Picture 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:
Assessing the potential net revenue per action (sale, lead) click or impression.
Assessing the volume of searches or potential clicks
Assessing the level of competition
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Look for keywords that don’t have any competitors or very few; the more competitors the higher the cost of the clicks.
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.
July 2, 2007 at 10:44 am
Hi Hamlet, I think thats a good post, I have tried using these methods in the past, but with the sites I have I tend to fall down at the competition stage. Unfortunately low advertiser competition does not mean low search term competition from other sites. That said, your example of beatind adwords is a good one with the google results all having low PR... I suppose you have to persist! Of the commercial search tools which do you use??
July 3, 2007 at 2:12 am
Jez, I don't use the commercial keyword research tools.
July 4, 2007 at 7:49 am
There's some good places to find forums like big-boards.com and boardreader.com
July 4, 2007 at 7:52 am
Heather, Great tip. Thanks for sharing!
November 26, 2007 at 2:05 pm
Gab - thanks a lot. I am glad to have you as a reader.
July 2, 2007 at 1:03 pm
Ignore previous comments... I totally mis read your post...
July 2, 2007 at 3:52 pm
I shoudl have said "low advertiser competition does not <b>necessarily</b> mean low search term competition" Regards competition, I am learning whilst working on a very small budget... if I were prepared to invest more using the methods of assessment you identify competition would be less of an issue and I am sure this would work very well... I am only just begining to spend money on this stuff... and then it is only the small amount that I am earning from sites which means I only look to compete with other small players / low PR.... but hopefully that will change as I re-invest my meagre profits....
July 2, 2007 at 8:48 pm
Hamlet, Great post. I use this tool also and it is definitely good for finding diamonds in the rough. Now I just need to devote more time to it. Thanks for the reminder!
July 3, 2007 at 2:10 am
Scot, Please read the post carefully again and note that what I'm revealing is not the tool I use. I told you that in the previous post. It is how to use it in order to find the hidden gems. Do you use "horrible website" vs "web design" in your keyword research? That is the key. Find keywords that express customer problems as opposed to known solutions.
July 3, 2007 at 6:36 am
There is a lot in that post, it took me a couple of reads to absorb it properly.. sorry for the messy commenting. I do have another question, you say <b>"I prefer clicks as it is difficult to trust search numbers"</b><b> How do you determine the number of clicks as opposed to searches? Are you able to do this at the point of research, before you have built any sites?</b>
July 3, 2007 at 6:40 am
Traffic Estimator... sorry....
July 3, 2007 at 7:22 am
Pardon my ignorance, but how do I perform a: allintitle, allintext, allinurl, allinanchor" search??.
July 3, 2007 at 9:40 am
that is a command you give to Google. For example, type "allintitle: website design" without quotes. This will return all pages with website design in the title
July 3, 2007 at 12:05 pm
Great thanks for revealing one of your secrets - the way you research keywords and also a few technicals like allintitle etc. I will read it through a few times and start testing. I have already found one keyword for my blog and I am testing it - high search volume, almost no competition. You are right that many people search in the way we would never think about. Go out of the box. I appreciate your effort. Sharing matters!
July 3, 2007 at 2:59 pm
I am glad to be of help. <blockquote> I have already found one keyword for my blog and I am testing it - high search volume, almost no competition. You are right that many people search in the way we would never think about. Go out of the box. I appreciate your effort. Sharing matters! </blockquote> You see. I told you that it works!
Search Marketing with Hamlet Batista » SiteLogic Web Development
July 3, 2007 at 4:01 pm
[...] Batista has a relatively new blog where he discusses search marketing and [...]
Weblogosphere Wednesday - Scot Smith
July 4, 2007 at 6:36 am
[...] goes in depth on a Google tool lots of beginning marketers never take advantage of in “What do Search Marketing and Going to the Doctor Have in Common?“ This is a must read and ties in some interesting concepts with long-tail keywords and using [...]
