An Introduction to Using Google’s Keyword Tool

March 12, 2012

The first step I take when optimizing a website for search engines is to use Google’s Keyword Tool to identify words and phrases that are worth targeting in the on-site SEO strategy for whatever site I may be working on. While keyword research is just one part of a comprehensive strategy, it is fundamental. Keyword research lends insight into the level of competition associated with particular keywords and provides the search volume of those keywords. It also gives us a benchmark for which we can later compare web analytics data to. This article provides an overview of how to get started using Google’s Keyword Tool for your own keyword research.

The first step is to click here. This link will open up the tool in a new browser tab/window so you can easily flip back and forth between the tool and this tutorial. Be sure to bookmark that page.

Alright, so you should now see a screen similar to this:

In the search box, I’ve entered the phrase Atlanta Dog Shelter. Look in the left sidebar and you will see three check boxes under Match Types. By default, Broad is checked; we’re going to change that. Now, in the instance of the tool that you have open, go ahead and type in Atlanta Dog Shelter. After you’ve done this, check the Match Type box labeled [Exact]. This step is important because conducting a broad search can yield misleading results. We are looking for the most exact information available.

Okay, your search results should now look something like this:

From here we’ll want to take a look at the Keyword, Competition, and Local Monthly Search columns. Global Monthly Search results span the globe and I tend to ignore them (at least for geographical searches). Local search results are more specific to your country or region and these are the results I tend to lean on. The title of each column allows you to sort the data. What I generally look for are keywords that have a healthy search volume with low to medium competition. Upon glancing at these results, there appears to be some good keywords specific to certain Atlanta counties. So if I owned a website for a dog shelter I might try to attract traffic searching for those county specific keywords. Backing up for a moment, when I say healthy search volume, that volume will vary immensely based on the industry or topic being researched.

More advanced analysis, usage, and filtering of this data is beyond the scope of this article, but it is an intuitive system and I would encourage anyone to spend some time becoming more familiar with it. For further SEO reading, check out Google’s free SEO starter guide. Page 14 introduces you to the tool I’ve discussed here.

The practice of selecting keywords can be a bit of a cat and mouse game, but with consistency and comparing routine findings to web analytics data, it will eventually become clear what is working, what isn’t, and what is most likely to work.

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