifying one page to send a strong keyword signal for one keyword or phrase. The amazing simplicity of this concept is often lost on marketers, many of whom think of content optimization like taking aspirin: If two is good then four must work even better. Sprinkling lots of keywords on the same page will not improve organic search rankings, nor will using the same keyword on lots of different pages. The key to content optimization for SEO is matching one keyword to one page in a methodical and disciplined manner. Scalable methods of optimization become necessary if the site is very large, but even the largest sites still “manually” optimize a selection of critical pages by matching one keyword to one page.

Choosing the Best Keywords

Before keywords can be matched to pages, the optimizer must know which keywords to choose. Make a seed list of the words that will be used on the page. Think of as many synonyms as possible and record them in a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet. Be warned, these are not the keywords with which you’ll be optimizing. The brainstorming process is only the start of the keyword research process. Optimizing with a seed list will result in content optimized for the way you think and search, not the way your customers do.

For example, a site that offers wedding invitations and favors might include the word “opalescent” in its seed list as an adjective describing a type of invitations. But searchers might not search on such a fancy word in high numbers, favoring the shorter adjectives “pearly” or “shimmery.”
Next, check out competitors’ sites to see how they refer to their products. Especially note category names in the navigation, title tags, and words used as anchor text in links. If the company has been optimizing for organic search, these areas should be full of valuable keywords. Add any relevant words to the seed list that started with the brainstorm process.

In addition, I often brainstorm a list of adjectives, a list of nouns and a list of verbs, and use Excel to concatenate — i.e. join — them into phrases. For example, the adjectives “affordable” and “modern” might be concatenated with “wedding invitations” and “wedding invites” to form 4 phrases instantly, as follows.

  • Affordable wedding invitations
  • Affordable wedding invites
  • Modern wedding invitations
  • Modern wedding invites

Four phrases aren’t very inspiring, but 900 phrases can be generated instantly with a seed list of 30 adjectives, 10 nouns and 3 verbs. The concatenate formula essentially takes the contents of cells or strings of text and crams them together in the specified order in a single cell. Find it in Excel in the “Formulas” tab by clicking “Insert Function” and entering “concatenate” in the search field.

Using Keyword Tools

When the seed list feels fairly complete, turn to a keyword research tool to understand the value of the keywords on the seed list and also to discover additional related keywords. While there are many keyword tools, I prefer Google’s free AdWords Keyword Tool. The vast majority of most sites’ organic search traffic comes from Google, so it makes sense to tap Google’s database of keywords when deciding how to optimize a site. Other reputable keyword tools include Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery, both of which tools have free and paid versions. Searching Google for “keyword tool” turns up a variety of other options, but be certain of the data’s sources and biases before basing optimization decisions on it.

Using keyword research tools can be tedious, but well worth the time. Begin feeding words from the seed list into the keyword tool and exporting the results. For example, the wedding invitations site might start by feeding the four phrases shown above into Google AdWords Keyword Tool. The red boxes indicate the important boxes to fill and check to get the most specific keyword results for searchers in the US searching in English using desktop browsers. Change the settings to get mobile data, data for any country or language or other variables.

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Google AdWords Keyword Tool's user interface.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool’s user interface.

Highlighted with blue boxes, the keyword tool reports how many searches are conducted for the exact phrases on Google on average over the last 12 months and the level of competition sites optimizing for these keywords will face. Any keyword data worth researching is worth saving. Even if the data shows that some keywords in the seed list aren’t worth optimizing for, the data should be kept as a reminder that those phrases are less valuable than others. Click “Download” to save the data in the report, highlighted in orange below, and save the file for later analysis.

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Google AdWords Keyword Tool's keyword ideas section.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool’s keyword ideas section.

The Google Keyword Tool also shows keyword ideas, which are closely related to the original keywords entered. Note that different phrasings have different numbers of searches, such as the purple highlighted phrases shown here. It’s not surprising in this case that the grammatically correct phrasing “affordable wedding invitations” has more searches than “wedding invitations affordable,” but the fact that the former has 38.5 times the search volume is very interesting. There will also be cases where the grammatical phrasing isn’t the clear winner, which can offer an SEO advantage over sites that don’t do their research.

Lastly, the words highlighted in green such as “letterpress” and “vintage” are interesting because they may not have appeared on the original seed list. Newly discovered keywords like these can suggest new content or subcategory groupings on the site, or perhaps even new products to offer.

