Keyword Research: The Basics – Part 2
Posted on 27/07/2007 in Keywords, SEO

Here is Aaron Wall’s list of Top 10 Secrets for building a great keyword list. Aaron Wall is a blogger and author of his popular SEO Book. In addition he offers free search engine optimization tools, publishes numerous websites, does client work, and loves learning about search and marketing.

1. Junk Mail

To sell something, your advertising offline or online must relate to things that people understand – you have to know and use the words that people are familiar with. So the junk mail that drops through your letterbox is a rich source of the words that people use – in other words, keywords.

I recently picked up a credit card application envelope and wondered about the words they used. I saw the words ‘introductory 0% APR for cash advance checks and balance transfers until April 2008’. On the back side it said “no annual fee”. Take some of those words, search on Wordtracker and you’ll trigger lots of keyword phrases. Here’s a sample of related keywords from hundreds on the envelope:

Credit Card Keyword List

Once I opened the envelope there were thousands of additional keywords to be discovered. The fake credit card had the words instant, platinum, and points on it. In some spots they went out of their way to even put the keyword ideas in a bulleted list!

So scan your junk mail, subscribe to direct mail marketing, catalogs, and magazines that target your industry or consumer base.

2. Television programs

Some of the most popular online keywords come from popular cultural experiences. Anything that makes the Oprah Winfrey show is going to get serious search traffic and reality TV is amazingly popular. The Yahoo! Buzz Index tracks popular search queries, and has a category devoted just to American Idol.

3. News articles

Some things make the news because public relations firms pitched them, but those that are there outside of public relations pitches are typically there because of significant public interest.

I was recently interviewed by Forbes about Google’s Supplemental Index. When I checked my server logs I found that hundreds of people searched for related keywords to find my site. Now that the issue made Forbes there will be even more people talking about it and even more search volume. Headlines, sub headings, and key points in news articles are great keyword sources.

4. News tracking

There are a near infinite number of ways to track news online.

There are a near infinite number of ways to track news online.

  • Many top news sources, like the Wall Street Journal, provide email updates of key stories.
  • Google allows you to subscribe to keyword based news search results and blog search results. Their news product also lets you search archived news to view old news stories, and recommends new stories to you.
  • Google mixes popular news articles in their organic search results for broad related keywords.
  • Social news sites and social bookmarking sites like Digg and surface new and interesting stories. You can also search their archives to find information that was bookmarked in the past.
  • aggregates news from a variety of sources and makes it searchable by location, source, or keyword.

5. Blogs and Buzz

Individual blogs are stealing market share from larger news outlets.

  • You can subscribe via RSS to popular or trustworthy related or competing editorial channels. Some ideas become important, viral, and newsworthy because a well read person talked about them.
  • Some services like Techmeme automatically track current popular stories.
  • Technorati shows what bloggers are searching for.

6. What’s Hot Right Now?

Most major search engines give searchers a glimpse into what is popular.

Most major search engines give searchers a glimpse into what is popular. Yahoo offers their Buzz Index, Google provides their Zeitgeist, and AOL offers Hot Searches. Google also offers Google Trends, which estimates seasonal search volumes, and allows you to filter by Geographic regions.

7. Hot Commercial Keywords

Amazon allows you to search through their current best sellers by category, and eBay offers a paid Marketplace Research service which allows you to see what items are frequently searched for on eBay, and at what price points the related auctions closed at. Amazon customers review products and eBay also offers a reviews section. Reading through their guides and reviews can help you uncover patterns to how people compare and classify things.

8. Question answering services

Many search engines and other large internet companies offer question answering services. You can search through sites like Yahoo! Answers to see what types of questions consumers in your marketplace have. Start with broad keywords and they will lead you to more specific keywords.

Most topics also have related community forums where people ask questions and keep up with industry related news. You can search through Google Groups, use BoardTracker to search through forums, or use your favorite general search engine to search for keyword + forums.

9. Directory link structures

If you know a particular page or section of your site is doing well but do not know how to expand on the topic leverage someone else’s research.

If you know a particular page or section of your site is doing well but do not know how to expand on the topic leverage someone else’s research. Look at the internal link structure and page content of competing sites, the structure of major directories like the Yahoo! Directory, DMOZ, or, and the table of contents of related books.

10. Other Fun Keyword Tools

And don’t forget your analytics and server logs. If you already rank for something then search engines already trust your market position for that keyword. Use keyword research to expand the areas where you are already trusted.


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