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At a recent SMX conference, Baris Gultekin, Group Product Manager for Google AdWords, put the cat amongst the pigeons when he said the Google Keyword Tool only provides keyword data for the terms Google deems “commercial”.

Teething problems? New policy? Bit of both? Regardless, it’s fair to say there has been a backlash against the changes made to the keyword tool.

For example, Marty Weinberg points out:

“Facebook” Must Not Be “Commercial” Do Google users really only articulate 12 semantic permutations of “Facebook” at phrase, broad and exact match? Eeesh… Obviously that’s a laughable proposition. These 12 keywords are what Google wants to sell as they productize Facebook related queries into AdWords inventory”

Google’s Business

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google is only showing webmasters what it wants webmasters to see. Google will show data that works to Google’s advantage.

There’s no advantage to Google in revealing all their keyword data – a valuable asset – especially the data that Google thinks can’t be monetized as profitably via Adwords. Adwords research is, after all, what the Keyword Tool is for, at least as far as Google is concerned. As much as SEOs like keyword data, Google isn’t there to make SEOs lives easier.

Adwords advertisers might argue that we know which terms provide value, but that’s a slightly different issue. Google may prefer to force more bid competition on keyword terms Google deems work best – in terms of searcher relevance, clickability, and for Google’s bottom line. There’s some merit in this, given their number crunching ability, although they don’t have end revenue data for sites using Adwords. Well, not unless you give it to them.

There may well be bugs Google are working out, or we’re seeing a a change in the PPC game – i.e. encourage advertisers towards the most profitable terms. At SES San Jose last year Google’s Nicholas Fox highlighted that Google had about 30 million words in their ad auction. For advertising purposes, Google figures they do not need to give you a deep set of data, just the core relevant keywords and the ability to taste them via a broad match or phrase match AdWords campaign and refine with negative keywords.

As predicted, Google instant has had a significant impact on keyword diversity in some markets: “While organic traffic levels have risen about 5% for all Drive users since Instant was introduced, keyword variety has fallen more than 15%!”

However, there is still a big keyword tail, and the Google keyword tool is but one keyword resource. ;)

Other Ways To Research Keywords

There are many ways to discover keywords. But first, let’s back up and focus on the user.

In a user-driven environment, like search, everything centers on typical user behavior, or, more specifically, what’s in their head. Those who don’t understand this seemingly innocuous piece of information often go wrong in SEO.

For a user to conduct search, they must already be aware of a concept. In this respect, search is reactive. It is difficult – although not impossible – to break a new idea or brand using the search channel, as the searcher isn’t already aware of the new concept, therefore is unlikely to search on it. These type of “awareness generation” campaigns are generally better suited to interruption media, such as banners, videos and such.

Is your product/service/concept already known? Is it a brand? If so, it’s a good candidate for search marketing. Listen to the way your customers talk. What phrases do they use? What questions do they ask? What problems do they have? Read the sites/magazines/publications they read and look for common terminology and reference points. Keep an eye on social networks and see what news they discuss. Feed all this information – the phrases, questions and terminology – back into your keyword list. Chances are, many of these terms will not appear on keyword research tools.

The next step is to consider searcher behavior.

82% of searchers will rephrase their query if they don’t find what they are looking for on their first attempt. Combine this with the fact that 55% of queries use more than three terms, and a staggering 20 to 25% of the queries have never been seen before i.e. they are unique.

This means that there are many more keywords permutations than a keyword tool will ever give you.

If you focus on multiple low traffic terms, this can result in more traffic than can be gained from a single high traffic term. You can often achieve this simply by knowing the topics your audience are interested in, and writing about them. Is this SEO? Of course. Your language matches that of your intended audience.

So publish often. Each page you publish is a keyword net.

Look deep into your web analytics / log file. Use keyword terms found in your logs as topic/titles/starter ideas for new pages. Repeat indefinitely. You’ll eventually build your unique own body of keyword data that people using keyword research tools are unlikely to find.

Always listen and adapt to your audience. Always listen and adapt to your site’s analytics, as it is the purest (and most relevant) data you will ever get to use in your search marketing campaigns.

