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Keyword Research 101 – Finding Niches For Your New Site [GUIDE]

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You’ve probably heard SEO people saying that you need to “target keywords on your site”, but if you don’t know how to find keywords for SEO, you’re still stuck. There are plenty of ways to find keywords for SEO, but I’ll concentrate on just one for now.

This is a free method that anyone can use. It’s a good way to get started, and you can always switch to a paid keyword tool later if you decide you need to.

Step One: Using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool (GAKT)

If you have an Adwords account, the GAKT will give you up to 800 results for each search. Without an account, you’ll only get about 100. So before you do anything else, go to adwords.google.com and sign up for an account if you don’t have one. You don’t have to place any ads on Adwords; you just need to have an account.

Now that you have your account, click on the “Tools and Analysis” tab and then click “Keyword Tool” on the drop-down menu. On the left sidebar under “Match Types,” uncheck “broad” and check “exact” so that the search volumes you see will be more accurate.

Now start with a word or phrase describing something that interests you. Take photography as an example. Type it in the word or phrase box, select your target country and language and click the search button. Unless your area of interest is really obscure, you now have 800 related search terms.

When starting with a single word, many of the results that come back will be two-word phrases that would make nice categories, but might be too hard to target as keywords, at least in the beginning. Still, you can use this information to start planning the structure of your site.

Browse through the results and choose at least four or five that you think you’d like to use for categories on your site. For example, for a photography site, “wedding photography,” “photography tips,” “portrait photography,” and “landscape photography” would all make great categories. There are many more, but you get the idea.

Step Two: Looking for Longer Keywords

Don’t close out the GAKT yet; there is still another step. But before you go any further, you might want to download the first set of results as a .csv file so you can refer back to it later. Now enter your first category keyword into the GAKT and click the search button. Then go to the left sidebar and type the same phrase (wedding photography in the example) into the “include terms” box. The results that are left will all be long-tail variations that include “wedding photography.”

These are still not really long long-tail keywords; most of them are just three or four words long. They’re more like mid-tail keywords. You’ll want to select at least four or five of these keyword phrases for each of your categories. This is where things start getting complicated.

Step Three: Deciding Which Mid-Tail Keywords to Use

For the category keywords, it doesn’t really matter how hard they are to rank because you are going to try ranking your pages, not your categories. If your site gets big enough, your categories will start ranking on their own and you can worry about them more at that time. For now, you should focus on the keywords you have a better chance of ranking.

The 3-word to 4-word mid-tail keyword phrases may or may not be easy to rank, but you certainly don’t want to chase any that are really hard. Some of the potential keyword phrases in the wedding photography category are “wedding photography tips,” “wedding photography prices,” and “creative wedding photography.” There are many more, of course, but researching these three will give you an idea of what to look for.

1. Wedding photography tips. Type this phrase into Google and you get over 12 million results. What does this mean? Nothing! All right, not everyone agrees with that, but you’re trying to get to #1, or at the very least, #3. So your competition is whoever is in the top three spots. At the time of writing, ignoring the paid (PPC) ads,  digital-photography-school.com holds the first two spots and christophermaxwell.com is in the #3 position.

All three of these results are well-optimized for SEO. They all contain the keyword in the title, although in two cases the phrase is broken up. They also include the keyword in the meta description and URL. At this point, it is obvious that the competition at least knows basic SEO.

Now you need to look at their backlinks. SEO Spyglass (available from link-assistant.com) is a good tool to use for this. You don’t need the paid version; the free one works just fine. You only need the paid version if you want to be able to save the results.

If you enter the URL from the #1 result into SEO Spyglass, you’ll find that it has 11,649 backlinks.  So you have a page that is well-optimized for the keyword phrase and has a ton of backlinks in the #1 spot. You could go on and check out the #2 and #3 results as well, but it’s pretty obvious that this keywords is going to be hard, so it’s best to just move on to the next one.

2. Wedding photography prices. The #1 result for this phrase is http://www.brides-guide-to-wedding-photography.com/Wedding-photography-price-list.html. Keep in mind that they get a bit of a bonus for having the exact keyword phrase in their URL. Still, they only have 245 backlinks, so this one will be a lot easier to outrank than the first one. However, you are building a new site so it’s best to stick with something even easier. You can go after the harder keywords after you have some subscribers and fans who might be inclined to link to your site so don’t have to work so hard on building backlinks.

3. Creative wedding photography. The first result is kdhphoto.co.uk. KDH doesn’t have the keyword in the page title but they do have it in the meta description. They also have 2,717 backlinks. The #2 and #3 results is www.mariannetaylorphotography.co.uk. The keyword is in the title and meta description, but the words are not in order. They have 1,716 backlinks.

Should you be scared off from this keyword by the 2,717 links for the first result? Maybe, but considering the fact that it is not optimized for the keyword at all, you probably don’t need to worry about it, especially since the other two top results don’t seem to be very well optimized either. You are going to write a great article that contains the exact keyword in the title, meta description, URL, and 2-3 times in the content of the page. You won’t need as many links to get to number one as KHD did because your article will be optimized for the keyword. So go ahead and write an article about creative wedding photography (or whatever keyword you chose), then come on back for the last step.

Step Four: Internal Linking from Support Pages

This step involves adding internal links to help your pages rank. The keyword for the home page in the example is “photography.” Will you ever rank for it? Maybe in a few years if you stick with the site. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try. To help the search engines recognize that your site is about photography, link to the home page from the other pages and posts on the site using the anchor text “photography”. At the very least, do this from the category pages.

Now how do you get the category pages to rank? You guessed it, link to them from the next level in your site’s architecture: the keyword-targeted pages, such as the one you just wrote about creative wedding photography. Remember, you are writing at least five pages for each category, so there will be at least five pages linking to the “wedding photography” category page using “wedding photography” as the keyword.

You still need internal links for your keyword-targeted articles, so now you need to create support pages just for that purpose. You’ll need long-tail keyword phrases for this, and you may not be able to get them from the GAKT. You can always try, though. If you enter”creative wedding photography” in the tool and filter it to show only phrases that include the term, there are only a few results:  “creative wedding photography ideas,” “creative wedding photography poses” and “creative images wedding photography”.

The third one isn’t very appealing, and three is not enough anyhow. So now it’s time to try the free keyword tool at keywordresearcher.org to look for more. This is actually a sales page trying to sell you the paid version of the software, but the free one works well enough for this. You don’t have to download anything; it’s right on the sales page.

If you enter “creative wedding photography *” into the Keyword Researcher tool you’ll get well over 94 results. Pretty cool, huh? So now you can pick from “creative wedding photography London” (or dozens of other places), “creative wedding photography marketing”, “creative wedding photography how to” and a whole lot more.

Of course, these ages all have a purpose, so you need to know what to do with them. Every one of these pages will link to the post about creative wedding photography using “creative wedding photography” as the anchor text.

Now you not only know how to find keywords for SEO, but you know a little bit about how to optimize your pages and use internal linking to help your posts rank. All that’s left to do now is write.

About Omar Kattan
Omar is MD & Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.


  1. […] You’ve probably heard SEO people saying that you need to “target keywords on your site”, but if you don’t know how to find keywords for SEO, you’re still stuck.   There are plenty of ways to find keywords for SEO, but I’ll concentrate on just one for now.   This is a free method that anyone can use. It’s a good way to get started, and you can always switch to a paid keyword tool later if you decide you need to.  […]

  2. […] and even providing tips for furniture arrangement.  Your keyword research should identify niches and topics for you.  It is also worth reading our guide for optimizing for the long […]

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