We all know that Google has the mother of all keyword tools. It’s free, it’s pretty comprehensive, and it now contains actual search volume data.
But the Google keyword tool does have limitations – most notably in the breadth of related keywords that it shows for your keyword. In other words, the Google tool doesn’t get inside the mind of your market and suggest all the possible keywords that could convert for your product or service.
Brainstorming keywords is a crucial step in internet marketing – whether you’re trying to optimize your site for natural search, or trying to find low-competition keywords for a pay-per-click marketing campaign. In fact, some super affiliates (like Jeremy Palmer) have said that their success boils down to this: keywords, keywords, keywords.
So how do you add to the keywords that Google gives you? Here are 15 ways you can create your seed list of keywords:
1. Analyze product sales pages or competitors’ websites
Did you know that you can get Google to scan your competitors’ websites – and they’ll tell you what keywords they think the site is about?
In fact, you can get Google to scan any web page and do the same. Here are two ways you can use it:
- If you’re planning to promote an affiliate product, get the Google KW tool to scan the affiliate product sales page. Instant keyword list for your PPC campaign!
- If you’re planning to launch your own product, get the KW tool to scan the websites of your competitors. Quick seed list to launch your PPC campaign!
Those well-fed Ph.D.s at Google never fail to amaze…
To get Google to scan a website, do this:
- Go to the Google keyword tool
- By default, the tool is set to generate keywords using “Descriptive words and phrases” (in other words, you type in a seed keyword, and it comes back with a suggested list of keywords).
- Change the setting to “Website content”
- Type in the URL for the website you want Google to scan:
- Google will return a big list of keywords that it thinks the website is about:
Instant keyword seed list!
2. Think about keywords associated with your target demographic/psychographic
This is an especially great technique if you’re brainstorming keywords for Google’s content network.
When you’re launching a content campaign, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. What topics is your target audience interested in? What are their hobbies and interests? Use these questions to brainstorm a list of keywords. Once you’ve done that, you can use a thesaurus or contextual tool (see #4 below) to expand that list.
3. Find the PPC keywords used by your competitors
If you’ve got some cash to throw around, give some of the “spy tools” a try. These online services will scour the paid search results for you and find the PPC keywords that your competitors are using, along with their ads. The most popular spy tools are Keyword Spy, KeyCompete, and SpyFu.
4. Use a thesaurus or contextual tool to find related keywords
With these tools you simply type in a keyword, and a list of related keywords will be presented to you. Depending on the tool, the keywords will be (1) synonyms or (2) contextually-related.
For example, typing the word “acne” in Thesaurus.com results in these synonyms:Blackheads Pimples Pizza-face Pustules Rosacea Skin inflammation Whiteheads Zits
If you were selling an e-book on how to cure acne, that would be a great (and hilarious) list of seed keywords to start with.
And you could expand this list by using a contextual tool like Quintura. Here are some of the keywords that Quintura thinks are contextually related to “acne”:Treatment Condition Medications Cures Pimples Whiteheads
You can see that there’s some overlap there – pimples and whiteheads were also in the thesaurus results. But Quintura also returned a lot of great related terms that you could use to advertise on Google’s content network (for example).
5. Browse the index of books in the niche
This is a “secret” brainstorming idea that I’ve only seen in one other place. In a nutshell, you can find a lot of laser-targeted keywords by taking advantage of the work done by book publishers.
Here’s what I mean: go to Amazon.com, and look up any book. When you get to the book page you’ll see the option (for most books) to “Look Inside”. When you click on the “Look Inside” button you’ll be given a few options – including the option to look at the index of the book. This is a goldmine of overlooked keywords!
Here’s the index of a book on how to cure acne (“The Acne Cure”). This book currently has 54 reviews, which is a good sign that it’s popular. And the book’s index is loaded with keywords!
6. Top ten book titles (and author names) on Amazon
This technique works when you’re promoting a product that is related to popular books or authors. So if you’re promoting a book or product related to acne, you would go to Amazon and type in the word “acne”, and grab all of the book titles and author names that come up on the first page. You then bid on those book titles and author names as keywords.
7. Use WordTracker’s “lateral search” tool to generate related keywords
Lots of people know about WordTracker, but not as many are familiar with its “lateral” search function.
When you do a lateral search in WordTracker it takes your keyword and scrapes the meta data from 100 web pages. It then shows you up to 300 keywords that are semantically and contextually related to your keyword, as well as up to 300 synonyms.
Here are some of the results for the term “acne” using WordTracker’s lateral search:
8. Look at meta keywords tag on competitor websites
We’ve all heard that website meta tags can be an important part of on-page search engine optimization. What isn’t well-known is that meta tags can also be a source of keyword research.
How? It’s pretty simple – by checking out the meta keyword tag of your competitors’ websites.
Let’s continue our “acne” example. Say you’re selling an e-book on how to cure acne naturally. Follow these steps to see which keywords your competitors are trying to optimize their websites for:
- Do a Google search for the term “cure acne naturally”
- Copy and paste the URLs for all of the sites on the first page of results
- Go to the Apogee meta keyword search tool
- Enter the URL of your main competitor
- Swipe the keywords from your competitor’s meta keywords!
