Keyword Research Basics | Richard Takemura

Keyword Research Basics

In this article I’m going to lay out some Keyword Research Basics. If you’ve been around in IM for any length of time, you know how incredibly important keyword research is. In fact, this represents one of the most overlooked aspects of any business. To online marketing, keyword research is market research.

One of the biggest causes for failures, in any market, is poor market research. Whether you’re opening up a Steakhouse in a town filled with vegetarians or starting a website in an over saturated niche, not doing enough market research, or not doing it properly, will kill you before you even get started.

Many marketers make this mistake. Before we get started, we’ll go through the basics of keyword research, as it’s so often overlooked.

One aspect is to find out what your customers are looking for. If you sell something, you’d better be sure that there’s enough business. Another reason for doing keyword research is this will tell you about the competition.

There is a strong paradox here. On the one hand, never before has so much information been available to drill down into your market to measure both the potential customers and the competition. This can be done very cheaply. Compared to brick and mortar market research, where you’d need to spend months or years, and thousands and thousands of dollars to get some accurate research, doing keyword is easy and cheap.

You have everything at your fingertips to find out everything you need to ensure your success. Here’s the paradox. With so much easy data, and the relative ease with which you can reverse engineer your market, why do so many people fail to make money in Internet marketing?

The reason is that many people believe Internet marketing to be easy and quick money. They believe their exists some kind of magic software or system that will allow them earn income without much effort.

Obviously, this is false. However, as you are about to learn, understanding how to do effective market research, in this case keyword research,  you will easily pull away from your competition, and get your offer in front of plenty of eager and hungry customers.

What It Means

Oddly enough, most people make the same mistake in doing keyword research as they do in brick and mortar research. They figure they like a certain product, some of their friends like a certain product, so they can easily be successful. However, unless you can objectively and scientifically look at your market place, and make an accurate determination of whether or not you’ll succeed, you may as well head to Vegas and put it all on read.

Why It’s Important

While it may seem easy, and cheap, many folks spend countless hours building website after website, and then countless more hours on SEO, backlinking, and trying to drive “free” traffic that never comes. Or if it does come, it turns out those people aren’t interested in buying anything.

Sadly, people jump from project to project, from niche to niche. When in reality, if those same people who spent years spinning their wheels wasting time and money without a cent to show for it would have instead spent a month or two to determine the marketability of their project, or actually spending a month or two determine which projects were most lucrative, they would have been much more successful.

Think of it this way. Most folks wouldn’t like to spend two months just to find out which markets to enter. They want to throw up a website and get started now. But not spending a month or two measuring the market, they’ll never make any money.

On the other hand, somebody who takes their time to accurately measure the market will start making money in three or maybe four months. And within six months, they could easily have enough online income to replace their day job.

As the saying goes, “If you don’t have enough time to do it right, are you going to have enough time to do it again?”

Keep that in mind when that voice inside your head says things like, “I can’t do that, it will take too long!”

Isn’t long term, consistent income your goal?

Keyword Research Concepts

Before we get started, we’ll look at some basic concepts, so you’ll understand what we’re talking about here. There’s really not a lot of jargon, but some keyword research companies like to pretend there is, as the more confused you are, the more likely you are to buy their products.

Vertical Keyword Research

Vertical keyword means that keywords that contain the name of your seed keyword. For example, if you start with the keyword of “guitar,” you might come up with the following:


guitar lesson

acoustic guitar

acoustic guitar lesson

guitar course

buy a guitar

Lateral Keyword Research

Later keyword research involves words that are similar to your keyword, but don’t contain your actual keyword. Sometimes these are called “recommendations” by various keyword software. For example, with the keyword of “guitar,” you might find the following:

Jimmy Page





Eric Clapton


music software

You get the picture. One of the potential problems with doing keyword research is that it’s easy to think that because a piece of software says something, it’s true. But in reality, these all represents estimations of automatic robots based on human behavior.

If you’ve ever used an article spinner, you know how mangled an automatically spun sentence sounds. It may be grammatically correct, but it’s still utter gibberish.

Keyword software is the same way. At best, it’s an estimation. At worst, it’s just plain wrong.

That’s why no matter what kind of keyword data you’re getting; you’ve got to use your brain.


