Keyword research is a fairly simple but somewhat tedious task that most of us dread. But as it’s more or less a collection of repetitive processes that aren’t actually that taxing on the mind.

Keyword research should be a part of every site owner’s overall marketing tactics, whether they are involved in ecommerce or blogging. Likewise, SEO is an important part of increasing traffic, improving your reputation and bumping up your site’s visibility. To do that, you need to know what keywords to target, which take us right back to keyword research.

You should always have a regularly updated list of what keywords are bringing in the highest returns with your search results. Often you will find these are not the words you would have expected, mainly due to popular terms being used by so many other sites, where statistically you are less likely to be seen in the mix. Instead, you need to target those that actually give you a chance of coming up top in Google search rankings.

So how do you get this data? What do you do with it once you have it? How important are long tail keywords? Here are some things you need to know about keyword research and how it comes into play for a good SEO campaign.

Getting the Keywords

Part of this process is just going to be about common sense. Let’s say you run a blog that does reviews for iPhone apps. The most obvious keyword would be ‘iPhone app’. But you can bet that a few hundred thousand other sites are going to be using that keyword. You would be better off using a long tail keyword that provides more description. For example, including a popular app you have reviewed, or the version of the iPhone currently on sale.

But the next part is calculating the returns from certain keywords. You can start out by using a keyword tool, such as on Google Adwords, Wordtracker, or SEO Book. It should give you a list to start from, which you will then need to put into Google to see how many results you get and what competing sites you will be up against. You want keywords with the least results, to give you a better chance of appearing in top ranking spots.

Note from Julie: My favourite keyword research tool these days is Keywords Everywhere – it costs $10 for 100,000 look ups and gives you lots of inspiration for your keywords.

Establishing Valuable Keywords

You have to take into account the competition for certain keywords. Occasionally, you will come across a keyword that has few results (or less than most). But the top ten or twenty ranking spots are taken by large sites that are well established. Having a few of these in results is perfectly normal, but too many and you will have little to no chance of breaking into the ranks.

Basically, value of a keyword is going to be judged by both the number of results it can become lost in, and the number of sites using it that can dominate your own in a search. The best keywords are those that have shown they can pass both of these measure points and so provide you with greater results in less time, with less effort.

And what if we need to find keywords that target a specific location?

Well, here are a handful of useful tools that can make the process a little more automated, and so much simpler!

Google Insights

Love it or hate it, Google provides lots of great free tools for us. Considering Google has revolutionized search engines and remains the primary source for all searches, we can’t neglect the value it provides. You can use it for both global and local research, making it a crucial tool for everyone.

Google Suggest is another source of keyword data and this tool will help you dig deeper into any local phrase: Google, Bing, Amazon, Youtube Keyword Suggest Tool.

Local  Marketing Source

While it doesn’t actually help you with researching the rankability  of various terms, it does help you come up with new keywords that are locally beneficial, and not just the super basic ones everyone is trying to use. Put in your zip code and the radius you want included in the demographic target, then fill in the rest of the relevant parameters.

5 Minute  Site

Almost identical to Local Marketing Source, it remains on the list due to a couple of extra features the other tool doesn’t have. You can break up the lines for larger lists so you can easily read the results when stored, which is very useful.

SEMRush

If you want  something a lot more thorough and professional, you will want to go with  SEMRush. There is a reason this one remains at the top of all recommended  keyword research tools that have a monthly fee. A Pro account will run you $69  if you buy a recurring membership, $129 for a single month. This gets 10,000  results per report, 3,000 reports per day, API access and more.

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