SEO: Keyword Research

This is the start of a series on search engine optimization. Right now, I see this series having four parts:

  1. Keyword Research
  2. Creating keyword rich content
  3. Optimizing pages for keywords
  4. Getting back links

Right now we’ll talk about keyword research. This is an often used term these days. If you read forums about search engine optimization, you’ll often hear something like, “You need to do some keyword research.” But usually there aren’t a lot of details on what that means.

So here’s the basic idea: your web site is about a topic. Each of your web pages is about a topic, probably a specialized version of your site’s topic. In the search engine optimization overview post I talked about keywords being what the user types into a search engine to try and find web pages related to the keyword.

So in this context a keyword can be a word or a phrase. Dog training is a keyword, as is make money online. Someone using the keyword dog training probably isn’t looking for information on how to make money online.

Picking keywords is a bit like playing Jeopardy. You have an answer, your web page. You need to figure out what questions people are asking that your web page fits. The obvious keywords aren’t always the best, so you have to be creative here.

Think in terms of a person with a problem. For example, this blog is about making money online. A person might go to Google and type in the keyword, make money online. Most people, though, would type in something like how can I make money online, or how can I make extra money online.

Step 1, then, is to write down all the questions for which your web page is the perfect answer that you can imagine people using. This becomes our list of keywords we’ll use to start researching. These keywords should be as specific as possible.

What we want are keywords for which our web page is always the right answer. These are well targeted keywords. Having well targeted keywords helps to ensure that someone who does come to the web page is going to find what they need.

Step 2 is to use a keyword tool to start getting some insight into which of those keywords are going to get you the most traffic. There are free keyword tools and paid keyword tools. In general, you get the most detailed information out of paid keyword tools, but until you’re making enough money to afford them, it doesn’t make sense to use them.

Here are a few free keyword tools I use:

In general, when you type one of your keywords into a keyword tool, what you get back is the expected search volume you can expect for that keyword, plus suggestions of related keywords along with their expected search volume.

For example, putting dog training into Overture’s tool gets back the following results today:

Notice that the keyword dog training has over five times as many searches for March than the next highest keyword. Many people stop at this point and pick dog training as their keyword because of the search volume.

The problem with this keyword is that it’s too broad. A person who searches for dog training might be looking for information on how to keep their dog from barking, or how to train their dogs to perform tricks, or stop peeing on the rugs, or to attack burglars, etc. The keyword is too broad for our web page to always be the right answer.

By using a more specific keyword, we’ll get less traffic, but well increase the chances that our web page will be the answer to the visitor’s problem. After all, traffic alone doesn’t make us any money. Solving visitor’s problems makes us money. The term conversion rate is used to indicate the percentage of visitors who actually buy something (or otherwise perform an action we feel is valuable). Specific keywords will have higher conversion rates than broad keywords.

The real benefit of a keyword tool is to allow you to see related keywords that have actually been used in searches. Let’s say that our page is about obedience training for dogs, and we see in Overture’s list that dog obedience training has a good number of searches.

Do we just pick that keyword and target it? No, instead let’s put that keyword back into the keyword tool and see what related keywords it has.

A couple of things jump out at me. The first is that there’s a keyword that gets more searches than dog obedience training. That only really helps us if our page is about an obedience school, but it’s something we wouldn’t have known if we’d stopped researching after our first try.

The second thing that jumps out at me is that there are geographically specific searches. When you think about it, this makes sense. Let’s say that we’re running an obedience school for dogs, and we optimize for dog training obedience schools and we get a lot of traffic. But most of that traffic won’t live in the area of our school, so won’t be targeted.

By optimizing for a keyword that includes geographical information, we can help increase our conversion rate by making sure we’re providing an answer for people who can actually take advantage of it.

The ideal keyword for SEO purposes has less than 10,000 pages in Google. This increases your chances of ranking highly for that keyword. To check the number of pages in Google, type the keyword into Google using quotes around it. So to check dog training, I’d type “dog training” into the Google search box.

Ideally, the result of keyword research is two to three highly targeted keywords. The amount of traffic you get might be lower, but your conversion rate should be high.

In the next post, we’ll talk about creating keyword rich content. See you there!

