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What am I not doing? (newbie SEO checklist)


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#1 dgeary9

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 02:43 PM

I've been doing my homework, reading a lot in this forum and others, trying to get all my SEO ducks in a row. I'm trying to optimize a very niche focused e-commerce site, my first experiment at SEO.

Main keywords for this site are is three word phrase, with some singular/plural variations. It's not a very competitive keyword (I think - how exactly do you all sniff out "competitive-ness"?).

Here's what I'm doing:

1) On-page optimization as I get it figured out - title tags, description, <h1>, keywords in content written for human beings.

2) Fixing site coding. I started in FrontPage (I know, I know!). I'm fixing that now. I have moved to a .css for styes, I have more to learn before I can move the structure of my site to the .css (currently I'm using tables).

3) Submitting to quality free directories in relevant categories.

4) Submitting articles to a selection of article sites (trying to find relevant ones, but have used some generic ones as well). I'm focusing on ones that will let me put links in the body text, so I can have some nice varied anchor text links (I'm doing ones where I add modifier words to my key search phrase).

5) Monitoring allinanchor on Google and BL on Yahoo - currently I'm 28 for one version of my keyword phrase, 7 for the other. Only about half of what I've gotten listed has been picked up by Yahoo so far.

6) Arranged for a nice paragraph and link from a non-profit with a pr5 page (in my industry, that's very high pr) for a donations program I will run on my site.

Have I missed anything really obvious? There's so much to read, I figure I'm probably missed some glaring newbie steps.

Thanks!

#2 bwelford

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 03:02 PM

That looks very complete, dgeary9.

You asked how to check the competitiveness for certain keywords. One way is to do a Google search for the keywords and see how many web pages come up. If it's in the millions, then it's a very competitive keyword.

#3 kichus

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 03:43 PM

I've been doing my homework, reading a lot in this forum and others, trying to get all my SEO ducks in a row.  I'm trying to optimize a very niche focused e-commerce site, my first experiment at SEO. 

6)  Arranged for a nice paragraph and link from a non-profit with a pr5 page (in my industry, that's very high pr) for a donations program I will run on my site.

Have I missed anything really obvious?  There's so much to read, I figure I'm probably missed some glaring newbie steps.

Thanks!

View Post


7) Analyze your WebStats to see How it's Really PERFORMING and What to Improve...

just my 20c...

Edited by kichus, 20 January 2006 - 03:45 PM.


#4 BillSlawski

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 04:22 PM

It's a little difficult to tell without actually looking at the site, but what you've described so far sounds like it is on target.

Your web analytics background and experience should prove helpful as some point, since you know how to see where traffic is coming from and how to improve its circulation from page to page.

Have you looked over Rand's beginner's guide to SEO to see if you are doing the things there that are recommended? It's at:

http://www.seomoz.org/beginners.php

I did get a little concerned when I read this in your post:

"Main keywords for this site are is three word phrase,"

I hope that you meant that you are targeting different keywords with different pages, and unique title elements, and headings and so on for the different pages. I'd also make sure that in doing that you focus on words that people will actually search for, and try to compete in a mix of general, less general, and more specific keyword phrases.

For example, here's one variation of a site structure that focuses upon a mix of keyword phrases:

Main page (more general keyword phrase)

-----Department page (less general keyword phrase)
---------- Product page (more specific keyword phrase)
---------- Product page (more specific keyword phrase)
---------- Product page (more specific keyword phrase)

-----Different Department page (less general keyword phrase)
---------- Product page (more specific keyword phrase)
---------- Product page (more specific keyword phrase)
---------- Product page (more specific keyword phrase)

-----Different Department page (less general keyword phrase)
---------- Product page (more specific keyword phrase)
---------- Product page (more specific keyword phrase)
---------- Product page (more specific keyword phrase)

These different departments could focus on different product types, or different types of customers who might use the site, and the keywords used would reflect the actual content of those pages.

Chances are that you've probably done this, but I'm just trying to make my concern clear.