Free Keyword Research Tools

We’re going to blow our own horn here and recommend the SEOBook keyword tool, powered by Wordtracker. It’s free, and provides a lot data across various search services. The SEOBook members section has some very cool tools, too, including a Competitive Research tool based on SEMRush data. This data can list keyword value distribution i.e. keyword value * estimated traffic. Aaron did a thorough review of SEMRush here.

But enough about us…. :)

Google still offer a range of great freebie tools, including:

Google Trends

Google trends for websites

Insights for search

Google Sets

Microsoft’s Ad Intelligence is too good to not mention.

Don’t forget to use a Thesaurus – such as Thesaurus.com. A Thesaurus can often cough up synonyms the keyword research tools miss. Aaron has a video and a few more keyword tools listed here.

And virtually anything can be a source of data to explore

The well is deep!

There is a ton of data out there, whether Google chooses to share it or not.

The very best keyword data is seldom shared intentionally ;) though sometimes when people sell their site they do offer “free milk.” SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.

Posted by randfish

I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently with websites in need of better rankings for keyword + cityname combinations in cities across the country (or around the world). This is one of the most challenging tasks in the SEO field, for four big reasons:

  1. Maps Results Bias Against Multi-City Domains
    Google’s local/maps results are far more challenging to get into if you’re not a business with a physical local presence. Opening field offices or leveraging local franchises are possibilities, but they take time and effort.
  2. Web Results are Getting More Geo-Sensitive Too
    The "standard" web results are seeing more and more leanings towards local results, even when the maps/local trigger isn’t in place:

    SEO results with a Seattle Bias

    At least 4 of the top results are showing based on my location alone (and I’m feeling really weird that I don’t know anyone at any of these Seattle SEO companies – where are you guys? Come to a meetup!).

  3. Exact/Partial Keyword Match Domains Dominate
    In reviewing results for some friends and folks on PRO Q+A, it seems that exact match domains dominate results in local even more than in other verticals.

    Phliadelphia Locksmith

    This makes it even harder for single sites with landing pages to get into the results (and honestly, I question whether this is a smart algorithmic move on Google’s part).

  4. Earning "Local" Links is Harder for Multi-City Sites
    If you live locally, run your business in an area and thus participate in that community, your liklihood of earning links from local businesses and with anchor text that includes your city name increases dramatically. This works against national sites seeking a presence in the local rankings.

Before I continue, I’ll first point out that it’s not necessarily a bad thing that Google biases towards local sites ahead of national or multi-city ones. It’s quite likely that doing so has actually improved relevance and searcher happiness from a few years ago (when national sites with multi-city listings dominated these types of queries).

However, this post is here to help those of you who are aiming for those multiple city listings, so let’s dive into strategy and tactics.

Maps vs. Web Results

There’s two ways to get results from SEO in local keyword campaigns:

Google Local/Maps vs. Web Results Rankings

Competing in one is hard – in both, harder still. Yet, given Google’s propensity to make localization and geographic queries leverage Google Maps (and the announcement today that they’re doubling down with former VP of Search, Marissa Mayer, moving from to local), it would seem this will grow in importance and reach.

Best Practices & Resources for Maps/Local

In Google Local & Maps, it’s all about the listings (rather than the links). You need to:

  1. Optimize your own Maps listing
  2. Create LOTS of consistent data across every resource Google might be using
  3. Build passion among online-savvy audiences who use your business (so they’ll do the promotion for you)

Need more? Read the Bible on Local SEO.

Building the Right Content

Content for local searchers is hard to fake and hard to make "great," often because the intent of a local query can vary more than initial instincts might lead you to believe. In my experience, local searchers are seeking:

  • Llists of the "best" businesses in this arena, or at least an endorsement they can trust of a select few (think of queries like "San Diego sushi restaurants" or "Ocean Beach consignment shops")
  • A single, geographically close, convenient and "good enough" solution (e.g. "bookstore near Balboa Park" or "La Jolla Apple Store")
  • Content-based answers or resources more than local businesses (e.g. "San Diego neighborhoods" or "

If you’re going to stand out in the field, you need to identify the intent successfully and fulfill it exceptionally.

