Simple Keyword Research with Google

There are many different ways to do keyword research, and if you want to be thorough, you may use a number of techniques. But if you’re just starting to build your website, and you’re fairly new to SEO, how do you even know where to begin? You can start by investing just a little time with Google.

I’ve written previously about the joys of Google Wonder Wheel and how you can use it to find keywords you may not  have thought of before. It’s a wonderful tool, and it’s free. But say you’re doing SEO for your dad the retired CPA (don’t laugh) who wants to blog about golfing. He’s been an amateur golfer most of his adult life, and heard you can make money if you do well in the search engines. So he’s all fired up about it, and wants your help.

Google Wonder Wheel might not be the best place to start. Oh sure, that tool and others will be brought in later, but first you’ll need to show him the competition. So you sit him down in front of Google, and you just put the word “golf” into the search engine. And hey presto! You get plenty of results – about 1,120,000,000, according to that short sentence that appears under the search box. So you point that out to your dad. He understands the size of that number, because he dealt with large numbers reading financial reports for companies before he retired. And after he picks his jaw off the floor, you say “I think we can narrow that down a bit.”

So you ask what really interests him about golf. Is it the challenge of getting the perfect swing? Using the right clubs? Following the celebrity golf games? And he says that he really likes playing the different courses. “There’s always some new challenge on the fairway.” You nod, and try searching “golf courses” (without the italics). And you manage to narrow the results down from more than a billion to about 57 million.

“That’s still quite a lot,” he says. “I write pretty well for an accountant, but…” So you tell him to scroll down to the bottom of the page, where Google has helpfully made some suggestions for searches related to golf courses. These include public golf courses, golf course finder, top golf courses, golf course directory, golf clubs, famous golf courses, golf course pictures and golf course reviews. “Let’s try golf course reviews,” he says. “It’ll give me a great excuse to travel!”

So you click on “golf course reviews.” It helps, but not as much as you’d hoped; there’s still more than 31 million results. “So how about focusing on Florida golf course reviews?” you ask. You still encounter fierce competition, with more than seven million results, but it’s lessening. By now, though, he’s gotten the idea and has grabbed the keyboard from you to put in some ideas of his own.

“So how low should I be trying to get that number?” he asks, pointing to how many results Google says it can return.

“As low as you can without making your key phrase too ridiculously long or specific,” you reply, knowing there’s a lot of leeway on that. “Under a million is good; under 500,000 is better; under 200,000 and I think we can start building. But it all depends on how well you think you can write on that topic.” You also explain that he might have to back up a bit and then go forward to get that low. For example, if he’d put the phrase “golf swing” into Google instead of “golf course,” he’d get 16,500,000 results – which is already a lot less than the 57 million he’d seen with “golf course.”

“Does that mean I can only write posts that are about the final key phrase I use to narrow down the competition?” he asks. “Say it’s ‘golf swing tips for beginners.’ I’d think I’d get bored writing about that topic after a while.”

You just shake your head. “No, Dad, that’s your starting point. Eventually, you can go after more competitive keywords, once you’ve built out your site. But I’ll bet if you give it some thought, you can come up with at least ten different variations on ‘golf swing tips for beginners.’ Heck, I can come up with ten; you can probably come up with 100!”

When he raises an eyebrow, you just start a list:

  • Golf swing tips for beginners from Tiger Woods

  • Golf swing tips for beginners from Arnold Palmer

  • Beginner golf swing tips to fix a slice

  • Beginner golf swing tips to fix a hook

  • Beginner golf swing tips for getting out of a sand trap

“Wait, those last three aren’t in the same format!” he says. “The word order is different.” You just nod, and explain that Google will know they’re still related to the same topic. “So all I have to do is make a list?” he asks.

“Yes and no,” you answer, with a sigh. “The list is the beginning. But it’s an important beginning. If you make up a list of key phrases for the niche you want to write about, I’ll come back later and show you the next step.”

You know, of course, that the next step isn’t this easy. Just because lots of websites are trying to rank for certain keywords doesn’t mean that lots of people are actually searching for those keywords. To get those numbers, you’ll need to use a different tool. But you can at least start defining your niche and your main keyword(s) by using a straight Google search to narrow down the possibilities, and that’s something even your retired CPA dad can understand. Good luck!

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