The process of feeding seeds into the keyword tool and exporting the results is long and tedious. Truly, no SEO professional enjoys this part of the process. The end result is a download folder filled with individual CSV files that need to be combined into a single file for analysis as a whole. If there are too many to copy and paste into a single file manually, try merging CSV files using the command line, which I described for Windows users on my blog.

The mass of keyword data compiled from the downloaded CSV files can be overwhelming. Where to start? What to do with this jumble of letters and numbers? The next “Part 2″ installment of this series on content optimization will focus on keyword analysis and mapping, followed by a final article on actually using the keywords and map to optimize content.

The Complete Series: “Optimizing a Page for Search Engines”

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Navigation does more than shuttling customers around your site. In addition to its obvious usability and design functions, navigation can be optimized to improve organic search traffic. Well-optimized navigation strengthens the flow of link popularity throughout your site while sending relevant keyword signals, both of which are important to driving organic search traffic and sales.

The Power of Internal Links

Think of the aggregate power of every link that comes into every page as the lifeblood of a site. Search engine optimization professionals like to call that lifeblood “link juice.” To keep the site healthy and able to rank for the most keyword phrases possible, that lifeblood link juice has to be distributed throughout the site to feed every page. Internal links like navigation are the system of arteries and vessels that pass the link juice throughout the site.

Link juice doesn’t spread evenly across a site. Most of the link juice for most sites comes into the home page as the default place to link to. Think of the home page as the heart: a big pooling of vital link juice. The farther away you get from the home page, the less link juice is passed on. Each page along the step keeps a share for itself and passes on a lesser amount. The pages at the end of the line end up with the smallest fraction.

When a page has earned links from other external sites it becomes another pool of link juice. In some cases a resource or tool your site offers can become an even stronger pool of link juice than the home page. Well-optimized navigation ensures that those pools of link juice share their strength with the rest of the site.

Optimizing Navigation Links

Global navigation, the links that appear in the templates on every page of a site, should link to the pages that have the most link juice and to the pages that you want to have more link juice. Because it’s found on every page, global navigation is the best tool to ensure that link juice is passed fairly evenly to your core pages. Typically these include category and subcategory pages that will target higher level and more valuable keyword phrases.

As new tools or resources are introduced and begin to earn links, working those pages into the global navigation will ensure that their link juice is passed throughout the site. To identify how many links a page has, check the “Traffic > Links to Your Site > Your Most Linked Content” report in Google Webmaster Tools — see “Guide to Google Webmaster Tools,” my previous article. This report shows how many links each page has coming into it from external sites, and which domains those links are coming from.

CSS-based rollovers provide an excellent visual compromise between the need to have links in the navigation and the need to present a visually pleasing and usable feature. Even though the links aren’t all visible in first view, when rolled over the full list of links comes into view. As long as the rollover is coded so that the links are listed out as plain HTML for user agents that don’t support JavaScript, CSS or cookies, search engine crawlers will have full access to the links in the rollover.

Optimizing Navigation Keywords

The other important factor in optimizing navigation for SEO benefit is keyword usage. Because every link sends a keyword signal via the anchor text, every link is a chance to communicate which keyword phrases each page should rank for.

Don’t rely on your brand recognition or visual cues to set the context for the navigational keywords. If your site sells toys and “Wooden Toys” is a category of product you offer, the navigation should read “Wooden Toys” rather than just “Wooden.” It’s important to use moderation as well, though. Using exact keyword phrases for every navigational link can lead to cluttered visual experience, loss of quick customer understanding of the offerings and even spammy over-optimization. Rely on keyword research data to identify the most valuable keywords to use exactly in the navigation. Keywords that represent fewer searches can more easily be truncated.

Keep in mind that keyword signals depend upon HTML text. Using images instead of textual content in navigation removes the ability to send that keyword signal. It is possible to use CSS image replacement in the rollovers to display navigational images to browsers that support CSS and JavaScript, but textual content to browsers — and search engines — do not. Many sites use this option when a particular font is important to the brand or design.

Be very careful when using CSS image replacement to use the exact same words in the HTML text version as in the images. While traditional crawlers do not support CSS and JavaScript, search engines also employ headless browsers that can support these technologies. Search engines then algorithmically compare the two versions of the indexed page. If the plain HMTL text version contains more juicy keywords, links, or other evidence of hidden content meant to manipulate rankings, the page or the site as a whole could be penalized.