This means you can’t go the classic route of building a single page of content and simply replacing the geographic keywords with each city you’re targeting. Content needs to be meaningfully unique and target the intents described above. My best advice is to follow these three steps:

  1. Leverage or build a unique source of data – that could come from your own deep experience in the field, from user/editorial data or from a technological solution you’ve constructed (think Zillow’s home price values or SimplyHired’s job + salary data).
  2. Hire the best writers you can find, the best designers you can get and mashup beautiful elegance with literary genius (NYmag has always impressed me on both fronts)
  3. Don’t skimp on the depth and detail. Better to spend 40 hours of work for each city building the most amazing resource possible and earn top rankings than to put in a half-hearted effort and hit page 2 or 3. And, even if you can rank, how can you convert and win raving fans if you don’t have the best material (e.g. see how Oyster reviews a hotel – Tripadvisor is a letdown in comparison).

Content alone won’t win the day (sadly, it’s a myth that the best content earns top rankings), but it is critical to building the foundation for long term success.

Keyword Targeting & On-Page Optimization

The standard best practices for keyword targeting & on-page optimization apply, with a few twists.

  • Keyword cannibalization can be a big problem, particularly if you’re producing both broad and narrow categories and landing pages (like "San Diego Restaurants" and "San Diego Kid-Friendly Restaurants"). It’s not impossible to win both, but you need to be careful about how you use keywords on the pages and be smart with internal (and external) anchor text. Recently, I’ve witnessed some cases where the wrong page ranked due to anchor text and keyword usage issues. This is an area where it pays to be cautious.
  • It sometimes pays to target multiple keywords on the same page. When that’s the case, be careful not to go overboard and get spammy or abusive. Often, I see sites repeating the city name far more often than is necessary. If I’m on the San Diego page, there’s no need
    to go overboard with internal anchor text or repetitive phrases that include "San Diego" in front of every other noun.
  • Keywords in the URL string seem, perplexingly, to be a stronger signal on these types of pages and queries than I’m accustomed to. I haven’t invested in real research around a correlation study on this, but looking through hundreds of results, my sense is that writing good URLs that are keyword rich matters. That doesn’t mean something like: site.com/san-diego/san-diego-restaurants/san-diego-kid-friendly-restaurants – in fact, I suspect many searchers are starting to learn that URLs like those often don’t have what they want. But I would, for example, recommend at least: site.com/san-diego/restaurants/kid-friendly
  • Another tough one to prove, but my instincts have been telling me that topic relevance matters quite a bit here too. The free LDA tool isn’t perfect, but it’s the best thing I know of in the SEO world to help evaluate a piece of content’s relevance to a query. You can and should, of course, also use your intuition.

Be careful not to get too addicted to a template approach, particularly if your template isn’t a robust platform for nailing the user intents described above. It can be good to vary keyword usage based on demand – for example, some cities might have more searchers using "Seattle Men’s Suits" while others use "Mens Suits San Diego." Do the research and the testing before you commit – and be ready to change if the data shifts.

Earning Links

Link building in general is tough – in the local space, particularly when you need dozens of hundreds of links to hundreds or thousands of pages, it’s nightmarishly challenging. But, that’s what makes SEO a true competitive advantage (vs. PPC, for example).

The tactics I’ve seen work best for those scaling out local pages include:

  • Being a listing resource that promotes other sites/businesses and, in return, earns links from those sites thanks to the cognitive principle of reciprocity (and a desire to share one’s accomplishments). Yelp‘s badges are a perfect example of this in action:

    Yelp 5 Star Badge

    Offer graphics or embeds that local businesses can use to promote themselves and you’ll see plenty of links (so long as your site/brand has a reputation that impresses the business owners).

  • Syndicating content with other relevant local content providers can earn lots of links to a wide range of your pages. The only weakness is that the diversity of sources is low, but if you can form a number of partnerships with big players, this can be overcome. Perhaps no one has had more success with this strategy than Trulia, whose link partnerships with newspapers and news sites across the country (powering their real estate sections) has meant rankings domination for the better part of 4 years. Sites like Superpages.com and Citysearch.com take advantage of this as well by "powering" the listings on may partner sites and earning links back in return.
  • Participating in local community events and sponsoring in-person gatherings has long been a tactic we’ve recommended, but it works very nicely in the local keyword space because the links tend to come from local sites, feature cityname anchor text (or at least have that cityname plastered on the linking pages).
  • Ingratiate yourself with local bloggers and reporters. Urbanspoon did this by promoting the posts and content of local food bloggers when they expanded to a new city. Techflash‘s expansions have been similarly successful because they reach out to the local tech, venture, startup and entrepreneur communities through coverage for their sites, blogs and events.