How to Make Your Own Website for Free, Part 4

I know that this should have been the first of a series of posts on search engine optimization. That’ll come next. Someone asked me when the promised post about WordPress customization on JustFree.com would come, so I thought I’d go ahead and put it up.

Part 3 of the series on JustFree.com and WordPress stopped just after getting WordPress installed and the admin password changed. Since the biggest reason to use JustFree.com and WordPress as opposed to WordPress.com is the ability to use plugins, I wanted to cover how to install WordPress plugins on JustFree.com.

The first step is to pick a plugin to install. There are a multitude of plugins available for WordPress. Do a Google search on “best WordPress plugins” to get half a dozen ten best lists. I’ll use as my example the Redirect plugin. This plugin will make sure that www.example.com and example.com are treated as the same place by the search engines. This is important for search engine optimization purposes.  The plugin is available at http://www.justinshattuck.com/wordpress-www-redirect-plugin/.

Download the plugin zip file. You need a zip utility to unzip the file you just downloaded. If you don’t have one, go to http://www.7-zip.org/ and download and install 7-zip. Then unzip the plugin zip. You should end up with a single file named www-redirect.php. Different plugins will result in different files or even whole directories.

The basic idea with any plugin is to transfer the files that were inside the zip to the proper place on JustFree.com. So go logon to your JustFree.com control panel, and click the File Manager icon along the left. You should see something like this:

The directory named “blog” will be whatever you named your directory when you installed WordPress. Click on the name of that directory to go into it. This is the main directory of your blog. Click on the wp-content directory to go into it, and then the plugins directory to go into it. You should now be at a screen like this:

WordPress comes installed with three plugins by default, which are the two files and one directory you see here. We want to get our plugin files into this directory so WordPress can use them. If your plugin came in a directory structure, you generally want to recreate the same directory structure here. When in doubt read the README.TXT file that came with the plugin.

The Redirect plugin just has a single file we need to put into the plugins directory. So click on the “Upload Files” link. You’ll get three browse buttons. Click the top one and find www-redirect.php, and then click “Upload”. You should now see something like this:

The plugin is now installed. Log onto your WordPress blog as Admin and click on the “Plugins” link on the dashboard. You should see this:

 

Click on the “Activate” link on the far right of “WWW Redirect”. That whole line should now be green, indicating that the plugin is activated. Other plugins are installed and activated the same way. Some will have options under the Options item on the dashboard after they’re activated.

The trickiest part about installing plugins is installing the ones that have entire directory structures. You’ll have to use the “New Directory” link in the file manager to recreate the directory structure, and then upload files three at a time to the right spots (if you know how to use an FTP client, you can do this more quickly, but then you’re probably not still reading this if you do).

This concludes the series on WordPress and JustFree.com. If you have problems getting plugins installed, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to help.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big buzzword these days.

It’s big for a reason, too. Properly optimizing your pages so that search engines consider them relevant for a given keyword is one of the keys to getting ranked higher in search engines. And higher ranking means more traffic, which generally means more profits.

Search engine traffic is considered to be targeted traffic, because the potential customer has just typed in a keyword to search. Your page is optimized for that keyword, so presumably is going to give them exactly what they were looking for in the first place. You should have a good chance of selling them whatever it is you want to sell them.

So rule #1, target your pages to a keyword and make the page relevant to that keyword. There’s no point in optimizing a page for the keyword “iquana food” if you’re going to try and sell visitors musical chimes. Keyword research is an important part of optimizing your pages.

So, rule #2, pick good keywords. A good keyword is one that is highly relevant to your page content, has at least some search traffic, and has little competition.

The SEO Book is one of the best books I’ve seen on search engine optimization. It covers not only keyword research and writing keyword rich content, but page optimization and also delves into how the internal links between your pages affect search engines.

The SEO Book is highly recommended for anyone new to the topic. A wealth of detail, and the author also maintains a frequently updated blog that continues to give good information on how SEO changes over time.

In the next few posts, I’ll go into more detail on how I do SEO.

How To Make Money Blogging, Part 2

I’d written earlier about Pay Per Post, and how you could get paid to write blog posts. In that post I mentioned that your blog had to be online and active for about three months before Pay Per Post would consider you.