Summary

Global navigation is an excellent tool SEO when optimized well. The most challenging aspect of navigation optimization can be balancing between usability, design and SEO needs. Don’t think of it as throwing everything out to start again, though. Look at the existing navigation with an eye to passing link juice and keyword signals. Just adding a link-juice-rich but overlooked page to the navigation or optimizing the anchor text for a couple of the highest priority pages could have a big impact on your site’s organic search traffic.

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Navigation does more than shuttling customers around your site. In addition to its obvious usability and design functions, navigation can be optimized to improve organic search traffic. Well-optimized navigation strengthens the flow of link popularity throughout your site while sending relevant keyword signals, both of which are important to driving organic search traffic and sales.

The Power of Internal Links

Think of the aggregate power of every link that comes into every page as the lifeblood of a site. Search engine optimization professionals like to call that lifeblood “link juice.” To keep the site healthy and able to rank for the most keyword phrases possible, that lifeblood link juice has to be distributed throughout the site to feed every page. Internal links like navigation are the system of arteries and vessels that pass the link juice throughout the site.

Link juice doesn’t spread evenly across a site. Most of the link juice for most sites comes into the home page as the default place to link to. Think of the home page as the heart: a big pooling of vital link juice. The farther away you get from the home page, the less link juice is passed on. Each page along the step keeps a share for itself and passes on a lesser amount. The pages at the end of the line end up with the smallest fraction.

When a page has earned links from other external sites it becomes another pool of link juice. In some cases a resource or tool your site offers can become an even stronger pool of link juice than the home page. Well-optimized navigation ensures that those pools of link juice share their strength with the rest of the site.

Optimizing Navigation Links

Global navigation, the links that appear in the templates on every page of a site, should link to the pages that have the most link juice and to the pages that you want to have more link juice. Because it’s found on every page, global navigation is the best tool to ensure that link juice is passed fairly evenly to your core pages. Typically these include category and subcategory pages that will target higher level and more valuable keyword phrases.

As new tools or resources are introduced and begin to earn links, working those pages into the global navigation will ensure that their link juice is passed throughout the site. To identify how many links a page has, check the “Traffic > Links to Your Site > Your Most Linked Content” report in Google Webmaster Tools — see “Guide to Google Webmaster Tools,” my previous article. This report shows how many links each page has coming into it from external sites, and which domains those links are coming from.

CSS-based rollovers provide an excellent visual compromise between the need to have links in the navigation and the need to present a visually pleasing and usable feature. Even though the links aren’t all visible in first view, when rolled over the full list of links comes into view. As long as the rollover is coded so that the links are listed out as plain HTML for user agents that don’t support JavaScript, CSS or cookies, search engine crawlers will have full access to the links in the rollover.

Optimizing Navigation Keywords

The other important factor in optimizing navigation for SEO benefit is keyword usage. Because every link sends a keyword signal via the anchor text, every link is a chance to communicate which keyword phrases each page should rank for.

Don’t rely on your brand recognition or visual cues to set the context for the navigational keywords. If your site sells toys and “Wooden Toys” is a category of product you offer, the navigation should read “Wooden Toys” rather than just “Wooden.” It’s important to use moderation as well, though. Using exact keyword phrases for every navigational link can lead to cluttered visual experience, loss of quick customer understanding of the offerings and even spammy over-optimization. Rely on keyword research data to identify the most valuable keywords to use exactly in the navigation. Keywords that represent fewer searches can more easily be truncated.

Keep in mind that keyword signals depend upon HTML text. Using images instead of textual content in navigation removes the ability to send that keyword signal. It is possible to use CSS image replacement in the rollovers to display navigational images to browsers that support CSS and JavaScript, but textual content to browsers — and search engines — do not. Many sites use this option when a particular font is important to the brand or design.

Be very careful when using CSS image replacement to use the exact same words in the HTML text version as in the images. While traditional crawlers do not support CSS and JavaScript, search engines also employ headless browsers that can support these technologies. Search engines then algorithmically compare the two versions of the indexed page. If the plain HMTL text version contains more juicy keywords, links, or other evidence of hidden content meant to manipulate rankings, the page or the site as a whole could be penalized.