Digging refers to finding more information on a keyword that you hadn’t thought of. Let’s say you type in the word “guitar” in your favorite keyword research software.

You get the following results:

Jimmy Page




music lessons

used for sale

And let’s say you think maybe “music lessons” might be another keyword to target, as you’re setting up a site that is selling guitar lessons. Then you’ll type in “music lessons” in your software, and find all the later and vertical keyword results.

As you can imagine, this can go on for a while. Good, solid keyword research should yield you several thousand potential keywords. Of course, you’ll need to sort through all these, which will go over later.


One of the biggest myths is keyword volume. Most keyword software relies on Google Adwords. The problem with this is that it’s not very accurate. Not in the least. Every single day, there are over 3 billion searches.

That would just be way, way too many calculations every single day to sort through all those searches to determine how many people searched for what keyword.

So they do a statistical estimate. They grab a small portion of those searches, at random, and then extrapolate out.

But here’s where it gets kind of sketchy. The only reason Google collects this data is to give people a starting point when doing research for Adwords.

If you’ve ever run an Adwords campaign, you know that the numbers Google shows is rarely even close. The cost is always higher than they say, and the volume is always lower than they say.

Why is this? Remember, Google is in business to sell Adwords. Most people think Google is a search engine. But in reality, they are advertising. Their search engine is just a platform on which to run their Adwords. All their money comes from Adwords.

So if you are a typical customer, and you are thinking about using Adwords, do you think Google would underestimate or overestimate the price?

When you type in your keyword, do you think Google would overestimate, or underestimate the traffic?

Remember, Google’s job is to get as many people buying Adwords as possible. Just like McDonalds does everything they can to get people to buy more Big Macs.

So you can see, the numbers you get from Google are always suspect. More often than not, the numbers that are reported in any keyword software, which rely on Adwords data, is going to give you traffic that’s much higher than it really is.

Reported Volume – Don’t Be Fooled

You also need to know the difference between phrase match, broad match, and exact match. Again, when you’re thinking of buying some Adwords, Google wants your head to spin with all the traffic you’re going to get.

Let’s consider the keyword phrase, “guitar lesson”

Phrase match would give you any of the following:

guitar lesson

easy guitar lesson

cheap guitar lesson

Broad match will trigger when see the following:

lesson for guitar

lessons for acoustic guitar

acoustic guitar lessons in Spain

While Exact match will only show results for

guitar lesson

So rule number one, whenever doing keyword research, is to always use exact match. This will give you lower number, but they’ll be more accurate.

How to Know For Sure

So, how do you know for sure how many of your potential keywords are REALLY searched for? One way is to buy an Adwords campaign. This may cost you ten or twenty bucks, but you’ll get some hard data to go on.

Here’s what you do. Log into your Adwords account. Choose a particular keyword that you are interested in. We’ll choose guitar lesson.

Set up a simple campaign to run only on “guitar lesson” and only for exact match.

Then you’ve got to spend enough per click to get it on the first page.

Then, you’ve got to spend enough so it runs the entire day. If you can, you want to run it enough so it coves a whole week.

The reason for this is because the amount of searches varies by day, and by hour. For example, if you ran an Adword campaign for “movies opening this weekend” on a Friday, you’d get plenty more hits on a Friday than you would on a Tuesday.

Once your campaign runs, check your data. What we’re looking for is the total number of impressions.

This will tell you the exact number of times your keyword was triggered. Since you set it up to only run when somebody typed in “guitar lesson” in exact match, that will give you a good idea.

If you ran it during a normal week without any holidays, this should give you a good idea of how much actual traffic there is for that particular keyword.

Now, this may sound like a lot of work, but as we mentioned before, it’s much better to start off your business with your eyes wide open, rather than with only your fingers crossed.

If you don’t have an Adwords account, or you can’t afford one, then there’s another option.

Use the Google Adword tool to find a few appropriate keywords for the market you’re thinking of entering.

Then write five or ten articles, with the keyword once in the Title and a couple of times in the text. Naturally, a compelling title and a well written and persuasive article is much better.

Post in on a high trafficked article site, like EzineArticles.

