How to do Keyword Research – Part 2

by Brook Lenox on March 27, 2009

scrabble3In my 1st post on keyword research, I explained why we need to do keyword research and that the first step is to organize keyword groups.  Like in the game of Scrabble, we’ll go on in this post, to create keywords.  Do you just open up Microsoft Word or Excel and start typing?  You could (and I have).  But if you go through the process using both sides of your brain, you’ll come out with some really creative and organized lists of words.

 We ended post #1 having come up with 5 different categories for our NFL football keywords:

  • Broad
  • Team Specific
  • Playoff
  • Superbowl
  • Preseason
    This post is all about creating small groups of keywords and testing.  I believe it is important to start small, test, and then expand your list of keywords. 

    Here’s why I’d rather test 100-500 words in a couple different categories, rather than starting with 10,000 keywords.

    • Takes a lot less time to generate a list & set it up in AdWords
    • You can minimize your initial spend
    • You’ll get results in a much shorter time period

    Back to our example of keywords for NFL football tickets.

    Here are the steps I take to create those keywords:

    1. Brainstorm 3-5 word phrases
    2. Break keyword phrases down
    3. Expand that starter list
    4. Add them back together
    5. Create test ad groups
    6. Make sure you can track your results
    7. Launch a small campaign
    8. Check your return on investment

    Brainstorm 3-5 Phrase Words

    So we’ll start with creating a small team specific list of keywords for the San Francisco 49ers, one of my favorite football teams.

    I like to use these free keyword research tools to get started.

    Here is my first list of words:

    • San Francisco 49ers football ticket
    • 49ers football ticket
    • Forty-Niners football ticket
    • Forty Niners football ticket
    • San Francisco football ticket

    Break Keyword Phrases Down

    So now I want to break down these phrases into their components.  Here’s how they might look broken down in Microsoft Excel:





    This helps me do two things:

    • See the root words that are making up my phrases
    • Get my words in Excel so I can really work on them

    Expand That Starter List

    Now were ready to expand that starter list using Excel and other brainstorming tools. So perhaps by using those tools or your own favorites, you come up with these additional words (in yellow) for each of your 3 columns: “SF 49ers”, “NFL”, and “seat”.  In reality you could come up with many, many more words.  My main focus here is to show you the process.






    Add Them Back Together

    So now you are ready to create all the variations from those 10 words.  You’ll use a formula in Excel called concatenate.  Concatenate allows you to essentially paste different columns together to make your phrases.  So words in columns 1-3, become a complete phrase. 

    The formula looks like this: “=concatenate(A1,B1,C2)” where if A1 = “San Francisco 49ers”; B1 = “football”; and C2 = “ticket”, your phrase would be “San Francisco 49ers football ticket”.  One note: Excel does not assume you want spaces between words, so you’ll need to add them as well.  So the formula will actually look like: =concatenate(A1,D1,B1,D1,C2)” where D1 is a column that just has a space in it.  This visual may help:



    Hope that makes sense.

    So when you use concatenate to save you all that typing, you come up with these 24 words in total.  New words are highlighted in yellow.














    Create Test Ad Groups

    I won’t go into great detail in this post about how to create a Google Adwords campaign.  That’s for another time.  I would set up the test like this:

    • Campaign => NFL – teams
    • Ad Group => 49ers
    • Ad => “Buy 49ers Football Tickets”

    That way if this test is successful, I can quickly add more keywords to this ad group and add more ad groups with other NFL teams.

    Make Sure You Can Track Your Results

    None of this matters unless you can track your results.  You need to be able to track the money you spend, to the sales on your website. It’s important to have a unique identifier for campaigns, ad groups, and keywords.  You should use a URL that is appended with something like: value=NFL+49ers+San-Francisco-49ers-Football-Ticket. 

    • “NFL” equals the campaign
    • “49ers” equals the team
    • “San Francisco 49ers Football Ticket” equals the keyword

    I’m surprised by how many companies run campaigns without this level of tracking.

    Launch a Small Campaign

    Your goal with this campaign is to determine a few things:

    • Are there people searching for these keywords?
    • Will people click on your ad?
    • Is that traffic going to give you a decent ROI (return on investment)

    Before you launch anything, you can put these keywords into Google’s external keyword tool and find out how much traffic they show for these terms.  I find sometimes it is accurate, other times, not so much.  At least it gives you a data point.  You need to determine how much to spend to make it a statistically significant test.  Let’s say we agree that we need to have a minimum of 500 visitors to determine whether these keywords are worth expanding.  If we pay $.45/click, we’ll need to spend $225 on this test.

    Check Your Return on Investment

    There are several possible results you may see:

    • Not very many impressions – perhaps no one is searching for these words
    • Impressions, but no clicks – perhaps the creative was lousy
    • Traffic, but no sales – this is the worst!
    • Traffic, sales, made back your ad spend & more – time to expand your list

    If you’re test has been successful, then you’re ready to expand this list of keywords.   That’ll come in post #3.

    Photo credit, WireLizard

    { 8 comments… read them below or add one }

    Jamie Blietz March 27, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Brook…interesting post. I forwarded it to our web guys as they working on these issues as I type.

    GregC March 27, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks for the post, works well for me and hopefully helps out with my 49ers campaign.

    Brook Lenox March 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm


    Thanks for stopping by. Let me know if you have any keyword tips/ideas to share with me. Nice website by the way!

    Brook Lenox March 27, 2009 at 4:40 pm


    Sure thing. Thanks for stopping by. If you do any keyword research yourself, pls share with me what your learning.

    Gary April 8, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Here’s why I’d rather test 100-500 words in a couple different categories, rather than starting with 10,000 keywords.

    100-500 keywords? (instead of 10,000?!?!) I would suggest that’s far too many – I personally would aim for just 5-10 words. As a small business, personal blog or one of the many masses of sites that are not eBay, Amazon or one of the other big hitters, even aiming for 100 keywords, for one particular page, is diluting what you have to offer by so much, that those words lose any “keyword” factor that they might have had in the first place.
    I’m thinking of in-page meta application, rather than in Google Adwords etc, but even so – why have 500 “keywords” for a page that might not have more than 500 words in total on a page?

    Brook Lenox April 8, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    It all depends on what you’re doing research for…if it’s for blog like you mentioned you certainly don’t need 500 keywords! 5-10 is great in my book. If you’re building a pay per click campaign like I did for football terms, it wasn’t hard to come up with thousands of great keywords that drove lots of traffic.

    occupational therapy November 12, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Couldnt agree more with that, very attractive article

    Brook Lenox November 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    @ ot – thanks much.

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