Here are the results for the site CureAcneNaturally.com:
Disclaimer: some website owners are realizing that the meta keywords tag is useless for SEO purposes, and have stopped using it. But in my experience there are still a ton of top-ranking sites that still use the meta keyword tag.
9. Find product/service brand names related to your niche
A lot of “buy” keywords include the name of a particular product or service. In other words, if a person has made up their mind that they’re going to buy an acne remedy online, they won’t go to Google and just type in the keyword “acne”. If they’re at an advanced stage of the purchase cycle, they’ll probably type in the name of the acne product that they’ve decided to buy.
That’s why it’s so important to include the brand names of products and services in your keyword list. Even if you’re not selling “ThermaClear Acne Clearing Device”, you know the what the searcher is looking for: a cure for their acne. So why not put your (comparable) product in front of them at the very moment they’re searching for a solution?
To put together a list of products related to my niche, I use Google Product Search:
What’s especially awesome about this site is they give you a tidy list of major brands and online stores at the bottom of the search page:
If you’re an affiliate, make sure to check if you’re allowed to bid on brand names (some merchants don’t allow it). But if selling your own product you’re good to go!
10. Get keywords from forums related to your product or target audience
This one is pretty straightforward, but takes a bit of work. It goes like this: harvest keywords from online forums that are related to your product, or related to your product’s target audience.
If you sell a product that has a raving fan base – like the Wii or something like that – you’ll probably be able to easily find whole forums dedicated to your product. If your product doesn’t lend itself to a dedicated forum (like acne, for example), you’ll probably have to take a target audience approach. In other words, what demographic is most affected by acne, and would be looking for a solution?
With a niche like acne, I’m going to guess that the target audience most affected is…teenagers! Gee, my brain really hurts now 🙂
A simple way to find demographic-oriented forums is to do this search on Google:
demographic keyword + “forum”
So if I was researching acne keywords I would type into Google “teenager forum”. Here are some of the sites that came up for that search:ARG! Teen Network TeenHut TeenForums TeenForumz Teenager Advice Zone
You could also search BoardReader using the term “acne”.
Once you’re on the forum, it’s a process of browsing around posts looking for keywords that stand out. Are there any keywords that are used often? Any keywords that suggest people are desperate for a solution?
These could be your money keywords!
11. Research broad keywords on Wikipedia
How many times do you think Wikipedia gets searched in a day? According to Quantcast, Wikipedia gets 75.5 million searches a month. That’s around 2.5 million searches a day!
Wikipedia isn’t just an awesome free encyclopedia – it can also be a great source of market research (including keyword research).
The best way to use Wikipedia for keyword research is to enter your niche keyword and pick out (1) the most frequently used words on the page, and (2) the unusual words that stick out at you.
Here’s how to get the most frequently used words:
- Type your term into the search box on the Wikipedia home page
- Copy all of the content from the results page
- Go to an online text analysis tool like this one
- Paste all of the content into the text box. Hit “Submit”
- Scroll toward the bottom of the page until you see the single-word frequencies
- Scan that list, looking for the most relevant words for your niche
Finding the most unusual words in a Wikipedia entry is a manual process, unfortunately.
12. Ask your affiliate manager to get keyword list from merchants
If you’re promoting an affiliate product, getting a hot list of keywords might be as simple as contacting the affiliate manager and asking for a list of top-converting keywords. I say “might be” because there may be no affiliate manager at all (in the case of Clickbank products), or the manager might not be willing to give it to you. In that case, pick up the phone and call them. The personal touch might get you farther than an email.
13. News aggregation services
Here’s a way to jump on a hot trend before anyone else: use a news aggregation service (like Google News) to spot new keywords related to your niche.
When I typed the word “acne” into Google News, some interesting results came up. Here’s a screen shot of the results. I’ve circled some keywords that I think are interesting, and could be bid on in Adwords using exact-match:
This technique is especially effective when new words enter the public’s vocabulary (like “hanging chad” during the 2000 U.S. presidential elections).
Depending on the niche you work in, bidding on geographic keywords can massively expand your keyword list and reduce your cost-per-click. This is especially important because of peoples’ increasing use of search engines to find local services.
Using geo-keywords can be as simple as attaching city and state/province names to your keywords, then loading them up into your PPC account.
15. The “Alexa Technique” – using the top domain names (i.e. searcher typing URL into search engine)
This technique uses Alexa.com to find domains that you can bid on in your PPC campaign. The logic behind this is that people will sometimes type the domain of a website they’re looking for into the Google search bar (yep, sounds unbelievable – but it’s true).
Here are the steps:
- Go to www.Alexa.com and type your main keyword into the search box at the top of the page. (In this case, I typed in “acne”)
- Alexa will present you with a list of top sites related to the keyword you typed in. Write down these domains.
- Click on a domain, and you’ll see the estimated traffic stats for that website
- Click on “Related Links” to see a list of more domains related to that niche:
- You’ll see another list of sites that are related to that niche (in this case, “acne”). Write down these domains, too:
Now you’ve got a killer list of domains to bid on! If you’re working in a very popular niche, these domain keyword have the potential to drive a ton of traffic.
Okay, now it’s your turn. Are there any keyword brainstorming techniques that I haven’t included here? Leave a comment below!