Summary

Global navigation is an excellent tool SEO when optimized well. The most challenging aspect of navigation optimization can be balancing between usability, design and SEO needs. Don’t think of it as throwing everything out to start again, though. Look at the existing navigation with an eye to passing link juice and keyword signals. Just adding a link-juice-rich but overlooked page to the navigation or optimizing the anchor text for a couple of the highest priority pages could have a big impact on your site’s organic search traffic.

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Keyword research is one of the foundational pieces of search engine optimization because it illuminates the exact words real-life customers use to search for the products we sell. But why stop there? The insights that keyword research provides can inform other many other areas of the business as well.

Keyword data is free and readily available via Google’s keyword research tool. This article is less about how to collect and analyze keyword data, however, and more about the various uses of that data. For a detailed account of how to conduct keyword research, see“Optimizing a Page for Search Engines, Part 1: Keyword Research,” my previous article on that topic. Once you have the data, it can be leveraged in all kinds of ways to improve your ecommerce site, your understanding of the customers, and inform business decisions. All it takes is an open mind and a little determination to make sense of the data.

1. Content Planning

One of the most direct applications of keyword research is content planning. Determining what content to offer in addition to product information on an ecommerce site can be a challenge. Let searchers tell you what they want to learn more about. Analyze product-based keywords and phrases that searchers use to discover new solutions to the needs that your products fill. Try “how to” phrases to learn which products customers are unsure how to care for or operate. They may also specify media types like pictures or videos in their searches. The data may even uncover memes or other light-hearted topics associated with your products that you could leverage on your site.

2. Information Architecture

Take a closer look at the modifiers searchers use in conjunction with product and category keywords. They may add gender, size, color, price, shape, dimension, and other descriptors into their searches. Those same modifiers can be analyzed to inform structural and navigational changes to the site to improve customer experience on the site as well as give the SEO folks additional pages to optimize to drive conversions.

In addition, the data showing the volume of searches for certain keywords may warrant discussion about splitting apart a category that has several similar but very popular segments to better drive search traffic and conversions. Conversely, the data could show that searchers often combine two words into a single search phrase, suggesting that two smaller categories may be stronger joined into a single larger one. Naturally other data and expertise would be needed in these discussions, but keyword data can be another valuable window into what searchers want.

3. Market Research

While not a substitute for more objective forms of market research, keyword research can help flesh out drier numerical datasets like demographics and geographical data. Dig into the keywords associated with your industry, your brand and your competitors’ brands. Analyze the keywords for any insight into phrasing that could be linked to age, gender, education level, region or other demographic data. Summarize the volume of searches for keywords that meet different market segmentation criteria. Bucketing the keywords into different groupings will be subjective — determining which keywords belong in which group — but the volume of searches associated with each grouping will be more objective.

4. Product Development

The specific details that searchers seek can also feed into product planning and development. Some search queries are extremely focused, specifying this attribute but not that. When the volume of searches reaches what your business considers critical mass, and other business data shows similar trends, it may be time to consider creating or offering that product. Perhaps the data will identify a large opportunity in a niche similar to one your ecommerce site already serves. That information could spark a discussion on the merits of expanding into the new niche as well.

Grouping Keywords

Each of these uses of keyword data assumes that the keyword research is somehow understandable at a higher level. When the data is first mined from the keyword tool, it’s just a long list of keywords and monthly search counts. Depending on the size of your product offering and the diversity of search phrases you encounter, that initial list of keywords and search counts could be thousands deep. Achieving a higher level of understanding requires bucketing the individual keywords into logical groupings.

Choosing the groupings is highly subjective, and that’s OK. You’ll likely end up with groupings similar to your current site’s categorization at first because that’s the lens you view the data through. If you keep an open mind, however, you’ll notice that searchers think of things differently than marketers do. They use different words for the same things — different modifiers and different pairings. Capture those differences as well in your groupings and measure the volume of searches in each. The size of the opportunity may be large enough to warrant discussion and changes within the site or organization.

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Do you think you know how consumers search for your brand and products in Google? If you haven’t done your keyword research, you’re probably wrong. This is the third installment of my “SEO 101″ series, following Part 1: What Is SEO? and “Part 2: Benefits of SEO.”

Keyword research is the process of discovering how consumers search for the products you sell. The words they use are keywords that search marketers can use to drive new and repeat customers to a site.

How Do Consumers Describe your Products?

