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Warning; Do Not Always Trust Keyword Research Tools

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 03 May 2010 12:55

By Nick LeRoy

One of the first tasks when creating an SEO campaign is to target appropriate traffic driving keywords.   Many of us use keyword research tools such as Google keyword tool, Word Tracker, Keyword Discovery or many of the other tools available.  SEO’s are sophisticated; they know that none of these services offer exact results but an educated guess based off data they have available. With that said most SEO’s will simply use a couple of these tools to examine the results for a particular keyword. 

If each tool returns positive results, that’s enough to put that keyword in the “further to investigate” pile. But what do you do when all keyword tools report no value? Most would discard this keyword, but is that truly the best option?

Look at my example below for a keyword that many keyword tools told me was nearly worthless. After a little work I found a little gem that produces over 300 visits per month.  Yes, the same keyword that they had no results for.

Keyword Tools Are Only Meant For Estimates!

I have a great example to share from a client website (which is why the keyword will not be exposed, sorry!).  This keyword is not very competitive, in fact were ranking number 2 without any major effort outside of on page SEO. 

This keyword sends somewhere between 300 and 400 visitors per month.  Now just imagine if I ignored this keyword because keyword research tools didn’t offer me any value for it?  See below for the results I receive when I place this keyword within some of the more common keyword research tools.

Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool.

Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool.

Google keyword research tool sends me a global search volume of just 22, and “not enough data” for local search volume.  Let’s move on to the next keyword research tool.

WordTracker Keyword Research Tool (free keyword suggestion tool)

WordTracker Keyword Research Tool

WordTracker FREE Keyword Research Tool shows “No results found for _____ Please try an alternative.”  No luck here lets try another tool.

Keyword Discovery Free Keyword Research Tool

Keyword Discovery Free Keyword Research Tool

Ouch, another keyword research tool not returning any results.  What gives?


Not All Keyword Research Tools Are Treated Equally

Many of you have noticed that I have used three FREE tools. These tools are available to every single person who has a working internet connection.  Most of these tools offer their own paid options and there are a several other tools that are also worth their fees.  For this example I thought I would get my point across best highlighting these top free tools.  

In addition I would like to point out that my goal of this article is not to trash keyword research tools.  I use keyword research tools daily, and will openly admit that they make my life a lot easier and I hope they never disappear.


Do Not Discard Your Keyword Ideas

The true objective of this post is to convince you to test your keywords regardless what the keyword research tools say.   If you notice these keyword tools are not saying that zero traffic will be generated by this keyword, they just happen to return no results. 

This means that there is not enough data to prove that traffic exists which always leaves an opportunity for a keyword to be successful.  So if the keyword tool doesn’t have any info how can you test the value of these keywords?

Run an AdWords campaign.

Google analytics data doesn’t always correlate with organic listings data but this will give you a snap shot of how many people are at least performing a search for this query.  Make sure you have your setting so that your ad will only display for the exact phrase and within Google search results only.   

This test may cost you money up front but will undoubtedly save you time and money optimizing for a term that doesn’t receive any traffic.  

Optimize For The Keyword Anyways.

I don’t really advocate blindly testing keyword this way it doesn’t require any upfront costs.   Create a page and do your basic on page optimization for this keyword. Remember to include some internal links within your site using the keyword within the anchor text.

After the page is indexed where does that page rank in the SERPS?  More importantly, is this keyword bringing your site any traffic?  You can check this information out through your analytics set up. 

*Note that this test is only effective if you have a front page listing, if your site starts out on page 3 you need to decided whether the test is worth the time link building.

You Must Try Before You Can Fail.

I’m not going to tell you that every keyword that returns a “no results found” will be a hidden gem.  In fact, 90% of the time they won’t be any good.  You absolutely need to use your best judgment.  The keyword in my example is terminology that’s used within my clients industry, so naturally it fit into the “test” category for us. 

If we hadn’t at least given it a shot we would be missing out on the 300-400 visits per month.  With all this kept in consideration, I hope the next time you do keyword research you will look past the value that the keyword research tools offer you.

Nick LeRoy

About the Author - Nick LeRoy is the search marketing specialist at Minneapolis web design firm; DKS Systems. For additional SEO tips you can follow Nick on Twitter @DKS_Systems

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