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ION's Search Engine Optimization Training: Instructions for Keyword selection & keyword tips

SECTION ONE - How to find the most profitable Keywords

         Keywords are essentially what SEO is all about. This page will attempt not only to show you how to pick profitable keywords for your site or page, but it will try to show you the real way that web site traffic marketing works... Supply, demand, relevancy, how people look for things on the net. It's a beautiful thing once you understand it, and an important concept to know for any size of an SEO project. So if you are going to spend time to do any section right out of our Twelve, this is the one. Selecting your keywords is so important to SEO that I could fill the page here with examples of exactly why. However, my keyword selection process is already going to make this page one of the longest on our whole site, so I had better save some room and get right to the point. Before you start the process though, I suggest that you read all of the following terms, even if you already know what most of them mean.
SEO terms you might want to review for this step:

            Keywords             Keyword Phrases
            Keyword Supply             Keyword Demand
            Keyword Profitability (Ratio)             Keyword Positioning
            Keyword Ranking             Relevancy


Keyword tips for finding your most profitable keywords.

  1. Grab a piece of paper & a pen. (A text file or word doc will do fine as well.) Title this page your "Seed list." Put your mind to work thinking about the word phrases that people will most likely use to search for your services. Write them all down, but don't worry about variations on a single theme yet. The goal here is to get all of the different WORDS (not keywords) down that can be used to match your description.

  2. When done with that preliminary listing of seed words, let's add to it by grabbing the keywords from your competitors' websites. They've gone through the trouble to place them on their pages to get found, but that doesn't mean they OWN those words... This is clearly a competition! So let's go grab those keywords too and include them in our initial batch. Here's how:

    Simply search likely keywords in Google. (Or another Search Engine if you want to compete in that one instead.) Try the five best keyword phrases that you can think of that people would search to find your services. Once on the search results page, only search the pages that are your site's COMPETITION, not just the other sites involved with your industry, which aren't quite relevant yet. Once found, you might ask, how do we find out what the keywords they are competing for are? Simply click "View," then "Source" (Internet Explorer) or "Page Source" on your browser's menu bar (Netscape/Mozilla) to open up a text file showing you their page's source code. In their Meta Tags near the top of their code page, (assuming they have any META Tags) one tag in particular will look like this:

    <META Description="Keywords" Contents="Keyword one, keyword two, and keyword number three, etc..">

    If they know what they are doing, then you should see around five keyword phrases, separated by a comma-and-a-space inside their final quotation marks on that line. It doesn't matter how many though, you want as many words as possible for this part, and it will actually be easier to compete with people who entered in too many keywords here. So write them all down in your seed list, from each site you find that competes with yours. You're going to start your keyword generation process with this list, but it doesn't mean any of these verbatim words will wind up being your keywords. Some might, but you never know which ones. When you feel that you have gotten a deep & wide sampling of all likely words from every corner of your industry or topic, you're ready to start the actual generation process.

    Section One shortcut:
    If you'd like to pay a service to do much of the following work for you, with even better quality that the overture database you'll use can producce, I can highly recommend Wordtracker's Keyword Generation Service. Although Wordtracker offers a unique and powerful generation process, you can do a better job of finding the 'perfect' keywords yourself by following the manual process on this page. (NOT a paid keyword service.) Although not exactly free, Wordtracker can save you tons of time. If you do use their service, at least scan the rest of the page below to properly understand this section, which is the foundation for SEO in general. (Although you won't have to do anything until the next section.)

  3. Create a spreadsheet in the format of your choice with 5 vertical columns named: 'Keywords,' 'Demand,' 'Supply,' 'Ratio,' & 'Links.' Or you can use our database template in MS-Excel format by clicking here. (24 kb download) Call it your "Keyword Database." You'll be using this database in just about every section of this process!

  4. Choose an automatic or manual creation process: (Both are free)

    • If you want to use a free tool to speed up the generation process, you now have two choices. Phil Tanny at Links-for-you.com has added a couple of great free tools recently, & one of them, his 'Keyword Brainstormer' at Keyword-for-you.com, is an online tool to help you do this. After you use it, simply cut and paste his results into your Keyword Database.
      An easier method may be however to downlaod and install IBP and take advantage of their "Keyword Generation" tool. IBP is a very useful freeware program that will output to a Database like Excel or .cvs format, so I highly recommend loading it on your PC now, as it may come in handy later on. For both tools, while highlighting the Overture results for transfer, don't forget to make sure that you highlight the numbers beside the keywords too! When finished, export the database to your desktop and you can use it's contents to start your keyword database. (Just copy the first two columns and paste them in yours.)

    • If you prefer to do things the old fashioned way, simply go to Overture yourself and enter your seed list, pulling out the relevant keyword results one at a time, cutting and pasting them and your Keyword Database.