#5 dgeary9

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 04:27 PM

Barry, I think (I hope!) that it might be a little different for phrases? Mine is a three word phrase, so the search results seem to grab a lot of pages with those words spread out all over. For my three word phrase, google pulls up 4.5 million results, but for the phrase in quotes, it only pulls up 55K. The top ranked pages are PR3-5. Also, because the niche I'm focusing on, most retailers only have a page, they don't have a lot of BL directly to that page, and very few links with anchor text related to that page. Two of the top five sites have no external BL, all internal. It's taken me less than 20 links picked up in Yahoo to be in the top 10 allinanchor for 1 version of the phrase, top 30 for 2nd version of the phrase. Does that sound like fairly non-competitive keywords?

Kichus, don't worry, I'll be all over the web stats once I have some :)! I am carefully watching my raw logs to track bot activity (at the moment, I've been completely indexed by MSN, only a couple of pages for Google and Yahoo, but it's only been a couple of weeks). I didn't actually get into this little project to do SEO, it's the web analytics I'll have fun with (I wanted a site to do some aggressive A/B testing experimentation, that was the genesis for this project in the first place) - but you need traffic before you can play with web data! And I am somehow getting sucked into this SEO black hole... :rolleyes:

#6 Black_Knight

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 04:27 PM

I've been doing my homework, reading a lot in this forum and others, trying to get all my SEO ducks in a row.

That's a good approach, but it is very difficult to get right first time without the benefit of your own experience. People in forums have so many different project types they are working on, and one can too easily forget to only look at ones that are similar in scale and scope.

More on that line of thought in a moment.

I'm trying to optimize a very niche focused e-commerce site, my first experiment at SEO.

If it is "very niche" then the biggest danger is of over-doing things. Taking tips that were for far more competitive areas can lead to you ending up cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer, which really doesn't leave a lot of walnut to eat. :)

Thankfully, you're aware of this risk, as shown when you sensibly ask about assessing competitiveness.

Main keywords for this site are is three word phrase, with some singular/plural variations.  It's not a very competitive keyword (I think - how exactly do you all sniff out "competitive-ness"?).

For now, I'm going to try to explain how to assess competitiveness and let you try that out and report back. That way we'll know if you need to pull out more stops, or can be reasonably sure that just having the basics in place will yield some returns on your efforts.

Okay, so how to assess competition?

We're going to let the engines themselves tell us most of this. Most importantly, we are going to bear in mind the basic law of all business - the law of Supply and Demand.

So lets start by looking at demand.

You've already decided on your main keyword phrases, so let's see what the demand for those in searches is like. To do this for free, go to the Overture site, browse through to the Resource Centre, and open the Keyword Selector Tool

Check out your search phrases in the tool

The things to remember about this tool is that it reports the number of searches in a given month that included your search words, not just the phrases that precisely matched. It is also not entirely accurate, since it can be easily skewed when the same people have run the search on more than one of the search engines that Overture serve. To be honest, I'm not even certain that some of the meta-search engines don't make multiple entries appear for just a single search. :)

So, if my three word phrase were "Embossed business cards" and I was told there were 245 matches, I wouldn't be betting that there were indeed 245 people that used that exact search phrase. Indeed, because many print terms are competitive, I would expect quite a few automated queries (ranking reports) to have inflated the figures. So use the tool to estimate relative levels of interest, rather than using it to estimate actual numbers of searchers.

So, by going up a level of competition, I see there were 267632 searches reported that included the words "business card". I can instantly see that these included phrases such as "business credit card" and "business christmas card" etc. In fact, there are some very odd-looking searches reported as sub-variants that included the words "business cards" such as "massage business cards" with 727 reported searches ...

There are only 714 reported searches for "printed business card" so I find the level of searching for "massage business card" to be very unlikely.

