And What to Do Instead!
I’m just going to come out and say it:
I think the traditional form of keyword research is a waste of your time.
You know the one. Let’s look up the keywords in Google, Market Samurai or Word Tracker. Then look for keywords that have high traffic, but low competition, because we want to find those easy rankings. Easy rankings = easy money, right?!?
I mean, sure, it’s possible. But when you do keyword research like that, even in lesser competitive niches you’re still chasing other people chasing the same keywords. Once you find a profitable keyword, then you fight with others over it. Keep in mind that there can only be 10 on that first page.
What’s more is that webmasters usually pinpoint a couple of trophy keywords that they want to target. Nothing else really matters. They do everything in their power to rank for those phrases. Spam websites, spin articles and buy links.
One problem with the trophy keyword approach is that they don’t always pan out. Either they don’t send the traffic you thought they would, or they don’t turn out to be as profitable as you thought they’d be.
Or worse, both.
And another thing — guys who focus so much on keywords usually make their content keyword heavy, which makes it hard to read, not to mention a little boring. It’s written for robots instead of people. It was written to make money first and help people second, instead of the other way around.
Google has shown that they don’t necessarily care for this type of content with their Panda update. Some websites made it out ok, but many others did not. And as a result a lot of people lost their incomes.
And last — focusing on just (trophy) keywords makes it very difficult to diversify your business. You totally cut out the social sharing aspect since your content isn’t written for people. People just don’t share crappy content. So you don’t have any defense or a “plan b” for when Google decides to backhand your site in the SERPs.
So to recap — (traditional) keyword research is a waste of your time. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for it. After all, you do want to know to some extent how your users are finding you (or your competitors). But overall, I feel that there are better ways to find phrases or content that people are wanting to read, that will provide a much bigger return for your time.
What You Can Do Instead of Traditional Keyword Research
Here are some things you can do instead of using the traditional tools for keyword research.
Instead of researching keywords, use your brain to come up with them instead.
The reason why I think this approach is much better than traditional keyword research is that you’re more likely to come up with keywords or phrases that are more or less unique — keywords that people aren’t finding in keyword tools.
One thing you can do to help is use a mind mapping program. Bubble.us is a good program, as is Mind Meister. Both can be used free, and Mind Meister can be purchased on a monthly/yearly basis.
Start off with a keyword or phrase, then expand from there. Another thought is to think of problems and solutions instead of keywords, then branch off of those.
Go to Where Your Audience Is
Instead of spending a bunch of time coming up with keywords, and then a bunch of time trying to rank for them, go to where your audience is. They’ll tell you exactly what their desires, needs and fears are. If you look between the lines you’ll see the keywords or phrases you should target in your content.
So where to you go to find your audience? Try these:
- Yahoo Answers
- Other websites
- Your (other) website(s)
- Family, friends, peers, etc
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Use these locations to find even more places your target audience hangs out.
Forget the Keyword Research & Just Actively Share Your Content
I think a lot of people will read this and freak out some. ZOMG — you don’t want me to do keyword research? However will other people find my website?
The answer is simple:
Go to where your audience is and share your content. There are so many options / methods here that I can’t possibly share them all. But here are some to keep the juices flowing:
- Yahoo Answers
- Other websites (guest posts or advertising)
- Family, friends, peers, etc
- Social sharing — Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc
- Groups (Yahoo, Facebook, etc)
- Email lists (via someone else’s list)
Really, the list can go on forever.
But did you notice that many of these places where you’d want to share your content are the same places I suggested you go to find out what problems and fears your audience has? All we’re doing now is going back to let them know we came up with a solution.
I think writing content (solutions) and going to where the people with problems hang out is a much better use of your time then trying to spin articles and buy links. The ROI is going to be much, much better since your audience is likely to be more interested in what you have to say, and will be more likely to share your content with others, ultimately doing much of your marketing for you.
At the end of the day our time is precious, and I think the traditional form of keyword research is one of those things that often times we can do without. There are exceptions of course, but I think for most intents and purposes your time is better spent trying out other methods that can very well result in a better return on your time and resources.