There’s one other factor that is important for being able to take advantage of opportunity of Pay Per Post, and that’s your blog’s page rank (PR).

Your blog’s PR is a measure of how popular your blog is, as measured by how many other websites link to it. Just like in high school, the more popular your friends, the more popular you are. So being linked to by a high PR site is better than a low PR site.

To see what the PR of a particular site or web page is, go to Blog Flux’s Page Rank Calculator and enter the address of the site or page. A PR of 3 is more or less normal, a PR of 5 means the site’s fairly popular, and 6 or 7 is yet more popular, up to 10 being the absolute best.

Also just like in high school, if your friends are unpopular, so are you. If you link to a site that is banned by Google for some reason, you’ll get a PR deduction. Generally sites are banned by Google for engaging in underhanded search engine optimization practices.In Pay Per Post, some opportunities will require a certain PR. The highest requirement I’ve seen is 3. You may already be there if you’ve been writing the blog for a while and have other people linking to you.

To book your PR, you need to get links from high PR sites. The easiest ones to get links from are directories. Their reason for being is to link to other web sites. Some directories require reciprocal links (meaning you have to link back to them from your blog). Reciprocal links are not as beneficial to PR as one way links, so stick to the directories that do not require reciprocal links.

In general, you’ll find that directories are PR 5 or 6. Higher level directories do exist, with the Open Directory Project the king with a PR of 9. Here’s a useful list of free and paid directories with good PR. And here’s a list of ultra high PR sites. If you have connections or are creative, you might be able to get a link on one of the biggies.

Now I said that reciprocal links weren’t as good as one way links. But a reciprocal link from a high enough PR site will still help. The Free Site, for example, is a PR 8 site that requires reciprocal links. You won’t get as much benefit from it as a one way link from a PR 8 site, but it’ll probably do more than a one way link from a PR 5 site.

Also try to get links from other websites and blogs that cover topics similar to your blog. Links from relevant high PR sites can boost your PR quite a bit.

Lastly, PR is not updated instantly! Google generally updates PR for sites once a quarter, with the last update having just been in April, 2007. So you have a few months to work on getting links in order to be ready for the next PR update. Or if you haven’t started your blog yet, you can start it now, and after the next PR update you should be ready to sign up with Pay Per Post.

So get out there and get links!

Article Marketing for Traffic Generation

Getting people to visit your web page is a big deal.

After all, if people don’t visit, they can’t read what you’re written or buy what you’re selling. One way to get people to visit your web site is to write an article on a related topic and then have other websites publish that article. If people like what you say in the article, they’ll probably visit your website to hear more.

There are lots of article distribution sites online. I’ll talk about two.

EzineArticles.com is a well respected article directory, especially by Google. EzineArticles.com also places your article on their website, so you can start getting some search engine traffic even before other websites pick up the article. Since Google respects EzineArticles.com, your articles will rank highly in Google’s search results.

ArticleMarketer.com is a submission service. They do not host your article themselves, but will submit it to websites and mailing lists that have signed up to receive articles on your article’s topic. Those websites and mailing lists will then use your article if it interests them. ArticleMarketer.com’s main selling point is that they provide a human review of your article prior to sending it out, and will make suggestions for improving it.

Regardless of where you put your article, there are a couple of key points to remember.

First, pick a good keyword to center your article around. Part of your traffic will come from search engine results, so you want to make sure that the title of your article contains a relevant keyword people will use for searching.

Second, do not try to sell anything in the body of the article. Every article will also have an “about the author” section where you can do your selling. In the article itself, provide genuinely useful or interesting information for your target audience. That will motivate them to come to your website to see what else you have to say.

Good luck, and let me know what success you have writing articles!

Ethical Internet Marketing

I wanted to talk a little more about what I see this blog being, and it has to do with my views on what Internet Marketing should be.

There’s a lot of hype about Internet Marketing, and an enormous number of ebooks and courses you can buy that purport to teach you how to do it. My opinion is that marketing products to people who want to make money online is a pyramid scheme. We’re expecting the newcomers to spend money to support us. And like all pyramid schemes, it’s doomed to failure (see my Squidoo page, How Does MLM Work? for more info on why pyramid schemes don’t work).