Using prospective customers’ language in the content on your site gives you the opportunity to market to them. The contextual match between what they want and what search engines think you have helps determine if search engines rank your site, or your competitors’.

Using your company’s internal marketing jargon and internal view of your products and brands means that the majority of people who see your site in search results will be internal — i.e., associated with your company.

Using your company’s internal marketing jargon and internal view of your products and brands means that the majority of people who see your site in search results will be internal — i.e., associated with your company.

Your future customers want something when they enter a search query into Google’s or Bing’s search box. Sometimes consumers are extremely specific and use product keywords like “parker pen refill 12757-2,” and other times they’re incredibly vague and search for concepts like “fine writing instruments.”

Marketers presume that because they spend their entire day focused on concepts like “fine writing” that searchers use those words as well. They don’t. At least not in the massive volume that they search for product types like “fountain pen.”

Here’s a case in point. According to the Google Keyword Planner, the phrase “fountain pen” is searched in Google 22,200 times a month on average. “Fine writing” draws 70 searches on average.

If you’re focused on “fine writing” and your site uses primarily “fine writing” keywords for search engine optimization, you may completely miss the opportunity to meet and market to 22,000 potential new customers in organic search results who search for “fountain pens.”

How to Start Keyword Research

The first step to optimizing your site’s content and architecture for the SEO keywords your prospects use is keyword research. This sounds easy because all you have to do is paste some words into a keyword tool, press a button, and keywords come out the other side.

The old adage that developers use applies to keyword research as well: “Garbage in, garbage out.” Methodical planning and preparation of the data that you enter into the keyword research tool will yield superior results in the output. The keyword data will be more complete and will contain more suggestions for keywords that you hadn’t even thought of.

Start by collecting SEO keyword seeds, single words that make up potential SEO keywords. For example, if you think people search for “fountain pen,” you’d break that SEO keyword into two seeds: “fountain” and “pen.” In the next step, we’ll combine these seeds together in different ways to feed into the keyword tool.

Your site’s navigation is a good place to start collecting seeds. Copy and paste the words in your navigation into an Excel spreadsheet. Then go through and separate the phrases so that each cell contains a single word. The nouns and verbs will typically be useful seeds. Adjectives and adverbs will usually be useful as modifying seeds, and everything else is probably extraneous.

For example, if your phrase is “black and blue ink,” “ink” is your main seed – there will be many ink-related SEO keywords. “Black” and “blue” are modifying seeds as we’re only interested in colors as relate to pens. If you use “blue” as a primary seed you’ll get irrelevant keywords back like “blue jeans.” The word “and” is extraneous and can be deleted from the seed list.

Determine Important Keywords

After combing through your own site’s navigation, check the navigation on your competitors’ sites. Check their title tags — they’re probably using the keywords they want to rank for there. Do a couple of Google searches to see which keywords the sites that rank well use. All of these phrases can be broken down into seeds and modifying seeds.

Sort all of your seeds and modifying seeds into two separate lists. You’ll merge the lists together in different ways to generate potential keyword phrases to feed into the keyword research tool.

Why not just feed the original phrases into the tool without bothering to break them down into seeds and recombine them? Because keyword tools are precise. The keyword tool is likely to give you only what you ask for and very close synonyms. If you only feed in the phrases you already use, you’ll get back more of the same phrases you already use. You’ll miss an opportunity to discover new and potentially more valuable phrases that real customers use to find your products.

There are a couple of ways to combine the seeds into new phrases. The keyword tools have a simple combination feature – we’ll cover that in next week’s primer on how to use keyword tools. Merge Words is another option. It’s a site whose only purpose is to accept up to three lists of seeds and output every possible combination of those seeds.

Or you can use Excel’s concatenate formula. I prefer concatenation (i.e., the process of linking words) because it gives me the most flexibility to combine words however I want: A B, B A, A and B, B and A, where to buy B, where to buy A, where to buy A and B, and so on.

For the next installment of this “SEO 101″ series, see “Part 4: Keyword Research Tool Tips.”

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Discovering new and more valuable keywords can be one of the hardest parts of optimizing your content for search engines.

To some extent, your site is probably optimized today based on how your business and your industry thinks about the products you sell. Invariably, customers search for your products differently, and breaking out of your current mindset to identify the keywords real customers use can be challenging.

