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The ultimate keyword research guide for web designers

Written by George Dan Pirvu on 12 November 2012

Having a good looking, fully functional website is crucial when it comes to selling a product or a service online; nevertheless, even the most beautiful website in the world is useless if it can’t attract qualified website visitors, people that are interested in purchasing whatever you (or your customer) are selling.

Sadly, the typical business owner doesn’t know too many things about website design and SEO, so he will not be able to give you too much useful information. But wouldn’t it be great if you could design an SEO-optimized website from scratch, thus providing extra value and increasing the chances for that particular website to rank high in the search engines?

On-page SEO Basics

Google has kept on tweaking its search algorithm formula dozens of times each month, but the main on-page SEO principles haven’t changed too much over the years: the targeted keywords need to be included in the URL, in the page title and in its description tag.

This means that if we are optimizing a particular website for “cheap watches for men”, the URL should look like this: (with or without an html extension)

Having the keyword included in the URL is a very powerful ranking factor; in fact, it was such an important ranking signal that Google has recently decided to devalue the EMDs (exact match domains), reducing the ranking power for domains like a lot. This means that you (or your clients) should stop chasing domains that include the targeted keywords, because they are useless now; nevertheless, having the desired keyword in the URL continues to be very important.

As mentioned before, the title tag of each website page should include the targeted keyword as well; here’s an example:

Buy cheap watches for men

Make sure to include the keyword in the title, but feel free to add more words before and / or after it, if it is needed. Don’t forget that the length of the title shouldn’t exceed 70 characters; otherwise, the text will be truncated by some of the search engines.

Another important on-page ranking factor is the text in the “description” tag, which should also include the targeted keyword, like this:

Buy cheap watches for men from XYZ. Get a 15% discount when you purchase online.

We’ve got a bit more room for the description tag (about 150 characters), so this is the ideal place to use a powerful call to action that will entice the visitor to click your website link.

These are all the important on-page SEO factors; forget everything you’ve learned about keyword density, bold / italic / underlined keywords, H1... H6 tags and so on, because Google doesn’t treat them as ranking signals anymore. Better concentrate on writing meaty, high quality content that includes your keyword whenever it is needed, but not more often than that.

Finding the Best Keywords

OK, so now that we have gotten the on-page rules in place, how do we determine the best keywords? Google offers a free Keyword Tool; just do a “google keyword tool” search (without using the quotes) and you will discover its link.

This tool was built for the people that use AdWords, Google’s paid advertisement network, but it works great for SEO purposes as well. But before we begin, please remember that each and every one of our keywords must have all these three qualities:

  • Good commercial value (must be a buying keyword);
  • Big monthly search volume;
  • Low competition.

But how can we identify a buying keyword? Lots of people are typing “watch” in Google’s search box, for example, but only a few of them want to purchase watches from an online store; some people are only interested in seeing pictures of the newest watch models, others simply want to “watch” a TV show, and so on.

This means that all our keywords must include words that signal a buying intention, and here are several good examples: buy, purchase, cheap, used, discount, deal, on sale, cure, remedy, quit, learn, stop, solution, learn, problem. Use one or more of these words in conjunction with the desired keyword (“watches” in my example) and you will get a list of buying keywords (“cheap watches”, “discount watches”, “watches on sale”, etc) in no time.

Let’s fire up Google’s Keyword Tool; make sure to sign into it using an AdWords account, because this will allow you to get many more results. Use your Gmail user / pass to log into AdWords, or create a fresh Gmail account in case that you don’t have one. Then, type in a buying word from the list above, adding one or more words that interest you; that’s how I have discovered the “cheap watches” keyword.

Press the “Search” button, and then click the “Keyword ideas” tab; you will see an image that looks like the one below.

As you will see, Google is giving us a list of about 800 keywords, together with their search volumes and approximate cost per click values. We need to filter out these results, and the first thing that must be taken care of is the “Match Types” filter, which can be found in the left side vertical menu.

Google Keyword Tool - Match Types Explained

By default, Google’s tool uses a “Broad” match type, a setting that also includes searches like “cheap watch”, “inexpensive watches”, “cheap timepiece”, etc, in addition to our “cheap watches” keyword. As you can probably guess, the search volume offered by the “Broad” setting isn’t accurate, so we shouldn’t rely on it; nevertheless, we can (and we should!) use it to discover new, related keywords.

The “Exact” match type is very close to what we are looking for; it lists the number of searches made by the people that are typing our very keyword in Google’s search box. As an example, if Google’s tool displays a number of 12,100 exact monthly searches for “cheap watches”, it means that more than 12,000 people are typing “cheap watches” (without using the quotes) in Google’s search box each month.

Finally, the “Phrase” match lists the total search volume for our targeted keyword, as well as for the keywords that are obtained by adding one or more words to it; “buy cheap watches”, “how to purchase cheap watches”, “cheap watches online”, “cheap watches to buy”, etc are a few possible examples.

Don’t use the “Broad” match to get the keyword search volumes; those figures are way too optimistic. Rather than that, use Broad match to discover new keywords, write them down, and then use the “Exact” match setting to get accurate search volume data for them.

