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How to Evaluate Your List of Keywords

After you’ve put together your initial list of keywords, go through it looking for more obvious additions. Don’t spend too much time on this; all you’re doing is creating a preliminary list to run through a keyword tool, which figures out some of these things for you.

Obvious spelling mistakes

Scan through your list and see if you can think of any obvious spelling mistakes. Some spelling mistakes are incredibly important, with 10, 15, or 20 percent (sometimes even more) of all searches containing the misspelled word.

For example, about one-fifth of all Britney Spears–related searches are misspelled — spread out over a dozen misspellings. And thirty percent of all searches on the word calendar are misspelled.

If the traffic from a misspelling is significant, you may want to create a page on your site that uses that misspelling. Some sites contain “Did You Mean” pages, such as the one shown. Some sites contain pages with misspellings in the <TITLE> tags, which can work very well.

These don’t have to be pages that many people see. After all, the only people who will see the misspelled titles in a search results page are those who misspelled the words in the first place.

One nice thing about misspellings is that competitors often miss them, so you can grab the traffic without much trouble.

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Synonyms

Sometimes similar words are easily missed. If your business is home related, for instance, have you thought about the term house? Americans may easily overlook this word, using home instead, but other English-speaking countries use the word house more often. Add it to the list because you may find quite a few searches related to it.

You might even use a thesaurus to find more synonyms.

Split or merged words

You may find that although your product name is one word — RodentRacing, for instance — most people are searching for you by using two words, rodent and racing. Remember to consider your customer’s point of view.

Also, some words are employed in two ways. Some people, for instance, use the term knowledgebase, while others use knowledge base. Which is more important? Both should be on your list, but knowledge base is used around four to five times more often than knowledgebase. If you optimize your pages for knowledgebase, you’re missing out on around 80 percent of the traffic!

Singulars and plurals

Go through your list and add singulars and plurals. Search engines understand plurals and often return plural results when you search for a singular term and vice versa, but they still treat singulars and plurals differently, and sometimes this can mean the difference between ranking at #1 and not ranking at all.

For example, searching on rodent and rodents provides different results; therefore, it’s important to know which term is searched for most often. A great example is to do a search on book (165,000 U.S. searches per month, according to the Google keyword tool) and books (246,000 searches per day) in Google.

A search on book returns Barnes and Noble as the #1 result, followed by Google Books, and then Facebook and doesn’t get to Amazon until position #6 (after a bunch of local results); whereas books returns Amazon in position #3, and Facebook is nowhere to be seen.

Don’t worry about upper- versus lowercase letters. You can use rodent or Rodent or RODENT, for example. Most search engines aren’t case sensitive. If you search for rodent (probably 90 percent of all searches are in lowercase), all the major search engines will find Rodent or RODENT — or rODENT or ROdent, for that matter.

Hyphens

Do you see any hyphenated words on your list that could be used without the hyphen, or vice versa? Some terms are commonly used both ways, so find out what your customers are using. Here are two examples:

  • Google reports that the term e-commerce is used far more often than ecommerce.

  • The dash in e-mail is far less frequently used, with email being by far the most common term.

Find hyphenated words, add both forms to your list, and determine which is more common, because search engines treat them as different searches.

Geo-specific terms

Is geography important to your business? Are you selling shoes in Seattle or rodents in Rochester? Don’t forget to include terms that include your city, state, other nearby cities, and so on.

Your company name

If you have a well-known company name, add that to the list, in whatever permutations you can think of (for example, Microsoft, MS, MSFT, and so on).

Other companies’ names and product names

If people are likely to search for companies and products similar to yours, add those companies and products to your list. That’s not to say you should use these keywords in your pages (you can in some conditions), but it’s nice to know what people are looking for and how often they’re looking.

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