July 7, 2007 at 8:46 pm
Hi Hamlet, Thanks for yet another useful post - I hadn't thought of directing the google tool to forum pages, so that is a very good nugget of information. This is fast becoming one of my 'must read' SEO blogs.
July 10, 2007 at 7:21 am
Ben, I'm glad to be on your reading list :-)
July 25, 2007 at 2:48 pm
Have you tried Digital Point Solutions Keyword Tracker? <a href="http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/keywords/" rel="nofollow">http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/keywords/</a> Also very helpful.
September 14, 2007 at 1:26 am
It's an interesting technique. I've found some good keywords for my SEO projects too. A great number of searches and almost no competition. Thanks! Knowledge is strength :)
Web Design Newcastle
September 25, 2007 at 2:02 am
I suppose this is similar to long-tail searches which have lower competition. Get enough matches though and you can easily get more traffic from them compared to shorter (more competitive) terms.
October 21, 2007 at 9:00 am
I liked the problem-solution analogy. I never thought to put it this way. I'm going to give it a try, maybe I'll have more success this time :)
November 24, 2007 at 4:58 pm
Hamlet, you've just blown my mind. Of all I've read on keyword research (and I do consider myself the "bookworm-seo," if you've seen my moniker around) - this is THE best. Period, end of story. I'd done something like this once, manually, by visiting a forum. It didn't even occur to me that it could be automated with Google's tool. Flippin A... You just earned yourself a reader, bud!
November 27, 2007 at 3:18 pm
Hamlet, great post! This is really thinking outside the box to get to the real terms that people may be searching for and a lot of people would be missing out on.
November 28, 2007 at 1:28 pm
Thanks, Mike. Yes, I personally found many gems using this technique.
MetaToast.com » Four Essential Properties of a Profitable Blog
December 3, 2007 at 7:07 pm
[...] and therefore how competitive the market is for them. Note: I’m not really talking about “keyword research” yet; you are just trying to get an idea of market potential for a subject. There are also other [...]
January 21, 2008 at 8:22 pm
I've never been a huge fan of ppc at all. Way too easy to lose you shirt very quickly.
January 31, 2008 at 8:25 pm
Hi Hamlet - That is an excellent technique that you detailed, many thanks!
May 8, 2008 at 12:58 pm
I tried this out on an Expertlaw forum on a subject relating to one of my websites and did, indeed, discover at least one solid keyword that will be the basis for a new ad group. Thanks!
Small Business Will
May 10, 2008 at 7:56 am
Hamlet, While I read that you said you are not that good at sales, this post reveals what appears to be a natural understanding of marketing. Isn't it a fundamental marketing principle to understand and solve customer problems? See the problem or opportunity from the customer's viewpoint, then present a solution. Do you believe that too many people focus on the tools without the right thinking and research? Do better results come from applying tools to to the right questions/problems? Absolutely.
May 11, 2008 at 7:22 am
This is a great post. I tried the tool - initially just putting through a website - and it came up with over 100 suggestions with low competition. Some were not particularly related, but one was like a flashing light! It was so obvious, I couldn't believe no-one was ranking for it. So I put it into Google and lo-and-behold - little competition for a phrase I would have thought was super-competitive. It's on my website now, on as many relevant pages as I could think of!
Paul Burani, Clicksh
July 11, 2008 at 12:18 pm
Fantastic work, Hamlet -- I think that these analogies go a very long way in illustrating your point. I even decided to refer to this article in a Youtube video that Clicksharp has produced on keyword research and SEO: <a href="http://www.clicksharpmarketing.com/blog/2008/07/09/myths-seo-video-keyword-research-2/" rel="nofollow">http://www.clicksharpmarketing.com/blog/2008/07/0...</a>
August 27, 2008 at 8:54 pm
This is me nodding and being thankful ... I just finished designing my wife's palm reading website and am now beginning my own website, this information is invaluable since I already changed my keyword focus!!
April 30, 2010 at 8:11 pm
That was a very nice read. I will definitely look up your other articles and check them out too. Thanks for sharing.