To me, that is the kind of thing that looks like some SEO has thought up many phrases including the word "business cards" to optimise for, and has been running rank-checking automated searches regularly to see where he's ranked. However, there is also the chance that someone at some popular website has linked to a search for that term as a joke or commentary, again inflating the number of searches. In order to better determine if it is an SEO, one looks for other unlikely phrases of a similar type (in this case "[business type] business cards") that look to be highly over-inflated in relation to more obvious/realistic search terms. Look for the footprint to be repeated.

See how we're already starting to form a picture regarding competition levels (and even tactics) even while looking at the demand side? :)

Okay, play around with that tool at length and get a good feel for which phrases are easy, which are harder, and a relative idea of how much harder, all the time while you are assessing the relative demand for each of those phrases.

When happy that you've got enough information of that type, we move on to assessing the Supply side of the equation. This is where we start directly looking at competition levels. There are two important factors to competition:
- How much?
- How strong?

Let's stay with Overture a moment to look at the strength (or hunger) of that competition. This time we are going to use the View Bids Tool to see just how much value the competiton are placing on the phrases you are targeting.

Remember here to view the more generic two-word variant of your search phrase, because some advertisers may well be using broad-match bidding, meaning that if they were to broad-match for "Business Cards" their ad will be shown for any search that includes those words, not exact matches.

By seeing the max bids, you can assess how valuable the advertsisers, your competition, think those keywords are.

The higher the price they are prepared to pay per click, the higher the chance they (and others) have also invested in some serious SEO.

Okay, so that gives you a picture of the strength of the competition (e.g. pro or amatuer SEO). Now we need to look at the quantity of competition.

This time just run a search for your phrases on Google (or any engine you like) and see how many results you are told there are for the phrase.

You may need to run a fair few unrelated searches to help you get a benchmark of reference for the numbers. If there are 1,080,000 results for "disposable plastic cups", 1,610,000 for "handmade quilts", and 116,000 for "raincoats for dogs", where does that place your numbers? :rolleyes:

Important Note: The quotation marks above are used to show the phrase clearly. NEVER actually run a search with quotation marks as any kind of benchmark until you are very familiar with what it will tell you.

Okay, check it out now for yourself, because you need to play with those quite a bit to get a real 'feel' for what the three measures are telling you about the market conditions.

Generally, anything with less than a quarter of a million results in Google is a virtual gift unless there are high bids for the phrase. In which case, although there may not be many results, you'd suspect that of the ones there are, an unusually high percentage will have engaged in some serious SEO practice.

Hope that helps, and I'm sure you'll learn a lot by playing with those methods of guestimating competition for long enough to get the 'feel' for any market.

#7 dgeary9

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 04:34 PM

Thanks Bill. I've read that guide, as well as several others done by folks in this forum. Hugely helpful.

As for my keyword, sorry, I forgot I took the link out of my subject line to thank all of you :rolleyes: .

My keyword phrase is "kids sleeping bags". "kid sleeping bag" is the most common alternate. Those two phrases look like they will grab about 90% of the relevant traffic looking for this product (most other modifiers are things like Spiderman sleeping bag, and I'm going to be carrying only higher end outdoor sleeping bags). I have broken down my site into subcategories, but for things that will help users navigate (e.g. bags for kids under 4 feet tall). Is it bad to be optimizing the whole site for those two keyword phrases? I think I write decent content, so all the pages are quite different (1 home page, 3 category pages, 12 detailed product pages, and a few more). I'm directing most BL to my home page, some to deeper pages as appropriate, mostly in articles I'm writing.

#8 dgeary9

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 04:52 PM

ROFLMAO Black Knight!!!! I can't keep up with you guys!

I've played with all three of the things you suggested, although I'm going to go do it again...

I picked kids sleeping bags because of some informal market research (I had trouble finding a good one for my daughter, as did several people in my online parenting forums). I also have a background in this industry, and it is a niche that is not well served by brick and mortar retailers.

For Overture/Wordtracker, if memory serves, "kids" is the most common modifier of sleeping bag, about 8,000 searches a month (I'm not looking to get rich at this, it really is a sideline experiment that I want to pay for itself). I considered several other niche outdoor product options, this one seemed to have several pretty good things to recommend it, but my sniffer isn't nearly as experienced as all of yours!