In “SEO 101, Part 3: Keyword Research Planning,” I detailed the basics of keyword research. The list of tools in this article will break you out of your keyword rut, making it easier to identify and plan lists of keywords to research.

Keyword Suggest Tools

The suggest-type of keyword tools literally scrapes the related searches that Google, Bing, YouTube, and other search engines provide to help searchers find what they seek.

1. Übersuggest. This clever tool scrapes Google Suggest for the keyword ideas that Google shows to its searchers. The image below illustrates a search in progress for “shoes for m.”

Google Suggest results for "shoes for m".

Each new letter the searcher types in changes the words shown in Google Suggest. Übersuggest scrapes all of the suggestions Google Suggest offers up for any keyword you enter. Typically the resulting list contains over 100 keyword phrases. Some of them won’t be relevant to your product offering, but you’ll have plenty of new keyword suggestions to feed into your keyword research tool.

2. Keyword Tool IO and SERPs Keyword Tool do much the same thing as Übersuggest, but also offer suggestions for YouTube, Bing, and a couple of others.

3. SEOChat Suggestion Keyword Finder. SEOChat builds on the suggest-type keyword tools by running the suggested keywords themselves through the keyword suggestion tool twice more. The result is a larger and deeper set of keywords gathered from Google Suggest.

Stalking Competitors’ Keywords

The previous suggest-type of keyword tools relies on you to input a keyword to start the process to find more keywords. This can lead to a process of discovering more of the same keywords that you already use. To break out of the rut more thoroughly, try researching competitors’ keywords straight from their pages.

4. Google AdWords Keyword Planner. You’re likely already using the Keyword Planner for your search marketing keyword research, but did you know you can use it to determine the keywords your competitors are using on their pages?

In “SEO 101, Part 5: Google Keyword Planner,” I detailed the basics of using the keyword tool to input individual keywords. An alternate way to use it to find keywords is to paste a URL into the “Your landing page” field and click “Get ideas” as shown below.

In Google Keyword Planner, enter any URL — including a competitor's — in the "your landing page" field, for keyword ideas.

That URL can be yours or a competitor’s or any URL you like. The resulting page of keywords shows up to 800 phrases that appear on the page URL you entered and the phrase’s average monthly search volume, as shown below.

Keyword ideas for the URL "shop.nordstrom.com/c/womens-shoes-shop" from Google Keyword Planner.

5. Link Sleuth. Technically not a keyword research tool, this free website crawler will identify HTML and server-level data for almost every page on almost any site. In particular, Link Sleuth will provide you with a list of the title tags, meta descriptions, headings and meta keywords for any public (not password-protected) site you want. With some analysis work, this mass of data can reveal the keywords that your competitor is targeting across its site. Start with the meta keywords column because, if they’re being used, they will identify the exact keywords the site is targeting. Because more effort is required, this tool is more of a last resort when all your other keyword analysis efforts have failed to produce satisfactory results.

Note, however, that Link Sleuth is a homegrown tool that hasn’t been packaged with a shiny marketing wrapper, like the other tools listed here. Because it’s a personal site rather than a professional one, Link Sleuth contains some strongly held beliefs that do not reflect my views or the views of Practical Ecommerce.

6. Screaming Frog SEO Spider has more features and is developed professionally by an SEO company in the U.K., but the free version is limited to crawling 500 URLs. That may be enough for your uses, but not if you’re planning to identify keywords or other information on large ecommerce sites.

Database Keyword Tools

Keyword tools fall into several different types. The first relies on you to enter a keyword you’re interested in, after which the tool queries its own database for keywords it considers relevant. These tools are not typically tied to a search engine’s search data.

7. WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool. Claiming a trillion keywords in its database, WordStream looks within to find other related keywords and their monthly search volumes. WordStream also hosts Niche Finder, which shows keyword suggestions for more profitable niches related to any keyword you enter. Offering 30 free keyword suggestions, this tool is more of a trial than a free tool. In fact, it’s really a tool to entice you to sign up for a free trial of their full toolset. But it’s a good way to get the ball rolling for free.

8. Trellian Keyword Discovery. Another tool that searches its own database for keyword suggestions, Trellian returns related keywords and the number of times it is searched for per month according to its own database of users. I wouldn’t recommend using this as your keyword research data. Instead, use it as a source for keyword ideas to enter into the Google Keyword Planner.

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