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The Keyword Lottery and How To Win

By Bob McElwain
Posted Thursday, August 26, 2004

If you simply must have a page on your site ranked #1 on some search engine, build one with turnipberries as the keyword. You'll get a #1 position. And you can proudly show your friends what you have achieved. But if you show it to enough friends, one is bound to ask, "So what?"

And there's the rub. It's easy to get a great ranking on an obscure keyword. But it's of no value unless searchers actually enter it. Further, if they click to your site, they expect information about it. Turnipberries? Not much to say, is there?

What is needed are keywords or phrases searchers can be expected to enter. And they must be central to the site,
else a searcher who visits will be gone in seconds.

Finding the best possible set of keywords is a reasonable goal. But it's elusive. Here's an example.

Too Many Options

One of my clients markets a program called Easy Mail. The short definition is that it is a total correspondence center.
One function of the program is to print great looking envelopes. Here is a partial list of phases used to find the site.

print envelopes
printing envelopes web tv
print AND envelopes
envelop printing software
envelopes AND print AND address
envelope print free download windows
how do you print envelopes
how do i print on envelopes?
envelopes AND print AND address
making envelopes

Consider the words used most often: print, envelope, and address. Other important words for this product are: software, download, and mailing.

The above is only part of a longer list. From the whole of it, another twenty important words can be identified. Further,
a similar list can be generated for printing labels, correspondence (editing), mail-merge (personalized mailing), emailing, faxing, and mail list management.

Suddenly there are over a hundred words on my list. And several hundred phrases. In a world of unlimited time and/or
dollars, one could put together a sufficient number of entry pages that would rank pretty well for many words and phrases in the set.

(A Side Note: To me an entry page is one featuring a keyword or two in the title, meta statements, and page. However the page content is written strictly for my visitors, or it is not written at all.)

But both time and dollars are limited. It takes time to build an entry page or dollars to pay someone else to do so.
Pick a keyword that will seldom be entered, and you have wasted your efforts.

To complicate matters, all we know for certain is that these words and phrases have been used. We can say phrases at the top of the list were most commonly entered, and thus are more likely candidates for future searches. But we can not be certain any will ever be used again. GoTo.Com can help in this.


On the above page, enter a keyword or phrase you are thinking about. The number of times it was entered last month
is reported. And suggestions of related phrases are offered. This tool was a big help in selecting the best phrases from the large set of possibilities for Easy Mail. For example, it was clear that Print Envelopes and Print Labels were common entries, but with small counts, which meant we could compete effectively.

Jumping To The Big Time

However, in working with my site, solutions were not as obvious. I began by entering "internet marketing." 1322 hits
in the prior month.

Wow! And GoTo is really a very small engine. Imagine what the count would be at AltaVista!

Okay, so what should I do? Try to beat all these people and obtain better positions than they already have? Nope. It's not the game for me. To play, I would have to assume I can do significantly better than a whole bunch of bright, well qualified people. It would be a total misuse of time.

Go For The Second Favorites

After a bit, I found the following entries and counts for the prior month.

142 - site marketing
134 - site promotion
205 - search engine positioning

I like the odds better here.

Wrapping Up

The first objective is to find keyword phrases being entered that apply to your site. GoTo.Com will suggest the frequency of entry. If the counts are small, say less than a hundred per month, go for it. Use these keywords, build some entry pages, and get on with business. You may not score any #1 positions, but you will rank high enough with some pages on some engines to generate significant hits.

But if the entry counts are high, forget competing for these phrases. While a position in the top ten with "internet
marketing" would be a winner for my site, I'll pass. I'll get fewer hits from the second favorites, but I have a shot at
getting decent rankings. I will have to settle for that.

About the Author
Bob McElwain
Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already have? Fix one that's busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe to "STAT News" now!

Web marketing and consulting since 1993
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Phone: 209-742-6783


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