As always, there are a plethora of link building tactics that can work, limited only by your creativity and willingness to experiment.

Staying Ahead of "Hyperlocal" Competition

For larger sites going head to head with local niche sites in the rankings, what seems like a struggle can actually be an opportunity. Try reaching out to indirectly competitive top rankers to see if affiliate deals, advertising, sponsorships or other partnerships could work. Sometimes you may not be able to earn a link, but you can buy some of that super-relevant traffic that’s landing on someone else’s pages.

If there is a true head-to-head and you have the size/resources to pull it off, turning highly successful and rankings dominating sites into franchisees or buying them outright can make sense from a long-term business perspective. It can also be a great way to acquire "boots on the ground" if that’s part of what your model needs to succeed.

If none of these are available and you’re facing 3-4 keyword match domains that are out-linking, out content-building and out-optimizing you, you might consider "sneaking around" the competition. Instead of targeting the cityname, try individual neighborhoods, outlying secondary regions (e.g. Bellevue, Tacoma, Renton, Redmond and Everett instead of "Seattle") or even states/counties. You can also approach the long tail demand in local by building more and better content around the topic, engaging with UGC and mining alternative sources for keyword data.

Learn from the Best

In a number of sectors, certain sites have had dramatic success over the years and maintained it. Looking at these domains and understanding their strategies is an excellent way to bolster your knowledge of how to play this competitive game. Some of the sites that have impressed me the most on this front include:

  • Yelp & Urbanspoon in restaurants
  • Trulia, Zillow & Yahoo! Real Estate in real estate
  • Superpages in doctors and dentists
  • Freelancedesigners for programmers

I’ll leave it to you to run the queries, see the success they’re having in local rankings and reverse engineer their strategy.

Looking forward as always to your thoughts, ideas and questions on this.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by kieronhughes

This isn’t a post about keyword research for video content on YouTube, but about exploring the ways in which it can be used to find relevant data, information and keywords in topics where you have a low understanding of the services and industry.

Now for an example…

You’ve just taken on the SEO contract for a private speech therapist based in the UK, and need to carry out industry and keyword research into the sector to best understand the opportunities available, and to structure their in-development website accordingly.

You don’t know much about speech therapy, but you’ve been given some information by your client and now you’re on the hunt for keywords. Heading over to the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, you put in "speech therapy" to see what suggestions/volumes are thrown up.

Keyword Research Results for Speech Therapy

Now although the results displayed by the Google Keyword Tool might be relevant to what you are looking for, they don’t provide the bigger picture, which is what you should be looking for.

  • Are there any common phrases used by experts/consumers in the industry?
  • Are there any related (similar) services that the client could offer, but not have mentioned?
  • What are the conditions that most commonly lead to speech problems?

All of this information can no doubt be found by carrying out your own research on Google/your other favourite search engine, but it can still be difficult to sift through the results to find the correct information you are looking for… and this is where YouTube can really help.

Using YouTube as a Keyword Tool

Unlike creating a web page, uploading a video to YouTube is very accessible to anybody with a video file and an internet connection. The great advantage of the upload process is that Google prompts people to provide descriptive content about the video, such as explanatory text (description), a relevant title, and appropriate tags – so not only is it easier for the videos to be sorted, it means more data is available for us to mine.

A search on YouTube for "speech therapy" provides 3,870 results, and at random I chose a video recording of a speech therapy class.

Scrolling past the video to look at the related information provides a great initial insight:

YouTube Related Video Data


From the above information we can get the following keywords:

  • down syndrome (40,500 searches)
  • oral motor therapy (58 searches – low, but still relevant)
  • speech therapist (we already knew this one – 12,100 searches)
  • apraxia (2,900 searches)

Even with a somewhat basic knowledge of speech therapy it would have been difficult to know that "oral motor therapy" and "apraxia" were related to problems with speech – and it’s a great stepping stone in our keyword research.

Scrolling further down the page to analyse the comments, we see:

YouTube Comment on Speech Therapy Video

Which provides us with further keywords and opportunities:

  • autism (201,000 searches)
  • oral motor exercise (91 searches)
  • chewy tube (the "t-shaped orange material" – answered in a further comment – 390 searches)

Other comments on the page are equally as helpful, with examples such as "decreasing hyper sensitivity" being another useful research avenue.