Instead, I prefer the model where everyone who wants to make money online is enabled to do it. Even if the amount of money they’re making is small, I want them to make something.

So, I refuse to market to Internet Marketers in this blog. Yes, I’ll have links to affiliate programs now and then because I’ve reviewed an ebook or Internet Marketing site. But I’ll be honest about whether the techniques covered by the book worked for me or not. If I say the techniques didn’t work for me, and you choose to buy the book through my link anyway, I’ll consider my commission from the sale as a donation to the maintenance costs of the blog.

My primary goal is to collect information that will help a complete newcomer to making money online get started. That’s why there are a number of background posts that don’t review specific opportunities. That’s why you’ll see case studies as time goes on where I lay out exactly what I did and what happened as a result.

This blog isn’t really for the experienced Internet Marketer, although you’re more than welcome to leave comments with helpful advice for the rest of us. Primarily, though, this is for the newcomers.

Good luck, and may we all make money!

Two Minute Profits Review

I have to admit, I haven’t really found any ebooks yet that deliver what they say they will. Most are vague, and don’t provide detailed explanations of how to accomplish what they say you can accomplish using their techniques. In terms of driving directions, they’re more like “Head east until you get to the ocean” instead of “Drive 2 miles to the shell station, turn left, go 2 more miles, etc.”

But, I tend to buy one now and then just on the off chance that they’ll provide useful information. The latest one I bought is Two Minute Profits. The ebook says it’ll show you one specific technique for making money with affiliate programs through Adwords.

As a recap, an affiliate program is where you get paid a commission for directing traffic to a product’s website. Adwords is a means of paying to get people to go to websites by placing advertisements into Google search results. So essentially, you pay to have people go to a product page, and if they buy the product you get a commission. Obviously, you need to pay less for Adwords than you make on commission.

Two things factor into this: cost per click and conversion rate. The cost per click is what you pay for each person who clicks on your advertisement to go to the product page. The conversion rate is how many of those people actually buy the product.

Keeping cost per click as low as possible is a good thing. Two Minute Profits says it’ll show you how to get the lowest possible cost per click. Generally this means you’re bidding on keywords that are not very popular (e.g. they get a low number of searches each month).

So, the review: Two Minute Profits does give you what it says it will. It shows in detail a specific technique and exactly how to go about using that technique (you should already be comfortable using Google’s Adwords to use this technique). Following the technique will get you low cost per click keywords.

The results of my limited playing with the technique were inconclusive. I wasn’t able to come up with any keywords matching the Two Minute Profits criteria that had any search volume at all (e.g. they didn’t get any searches each month). At least some search volume is needed so we have people viewing the advertisements. I used the Overture keyword tool referenced in the ebook as my way of estimating search volume.

Now, to be fair, I tried about half a dozen keywords and then called it a day. So the conclusion of the review has to be that the ebook delivers exactly what it says. Whether the technique actually works or not I can’t say yet. I’ll come back to it another day and try some more keywords.

At $7, Two Minute Profits is one of the cheaper ebooks out there. If you already have played with Google Adwords and want a new technique to try, you can purchase the ebook here.

If you’re new to Google Adwords, please do not just jump into it! You can lose a lot of money if you don’t know what you’re doing. I highly recommend Perry Marshall’s Definitive Guide to Adwords. You can signup for free email tips that are worth their weight in gold, and Perry continues to deliver email tips beyond the five days. There’s more value in his email tips than in many people’s ebooks!

I’ve also reviewed another ebook by the author of Two Minute Profits. Click here for a review of On Demand Profits.

More Internet Profit Sharing

More and more people are catching on to the power of online profit sharing.

I just ran across Peerit, a Bit Torrent network that allows you to seed files for sale. The basic idea is that you see a file you have the rights to sell (photos or movies you’ve taken, documents you’ve written, etc). You set the amount that you want the item to sell for, and the amount that you’re willing to payout to people who help seed the file. The example used on the site itself is a product that sells for $12, and has a payout of $2.

