Before you optimize your website or buy pay-per-click (PPC) traffic, you should perform “keyword due diligence”.
That means you must check to see that Internet users are actually searching for information on your product or topic using the same keywords you assume they would use.
When I tell this to people, they often pooh-pooh it. “It’s not necessary for us to do keyword research,” they tell me. “We know our industry; we know our products; and we know what words they would search on.”
To which I say: Oh, really?
With the Internet, there is no need to guess at which keywords are the right ones. There are software tools that can tell you exactly how many Google searches were performed on your keywords this month.
Often, the keywords used most often are not the ones you picked. In addition, small variations in keywords can make a big difference in results.
For instance, I need to optimize a website for people looking to buy and maintain an aquarium.
It seems obvious that the keyword to optimize the home page for would be “aquarium”, right?
And when I used WordTracker to check, sure enough there were 823,000 searches on the term “aquarium” on Google.
But, there were 11.1 million searches on Google on the term “aquariums” which is the plural of aquarium and has an “s” at the end.
This result tells me that I should optimize the home page copy on the word “aquariums” and not just “aquarium”.
I would never have known this had I not done my due diligence and checked the actual search volumes myself.
Of what use is keyword due diligence? There are at least 3 online marketing activities that can benefit from keyword research and discovery.
The first, as already noted, is search engine optimization. Each page on the website should be optimized for keywords relating to its topic. These should be the keywords that get the most search activity.
The second online marketing activity related to keyword due diligence is pay-per-click advertising. Even a good PPC ad will generate mediocre sales results if you bid on the wrong keywords.
The third keyword-related online marketing activity is determining the feasibility of new products.
Example: you decide to write and sell an e-book on how to set up your first aquarium. You think fish-keeping is a very popular hobby, but you aren’t sure.
But even if you were sure that fish-keeping is popular, that doesn’t mean the book will sell. Remember, we are not selling in a bookstore; we are selling on the Internet.
So for a product to be successful, potential buyers must be searching the Internet for information relating to it.
My rule of thumb is that the keyword must have at least 100,000 searches a month on Google to be successful online. “Aquariums” with 11.1 million and “aquarium” with 823,000 both pass with flying colors.
There’s another way to do your keyword due diligence. It’s to spy on your competitors and see what keywords their websites are optimized on. But don’t worry, it’s perfectly legal.
Here’s how to do it: You can see what keywords your competitors are using by reading the source codes on their website. “Source code” is the programming language used to build their websites.
In optimized websites, the source code for the pages includes keyword lists in areas of the code called meta tags. The most important meta tags to check are the title tag, description tag, and keywords tag.
Failure to put strategic keywords in the title tag can result in pages being poorly ranked. The title tag can be a maximum of 95 characters including spaces, but ideally no longer than 6 or 7 words. The description tag should be a maximum of 220 characters with spaces.
To find the keywords contained in the meta tags of your competitor, go to his home page. Click “view” and then choose “source.” A window will appear displaying the page’s source code with the meta tags clearly labeled as headline, title, description, and keywords.
In minutes, you can know all the keywords your competitors have optimized their sites for. You can then use WordTracker or another keyword research and discovery tool to find out how much these terms are searched.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.