Looking around YouTube, comments can actually be much more helpful than the published video data. Conversations often arise between people, and this is an essential place to look if you want to know more information.

Once you have taken the time to browse the videos, note down some of the related information and make a list of possible opportunities, then you can go back to the Google Keyword Tool (or whatever tool you might be using) with a whole load of ammo for your next stage of research. The advantage to this second iteration is that you will have also used YouTube what it is intended for – to watch videos, and to find out more information about the services and conditions related to speech therapy (greater understanding of your client’s business means you can ultimately do a better job for them).

Also note that you should research any of the phrases you find in more detail before optimising a website for them – more about this point at the end of the article.

From just the initial view carried out on YouTube above, we have gone from a sitemap looking similar to this:

Example Simple Website Structure

To something more representative of this:

Expanded Website Structured Based on Speech Therapy Keyword Research

The above sitemap has been generated after looking at only one YouTube video on the subject, so imagine the level of data you could get into if you carried out full research?

By following an iterative process of looking at YouTube, understanding the opportunities, and analysing the search volumes, you can begin to form a visual picture of how products and services are related – something that can be then portrayed back to the client for approval and additional ideas. Clients can often be too familiar with their business, and miss out a basic level of information when attempting to explain what it is they offer – and this is usually the most valuable detail from an SEO perspective.

Carrying out your own research is vital to covering all of the best angles when working with a new website, and you shouldn’t just stop at the list of service offerings that the client provides you with. Take things one step further, and you’ll no doubt find the website is in a greater position to dominate search visibility than some of the key comptitors in the industry.

Use All of the Data Available

With people of all ages, backgrounds, specialties and even personal experiences uploading and contributing to YouTube, it really is a gold mine of information and can help a great deal for search marketing campaigns. If you’re researching a particular service/product/industry, why wouldn’t you use all of the information that is freely available? – especially when you have a user-updated resource such as YouTube at your finger tips.

The one point I’ll leave on, is that YouTube shouldn’t be used for all of your research on a particular subject, as it is, after all, open to mislabelling, incorrect information and of course the efforts by fellow SEOs to promote video content ;)

I’m no way affiliated with anyone in speech therapy, but I’m sure the children’s communication charity I CAN would appreciate a donatio
n if you’re feeling generous: http://www.ican.org.uk/Support%20Us/Donate/Donate%20Now

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog
Post image for Keep Your Articles Narrowly Focused and Keyword Centric

One of the mistakes I feel many people make is that they write articles or posts chasing very broad topics. IMHO it’s much better to write narrowly focused posts, pages, or articles and tie it together later on. This is a concept I call head and tail content that I touched on in my How I Manage a WordPress Website.

In my experience converting long tail phrases is easier, especially if they answer a question or solve a problem …

So what is an example of content that IMHO is too broad? Something like “how to plan a Disney World Vacation.” While this is a good topic for a an article it’s far too broad for you to cover it in depth with one article.

My preferred method is to attack this from the other end by creating much more in-depth, narrowly focused “tail” articles first and backing your way into the main or head article. So what are some tail articles I would prefer to start with? How about these …

  • Best hotels in Disney World for families with infants
  • Best hotels in Disney World for families with teens
  • Best hotels in Disney World for large families
  • Best hotels in Disney World for families with grandparents
  • Best hotels in Disney World for families with disabilities
  • Best hotels in Disney World on the monorail
  • Cheapest hotels in Disney World

While this list is by no means all inclusive, I think you can get the idea of how I am going very narrow. These articles don’t have to be long. You can be quick, direct, and keyword centric with links to individual hotel booking pages for conversions. Now you certainly could combine all of these aspects into one article and it would be very through, but it would also suffer from TLDR . However, more importantly, it’s doubtful you would rank for any of those head phrases without significant site trust and authority. In my experience converting long tail phrases is easier, especially if they answer a question or solve a problem.

