February 25, 2009
For people to find your web page, you need high-quality keywords. A high-quality keyword is a keyword that many people are searching for but few other web pages are using. You need to battle past your competitors to get to page one of the search engines, so the fewer the competitors, the better. Once you get there, you want a lot of customers to find you. Here’s how you can find quality keywords.
Go to Google’s keyword tool — just search Google for the phrase “keyword tool” and you’ll find it. You want to find a good keyword for something that you are offering, so start off with some phrases that describe it. Type them in.
Google’s keyword tool will ask you whether it should “use synonyms.” Allow it to. Click the “Get keyword ideas” button and Google will give you a list of keywords with their search frequencies. Download them in “.csv” form so you can load them into a spreadsheet (“.csv” means “comma separated values”). Repeatedly try other phrases and download and merge the spreadsheets.
Suppose you decide to set up a free print-on-demand T-shirt store on the web. It wouldn’t cost you a thing to put a NASA image on a T-shirt. How to make money is less obvious. For that you need to find keywords for the products. What products will you be offering? T-shirts, of course, but how many ways are there to say T-shirt? At least these: T-shirt (which Google translates into “t shirt”), T-shirts, Tshirt, Tshirts, tee shirt, tee shirts, tees (but “tee” often means golf tee). There are other varieties of apparel: tank, spaghetti strap, camisole, baseball jersey, sweatshirt… For that matter, you could generalize: shirt, shirts, apparel, clothing. And there are non-apparel items: BBQ apron, coaster, tote bag, cutting board, mouse pad, or generally, gifts.
Since you are interested in using NASA photos, you need to consider keywords related to space and astronomy. Here are some words people may be using: astronomy, universe, galaxy, cosmos, space, nebula, star (although this is more likely used for movie stars), stellar, solar system, planet, moon, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, comet, asteroid, … and people may combine those with telescope, Hubble, photo, photograph, image, … There are a lot of combinations to explore — a lot of work and a lot of opportunity.
When you’re ready to find the high-quality keywords, add another column to your spreadsheet. Label it “Results.” Fill in that column with some huge number, 999,999,999 say. Sort the spreadsheet in decreasing order by the average number of searches. Cut off the rows at the bottom of the spreadsheet which have too few searches to be worth your consideration. If you want at least 50 searches per day, throw away rows with fewer than 1500 average monthly searches.
Go down the spreadsheet looking up each of the keywords in Google. Put quotes around the keyword phrase in the Google search field. If you don’t put in the quotes, you’ll get too huge a number of results to be of interest — potentially every page mentioning any one of the words in the keyword phrase.
Google will tell you “Results 1 – 10 of about NUMBER for KEYWORD” where NUMBER is the estimate of the number of results and KEYWORD is the phrase you typed in. For each of the keywords you look up, you can copy the estimated NUMBER of results back into your spreadsheet into the results column. When Google says “about NUMBER”, it is a crude estimate. When I looked up ‘”galaxy t shirts”‘ the original estimate was 6,480 pages with the keyword phrase. By repeatedly clicking on the highest result page number at the bottom, I came to the end of the list of results and found that there were only 106. If however you get to more than 600 and you get a message, “In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 601 already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included,” you should suspect Google is trying to discourage you. Maybe you’d better just go with the estimate on page one.
While you are looking at the number of results, you can glance at the first results page and see if the keyword has a special meaning it would make it unsuitable for you. For example, thinking of selling astronomy-related T-shirts, you find “la galaxy t shirts” are related to a sports team, utterly irrelevant to your purpose.
After you have gone far enough down the list, looking up the keywords with sufficient numbers of searches, sort your spreadsheet by increasing numbers in your results column. Among the top keywords in your spreadsheet should be up to three good primary keywords to optimize your page for. (It’s hard to optimize a page for more than three keywords.) They have enough searches to be interesting, and they have the fewest competing pages among the interesting keywords.
Your primary keywords won’t necessarily be the first three. A keyword a little further down the list may have significantly more searches and only a few more competing pages. Or maybe only one or two have few enough competing pages. It should be utterly trivial to get onto page one of Google if there are only five pages competing for the same keyword, it might take a little bit longer if there are 500, longer still if there are 5000, and if there are 5 million, forget about it.
When you get to NASA images of the planet earth, you find something like this; “Planet earth shirt” looks promising: maybe 880 searches a month and 112 competing pages (estimated). In itself, that’s not large. “The planet shirt” has 880 searches/month for 388 competing pages. Together they may be worth some effort.
“Planet shirts” has 1900 searches for 1810 competing pages; “the planet t shirt” has 720 searches for 1900 competing pages; “planet shirt” has 5400 searches for 4320 competing pages. “Planet shirt” and “planet shirts” have an attractive number of searches, but the numbers of competitors make it look difficult to get to page one quickly. “The planet t shirt” may not be worth the effort.
“Planet t shirt” has 2900 searches for 27500 competing pages; “planet t shirts” has 1300 searches for 35300 competing pages. “Planet t shirt” and “planet t shirts” have way too many competitors. It’s nice to know you shouldn’t devote any time to them.
There you have it: a cheap and easy — well, cheap and tedious way to find quality keywords that can bring your page a lot of hits.
This article was adapted from a book by Thomas Christopher on opening online T-shirt stores. Visit his How-To-Shirts web site for information about the book. Dr. Christopher, a former CS Professor, loves to find out how to do something and explain it to others.