Then see what kind of traffic it generates. This on it’s own isn’t a great way to determine how many actual searches the keyword will get, but if it’s a great way to figure out which keyword is more lucrative.

The article that gets the most views, as well as the most clicks in your research box. This will give you an idea of how many people are actually looking for that particular keyword.

A Very Important Concept

Many training courses and gurus will tell you that if there’s Adwords, there’s money to be made. This isn’t necessarily true.


Let’s look at some examples. A few years ago, the hottest thing around was acai berry for weight loss. Everybody just KNEW that you could quickly get rich selling acai berry products.

So guess what? Everybody and their sister went out, built some sites, and bought a bunch of Adwords for acai berry.

Now, if you’d come in to the market at the tail end of this crazy, you’d look at some keyword data.

You’d find that plenty of “acai berry” related keywords were getting thousands of searches a month.

But then your eyes would bug out when you saw that buying “acai berry,” or “acai berry weight loss” would set you back five or ten bucks per click.

That means there’s gold out there, right? That means any acai berry product must be worth tons of money for those keywords to cost so much, right?

Not so fast.

See, entrepreneurs, those guys like you building websites, hoping to make some money, are a strange bunch. The harsh truth is that most entrepreneurs, especially the online type, NEVER make any money.

So those five dollars per click doesn’t really accurately represent the market place of customers buying acai berry products. They represent a bunch of greedy marketers trying to cash in.

The way Adwords are priced is based on competition. The more people bidding for an Adword, the higher the price gets.

So just because you know that a certain keyword is getting 3000 searches per month, and each click is worth ten bucks, that really doesn’t tell you all that much about the market.

That’s why the best way to do some really accurate keyword research is by using both of the above methods.

One, to buy an Adwords campaign, to see how many actual impressions, and therefore searches, there are, and two, to write five, ten or even twenty articles for just to see how the market is responding.

Because the sad truth is, one that many people will never want to face, is that if you can’t write ten or twenty EzineArticles on a keyword you’re thinking about, and get a sufficient amount of views and clicks, you’re going to have a hard time making money.

Going through this exercise will tell you if the market is there, and if the market is going to respond to how you personally present any kind of information or offer.

I can guarantee you that few people ever take the time to do this, which is one of the reasons why so many people struggle with online marketing.

Keyword Competition

Once you found out how big or small the potential market is, you’ve got to find out what the competition is like. Obviously, if everybody and their brother is selling the same thing you are, it’s going to be tough to make any money.

For Adwords

If you are going to be using Adwords to promote your site, it’s relatively easy. There’s price, and there’s competition. On the actual keyword tool, Google will show “low,” “medium,” and “high.”

However by downloading a keyword list in to your excel sheet, you’ll get an actual number between 0 and 1.

In general, the more competition there is, the higher the price is going to be. So if the price is currently at an affordable level, but the competition is also high, the price might be consistently creeping up.

As you’ll later find out, breaking even on a PPC campaign is difficult. The last thing you need is to keep tweaking your landing page to finally start coming out ahead, only to find the competition is pushing up the prices of the keywords. So all things being equal, lower competition is better.

For Websites

If you aren’t going to be using Adwords, you’re still going to need to know how many other websites are out there pushing the same thing. After all, the more advanced you get in this online marketing game, the more sources of traffic you’ll find. So knowing how many other websites there are out there is a good place to start.

You can simply do this by going to Google, and typing in your keyword phrase in quotes.

We’ll do this for “guitar lesson.”

Based on our location, we get over eight million websites for guitar lesson. That means that Google has, in its index, over eight million pages with the word “guitar lesson” in there. At first glance, that seems like a lot.

But we can do some reverse engineering, by looking at the top ten or twenty spots to find out if they are actually in competition with us, or not.

We can do this by taking each one of the sites, and checking its links. We’ll do that with a high ranking site,

First, we’ll go to

Then in the box on top, we’ll type in our domain we’re investigating.

Then we click on the big button that says “more information,”

It tells us how many links this has, and the other keywords that people type in when they end up on this site.

Now, this is where using your brain comes in. You see over here, where they have the “High Impact Search Queries,”

That one of the big search phrases is “free guitar lessons”.

This would be interesting if you are setting up a site to sell guitar lessons. This might warrant more research.

