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Keyword Research

Keyword research is a fundamental part of online marketing of all kinds, and is especially relevant for freelance writers, online publishers, and bloggers. Compelling content is favored by search engines, but if you don’t use the words people are actually interested in and actively searching for, you’re missing a lot of traffic. But the value of keywords goes well beyond SEO copywriting. In fact, close your eyes for a moment and imagine a world where search engines don’t deliver traffic at all. Would keyword research still be valuable? You bet. Keyword research, at its essence, is market research. It tells you what people are interested in, and in what relative numbers. Better yet, it reveals the actual language people are using when they think about those topics, which provides you with insight on how to converse with them via your blog.Oh, and don’t forget to open your eyes back up. Because search engines do deliver lots of targeted traffic, and that’s the bonus round for smart keyword researchers.

       
 
 
Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. Through the detective work of puzzling out your market's keyword demand, you not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole. The usefulness of this intelligence cannot be overstated - with keyword research you can predict shifts in demand, respond to changing market conditions, and produce the products, services, and content that web searchers are already actively seeking. In the history of marketing, there has never been such a low barrier to entry in understanding the motivations of consumers in virtually every niche - not taking advantage is practically criminal.

How to Judge the Value of a Keyword
 
Every search phrase that's typed into an engine is recorded in one way or another, and keyword research tools like those described below allow us to retrieve this information. However, those tools cannot show us (directly) how valuable or important it might be to rank for and receive traffic from those searches. To understand the value of a keyword, we need to research further, make some hypotheses, test, and iterate - the classic web marketing formula.
 
The following is a basic, but valuable process for determining a keyword’s value:
 
Is the keyword relevant to the content your website offers? Will searchers who find your site through this term find the likely answer to their implied question(s)? And will this traffic result in financial rewards (or other organizational goals) directly or indirectly? If the answer to all of these questions is a clear "Yes!", proceed...
Search for the term/phrase in the major engines
 
Are there search advertisements running along the top and right-hand side of the organic results? Typically, many search ads means a high value keyword, and multiple search ads above the organic results often means a highly lucrative and directly conversion-prone keyword.

Buy a sample campaign for the keyword at Google AdWords and/or Bing Adcenter
 
In Google Adwords, choose "exact match" and point the traffic to the most relevant page on your website. Measure the traffic to your site, and track impressions and conversion rate over the course of at least 2-300 clicks (this may take only a day or two with highly trafficked terms, or several weeks with keywords in lesser demand).
Using the data you’ve collected, make an educated guess about the value of a single visitor to your site with the given search term or phrase.
 
For example, if, in the past 24 hours, your search ad has generated 5,000 impressions, of which 100 visitors have come to your site and 3 have converted for total profit , then a single visitor for that keyword is worth approx. $3 to your business. Those 5,000 impressions in 24 hours could probably generate a click-through rate of between 30-40% with a #1 ranking which would mean 1500-2000 visits per day, at $3 each. No wonder businesses love search marketing!

Of course, even the best estimates of value fall flat against the hands-on process of optimizing and calculating ROI. Remember that the time and money you invest in a search marketing campaign must be weighed against any returns, and even though SEO is typically one of the highest return marketing investments, measuring success is still critical to the process.

Understanding the Long Tail of Keyword Demand

It's wonderful to deal with keywords that have 5,000 searches a day, or even 500 searches a day, but in reality, these "popular" search terms actually make up less than 30% of the overall searches performed on the web. The remaining 70% lie in what's commonly called the "long tail" of search. The long tail contains hundreds of millions of unique searches that might be conducted a few times in any given day (or even only once, ever!), but, when taken together, they comprise the majority of the world's demand for information through search engines.
 
Understanding the search demand curve is critical, because it stresses the importance of "long-tail" targeted content - pages with information not directed at any particular single, popular query, but rather simply exposing the myriad of human thought, research, and opinion to the spiders of the search engines. As an example, to the right we've included a sample keyword demand curve, illustrating the small number of queries sending larger amounts of traffic alongside the plethora of rarely-searched terms and phrases that bring the bulk of our search referrals.
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