Someone buys your product and downloads it using the special Peerit client. They’ve paid you $12. They now seed that product. Another person buys your product, and there are two seeders (you and your first customer). The third person gets half the file from you and half from your first customer. The new customer pays you $12. You owe the first customer $1, half of the payout since they provided half the file.

This is an interesting take on the problem of encouraging people to seed files in Bit Torrent. It does assume that the content you’re sharing is worth paying for, and that you have the rights to sell it. I’m not sure how it’ll work out in practice, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

How To Make Money Blogging

I’ve talked a bit before about monetizing a website.

While you can certainly do the same thing with a blog, putting ads on the blog, that often turns people off. A blog is most effective if you provide quality content that makes people want to return to read more. Monetizing a blog can be a bad move, especially at first, when you’re just starting out.

It’s best to start the blog without ads, and build up a relationship with your readers. Give them quality content and make them feel comfortable coming back for more. This is your period of time to promote your blog to build traffic (more on this later). Once you have a readership base, then you can think about making money with your blog.

When you get to that point, there is an alternative to putting advertisements on your blog. Your blog must be three months old and have regular posts to qualify. So if you don’t have a blog yet, go start one and come back in three months.

Back already? Go to PayPerPost.com, and sign up as a blogger. What will happen is that advertisers will post offers (called “opportunities”) to pay a blogger to write a blog post about a specific topic, and link to the advertiser’s website.

For example, an offer may be to write a review of a particular product, with a link to the company’s website. In exchange for writing the post and putting it on your blog, you get paid a little money. This works best if you only take those offers that match what you’d write about in your blog anyway. After all, you don’t want to suddenly alienate your readership by posting something different than what you’ve been writing about all along.

This isn’t the way to make the most money from your blog, but it’s a little extra for writing the sort of posts you’d have written anyway.

Internet Profit Sharing

In a previous post, I mentioned that the two main ways of making money online were advertising and sales.

That’s still true, but the normal method of making money has always been to create and promote your own website. Either a blog with advertising on it, or recommending affiliate links. A number of companies are taking this model and turning it on end by including member profit sharing.

As an example, let’s say you go to your favorite blog, Engadget. Well, it may not be your favorite blog, but according to Technorati it’s the most popular blog in the world. So for the sake of argument, let’s say you go there.

Along the top of the blog is a line of text links that are Adsense advertisements. Every time a user clicks on one of those links, Engadget makes some money. As the most popular blog in the world, Engadget gets a lot of people viewing the blog and clicking on those links, adding up a lot of advertising money.

An Internet profit sharing company would give its members some of that money back. The advantage as a member is that you can take advantage of a website that’s already promoted and popular instead of building your own.

Companies that are doing this include Cambrian House, Squidoo, and Agloco.

Cambrian House is a company that advocates crowdsourced software. This is software built by whoever in the Cambrian House community who wants to participate in building it, for as long as they want to participate. You might know how to program, or create graphics, or write good copy…all of those are needed skills for an online project. The profit sharing comes into play when the project starts to make money. Every member has a certain percentage of the profit depending on their participation in the project.

Cambrian House has another form of profit sharing, too. Just by signing up as a member of Cambrian House, you get one share of stock in Cambrian House. The stock is currently worth $1 a share.

You can sign up and claim your share of stock at the Cambrian House web site.

Squidoo, mentioned in an earlier post, is advertising based profit sharing. Pages on Squidoo are written by members on a variety of topics, and advertising profits from all the sites are put into a pool. Members are paid a percentage of that pool based on the popularity of the pages they’ve written.

Sign up at the Squidoo website and write a few web pages on any topic you want to start earning your share of the profits.

AGLOCO also pays members a percentage of advertising profits. I’ve written about them in a previous post, but here’s a recap: you allow advertisers to display advertisements to you while you view web pages. You get paid a percentage of profits based on how many hours you view web pages each day, and how many other people you’ve recruited. They reward recruiting other members, because that makes the pool of advertising profits larger.

Sign up at the AGLOCO website.

The best part of the current trend in Internet profit sharing companies is that it’s free to join each of them. They all acknowledge that they would make no profits at all without their members, and so make it as easy as possible to become a member, and then give back to the members.

If you know of other Internet profit sharing companies, I’d love to hear about them.