What do Search Marketing and Going to the Doctor have in Common? Learn my Best Kept Secret: How to find profitable keywords

by Hamlet Batista | July 02, 2007 | 35 Comments

doctor.jpgPicture this scenario:

Laura Martin has a mild headache. She knows she suffers from migraines, so she goes to her pharmacist. The pharmacist calls her doctor to get approval for a new refill of Imitrex, a migraine treatment medicine.

Paul Stevenson feels extremely tired. He is aware he suffers from type 1 diabetes. His body doesn’t make enough insulin. He only needs another insulin shot to help the food he has eaten turn into energy and get his body back to work.

These patients know exactly what they need. They have health problems and they already know the solution.

Now consider this:

Ralph Fortin was hit on the head by a baseball. He’s been having strong headaches. He doesn’t suffer from anything, as far as he knows. He doesn’t have a clue as to what might be wrong with his system. He goes to the doctor, explains what happened. The doctors gives him a check up and prescribes a pain killer.

Helen Willis was taking her usual morning walk. She’s a very healthy person with no medical history. She gets dizzy,  everything begins to spin, and she falls to the floor. She wakes up in an ambulance. The emergency doctor starts asking questions, but she doesn’t have a clue how to respond, so he needs to perform further tests. It turns out that she forgot to eat breakfast.

These patients didn’t have a clue as to what their problems were. They needed a solution to their problem.

What does this have to do with search? Good question.

When doing keyword research, most search marketers focus on obvious keywords as they usually think in terms of the solution instead of in terms of the actual problems or symptoms the searchers are experiencing. What am I saying? It’s simple.

Most search marketers assume searchers already know what the solution is. There are a good number, IMHO, the majority; that don’t have a clue what they are looking for and only know their specific problem: “I lost all my presentation files” vs “disaster recovery.” As a search engine marketer you need to start thinking in terms of the searchers’ problems. Think about diseases as opposed to medicine.

Let’s take for example my field, search engine marketing. The keywords “seo,” “search engine optimization,” and “ppc”  etc. are the most competitive ones. Why? Because they are obvious. Now, look for “lost rankings,” “adwords help,” etc. Good demand but very little competition, at least until now 🙂

To be successful in search marketing you need to do things that give you an edge. Doing the same thing everybody else is doing is not one of those things.

How to come up with those keywords in the first place?

You need to look for them in the right places. Where do customers go to express their problems: support forums, news groups, customer reviews/complains sites, public mailing lists, user generated content sites; any site where potential customers go to express their problems, frustrations, happiness, etc. They speak in their own terms, which are the same terms they type at the search box when they can’t find an answer.

Do you expect me to scan through forum threads, messages, etc. to find good keywords?

Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it?

While there are a good number of keyword research tools, both paid and free, I use a really clever technique for which there is only one tool that fits all my requirements. Luckily its free. The Google Adwords Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator.

There is a nice feature called Site Related keywords. Provide the URL of a forum thread, Google news search, public mailing list, etc. and you will find treasure! I do this every day and I find a lot of untapped keywords that have high demand. Let’s point the magical tool to http://www.webmasterworld.com/google_adwords/ and let’s see what we can find.


Look at “beating adwords.” It’s an infoproduct that teaches Google Adwords. Apparently it’s very popular. Now you understand why I was hesitant to share this information. This is gold!

Keywords with little or no advertisers competing are useful for PPC campaigns. For SEO a different strategy is needed. Please keep reading to learn a more general approach.

If you haven’t even chosen a niche yet, point your URL to Google trends or Yahoo buzz. I guarantee that you will find something interesting to build on.

Now let’s see how you can sift gold out of the mud.

How can I identify the most profitable keywords no matter what promotion method I use?

Identifying profitable keywords involves primarily 4 steps:

  1. Assessing the potential net revenue per action (sale, lead) click or impression.

  2. Assessing the volume of searches or potential clicks

  3. Assessing the level of competition

  4. Assessing the value of the keywords. How much they are worth.

The strategy is the same but the tactic is different depending on how you plan to promote and monetize your efforts. You promote primarily via SEO or PPC, but you can monetize in many different ways depending on whether you are an affiliate, an Adsense publisher, or a merchant (B2C or B2B).

