Keyword research

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Keyword research is a practice used by search engine optimization professionals to find and research actual search terms people enter into the search engines when conducting a search.


Background Data US

Current data indicates that:

  • 72.5% of the population of the United States is online [1],
  • there were 11.7 billion searches in the month of August 2008[2],
  • the number of internet users who use search engines has increased from one third to 49% [3] , fast catching the daily use of email by internet users (which has comparably increased from 52% to 60% over the same 6 year period).

Background Data International

Current data indicates that:

  • There are nearly 1.5 BN people online worldwide (a penetration rate of 21.9%). This is an increase of 405% in the number of people online in December 2000 [4].

[All the following data can be found on the website]

  • The largest increases in terms of internet use by geographic area since 2000 can be seen in the Middle East [an increase of 1,276% since December 2000 to 42M], followed by Africa [1,131% to 51M].
  • The countries with the highest internet penetration rate (all greater than 70% of their population) are: Greenland (92.3%), Netherlands (90.1%), Norway (87.7%), Iceland (84.8%), Canada (84.3%), New Zealand (80.5%), Australia (79.4%),Sweden (77.4%), Japan (73.8%), Portugal (72.9%), US (72.5%), Bermuda (72.1%),Luxembourg (71%), South Korea (70.7%).
  • The countries with the largest number of people online (all above 30M) are: China (253M), US (220M), Japan (94M), India (60M), Germany (53M), Brazil (50M), UK (41M), France (36M), South Korea (35M), Italy (34M), Russia (32M).

In this highly competitive and growing global market place, for a company to understand what terminology, keywords and phrases their online target market is utilizing to search for their offering, it is imperative that the company conduct extensive keyword research.

Potential Barriers

Branding Perceptions

Many company leaders and managers have their own interpretation of how they want their brand to be portrayed and ostensibly perceived online. A luxury second hand car dealer, for example, may only want to include the words ‘pre-owned automobiles’ on their web site, and not ‘used cars’. The fact that thousands of people are searching for a used car, and very few are searching for a preowned automobile needs to be communicated.

Existing Brands

If a company decides to sell Nike trainers online, the market is pretty competitive, and the Nike brand itself is predominant.

Overlooking geographic targeting

Depending on what a company sells or offers, overlooking the likelihood of the inclusion of geographical locations in the search query may be highly detrimental. The following are examples of queries with city names included in a search: ‘homes for rent Edmonton’, ‘used car dealer new york’, ‘chicago hotels’, ‘Vancouver Chinese restaurants’ etc.

Long Tail

The long tail is a type of statistical distribution where a high-frequency population is followed by a low-frequency population which gradually "tails off".

The long tail in keyword research is basically an expansion of a core, generic, high volume keyword phrase to include numerous combinations and permutations of the keywords and their associated or relevant phrases. These phrases individually are unlikely to account for a great deal of searches, but when taken as a whole, can provide significant traffic. The long-tail is unlikely ever to exceed searches for a brand name if the brand name is reasonably well established, but the volume of converting traffic these terms can generate by nature of their specificity and relevance is worth investigating.

Comprehensive long-tail keyword research can be a highly effective strategy, since people making long-tail searches are arguably further along in the buying cycle (a significant amount of prior knowledge is needed in order for the searcher to know which words to use), so conversion rates can be higher. Recent long-tail keyword research has found that long-tail searches often exhibit a higher conversion rate by up to 200% compared to short-tail (generic) keywords, and can be extremely profitable for search engine marketers in terms of a lower cost per action and higher return on investment[5].

Since long-tail keywords are naturally more specific in nature than short-tail keywords, long-tail keywords present a great opportunity for search marketers to provide highly relevant ads which cater for the specific needs of highly-qualified searchers. If done skillfully, a paid search campaign with long-tail keywords can exhibit a considerably higher CTR than one with short-tail keywords[6]. What's more, since paid search click prices (CPCs) vary depending on a real-time supply and demand auction, long-tails can often be cheaper by up to 50% due to less competition[7].

Ken Jurina reiterates that thorough keyword research consistently uncovers surprising topics in every study and presents him with numerically supported ratios that challenge his assumptions about his industry. [8]

Conducting Keyword Research

(Please note, this is not an entry on how to apply keyword research.). Keyword research should not be undertaken ad hoc. It is the foundation [9]. for all natural search engine optimization techniques as the keywords finally selected based on search volume and likely ability to compete should be included in some, if not all, of the following SEO onpage elements, as well as in any anchor text backlinking to the relevant webpages:

Christine Churchill, another noted SEO expert, simply states that keyword research is the bedrock of successful web page optimization. [10]

Sources of traditional paid and free keyword research data

Uses of Advanced Keyword research

* Business Research - Product Research - Brand Equity - Competitive Intelligence - New Market & Product Opportunity Identification - Consumer Feedback

* Social Research - Political Topics - Public Issues - Celebrity Brand

Notes and references

  1. Internet World Stats (2008). "US Onine Population" (in English). Retrieved June 30, 2008. 
  2. comScore (2008). "US October Search Volume" (in English). Retrieved October 20, 2008. 
  3. PewInternet (2008). "Search Engine Use" (in English) (PDF). Retrieved October 20, 2008. 
  4. Internet World Stats (2008). "Internet World Stats" (in English). Retrieved June 30, 2008. 
  5. Alan Mitchell, "5 Benefits of Long-Tail Keywords", 08/06/2009, ""
  6. Alan Mitchell, "5 Benefits of Long-Tail Keywords", 08/06/2009, ""
  7. Alan Mitchell, "5 Benefits of Long-Tail Keywords", 08/06/2009, ""
  8. Blog (2007). "Keyword Value" (in English). Blog. Retrieved September 18, 2007. 
  9. Blog (2007). "Keywords the Foundations of SEM Campaign" (in English). Retrieved May 12, 2007. 
  10. BruceClay Blog (2007). "Keywords the Bedrock of SEM" (in English). BruceClay Blog. Retrieved December 4, 2007. 

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