This guide explains the reasoning behind and basics of keyword research in addition to sharing some useful SEO tools. If you don’t know what SEO is please refer to our Introduction to SEO guide, if you are looking for information about on-site or off-site SEO you can find those in our Improving SEO on ArtFire guide and our SEO Beyond ArtFire guide.
Keyword research (or lack thereof) is the reason many SEO efforts die a quiet death. You can have the world’s most optimized web page for a particular keyword, but if nobody is searching for that keyword the effort isn’t worthwhile.
At the heart of keyword research is one question, “What are my customers searching for when they are looking for what I’m selling?” The answer to that question might be exactly what you thought it would be, or it could surprise you, either way you need to know what keywords will get you in front of interested customers, and the best way to determine that is to test for yourself what works.
Start by evaluating your product. Most likely, people who want what you are selling will search for it by using basic keywords. As an example, if I am selling soap, or more specifically eucalyptus soap, I want to think about how customers would search for that in a search engine. I would guess that somebody searching for my soap would either search for “Eucalyptus Soap” or maybe “Cold Press Eucalyptus Soap” or “Handmade Eucalyptus Soap.” One of the main questions I have regarding those keywords is whether or not people are searching for them at all, and how competitive it might be to rank for those keywords.
Introducing Two Useful Tools from Google
The rest of this guide will use a combination of the Google Adwords: Keyword Tool and the Google Toolbar which can be found at the links below (the toolbar must be downloaded and installed):
(You must enable the Page Rank function when asked to ensure that you can see the information you will need. You can also enable Page Rank after the bar is installed by right clicking on the bar toolbar, selecting“Google Toolbar Options,” selecting the “Tools” tab at the top of the options window, and checking the box for “Page Rank”).
Google Adwords: Keyword Tool is one of the most useful resources for SEO keyword research you will find. This tool allows you to enter a keyword and see how many times that keyword (or phrase) is searched a month and how many times similar keywords are searched. To use the tool, enter one keyword or phrase into the appropriate box and complete the CAPTCHA then press the “Get keyword ideas” button.
Enter the keyword or phrase you are researching into the 1stbox as pictured below:
The amount of data you get back with this tool can be both amazing and overwhelming. Google will tell you approximately how many searches were performed last month for that term. Google separates local from global searches. For the purposes of this guide we will look mostly at the “local” searches as those are the searches performed in this country and in English. Here is my result for my “eucalyptus soap” research:
The results that you get back from the Google Adwords tool should help you narrow down what keywords to use in your titles, but keep in mind a few things:
- If a search term is too competitive you may need to be more specific when coming up with the keywords for your title. There is no magic number of monthly searches that will tell me if an item I post will or won’t rank well. You will have to test different titles with different keywords, but, odds are you won’t rank first page for a competitive search term with over 10,000 searches a month.
- The green bar shown is not how competitive the keyword is; rather it is how competitive the advertising for that keyword is. That is because this tool is also used by webmasters when they are researching Google Adwords for advertising purposes. While you can get some gauge for how competitive the search term is based on the green bar, do not solely rely on it for that purpose.
- Even if Google returns “not enough data” for the keyword or search term you’re researching, that doesn’t mean that nobody is searching for it. As an example, the search term “4mm round garnet glass beads” sent 39 searchers to ArtFire in the past month but Google Adwords says there is “not enough data” when researching that phrase.
Knowing how many people search for a phrase is the first step; the second will be performing an actual search for that term and looking at which web pages are currently ranking well. You can use the Google Toolbar (with Page Rank enabled) to get a rough idea of the competition for your keyword phrase. Here are a few important things you should know about Page Rank:
- Page Rank is a value computed by Google using an algorithm that assigns a web page a numerical value based on link analysis (wow, sorry about that sentence). Check out this technical guide if you’re interested in getting into the technical aspects of Page Rank.
- A website’s Page Rank is a value between 1-10 (although you can also have a Page Rank of 0, meaning no Page Rank). Numbers closer to 10 mean a page has many links or very powerful links directed at it. As an example, Google.com has a Page Rank of 10, Yahoo.com has a Page Rank of 9, and eBay has a Page Rank of 8. These are very large, well aged, popular sites.
- For the most part, smaller, younger sites or deeper interior pages have less Page Rank than older and larger sites and homepages. For example, ArtFire.com has a Page Rank of 5; our Shop page (a deeper interior page) has a Page Rank of 4. Sites that only have a few links to them or that are very new may have no Page Rank or only a Page Rank of 1 or 2.
- What does that all mean? When you are doing keyword research you should search for your desired terms. Visit the top results or all of the results on the first page and look at each site competitively. If you would be competing with a bunch of PR4 or PR6 sites for your keyword, it would be very difficult to rank higher than them. If, however, the top results are all PR N/A (no Page Rank) or less than PR 2, you might stand a good chance at being competitive for those search terms.
How to check Page Rank
Once you have the Google toolbar installed (and Page Rank enabled) you will be able to see a site’s Page Rank or if they have none. You need to actually visit a page to see its Page Rank with the Google Tool Bar. The toolbar will show you a site’s Page Rank as a green bar, you can mouse over that bar to get the number value. The red circle shows the Google Page Rank Bar. Mouse-over the bar to see the numerical Page Rank value.
*****Important ***** Once you have the Google toolbar, you will be able to check the Google Cache of your pages to see if you have been indexed and to determine when your page was last indexed. By looking at the Google Cache of a web page, you can tell whether recent changes you’ve made have been picked up by the spider yet. To check the Google Cache you can click on the green bar and select the “Cached Snapshot of Page” option. If the page hasn’t been indexed yet, you will be taken to a Google search that doesn’t return any results. If the page has been indexed, you will be taken to a snapshot of that page from the past which is how Google currently uses the page in its searches.The top of a Google Cache page shows when the site was last visited by Google and explains that it may have changed since.
Back on Track, and Tying It All Together
Keyword research and competitive analysis is really the first step that should be taken in optimizing a web page. You need to find a keyword or combination of keywords that both accurately describe your product and allow you the chance to rank well in search engines. The combination can be difficult to find and perfect, but very satisfying when achieved. Try to focus on being competitive for keywords and phrases that big companies with deep pockets haven’t optimized for. With good titles that accurately describe your product you stand a good chance at being competitive for your long-tail keywords. Remember however, that SEO changes should not be measured in hours, days, or even weeks. The new products you list or the changes you make take time to get indexed/re-indexed. The best advice I can offer you is to test your titles and keywords. For example, if you have 20 products, try naming sets of five slightly differently to see what works and what doesn’t. The important part about testing is giving your changes a chance to work. SEO changes can take up to eight weeks before they have their full effect, which is why running multiple tests is important. In the meantime, use off-site SEO efforts to help your products and studio accumulate links, which helps achieve better SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). As always, if you are confused about any part of this guide of if you have any questions you’d like to ask, drop our SEO Director Caleb Daniels a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a question here in the forums.
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After importing my items from etsy, most are still inactive waiting to be edited by me and saved, then activated. So, does this mean that's it for ranking them when they do hit active on AF? Kind of a one time deal per item?
Or each time I also re-edit an listing that was already active on AF, it will get a new crawl (and new rank accessment) for the item submitted? My question doesn't sound very clear to me so any insight would be helpful.
BTW, just wanted to say so far the tools here are pretty smooth. I'm on dial-up and have experienced faster image loading on AF than with uploads on etsy. I used to keep a book nearby when doing new listings. Seems better now. Thanks for whatever makes this different!
"We shall require a new way of thinking, if mankind is to survive."Einstein
"Radical trust!" Pleiadians
*Fear* wastes time and energy, lol!