The strategy is to identify keywords with little or no competition, good or high demand, and good enough value so that you end up with healthy and positive net revenue. The higher the profit the better.

Assessing the potential net revenue for each keyword is the most important factor and the first which you need to consider. It doesn’t help to have highly profitable keywords if you don’t know or don’t have a suitable monetization plan.

There are many ways to monetize traffic and it all depends on whether you are a merchant that sells the goods or services directly or an affiliate that promotes the products per action, impression, or click.

Once you make sure you know how you plan to monetize the traffic, think about how much you are going to earn per each click (EPC). That is the most important metric for merchants and affiliates. How much is each cli
ck worth to you. That summarizes everything: conversion rate, costs, sales, etc.

Let’s see two examples on how to measure this: one affiliate and one merchant.

For an amazon affiliate, let’s say the average book price is $15 and they pay a 4% commission. That is $0.60 commission. Not much.  But let’s say that the average person buys 3 books. That would be $3.60. If the affiliate needs 20 search engine clicks to convert a sale (5% CR), each click is worth $0.18 (EPC). This is a good way to find and measure affiliate programs. Look for the ones with higher EPC. Commission Junction is a good place to find merchants by EPC.

This means that this affiliate should not pay more than $0.18 per click. Paying $0.18 will make him or her break even. If the minimum bid price is higher than that, then toss out those keywords!

Now let say that you are a real state agent. You make a commission when you sell a house. Your average house sells for $150k and you get a 5% commission. That is $7.5k commission. Looks good, but you need to work 50 search leads to make a sale at a cost of $2.5k. That leaves you $5k. Each lead is worth $100 and you need 10 clicks to capture a lead (10% CR). Each click is worth $10 dollars (EPC). You can not pay more than $10 per click.

Once you have figured out how much your clicks are worth, you can start finding keywords that can give you that kind of value. Even if you only plan to do SEO, it is not free, and there is a cost involved even if you do it yourself. You have to assign yourself a salary as you have to pay your expenses. Hiring content writers, link builders, press releases, etc. costs money. Factor all of that in with your recurring expenses and divide that by the number of clicks you get organically and you will get your click costs.

Let’s say you plan to promote with SEO

  1. Look for keywords with a good number of potential clicks. I prefer clicks as it is difficult to trust search numbers thanks to the automatic rank checkers. Clicks measure action and thanks to the efforts involved in combating click fraud the numbers are more trust worthy.

  2. Look for the number of websites listed in the SERPs for those keywords. The number of searches alone is not enough. Look by doing advanced searches as well: allintitle, allintext, allinurl, allinanchor. When the number of allinanchor is very close to the number in allintext, this tells you that there is some serious competition. The numbers tell you where to focus your attention when placing the keywords in your content.

  3. You want to rank keywords that Adwords advertisers are paying a lot for.  The cost per click is the best indicator of value. However remember that there needs to be a good number of clicks. For example, one keyword that cost $50 dollars and only gets 5 clicks a month is not better than one that only costs $5 and gets 1000 clicks a month.

Let’s say you plan to promote with PPC

  1. Look for keywords with a high number of searches. A large number of clicks usually means that there are competitors and I prefer to find keywords where there aren’t.

  2. Look for keywords that don’t have any competitors or very few; the more competitors the higher the cost of the clicks.

  3. Bid the minimum cost or at least bid a reasonable cost that falls under your EPC, as explained above.

If you find this post useful, please leave a comment to let me know.

Hamlet Batista

Chief Executive Officer

Hamlet Batista is CEO and founder of RankSense, an agile SEO platform for online retailers and manufacturers. He holds US patents on innovative SEO technologies, started doing SEO as a successful affiliate marketer back in 2002, and believes great SEO results should not take 6 months



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