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How to Pick SEO Keywords Like a Boss (SEO102)

Understanding Google SEO – 2018 (Part 2 of 9)



On the internet and in the world of SEO, keywords are the coin of the realm. They the most basic form of the search engine optimization tool.


What is a keyword?

They can seem so confusing, but a keyword is simply the word or words that a person will search when looking for you and your website.


For example, if you sell tires, your base keyword is just that, tires.


Note that a keyword isn’t necessarily one word, but can be an entire phrase. We’ll get into “long tail keywords” in a few minutes, but suffice it to say that it’s no longer just a single word, but can be a complete phrase.


What is LSI?

LSI (latent semantic indexing) is actually the way that the human brain thinks. It was discovered as part of the human communication system and has become a way for computer wizards to index speech.


Here’s a simple example:


  • Root canal
  • Flossing
  • Drill
  • Filling
  • Cleaning


All of those relate to a single concept, the dentist’s office, but nowhere is the word dentist even mentioned. Your brain is built to recognize the relationship between words, even when the root or core word is missing. Imagine one of those word clouds that you see everywhere. That is LSI.

In the world of SEO, LSI is important. If you sell tires, you don’t want to simply repeat the word tires over and over. In fact, you will probably not get anywhere if you do. A large, brand name website likely holds the top spot. (In fact, as of this writing,,, and hold the top 3 spots.)


We’ll return to LSI in the next chapter in on-page SEO.


Why you need keyword research?

Simply put, if you just go at this blind and put the word tires all over your website, you will never see any traffic. The likelihood that you can knock off of the top spot is slim.


Keyword research will make it easier for you to rank higher by figuring out what words you can compete in.


How to do keyword research

Since Google is the place that we want to rank for our keywords, it seems the logical place to start.


If you have a Google Adwords account, you can start your research there on Google’s Keyword Planner Tool.


You need an account and you need to be spending a little bit of money in order to use the Keyword Planner Tool. You can do as little as $5 a day and get a lot of advertising. If you need to, you can set up an account and only run it for a single day.


OK, now that we have the right tool, we can talk about how to find the right keywords.


Using the example above, you own a tire shop.

The base or head-term keyword is, of course, tire. As we mentioned above, that’s not going to get you anywhere, so how do we narrow that down.


Well, we can add words to it, like a truck tire or car tire, but that’s still pretty vague. You’re likely to still run up against a lot of competitors.


What if you add some more words, like a high-performance truck tire or high-performance pickup truck tires. We’re still struggling against and some other big sites.


Now we get to the really long-tail keyword, truck tires dodge ram 2500. (Oh, yeah, a long-tail keyword is geek speak for a phrase that we can use as a keyword. It’s amazing how made-up phrase, like long-tail, can make a simple concept seem so strange.)


Now is still in the top 2 slots, but the third slot belongs to a newcomer and the first page of Google has several relatively obscure sites.


Here’s a hint: To succeed at keywords, you need to be a specialist – but only to the point that you can get a breathing room.


You don’t want to get too specialized because no one will search for phrases like high-performance pickup truck tires dodge ram 2500 Toyo Tires Toyo P275/60R20 Tire, Open Country A/T II – 352060 352060 Toyo A/T II. By the time they have gotten to that point, they have likely found a vendor and are simply cutting and pasting from the vendor’s website.


So again, the goal is to look for keywords that are specific enough to stand out, but general enough that someone will actually type them in.


Different types of keywords


Head-term keywords are these base keywords we’re talking about.


Long-tail keywords are phrases that will get you better results.


Informational keywords work nicely if that’s the format of your website. What are the best truck tires for Dodge Ram 2500? (The question mark isn’t needed for Google; the search engine ignores most normal punctuation.) This might be specific, but you will capture a lot of that traffic.


Transactional keywords are phrases like, buy truck tires for Dodge Ram 2500.


Finally, navigational keywords will point people to websites, like YouTube or Facebook.


Head-term keywords and navigational keywords aren’t worth it; they will just lead to large sites that you can’t compete with. Transactional, long-tail, and informational keywords are what you’re looking for.


Now to Google’s Keyword Planner

On your Google Keyword Planner report, you can see the monthly search volume (be sure to restrict the geography to your area or you’ll get the whole world). You can see that there are a lot of searches for a long-tail keyword.


Note: You will see a thing that says Competition. This isn’t for you. That’s the competition for that keyword only on Google Adwords, not online searches of the use of the keyword on websites.


Ways to generate lists of keywords to check out


There are several ways to look for keywords to check out. Here are few easy ways to put together a great list:


Steal them – You can use to scrape keywords off of your competitors’ sites. If you choose several strong competitors, you will end up with a good list. Still, you can’t trust that your competitors are great at this either.


Create your own list – This seems obvious, but sit down with a piece of paper and think like one of your customers. What words would they search for?


Using the list

Now that you have the lists made you can go into your Google Keyword Planner and look for search volume.


Scratch off any keywords that have no or very few searches. There’s no point in working hard just to have no one search for the words. Also, eliminate those head-term keywords; they are useless.


Once you have eliminate the worthless words, we can start looking at how to find the ones that will rank best in searches.


Finding Words that will Give You Rank

There are a few ways to figure this out, but realistically, most of them don’t work.


You’ll hear things like, “Use the number of search results in Google,” or “Go through the website results on Google,” or “Look at the competition rating on the Google Keyword Planner.” We already addressed the competition thing (it’s not about SEO) and the other two are simply silly. They don’t tell you anything.


The really best way to find out about what words will work best is to use the right tool –


Moz’s old Keyword Difficulty Tool has been married to a couple of other tools to become the Explorer. Basically, you enter keywords and the report will show you which ones will be hard to rank for and which ones are easy.


This is a paid service, but they offer a 30-day free trial. It’s stinky, but you can sign-up, do your work and then cancel.


Market Samurai ( offers a free download of their tool. It’s limited in the free version, but it’s a start. You can pay the $149 and get access to a ton of data there as well.


One Last Note

Relevancy: This should be really obvious, but make sure that your keywords are relevant to what you’re doing. If you’re selling tires and you rank really well for teddy bears, you haven’t gotten anywhere.


Similarly, if you are trying to sell something, you need to make sure that your keywords are something that people are actually shopping for. That’s commerciality. It makes no sense to rank for things that people aren’t going to buy, like free coffee in tire store lobby.


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