As for PPC, average bid in Google runs about $1 a click. The problem is exactly what you mentioned, there are lots of people bidding on "sleeping bag" and they throw kids in there too (many of the people buyind "kids sleeping bag" ads don't carry them or the ad doesn't point at the page with this product). I don't see much evidence of "pro" SEO, some amateur stuff, but again, I might be missing the obvious.

The number of google resuts has me concerned though, see my reply to Barry below. When I started working on this, I focused mostly on the top 20 results, not on the rest of the pack.

And thanks again, you're all giving me a lot of ideas for ways to learn and things to try.

Taking tips that were for far more competitive areas can lead to you ending up cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer, which really doesn't leave a lot of walnut to eat. 

That totally cracked me up. That's why I'm growing a site of my own to practice this, instead of sledging one of my clients' sites :rolleyes:. I'm not trying to get into SEO professionally, but I figure a good web analyst should understand more of the nuts and bolts than I did (I often end up evaluating SEO efforts, and recommending changes to sites).

#9 BillSlawski

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 05:14 PM

More for you. :rolleyes:

Is it bad to be optimizing the whole site for those two keyword phrases?


It limits you, and it forces you to use page titles and headings and anchor text that don't reflect the content on the pages of the site.

Using the methods that Ammon describes to gauge the competitiveness of keywords is a very important step. But I want to make clear that not only are you looking for terms that you can compete against, but also phrases that people will use to search for your pages, and expect to see on those pages.

An example. Let's imagine that I think there is a market for children's wallpaper. I've done my market research, and realized that there aren't many businesses that focus upon this niche, but that it is one that could do very well.

I might create a site that has a structure like this, with keywords appropriate for each of those pages, after doing keyword research.


My main page might be on:

Wallpaper for Children (General keyword phrase)

One of my departments might be on:

-----teenage girl's wallpaper (less general keyword phrase)
---------- flowers and art (more specific keyword phrase)
---------- wildlife (more specific keyword phrase)
---------- Characters wallpaper (more specific keyword phrase)

I could get into even more depth with individual pages for each pattern, and the use of not only directory pages, but also subdirectory pages, like this:

-----teenage boys wallpaper (less general keyword phrase)
---------- Sports (more specific keyword phrase)
--------------- Baseball wallpaper (very specific keyword phrase)
--------------- Basketball wallpaper (very specific keyword phrase)
--------------- Football wallpaper (very specific keyword phrase)
---------- Racing Wallpaper (more specific keyword phrase)
--------------- NASCAR wallpaper (very specific keyword phrase)
--------------- Motorcycle wallpaper (very specific keyword phrase)

I might do the same for:

Pre teen girls wallpaper,
Pre teen boys wallpaper,
Toddler girls wallpaper,
Toddler boys

This enables me to focus on optimizing individual pages for different keywords, and link to those pages with my keyword phrases. I could use those keyword phrases for each page within the title of those pages, and in headlines and the content of the pages. If I link back to my home page, I might use "children's wallpaper home" as the link instead of just "home" if I were targeting "children's wallpaper" as my keyword phrase for that page.

I've created a general category focusing on a broader keyword (and concept), then with my departments I look as narrower categories (and concepts) with keywords that are appropropriate for those. In my subdepartment pages, my keyword phrases are narrower still as are the categories. Finally on my specific products pages, my keyword phrases are very specific.

Doing this gives me the chance to try to rank well for general terms that might be searched for more, and very specific terms that might be searched for less but may lead to more conversions when found. I also get a spectrum of terms that aren't as general as the one on the home page, and aren't as specific as the ones on the product pages.

Instead of maybe ranking well for one term - and having all of the pages on my site trying to rank for that one term, I'm expanding the possibility of having a number of pages rank well for different terms - some of which may be more popular than others, and some of which may convert better than others.

