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Outsourcing Keyword Research - The Key To Higher Search Engine Ranking

Oct 5, 2007
The first and most important step to achieving higher search engine ranking is to become crystal clear on which keywords you want to target.

Why does this matter? Because people don't simply "arrive" at your website. They have to find you. And the easiest and most common tool everybody uses is the search engine. Google. Yahoo. MSN. And what do they type in to these search engines in order to find you? Keywords, of course.

Your job is to determine what keywords your ideal customer would type into the search engines, and then build your search engine optimization strategy to target those keywords.

The process for determining the best keywords to target involves a fair bit of legwork and therefore is a task I like to outsource. However in order to outsource it effectively, you need to be able to communicate to your contractor exactly what steps you expect him or her to perform.

Many people think they know how to do keyword research, but rarely will they do the steps that really matter. Why? Because they're tedious. Tedious, but necessary.

Here's what you need to do:

1 - Provide a seed keyword - what is it all about?

A seed keyword is basically a root word. If you want to find out the best keywords to target on the subject of world-class golf courses, your seed keyword might be "golf course". This gives your keyword researcher a solid idea of where to start.

2 - Provide context - what are you looking for?

Another important piece of information to provide is what types of words you are looking for. Are you wanting to target names of golf courses, like "Pebble Beach golf course"? Are you wanting to target locations of golf courses, like "golf courses in Wisconsin"? Or do you even care? Maybe you just want any phrase that contains "golf course". Whatever your intentions are is fine. It's just at this step that you provide some boundaries for what you're looking for.

3 - Provide a target - how many keywords do you want?

This is a pivotal area. Most junior keyword researchers will run off and bring you a list of a thousand keywords all of which have some loose connection with your seed keyword. Wonderful. What are you going to do with those?

In later steps when you go to implement your search engine optimization strategy you're going to discover that you can really only optimize a page for one or two keywords. This means you will need to create at least 500 pages to use these 1000 keywords. Worse, you will need to acquire a competitive number of inbound links to each of these pages in order to outrank your competition and get any visitors from the search engines. This is a huge amount of work, which almost certainly won't get done. So your SEO efforts will fail.

Don't do this.

Instead, provide a target to your keyword researcher. Far better for you to have 20, 30 or maybe even 50 keywords that are highly relevant and that you can reasonably compete for than a list of 1000 that are out of your reach.

What you want your keyword researcher to do is find the information that will help you decide which keywords to target.

4 - Provide directions - what specific info do you need?

In order to provide effective directions, you need to be clear on what information you'll have to weigh in order to decide if a keyword is worth targeting. This means you need to understand how search engines rank your web pages compared with your competition.

First of all, search engines look at your individual web pages. They determine how relevant your web page is to different keywords, which they derive from the content and composition of your page. That's how they determine whether you're even "in the running" to show up when people type certain keywords into the search engine.

Then they need to determine how important your web page is compared to the millions of other somewhat-relevant pages in their indexes. They do this by looking at how many other websites link to your page and to your website generally, and how important these other sites are, in their eyes.

This all leads to a democratic "voting-style" assessment of which pages will be displayed in the top search results on the search engines.

So, assuming that you are going to create pages that are highly relevant to your keywords anyway, your one main concern is how difficult it will be to out-rank your competition on the search engine results. This can be measured by how many good quality inbound links they have to the page you want to out-rank.

How do you determine this? By using a tool like the Link Popularity feature on MarketLeap. This tool allows you to type in the addresses of several web pages and it will find out how many inbound links there are on the major search engines. This gives you an idea of the number of links you need to beat in order to outrank your competition.

This isn't an exact science, of course. Search engine ranking algorithms are closely guarded secrets. But in broad strokes, this tells you how easy or difficult it will be to compete for a given keyword.

So, here is the process I like to ask my keyword researchers to follow:

(a) use a keyword research tool like Wordtracker to come up with an initial list of 1000 keywords by using the seed keyword I described in step 1 above.

(b) manually go through that list and select only the highly-relevant keywords according to the context I described in step 2 above. This probably pares the list down to 50 or so. (See step 3 above.)

(c) for each of the 50 keywords on this shortlist, individually go to Google and type each keyword in to the search engine and look at the top 10 search results.

(d) for each of these top 10 search results (for each of the 50 keywords), go to Marketleap and type in each of the web pages and record the number of inbound links in a spreadsheet. It isn't important to record the URL's of each of the competitors, just their search result rank.

For example, if the keyword was "Wisconsin golf courses", then you would visit Google, type that in, and for the top 10 results, you would visit Marketleap and do a Link Popularity check for each of the results. Then in a spreadsheet you would record how many inbound links there were for result #1, 2, 3, ..., 10.

When all is said and done, you should have a spreadsheet with 50 keywords, and in columns next to each keyword, you should have an indication of how many inbound links you'll have to beat in order to have a shot at the top 10 search results for each keyword. This is going to make it very straightforward for you to pick the easiest keywords to compete on right away.

Now, if this sounds like a tedious manual chore, it is! This is why it is a favorite task to outsource. Chances are, if you're stuck doing it yourself, you'll take shortcuts or just not do it at all. Far better to outsource this to a reliable keyword researcher who will follow directions and produce the output you request.

At the end of the day, you need to know which keywords to target and there is only one way to get this information: diligent research. Outsource this properly, and you are well on your way to better search engine ranking for your website.
About the Author
Jason Jantzi has used outsourcing to drive his Internet business for years. Download his free Hiring Out 101 outsourcing guide and learn how to use this powerful tool to help improve search engine ranking for your website.
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