  5. Using either method, build up a list of as many keywords as you can. Don't be concerned with pluralized words, Google and most others don't use the "s" at the end of a keyword for simplicity's sake. However, the other suffixes, -ed, -ing, -er, etc., all create separate words in the eyes of the Search Engines... Place each version of your phrase on new line, as separate keywords. You never know what state of mind your searchers will be in when they are at a search prompt.

  6. Use any additional tools you might find helpful from our Keyword generation tools page that might help you better find keywords in your market niche, to top off your list. When you are finished, you'll have all the keywords out there in one form or another that are relevant to your website theme.

  7. Got a huge list? More than you expected? Great. Some topics require as few as 50 or so keywords by this point, but more commonly you'll have 250-500 keywords built up. Now let's narrow them down. Time to do a relativity scan. One by one, look down the list and ask yourself:

    • (If you are more concerned with traffic than targeting) "If a person I would want to visit my website (for any reason) would use this phrase to search for something similar to my product."

    • (If you want better-targeted traffic, meaning less traffic, but those who do come are more likely to buy) ask yourself this: "If I were looking to learn about my product or service, could I possibly use this keyword phrase to search for it?"

    When you make it to the bottom of you list, it should be a good bit shorter, depending on how diligent you were at choosing your keywords out of overture. Hopefully it is much more manageable now, but not too short.

  8. Search each keyword phrase, put within quotation marks, in Google. At the upper right of the main column in a results page, you'll then see a number telling you how many results were found: (Ex: "Results 1 - 10 of about 910,000")

  9. Write the resulting number (just the 910,000 part) down in the "Supply" column of your keyword database beside its' keyword. I know it's a long process, but this is the longest step, and trust me, it's worth it! Hopefully someone out there has programmed a simple tool to find these numbers faster and will share it with us. (Hint hint, helpful programmers!)

  10. Now that you have the Supply & Demand for each number, the rest is easy. Since more demand is a good thing, but more supply is bad, then you are looking for the keywords with a supply that is equal or smaller than its' demand. In fact, ideally, you will find lots of phrases where the demand is 5 to 10 times the supply, and fill your website with those words. But the more fiercely your topic is competed for, the harder it is going to be to find these high-demand-low-supply keywords. If you can't find any at all, you know that it's time to seek out a deeper niche. How to sort these results easily? Open up your Keyword database and do the following simple formula:

    • You can set up a formula in Microsoft Excel to calculate the ratio for you. Assuming your keyword is on row 4, your Demand column is C, your Supply column is D, and your Ratio results are on column E, then the formula looks like:
      " =C4/D4 " in cell E4. Round your answer to 2 decimal points.

    • In other spreadsheet software, look up their mathematical formulas to divide the D4 cell into the C4 cell. It's just a matter of dividing the supply into the demand.

    • If you're doing it all on paper or in your head, just divide the supply into the demand for each keyword. You're looking for a number of 1 or larger.

  11. When you've finished all of your calculations, sort by the Ratio Column, (E) with the largest number at top. Now go down to the point where the numbers turn from 1 into 0.something, add a row between them, and color it red... Everything below the red line is "unprofitable," and everything above is "profitable." (In theory, at least.) The words toward the top are the easiest to "win" with in the search engines, but we're not finished just yet.

  12. Now select all of the profitable keywords' rows. They are not sorted in the order of best to use yet, only the order of how easy it is to win them. To fix this, simply re-sort just those rows by the Demand again, with the largest number at top. That puts the more desirable of the winners at the top. You're almost done!

  13. Assuming you've got a list of at least 10 or more profitable words now, all with a ratio above 1:1, sorted by demand, Start with the very top one and consider making it your website's new "theme" word. You will be placing it on as many pages of the site as you can, and anywhere else you can get away with. (Such as in the text for incoming links.) Of course, it has to be relevant enough, so perhaps you'll do better with the 2nd or 3rd most profitable word on the list... I'll leave that to your judgment. But whichever you go with, you must choose the five most relative keywords from the list of most profitable keywords for each of your pages that you will optimize. (Landing or main content pages.) Write those five keyword phrases down on a sheet of paper for each page you optimize. It is fine for a few keyword phrases to be repeated on other pages too, but the fewer overlaps, the better. The first Keyword is special though, & it will be repeated more than the others, so this, your 'primary keyword' should be highlighted on your list so that you know to use it more once you get into Keyword positioning, in Section #7. In fact, the five chosen keywords for each page will be continually referred to in the majority of the sections from here on out, so spend the time now to do them right!


        That does it for the steps of section one. You should now have all your keywords taken care of for your whole SEO project just by following the steps above. You can keep reading on this topic below for some more helpful tips & strategy, but if you're in a hurry to continue, you can click the big link at the bottom or above on section #2 of the menu bar now.