One of the nice things about this approach is that it's a lot easier to optimize a page about "spiderman wallpaper" if the page is actually about spiderman wallpaper and uses those words in the page title, heading, and content, and has links to it from other pages on the site using "spiderman wallpaper" as anchor text. The same with "harley davidson wallpaper" or "professional wrestling wallpaper." None of those will be likely be as popular as "children's wallpaper" but they may just convert a lot better.

The mix of "general" to "less general" to "more specific" to "very specific" pages, with keyword phrases appropriate to those pages can make a site more findable for searchers, more usable by those searchers, and even easier to write for the site developer.

#10 dgeary9

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Posted 20 January 2006 - 06:15 PM

I get you, Bill. (Do you guys have jobs :) ).

The challenge is that in my case, there just aren't that many modifiers that people actually search on (although I will be watching my search traffic, in my web analytics experience, often certain terms show up as good traffic terms that didn't come onto Overture's radar). And, all the pages on my site really will be about the same search term :). I am varying anchor text with sensible modifiers that will make sense to people reading the text, but those modifiers aren't at all common as search terms.

There are a few very specialized terms that I will try to use a particular product page to optimize for (a specific brand or material), but in general, as best as I can tell, 80-90% of people looking for my product use the same couple of search terms. The one exception is using "kid' and "child" as synonyms, and I have played with the idea of using different pages to optimize for different versions of this, but that is purely playing with the SE, it doesn't represent differences my audience will care about.

And if this fails, I will try children's wallpaper :rolleyes: .

#11 Black_Knight

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 11:12 AM



sleeping+bag+for+a+child returns 4,460,000 results.

cold+weather+sleeping+bag+for+a+child returns 2,570,000 results.

warm+sleeping+bag+for+a+teenage+boy returns 3,940,000 results.

The results look pretty good in the main for those sleeping bag searches, and even though we are well into the '5 words and more' search terms, there's a lot of listings, including a lot of paid listings. This area is fairly competitive then, and to rank in the top ten for the 7 word phrase "warm sleeping bag for a teenage boy " you'll have to beat 3,939,991 other pages in terms of relevance.

It can be done, so don't give up, but don't expect that just because you have a three word phrase you'll have anything like an easy task to meet. This is no free gift term, and you'll need to work hard and smart to get results.

Afterthought afterthoughtThis is where we highlight the big failing with the Overture Keyword Selection Tool:

A search for "sleeping bag for a child" and a search for "sleeping bags for children" are treated as the same search there, and neither returns the actual figures for the phrase you specified.

This is because the search engine they use strips out stop-words such as 'for', 'a', 'the', 'at', and so forth. The engine also matches all plurals a variations on many words to the common root word, in this case, 'child' when we asked specifically about the word 'children'.

The next stage therefore is to go to Wordtracker and start digging there. Knowing the levels of usage variance between kid, kids and kid's is important here.


#12 fisicx

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 01:10 PM

What an excellent thread. A huge amount of info that's going to take me a while to assimilate.

One small question that may have been answered and I missed it. How many people using search engines use quotes to narrow the search?

#13 Black_Knight

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 01:19 PM

Very very few.

Lets sum it up with the word "Negligable"

The average home user doesn't even know that they can use quotes to get a difference, let alone what difference it would give.

Afterthought afterthoughtBut if you were selling something specifically suited to experienced searchers of the level of professional researchers, it would be a good thing to consider.

Otherwise, pretty much ignore quotes except in terms of identifying the competition that just used all the words somewhere on a page, to those that used the actual phrase.


#14 dgeary9

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 04:47 PM

Thanks Ammon. I did play around some with longer phrases, but WordTracker didn't seem to be generating much in terms of actual searchers. It was very helpful in identifying the relative use of various plural and singular forms of kid/child used. (Teenage boys aren't a target audience, they're too tall :). Warm and cold are good terms (and one of the ways almost all retailers categorize product), but no one seems to use them for searches? I'll go play with WordTracker some more, it would be nice to be wrong!

