Keyword Research – the First Step to
Online PR Success

Keyword research is the key to getting found on the Web. Do it right and the people who are looking for what you offer - journalists, reporters, analysts, bloggers and consumers – will find your pages.

If you’re like a lot of public relations professionals I know, you probably have had little experience with keyword research and placement. That’s understandable, but you have to change that, and the sooner the better. Here’s why.

Feature the Words People Are Searching For

Keywords are what searchers (read customers) say they are, not what you may think they are. You have to lace your copy with the words people type into search engines or you’re not likely to show up in search results.

You need to feature keywords prominently (without over-doing it) in things you write for online publication, whether blog posts, client Web pages or Online press releases.

Keywords may be individual words or phrases that include two or more words. Single-word and short-phrase keywords describe broad categories, while longer phrases narrow the search at the outset. The trend is toward longer keyword phrases.

word-cloud-made-using-wordle

A Quick and Easy Visual Keyword Research Tool

Want to check a document to see which words would stand out with search engines? A great free tool for that is at Wordle. The word bubble shown here is what the home page of this Website looks like, as viewed by Wordle. The bigger the words, the more frequently they appear.

This is a great way to get a quick read on your copy, and do a quick analysis of your clients’ competitors’ copy. You can get creative with colors and the vertical-horizontal mix of words in the image. And the price is right.

Keyword Research Easy as 1-2-3

  1. Brainstorm – start by compiling a list of relevant words and phrases. Don’t hold back, write down everything that comes to mind, then pare down your list as you go. The brainstorming process continues through the next step.
  2. Rough cut – use free keyword research tools to get a high-level view and develop some related phrases you might not have thought about. Keep a spreadsheet of your words. Tools such as SEOBook allow you to export results to Excel.
  3. Final cut – refine your list with a keyword tool that provides more granularity, such as Word Tracker or Ad Word Tracker.
Free Keyword Research Tools

A number of good keyword research tools are available without charge. I use them for my first pass, then refine with a paid tool or two. Depending on your project, your may get everything you need with the results of one of these. Leading free tools include Google Keyword Tool, SEO Book keyword tool, Word Tracker’s free version.

Google Keyword Tool – Google has the biggest search-based advertising program, so it figures they have a good tool set to help people use it. This tool provides good relative numbers about which words are sought after by people purchasing Google Adwords advertisements (the ubiquitous 10-word ones).

For people purchasing Adwords to drive visitors to their sites, heavy advertiser competition means the price per click will be high. But if you’re looking for keywords to go on Web pages or online press releases, that’s not a problem. Go for the competitive words people are looking for because you don’t have to pay.

Here’s an example. I did a query for “news release” to check for popularity. This screen shot tells me there were about 90,500 searches (global monthly volume) for “news release” and it provides a long list of related search terms (I just took the top few to show here). The green bar nearly fills the “Advertiser Competition” box, telling me this is a competitive term that advertisers are bidding on.

Google-free-keyword-tool-capture-1

This basic keyword research shows there is far less competition for terms such as “news release examples” because there are far fewer Google searches for them. All the alternative search terms in this part of the list contain the words “news release,” but when I scroll down the page I find a list of additional keywords to consider.

Google-free-keyword-tool-capture-2

The first thing I notice is that “press release” gets a lot more Google searches than “news release,” 823,000 versus 90,500 per month. Bingo! That tells me I should get better results using “press release” on my Web pages. A quick search for the two terms using Wordtracker’s free keyword research tool (see below) confirmed the results by roughly the same margins.

Again, the screen shots shown represent very small portions of the total lists. Read down the lists carefully and you will usually find at least on new idea to use now or later.

SEO Book Keyword Tool – I like the visual presentation this tool offers. It shows estimated daily search volumes by market for your selected word or phrase by search engine, including Google, Yahoo! and MSN/Bing. It also suggests related words and phrases and links them to related global search results.

SEO-Book-capture-1

It also provides links to Google Trends, Google Suggest, Google Synonyms, Yahoo! Suggest, and Keyword Discovery keyword research results, as well as to vertical databases such as Topix.net, Google Blogsearch, and Del.icio.us to help you see what kind of buzz there is about your topic.

The SEO Book keyword tool is powered by Wordtracker’s keyword suggestion tool, which gives it all the credibility you need. If you sign up for a Wordtracker paid account you will get more features when using the SEO Book tool, as well. Also, you can add a plug-in to the Firefox Web browser, called SEO for Firefox, that makes using the SEOBook keyword research tool even easier.

Wortracker Free Keyword Suggestion Tool – This freebie delivers a lot of value and carries the pedigree of the popular paid version. Simply enter your keyword or phrase in the box provided, click “Hit Me” and get top 100 results in seconds.

In this screen capture, the tool found 1,236 searches that contained “press release” in the most recent day for which it had data. The root phrase usually appears at the top, as it does, here, with other search terms appearing in descending order of popularity.

I like to use this tool in tandem with the free Google keyword tool to refine my list. Then it’s time to get serious.

Paid Keyword Research Tools

Commercial keyword research tools are used heavily by Internet marketers, whose literally livelihood hangs on every word.

They want to know not only what words people are searching for, they want to see what words the competition is using, and they want to know how the different search engines are processing them. Paid tools offer a great deal more flexibility, including simultaneous multiple keyword searches, with aggregated data.

These tools all help marketers identify not only which words to use for existing sites, but help them find niche markets where there is more demand for information than supply to fill it. Products such as Keyword Discovery or Wordze are feature-rich, presenting dizzying arrays of options for power marketers who have multiple products and Websites.

The Best Paid Keyword Tool for PR Work

Wordtracker – Many veteran Internet markets use this venerable product, and it’s the choice of even more bloggers and content developers. Wordtracker has been around since 1997 – ancient by Internet standards – but was so well-conceived and managed that it remains a top choice for all-around Web content development.

Using data from the two major metacrawlers, Dogpile and Metacrawler, Wordtracker maintains a database of more than 330 million search terms, updated each week.

In addition to performance, three things stand out: convenience, training and price.

  • Convenience – Wordtracker accommodates as many as seven simultaneous projects, allowing you to store and analyze all data for each without having to export to another application.
  • Training – the Wordtracker Website offers a wealth of materials to help you do better research and use all the features the product offers. The Wordtracker Academy is the place to start.
  • Price – you can try the product for free, then purchase with either annual or monthly payments. Annual is the best way to go, at $329, which saves you $379 off the price of 12 monthly payments of $59. (By comparison, Keyword Discovery costs $69.95 per month, $599.40 annually. Wordze offers monthly only, at $38.98, for an annual cost of $467.76.)
One More Option – Pay Once and Own It Forever

If you find Wordtracker’s price still a little off-putting, a good alternative might be Ad Word Analyzer, which you buy once and never make another payment. The developer, Jeff Alderson, also provides free upgrades every time he introduces a new version.

If you’ve looked at many information and software products online you know it’s difficult to determine the “actual” price. Often, products are introduced at a low price, and the developers raise them as they add new features, or if demand soars. Shopping online is like anywhere else; you have to do enough of it to recognize a bargain when you see one.

At this writing, Ad Word Analyzer 3.1 is available for a one-time price of $57. It was developed for the Internet marketing crowd, so it is geared to pay-per-click campaigns, but don’t let that be a put-off.

The same functionality that makes this product a good tool for marketers makes it a good tool for online public relations, as well. Remember: go for the pricey words when you don’t have to pay for the clicks. That’s another big advantage of keyword research in online PR.