Keyword Research Tips

Now that we have gotten our AdWords data in place, we can find lots of buying keywords fast by simply sorting the Approximate CPC column in a descending order; this will make the most profitable keywords appear at the top of the list.

Think about it for a second: all these AdWords advertisers are paying 2... 3 dollars per click because many of the people that are typing those keywords in Google’s search box are actually buying their products. The actual CPC value will depend on your niche, of course; there are industries where the cost per click is below one dollar and others where it can exceed 100 dollars, for example.

Pick all the keywords that have an exact match search volume above 100 and are relevant for the niche that you are targeting; here’s a list with eight keywords that were obtained using the data above as a reference: 

luxury watches for men
luxury watch
buy watches
luxury watches
high end watches
ladies designer watches
buy luxury watches
buy watches online uk

Does this mean that you should create eight separate website pages, each one of them being optimized for one of the keywords? Not at all; in fact, by doing that you might trigger Google’s spam sensors. Take a good look at the keywords; they can be grouped in a few categories, just like this:

luxury watches for men
luxury watch
luxury watches
buy luxury watches
high end watches 

buy watches online uk
buy watches

ladies designer watches

We can create a “buy high end luxury watches online” page for the first two categories; it does a good job, including most of our targeted keywords. The “ladies designer watches” would get a separate page, of course. Resist the temptation to create different “luxury watches for men”, “luxury watch”, “luxury watches” and other pages like these; Google’s Panda search engine algorithm update has devalued the sites that were having very similar pages, so it will penalize your website as well.

Keyword Competition Analysis

So now we have found the best buying keywords that have a good search volume; how do we determine their competition level? Google’s Keyword Tool displays a “High” level of competition for most keywords, but this is the AdWords competition level, and not the SEO competition level.

In other words, Google’s tool tells us that many advertisers are bidding for those keywords (this means that we have picked the right ones) but doesn’t tell us how many people are actually competing for those keywords organically, using search engine optimization techniques.

Fortunately, we can figure out the competition levels easily, by doing a simple Google search. Type:

allintitle:my keyword

in Google’s search box and you will see the number of SEO competitors, people that have included the keyword that interests us in the title tag of their website pages. Here are the allintitle values for each one of our keywords.

luxury watches for men – 11,200 direct competitors

luxury watch – 165,000 direct competitors

buy watches – 4,190,000 direct competitors

luxury watches – 516,000 direct competitors

high end watches – 24,400 direct competitors

ladies designer watches – 15,100 direct competitors

buy luxury watches – 32,400 direct competitors

buy watches online uk – 24,800 direct competitors

As a general rule, try to stay away from keywords that have above 30,000 direct competitors; getting a first page ranking for a keyword that’s got over 100,000 direct competitors is impossible without using several powerful link building methods, and getting one of the top spots for a keyword like “buy watches”, which has over 4 million direct competitors, can take many years. It is always better to go for keywords that have a lower competition (ideally, under 10,000 direct competitors) and then move on to more competitive keywords, as Google starts to trust your website more and more. I also like to study the top 10 competitors for each targeted keyword; if they are huge brands or if the average site PageRank value is greater than 3, it’s best to find another keyword.

Getting Your Competitors’ Keywords

But what happens when you are unable to come up with good keyword ideas? Maybe you have a client that has asked you to design an SEO-optimized website, but you don’t know where to start. If this is the case, you will be glad to know that Google’s Keyword Tool can also be used to spy on our competitors.

Do a simple Google search for a keyword that feels right; I’ll use “buy watches”. Take a good look at the websites that are listed on the first Google search results page; the search engine giant thinks that they deserve to be there, so we’ll X-ray them.

Start the Keyword Tool and then copy / paste your first competitor’s URL in the “Website” field, leaving “Word or phrase” blank.

Click the “Search” button and Google will display a list with 100 keywords that he considers to be relevant for that particular website, a fantastic piece of information that shows you what Google thinks about your competitor’s online property. Did you know that the online advertisers will pay over 18 dollars per click for “best casio”? Neither did I, until I performed this search, sorting the results by CPC in a descending order. Sure, the monthly search volume is quite low, but give me 100 keywords like this and I won’t need anything else. Repeat the process for the top 10 websites, typing in different sets of keywords in Google’s search box, and you’ll get thousands of great keywords in less than an hour.

More than that, we have discovered that “best” is also a powerful buying keyword, so we will be able to add it to the list and use it for our own research from now on. Run the most expensive competitor keywords through the keyword tool, one by one, the way I did it with “cheap watches”, sorting the results by their CPC, and you will get a big list of great keywords in no time.

We are now at the end of our keyword research guide for web designers; I hope that you have learned at least a few tips from it. Make sure to stick with low competition keywords and you will be able to create websites that get ranked on the first Google search results page without going through too much trouble.


About the author: George Dan Pirvu, the author of this article, is the CEO and founder of Randombyte, an SEO company which offers ethical SEO services to the business owners that get a better ROI by running their businesses rather than doing SEO work.

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