So far my approach has been to try to use these terms as "naturally" as possible in my content, to capture different ways real people might search (all those little filler words). I'm doing this site wide - would it be a better approach to pick one verson of the phrase for each page? That seems a little contrived, but...

My thinking in using quotes in google as well as non-quote phrases was that it would tell me which sites actually might be trying to compete in this space (vs. ones that end up somewhat accidentally there). I didn't figure this was an easy phrase, but it didn't seem nearly as difficult as several others in this general industry (I guess by non-competitive I was thinking relative to some of the spaces people play in here!!).

I really appreciate all the input, and now I'm off to do some more homework! Google finally indexed second level pages on my site last night, that's a start...

#15 dgeary9

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 04:49 PM

And now a total newbie question - are pages in this forum spidered (e.g. am I likely to see this page end up higher than my site in searches for kids sleeping bags, if so, I will go edit my previous posts :) ).

#16 AbleReach

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 05:02 PM

Spidered?
Yes.

Will this forum's results for your search terms stay around longer than your site's results?
Depends. Generally not. Over time, if your site's content is fresher and more targeted to your search terms, you'll rank better for sleeping bags than these forums. I've found this to be true for vanity searches like a specific domain name, too.

I wouldn't worry about it overmuch.

Elizabeth

#17 bwelford

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 05:14 PM

The text associated with backlinks to your website is critical to getting higher rankings particularly with Google. Your website should have lots of them. This Forum should have none, as far as I know. So you'll win out and probably fairly quickly IMHO.

#18 dgeary9

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 05:19 PM

Thanks Elizabeth, Barry :).

#19 AbleReach

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 05:43 PM

Aside --

Links from sigs and threads here pass no link value as far as SERPs are concerned, though text from posts can show up in search.

Out of curiosity, I just searched for somedomainname from a website hospital review of last year. I know the owner. He had not kept working on the site and had few to no backlinks.

The cre8asiteforums text didn't show up at all.


--E

Edited by AbleReach, 21 January 2006 - 05:47 PM.


#20 dgeary9

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 10:14 PM

Thanks Elizabeth. I knew the sigs didn't affect SERPs (one of many reasons I like this forum), but I didn't know if I might have inadvertently caused a keyword rich page with this thread, I appreciate you checking.

#21 FP_Guy

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 08:14 AM

Your off to a good start. I would really concentrate on the keyword research though. You can use wordtracker, keyword discovery, etc.

And examine the top sites for those particular keyword phrases for comparison.

If you have a keyword to common you may not get the targetted traffic you are looking for. Results: high traffic low ROI

If you want your visitors to your web site to be close to home use your address on the bottom of each page to raise your ranks and try for keywords such as 'blue widgets from chicago' etc.

If you have to high of a competition like 'web design' it will be difficult to get on top, so open up the thesaurus and try for other phrases.

#22 sanity

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 09:39 PM

Fabulous Thread!!

Another way to research the best keyphrases is to run an AdWords campaign. This is a great way to find out how popular phrases are, which ones are clicked on the most and to discover a whole bunch of long tail terms you may not have thought of.

Good luck! :)

#23 AbleReach

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 09:59 PM

Another way to research the best keyphrases is to run an AdWords campaign.

Good idea! Thanks.

#24 dgeary9

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 12:50 AM

Absolutely, thanks Sanity. Once I actually have product to sell (still waiting on my orders to arrive, sigh...), that's a great idea.

I've also somehow managed come up very well on MSN for several variations on my keyword phrase, and I'm monitoring my web traffic closely, so it's actually giving me some good insight into the various phrases (ones I expected and a few surprises) people are using to search.

For those of you who have traffic from more than one search engine, do you see significant differences in the top search phrases coming from each engine, or is MSN a decent predictor of the search terms people might use in Yahoo and Google? I know from my web analytics experience that often these visitors behave quite differently on sites, so it wouldn't surprise me if they search differently too.



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