Once you have all/most of the tail content written, you can write the head and make sure you have spots to link to the tail content in the posts. One of the reasons I think people shy away from this approach is because of the time/money involved in creating all the content. I suggest creating a master list of everything you need, breaking it down into head and tail, and prioritizing the list. Decide which content requires your best writers or has to be flagship quality. Take the rest and outsource it. I have found I can get good results very quickly from textbroker (see textbroker.com review). Remember IMHO not everything on your website needs to be flagship quality. If it turns out one of your tail pieces ranks really well and drives a lot of traffic but doesn’t convert and you think it should, that may be worth rewriting.

So what are the takeaways:

  • Write pages that are narrowly focused on specific keywords
  • Tie the narrowly focused articles together in a summary or head article
  • Make a master list of all the content you need and prioritize the list
  • Outsource based on importance
  • Rewrite as needed based on traffic, performance, and conversions

Creative Commons License photo credit: nukeit1

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Keep Your Articles Narrowly Focused and Keyword Centric

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog
Post image for How to Write Keyword Focused Articles and Posts About Timely Topics

One of the things I often say that most bloggers get wrong is they sacrifice keyword focus for being clever, cute, or entertaining. Yes, it is important that you make your blog posts as interesting as possible; but you should never ignore the opportunity to tie into commercial concepts. Since I often get criticized for telling you what you do wrong but not how to do it right, here are some examples about how to write interesting blog posts that are more keyword focused.First out of the gate is an article from the New York Times about how to get an artificial tan without looking like Snooki from the Jersey Shore. As we come into summer, lots of people are looking for ways to look like they have a tan without spending time in the sun or in a tanning booth. Artificial tanning products have been around for years, but the results can be hit or miss. This article addresses that issue with a tie in to the Jersey Shore, which makes a nice pop culture hook.  If it were my site and not a news site, there would have been some affiliate products links, but I think you get the picture.

Next up is another seasonal post–but this one has a viral keyword hook. I know that flip flops aren’t the most supportive shoes, but I didn’t know they made your shin muscles work harder … did you? When I passed by the magazine rack at the gym, I noticed that toning shoes have started to  appear on the covers a lot, but I didn’t know much about them. Here’s an article about toning shoes from USA Today that plays the viral hook “revolutionary sneaker, or overhyped gimmick.” When you come across the article, it’s very likely that you’ll share it. I know I did. Again, if I ran a site and we did an article like that, it would certainly have some affiliate links in it.

Hopefully by now you are familiar with the concept of an editorial calendar and are using it to your advantage. It’s also an excellent opportunity to try and capture some KWD focused searches with things like posts for Father’s Day. These kind of posts are easy because you know they are coming, have a lot of lead time, and can time your publishing for maximum exposure. Something else to note: see how they interlinked the Mother’s Day post at the bottom … don’t miss out on opportunities like that.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Johny hanging head down from the tree

This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

How to Write Keyword Focused Articles and Posts About Timely Topics

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  5. Directory Journal – List your website in our growing web directory today.
  6. Need an SEO Audit for your website, look at my SEO Consulting Services
  7. KnowEm – Protect your brand, product or company name with a continually growing list of social media sites.
  8. Scribe SEO Review find out how to better optimize your wordpress posts.
  9. TigerTech – Great Web Hosting service at a great price.

Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog
Post image for Writing Keyword Focused Posts that are Interesting

One of my constant criticisms of bloggers and the blogosphere in general is the sacrifice of keyword focus and the traffic it could bring when bloggers are more lyrical with their prose than they need to be.

In my opinion that post meets the goal of being interesting while talking about a commercial subject…

Last week I was reading an article in USA today (on my iPad) and came across an article that shows you can do both. Take a look at this article on five concerts you should see this summer before we get started. The article discusses five artists, the shows they are putting on, and why you should see them. They even go so far as to talk about ticket prices (without putting links to buy the tickets … missed opportunity right there). However, the author discusses why they feel these shows are worth spending hard earned money to see. The article isn’t an attack or flame piece, but it does express an opinion. In my opinion, that post meets the goal of being interesting while talking about a commercial subject.

If I were running a site, I would have executed this slightly differently. First, I would have written individual pieces about each of the 5 shows in more detail. These pieces would have some character and opinion but would be optimized for for phrases like “Justin Bieber Concert Tickets.” I like to use scribe SEO (see scribe SEO review) to make sure my posts are focused, but you can use any tool you like.

