Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How I Get Paid to Write - Keywords

Because I have a few friends and family interested in learning how to get paid to write articles online, I'm working on putting together some how-tos and introductions.  This one is about getting started with keyword research.

There are volumes of information on search engine optimization but they tend to over-complicate things for the absolute newbie. Mostly, what a new online article writer needs to know on the topic is: a) how to determine which ways we might word something are the best for getting search engine traffic, and b) where on our page those words carry the most weight.

I'll explain, clearly and briefly, what I do to court search engine traffic:

Where Keywords Matter Most:

  • In the url, when we can control that - separated with hyphens if more than one word, if possible, or LikeThis.
  • In titles and subtitles (though you don't want to just repeat the same phrase all the time. Putting it differently covers more phrases and sounds more natural to our readers.)
  • In the first sentence and somewhere close to the bottom of your page, like in a summary.
  • Anchoring a link or links.  Again, not always the same words and phrases.  Variation!

How to Choose Good Keywords Using Google's Keyword Tool:

You want neither too much, nor too little traffic reported for a term at google's keyword tool. Too much means there are probably a lot of pages optimized to get that traffic and it will be hard to break into, though it can be slowly worked up to over time. It's likely that too much traffic also means the term's too general, or broad.  Torchlight, for example, is huge, but do searchers mean the flashlight, the game, actual torch light, or ??  We can't tell.  Too few means barely anyone is looking for it, so it's not worth bothering with as a primary term, but it may be useful as part of a collection of long tails to help you as you climb up to ranking for a higher traffic term.

Looking at the tool's results, don't worry about local traffic vs. global - it's the overall numbers that matter. You can also ignore advertiser competition. I usually look for phrases with 3000-6000 searches, and love phrases that work together. A phrase that gets around 1000 but relates well to your primary term might make a good module or subheading, for example.  (Some actually aim lower for their search range.)

If it would help to see this on video, check out this good video from the 30 Day Challenge.  He uses slightly different parameters but shows the research process, step by step.

And while keyword research might sound complicated, for most pages I spend 5-10 minutes on it, is all. Not a bad investment for something that will continue sending (free) traffic to your page or article for its lifetime.

If you want to get more in-depth, I recommend:
Web Traffic 101 For Newbies

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