IDEAL Keyword Selection criteria for SEO:
High relevancy. It should be what the people who are looking for your product or services would think to enter into a Search Engine.
High Demand. The number of people who searched this term last month, naturally more is better, and more keywords with more demand is best. (Stay to 5 per page though!)
Low supply. The number of other Websites using that Keyword currently. Try not to compete with too many!
High S/D Ratio. Your Keyword's demand divided by its' supply. The higher your PageRank, the lower this number can be. Still, try to stay at a Ratio of at least 1:1 for any new words you add. (Lower is OK with higher PageRank.)


Why the Keyword Generation process is so important in SEO

        A website can't rank any higher than the keywords it is competing for. I've said it before, but I can't stress it enough: If you don't do a good job selecting your keywords, then you've sabotaged every step afterwards. This is because when you get right down to it, Keywords are the only thing that you are competing for. Your website is the battleground on which you fight for your right to represent that keyword on the web. Sure, you can 'battle for' multiple keywords at once, but the more a site is optimized to compete for a particular keyword, then the more likely that the Search Engines will award you the prize of its' traffic.

        With the completion of this section, your battle has officially begun. Like all battles, there are competitors, rules, time limits, spoils of war, winners, and losers. Not to worry though, if you learn the rules and stay within the limits, we'll guide you through unharmed. Building this keyword database and choosing your 5 words to compete with for each page is like building the weapons back at your fort before you ever set out for the battlefield. Make sure that your weapons are more powerful than those of your competitors.


Wondering about the "Links Needed" column in your database?

        In Section #10 we will deal with building your link popularity and PageRank by using a link exchange program. This is really important for your competition for each keyword, so you'll be using this column at that point, when we have to figure out how many incoming links you'll need to be the most popular for each keyword. Just try to ignore it for now though, you've got to take each step in stride, because there are more important things to do first.


Why everyone can compete using SEO

        Many people ask me why they can compete against the others in their industry, no matter how tough the competition is. It seems impossible, right? How can a very large, competitive industry allow any new competitors? I didn't have an answer for them when I first started, but I feel pretty foolish now. It's quite simple... There are near-infinite keywords! Once you have generated a big list of keywords for your topic, you'll see that there's never a time when there are none below 1:1... No matter how many businesses compete over a keyword, there will always be searchers adding more Keywords to the search pile, and new keywords always start off profitable. Always. Even if it only has a demand of twenty, that's twenty free customers for the new guy who grabs it first and optimizes his site to it.

        Over time, your site will likely need adjusting to stay optimized to the most profitable keywords. It's true, this is a never-ending process simply because the terms that people use in modern culture are ever-changing. One day we refer to violent, crazy people as "Postal employees" and the next we refer to them as "Bin Ladens." Pop culture is directly responsible for all of the final forms of any given search phrases that aren't verbatim names. You can't know what will be the next popular keyword for your industry, so don't worry about it too much. Perhaps you should just watch them change month by month, and only trade them out on your site when a really good one comes along. Trading them too often is very hard work, so if you plan to do it monthly, make sure you've got a lot of time on your hands, or can hire someone else that does.

On a related topic, I've found this great keyword tool (162 kb download) that shows you what people are searching for LIVE. It's fun to watch, but it's only practical value to SEO is for those who are watching Keywords weekly or even daily to see if they should change their site to match the latest find... A bit more work than I'd like to do.


Advanced keyword tips / strategies

        Naturally, there are many variations of the methods I've described above. We have tried to put this together to suit the needs of the many, which of course means that we left out any specializations for the few that can benefit from them. However, a common situation that I can give an advanced keyword tip for is one where a small number of profitable keywords can be found, but the pages on the site are so many that most or all keywords must be repeated. This isn't uncommon at all, and I want to remind you all first that it's just fine to repeat keywords from page to page. Just don't put all five in the same order on more than one page. If one page using "keyword X" is pointed to from another page using keyword X as well, it only strengthens the first page's pagerank. So don't clone your keywords' order, but do try to use them as often as they are relative.

        It is a sound strategy to use five keywords per page, in a different order on each of five pages, making a different one of them the primary keyword for one page each. So 50 pages would only need 50 keywords to be done perfectly, each one having a different primary keyword and the rest jumbled as your site needs to match them to the content. As long as the relevancy is there, that would 'saturate' those keywords wonderfully.


Our final word on Keywords

        ION takes very seriously the business of Keyword selection. In fact, it is in effect our specialty, and we pride ourselves for the level of relevance that we add to the process for each and every keyword considered. The SEO tools we link to above and also offer on the accompanying SEO Tools page are excellent for what they do, and each is really optimized for a different target audience. However, they are all just programs, none have human help behind them. Keep in mind that you will be the only thing deciding how relevant each keyword is, and that's the most important step in the whole selection process. No pressure, just remember that your brains is ultimately the core of the process, and that will never be improved on.


Our second section will show you exactly how to choose your own, optimal server host. If you haven't decided for sure about your host server yet, you'll really be glad I wrote the next page. If you feel confident with your host server though, you are the one we really wrote the page for, as there is much hidden to be learned about on that topic!

Click here to continue on to Section Two


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