Next, I would have created an article like the one in USA Today. This piece would have had some keyword focus but would have a lot more editorial value. This article wouldn’t be optimized for any keyword; in reality, it would be closer to a piece of link bait. What you are really trying to do is create an article people want to share on stumbleupon, Digg, or Twitter, or a post that makes readers want to leave comments–if you haven’t turned them off, of course. Then I would link to each of the individual posts using anchor text like “Justin Bieber concert.”

This is a strategy I call head and tail content. After the post has gotten the majority of its traffic and hopefully built a few links, you need to go back and make an adjustment: change the anchor text to the tail pieces to “Justin Bieber concert tickets.” This secondary change takes the link equity you have built and uses it to your maximum benefit. The reason you do it later is to maximize the page’s link building potential. If you started out with the links that are overtly commercially-motivated, you build less links in my experience.

So what are the takeaways here?

  • Create your tail pieces first and keep them focused on a commercial keyword phrase
  • Create the head piece with focus on creating good interesting content first. Don’t ignore KWDs but don’t focus on them
  • Interlink the head and tail articles on publication
  • After the head has gained links and traffic slows down, focus the anchor text used to connect to the tail pieces

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mad House Photography

testing for Alex Bennert

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This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.

Writing Keyword Focused Posts that are Interesting

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Michael Gray – Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Posted by Sam Crocker

Hi there Mozzers! My name is Sam Crocker and I work for Distilled. This is my first post here at SEOmoz and I am looking forward to your feedback!


My mother used to scold me for misusing my toys, playing with my food and for having a bit too much energy. She was well within her rights, as I was a bit of a handful, but at the moment one particular phrase really sticks out in my mind

“Is that what that was made for Sam? Use it the right way, please.”

Whether I was riding down the stairs in a sleeping bag, having sword fights with paper towel tubes with my sister, or using my skateboard as a street luge- I’ve always been big on using things for purposes other than their intended design. It should be no surprise that I do the same with some of the fancy and powerful tools upon which we have become quite dependent in the SEO world. Much like when I was little, it seems like by using things the “wrong way” there’s scope to have a bit more fun and to discover some new and different ways of accomplishing the same goals.

Young Sam Crocker
Me As a Little Guy. Snow Scraper = Renegade Fighting Stick?

I spoke about my most recent adventures in using things the wrong way at SMX Advanced London. I don’t think too many people who came to the keyphrase research session expecting to hear about how a scraper like Mozenda could be used to save all sorts of time and effort and generate new keyphrase ideas. You may want to have a quick read through that before watching the screencast.*

It’s also important to point out that Mozenda is best used as a discover tool in the instance I provide here. If this method were a perfect solution to keyword research you could very easily build a tool that does it better. The beauty of Mozenda, however, is that it can be just about any tool you want. If you need to generate brand new content around a subject area you know nothing about, you can use it to explore tags on delicious or another social media platform.

Given a great deal of interest in this technique that I received from attendees at the presentation and in the twittersphere I decided it was worth providing a full walkthrough to cover some of the nuances I wasn’t able to cover in a 12 minute presentation and to share with the folks who weren’t able to attend the conference.


 *It’s worth noting that for the sake of consistency I used the same Google Suggest tool in the video as I used for my initial research and discussed at SMX London. Since then Rob Milard built his own keyphrase expander tool based on this work and it is considerably more versatile than the original tool (you can search Google.com or Google.co.uk and export the file as a CSV). The output of this version isn’t in XML and provides the “search volume” data missing from the first tool. So congratulations and a BIG thank you to Rob from me and the search community in general!

Next Steps

The above screencast is an introduction of a technique we have been experimenting with to broaden the keyphrases targeted on a site (particularly, it can be used to increase the number of longtail keyphrases and provide insights into terminology you may not be targeting in your current list of keyphrases). This can be particularly useful if you work for an agency dealing with clients from a number of different sectors. For the sake of demonstration I have only input 7 terms into the Google Suggest tool in an effort to pull out a workable dataset for the screencast and for my presentation but Mozenda is a pretty powerful tool, so there’s really nothing stopping you from using more keyphrases. As a matter of courtesy, however, I would suggest setting up some delays when running any large scraping task to prevent overwhelming servers or hogging bandwidth. For more information on this, please have a read through Rich Baxter’s latest piece on indexation.

