Keyword Research (Part 3) Key phrases

“One of the most common misconceptions about conducting keyword research for a search engine optimization campaign is the belief that you already know which terms a customer would use to find your site. You don’t. Not without first doing some research anyway.

You may know what your site is about and how you, the site owner, would find it, but it’s difficult to predict how a paying customer would go about looking for it.” – Lisa Barone –

Now that we understand why we do keyword research and which basic seo tools to use, we moved on to define the core mission of our website and then to discover our “core” keywords. This is a strong foundation that allows us to confidently move to the next steps in the process.

Our specific search phrases are essentially the word combinations that are born from our core keywords.

Our goal in this phase is to discover all the phrases that potential clients and customers actually use when searching; then we’ll continue to evaluate the phrases based on search volume, competition and other important variables.

In part one of this guide we introduced some basic “free” seo research tools. There are many more available but if you’re serious about SEO keyword research you’ll probably want to consider investing a few green backs to access a deeper pool of data.

That’s where services like Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery come into the picture.

Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery are subscription based tools that allow you to easily access real world search data from a recent period of time.

I can’t imagine a more valuable service. What’s even better is that the services are very affordable. Wordtracker can be had for around $300 a year or you can elect to purchase shorter subscription periods for less. Wordtracker also offers a free version of their service to anyone that wants to give it a spin.

The free version only returns results from MSN though and the full version returns results from all the major players like Google, Yahoo and more. Consider this when using the free version but it’s still a decent tool to get a feel of an industry and to see which terms rank and which ones don’t.

Keyword Discovery is a little more pricey but they claim to have a much larger database of key phrase data to pull from. A recent Search Engine Watch review of Keyword Discovery said:

“Trellian’s Keyword Discovery recently took keyword database options to a new level by providing several databases with different sources.
Their core is a default global database that collects data from a variety of sources including over 180 search engines worldwide.

This includes search statistics from Google, Yahoo, MSN, Teoma and others.

The authors at SEW continue…

In addition to the original global database, Keyword Discovery now offers a premium database that is derived from user panel information and the toolbars of over 3.5-million users. The biggest advantage of the Premium database is its immunity to skewing problems that plague most other sources of data.

Results are more accurate and offering search marketers greater confidence in making keyword decisions.”

If you have the money in your budget I believe Keyword Discovery is the best choice overall; feel free to use both services and combine the results with all the other free resources available to get a complete snapshot. The more data that you can gather, the more confident you’ll be in your final results.

Outside of the leading services there are many more excellent options like will give you all the usual information about your keywords plus detailed information about your competition and your target industry. also provides deep historical data that can be useful for studying seasonal trends.

This service has received many positive reviews and is an excellent addition to the leading services.

One additional benefit of and services like Wordtracker is that you can sign-up for one day if you’d like, use the service as needed, and then cancel your membership. It’s an excellent way to gather a mountain of data and invest next to nothing. Visit the site now to take a tour.

We’ll talk more about these services and many more as the days and months go by, but if you’d like to do more research on your own I would recommend starting with the recent poll that was completed by Top Rank Online Marketing. It provides results from reader votes plus direct links to many other quality resources for keyword research.

Gathering key phrases

Once you’ve made your decision regarding your SEO tool of choice and you have your paid subscription and tools in hand, the first thing you need to do is start typing in your core keywords so you can discover your key search phrases.

A keyword search phrase or “key phrase” differs from a core term in that it’s essentially a “branch” from the core tree.

When you type your core keywords into the software the magic begins and your investment is returned to you immediately.

Typing in a core term will return all of the related key phrases and they’ll be sorted with the terms with the highest search volume at the top of the list.

From this point, all you have to do is add your key phrases to your list and save them. Most of the top tools allow you to setup projects within the software and save your lists, but you can accomplish the same results by building a list in Excel or a simple Word doc if you have a short list of terms.

At this point in the process you need to quickly add all the results to your list. Don’t spend too much time analyzing the terms for relevancy (we’ll discuss this soon!) because it will make a long process even longer.

Plan to add all the results and then get into the mindset of sorting later. In my experience I find it hard to pull key phrases from core keywords while also trying to determine if they’re truly relevant.

Focus on gathering now and then focus on sorting in the next step. If you do see a phrase that is blatantly off topic you should feel free to remove it immediately for obvious reasons.

There is no point in adding a key phrase like “world’s most famous artist” when your goal is to rank for “affordable artist supplies”.

Quickstart Tip: If one of your key phrase terms returns a large number of results (over 100 or more) I would recommend reviewing the terms to see if you can break the term into multiple key phrases.

In the past we’ve used the example of an online art supply store where one of your core key phrases might be artist canvases.

If you enter artist canvases into Wordtracker you might find that it returns a lot of results on stretched canvas and many more on board canvas.

Since these terms could potentially target a completely different group of users and manufacturers, it might be a good idea to separate them into separate lists and target them separately.

After you complete the process of extracting key phrases from your core keywords and you’ve exhausted all your resources and tools, save your work and prepare for the next step in the process which is sorting.

In our next post we’ll be discussing the issue of sorting your key phrases to determine which are the ideal candidates for your SEO campaign.

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3a | Read Part 3b | Keyword Research Checklist

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