posted in search engine optimization  on 2 September 2009
by Andrew Lang 
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Use Google Adwords to Discover the Best Keywords

It's easy to focus too much on quantity of visitors coming to your website, and not so much on the QUALITY. After all, quantity is very easy to measure, quality a little less so.

Search engine visitors tend to be high quality since they are visiting with intent. For example, they already typed in "gold pashminas" before arriving at my pashmina website page specifically selling gold pashminas. That's a good buyer / seller match.

An example of "dubious intent" would be for a visitor to arrive at my pashmina website having typed in "fashion accessory". Sure, a pashmina is a fashion accessory, but from this wider keyword phrasing, we don't know what KIND of fashion accessory the visitor is after.

So just from those two examples, you can see that intent is everything, and search engines are great at telegraphing a visitor's intent since we can record the search engine keywords being used when they arrive at the site (as all good traffic analytics are easily capable of).

Use Google Adwords to QUICKLY Measure the Value of a Keyword/Keyphrase

The only REAL way to measure the value of a keyphrase is through actual experience. A good way to gain some experience of the value of a keyword/keyphrase is to use Google Adwords. Sign up to Google Adwords (if you're not already a member), create some adverts, and then target those ads so they appear when your chosen keywords are entered into Google. This means you can rank instantly for those keywords (in the ads on the right-hand side of Google's listings) and you can then measure how many sales you get from the people who click on your ads using those chosen keywords.

I did this for my own site - - and found something interesting out. Searches for colours of pashminas (e.g. "green pashmina") performed much better (i.e. got more sales) than other keywords. I found this out over a week or so using Google Adwords. I then targeted many keywords in various link campaigns that had the following pattern: colour + "pashmina/pashminas" - e.g. yellow pashminas. Using Google Adwords saved a LOT of guesswork because until people actually visit your site, you won't know what they will do on your site. Why wait months to rank well for a keyword/keyphrase when you can rank instantly for it and see if it works or not? If it works, look to target the keyword in a link campaign and try to rank for this keyword naturally (since it has proven value).

When Intent is Weak

I launched a site just a few weeks ago that got over 100 visitors on its first day. I didn't pay a penny for this traffic. I didn't make a penny either. The site is - and it receives anywhere between 200 to 500 unique visitors daily, all from The wild fluctuation in traffic is because it's driven by hash tags used on Twitter. The purpose of the site is to explain these hashtags, and automated "tweets" are created randomly with the most popular hash tags explained (as often people see hash tags in Twitter trends and they don't know what they mean). These tweets (messages) appear on and drive the traffic to the site. However, the traffic I get to has fairly weak intent (in terms of making them do something of monetary value) - they want to find a specific piece of information, and that's it. In that way, the website serves the purpose of the visit (good), but the purpose of the visit has no transactional value attached. Experimenting with Google Adsense shows there's little further intent on the part of the visitor and pretty much everyone clicks back to

Ranking for the Wrong Keywords

A lot of sites struggle because they rank for the wrong keywords. They guess, rather than experiment and actually find out, what keywords they should rank for. This a fatal error because much time can be wasted on link building campaigns targeting less effective keywords. The ones you should rank for are the ones that bring in visitors with a strong intent to do what you want them to do (buy something, sign up for something). Use Google Adwords to discover these keywords.

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