One of the questions I was asked (by a number of people) was “what next?” As in: “what on earth am I going to do with these extra 10,000 keyphrases?” And although this presentation was intended as a proof of concept, I don’t want anyone to think we are trying to keep anything secret here so here are a few ideas about what you might consider doing next.

Option 1: Ask For Help!

For the people who find themselves thinking “I’m not really sure what to do with this data” I would suggest enlisting the help of a numbers guy or gal (Excel Wizards or other nerdy warriors). Odds are if you find looking at this sort of data daunting, you’re going to need their help making sense of the numbers later anyways.

Option 2: Outsource

The second option, for those of who know exactly what you want to do with this data, but don’t have the time to go through it all, I strongly suggest enlisting the help of cheap labour. Either find yourself an intern or make use of Amazon’s Mechanical Turks to find someone who can accomplish just what you need. The nice thing about services like this is that it’s a 24/7 workforce and you can get a feel for how helpful someone will be fairly quickly and painlessly.

Option 3: Jump Right In

Finally, the third option for those of you with some Excel skillz and a bit of time. There will definitely still be some manual work to be done and some weeding through for terms that are not at all relevant, the suggestions where you usually say aloud “no, Google I did NOT mean…” will clearly need to go.

The best use of this data will be the general themes or "common words" that you can quite easily sort through or filter for using Excel and that you may have been to oblivious to prior to starting.

Ikea Boxcutting Instructions

 Feel Free to Sing Along if You Know The Words! (image via: Kottke)

Step 1: Remove all duplicates. In this example there were no duplicates created though I can only assume that with 10,000 keyphrases run through the tool there will be some duplicate output.

Step 2: Remove URL suggestions. I know we like to think otherwise, but if the user was searching for “gleeepisodes.net” they probably aren’t interested in TV listings from your site. It would also be a fairly cheeky move to try to optimise a page about someone else’s website.

Step 3: Remember your target audience. If you only operate in the UK “Glee schedule Canada” and “Glee schedule Fox” can probably be eliminated as well. Now would be a good time to eliminate any truly irrelevant entries as well (e.g. “Gleevec” – although some of your viewers may have leukemia this probably is not what most visitors to your site are looking for).

Step 4: With the remaining terms and phrases run them through the usual sense checking routines. This is a good time to check global/local search volume for these terms and look at some of the competitiveness metrics as well. Search volume will probably be quite high for most of these terms (at least enough for Google to think someone might be looking for them regularly), though competitiveness probably will be too, so choose wisely.

Identifying the patterns at this stage will be essential to the value of the research you are conducting. You can try to filter for common phrases or suggestions at this stage and if, as in this example you realise "rumors" is a relevant term you’ve not targeted anywhere on the site, it is high time you consider adding content targeting this area for all of the television shows on the site.

Last Step: Come up with a sensible strategy to attack all this new content. Look at these terms as jumping off points for new content, new blog posts, and new ways of talking about this and other related products/services/subjects on the site.


A lot can be learned through this sort of exercise. In addition to finding some new high volume search terms, it may help you identify trends in search for which you have not been competing and have implications across the whole site rather than on one page. For example, maybe you didn’t think about “spoilers” or “rumors.” For a site dedicated to television programmes this sort of terminology will likely be valuable for a number of other shows as well!

The moral of the story? If you build it they will come.

Sometimes it is worth developing your own tool to make use of existing technology. Whilst I still feel Mozenda is the right tool for the job for handling larger datasets, the tool Rob built is a perfect example of both how a little creativity and building on other’s ideas can lead to benefit for everyone. Rob’s tool effectively rendered my Mozenda workaround unnecessary for most small to medium sites, and that’s awesome.

Doing it Wrong!
Image via: Motivated Photos

A final word of warning: I’m not suggesting that you replace all other keyphrase research with this idea. This technique is best utilised either during creation of a site about an area you know very little about (it’s rare, but it happens), or when you’ve run out of ideas and tried some of the more conventional approaches. It’s all about thinking outside of the box and trying new things to save you time. Onpage optimisation, linkbuilding and more traditional keyphrase research needs to be done but sometimes the best results come from trying something a bit experimental and using things for purposes other than that which they were designed.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns feel free to shame me publicly either in the below section or on Twitter.

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