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Keyword Research – Advice on getting started

If you’re a beginner you may be wondering where you start with all this business of SEO. Do you start by writing quality content around your target business, product or niche? Do you start by designing your website and manipulating your code in some magical way? Do you start by building a site and then going about the work of getting people to link to your site?

Let me just say that all of the tasks mentioned above are important, but they’re not the most important first step in an SEO campaign. Your first step should always be research. You may know it as keyword research, keyword discovery, key phrase selection or any number of different titles. What’s important is that you know that it’s the first – and most important step – before you do anything else.

Your first step

Keyword research should take place before you design your website. Ideally it should also take place before you choose your domain name and even before you decide on the type of business you’re going to start. This is especially true if you’re running a web-based business because up front research can show you if anyone is even interested in what you’re selling. You want a business, product or service that’s in demand and one that justifies your investment of time and money. The last thing you want is to build a beautiful website and invest heavily in SEO just to find out that nobody searches for what you’re selling. You might even find out that you’ve positioned your online business completely wrong for your target audience. Keyword research will save you from many hours of wasted time if you make the effort to do it right from the start.

Your tools

As a craftsman, the best thing you can invest in is your tools. The same thing goes for SEO and the tools and techniques that you use to do your keyword research are very important.

Keyword research tools come in many shapes and sizes. They can range in price from free to fairly pricey and we’ll start our discussion with the freely available resources. The most importing thing to note is that you choose a research tool that gives you real world data. Initially it’s not important that one tool uses a database of 100 gazillion words and the other only uses 10 million. You just need to know if your most important key phrases receive 1000 searches a month or 10. Our goal at this point is to determine which phrases typically trend higher than others or if they show up at all. Once you have this data you can consider if it makes sense for you to invest in a robust, subscription tool to gather more data.

Free Keyword Research Tools

To get started, there are many free research tools available to you. One of the most popular is provided by Google. The Google keyword tool is available to the public and it allows you to search and discover phrases related to your business or service. You can simply type in one word or a phrase and it will return a long winded suggestion of related keywords and phrases that is very useful. Along with the search phrases they show you an estimate of competition as related to their Google Adwords advertising program, average search volume and a quick glance at search trends for that keyword. (Note: This data is not shown by default so make sure to select “show all” in the drop down menu after your initial search.) After you’ve completed your search you can simply add your words to a list and save them for future reference. This is a great place to start when you’re first building a list of targeted words and phrases.

The last tool that I’m going to mention here is a tool provided by a fellow blogger. Take some time to visit Aaron Wall’s SEO Book website and specifically his free tool “The Keyword Tool“. Aaron’s keyword tool will give you basic results from Wordtracker as well as suggestions for keywords. Aaron’s tool is unique in that it also provides you many different ways to expand your research for free. Overall, a great place to start your research and continue reading as you learn SEO. Aaron typically deals with topics that are a little advanced for a beginner but his site is well respected and a place that you should visit as you continue to grow your knowledge of SEO. Just don’t forget your roots here at!

Also, don’t forget the traditional tools that we’ve used since grade school. Check out to make sure that you’ve covered all the important synonyms that you might have forgotten or overlooked. is available for free and you can use it till your heart’s content.

In the next installment we’ll discuss the next steps and options as you continue on your path of discovery.

Photo credit: James Cridland

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About Chris Auman:

Chris Auman is a veteran digital marketer with over 25 years of experience in the trenches. As Sanctuary’s founder and President, Chris has successfully guided online marketing efforts for companies large and small.

Learn more about Chris.

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