Why? Because if there were plenty of sites offering free guitar lessons, you might have a hard time selling anything.

By Backlinking

We can further see how serious this website owner is by his backlink structure. Now, according to the theory, all backlinks are supposed to be natural. Somebody builds a site, a lot of people come and visit it, and then link to it on their own blog or whatever.

In reality, people that are selling stuff are going to building their own backlinks. And when we look on the number of backlinks for this site, we can see where the owner has left some sites.

Lots of Work

As you can see, this is a lot of work. This is just one site. You could easily spend ten or fifteen minutes on Alexa for each site listed in Google under your regular keyword.

However, there is some good news. There are plenty of keyword software packages and services that do all this work for you, as we’ll later see.

This can give you a kind of “competition index” of the kind of keyword you’re thinking of targeting. This will allow you, in a very short amount of time, if the keyword you’re thinking of is going to work or not.

Keyword Research Reasons

So why do keyword research? There’s lots of reasons. One of the main reasons is to have a fighting chance of showing up in the search engines. Let’s say you’ve got a blog, and you’re trying to drive traffic. Let’s say your blog is on playing the guitar. You can use some of the keyword software to find plenty of high traffic keywords to write posts on. You might come up with a list of twenty keywords, and then write a blog post around each keyword.


The Holy Grail, when it comes to online marketing, is to get free traffic. To put together a site selling a product, and then getting a couple hundred visitors a day, courtesy of Google.

In order to do this, you’ll need to know how many searches there are, how many other websites you’ve got for competition. This can help you choose the best keyword.

For PPC Marketing

If you’ve already got a site, and you’ve established your business, you’ll need to find the most closely related keywords for PPC, or pay per click, marketing. You’ll need to strike a balance between the amount of search, the cost of the keyword, and its relation to your niche. Once you set up a campaign, you’ll need to keep close tabs on which keyword are converting, and which ones aren’t. This is always going to be an ongoing process.

For Niche Sites

There’s two basic ways to research the market. One is to choose your product first, and then check and see if there’s a healthy market. The other way is to see which markets offer the most opportunity, and then choose on that sounds like it might be interesting.

For this, you’ll be looking through a whole list of different niches. You might start out with a single keyword, and keep doing lateral searches until hit gold. This can take a while, as many markets employ this strategy, and for reasons you’ll learn later, some of the most lucrative keywords with little competition are quickly snatched up.

For Adsense Sites

Now, you can sell products, or you can simply build Adsense sites. For example, you might find that the keyword phrase, “sports car insurance” may be relatively easy to rank for, meaning it doesn’t have much search competition. You may also find out that each click is worth ten bucks. This could be a virtual goldmine.


First start with your seed keyword, in this case, “sports car insurance.” Then find all the lateral keywords that Google suggests. These are sometimes referred to as LSI or latent search index, keywords.

It used to be easy to put up a blog with only one or two pages, and then easily rank in Google. Not so much anymore.

So you would have to come up with about twenty different related keywords, and then write a blog post on each particular topic.

With a little backlinking, you can earn some good money with Adsense sites.

Keyword Research Tools

So now you know a little bit about keyword research. However, you may be facing to startling revelations. One is that keyword research takes a lot of work. Second is that keyword research really is an ongoing process. That’s why having a piece of software, or belonging to a service can be of great help. It’s important to understand that any software, and the results it gives you, is really just the starting point of your research.

In this section, we’ll look at the various types of commercially available keyword research.

Adwords Based

These are keyword software programs that usually sell for an initial fee. They take all of their data, and sort it according to various criteria.

They’ll usually have a ranking of how easy that particular keyword will be to rank for. For example, a keyword like “insurance,” will be impossible to rank for, while a keyword like “dodge charger paint job” might be pretty easy to rank for.

You’ll also get Adwords competition, and an estimation of monthly search. Obviously, you want to find a keyword that’s got plenty of searches, and not too much competition. You’ll also need to figure if this particular keyword represents people looking to spend money, or not.

If you’re not sure what niche you’re going to start in, these may take some time, as you’ll have to type in each keyword manually, and then wait a few minutes for the results to come back from Adwords. If you like the article on Keyword Research Basics please leave a comment and feel free to contact me at anytime..

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