The Fundamentals of Keyword Research for SEO

Fundamentals of Keyword Research

Keyword research is a vital piece of your SEO program. Search is based on key words and phrases, as well as interpretation of user intent.

We’ve prepared a one hour free video course based on our SEO training for professionals and corporate marketers.  The course answers questions like:

  • What are the priorities of key customers?
  • What are my ideal clients’ problems (i.e. “pain points”) that they might be researching on line?
  • Are there hidden cross-selling opportunities that we haven’t considered?
  • What are searchers thinking that might reveal new ways to meet to their needs?
  • What search trends are getting stronger over time? And which ones are declining?
  • How can I build a quality keyword list without having to pay an expensive marketing firm?

Some of what you’ll learn:

  • Using Google Trends to better understand regional search behavior
  • The basics of keyword forensics, a more powerful tool than simply “keyword research”
  • How to use Google keyword planner to refine your marketing assumptions

Find answers to these questions and more with our free one hour webinar:

picture of man who's overwhelmed by the thought of SEO training

Looking for Some Real World SEO Training?

Kate: Can you imagine a life where everything was just easy?  You know, like where you ask for things, and then people just bring them to you?

Jack: It’s wonderful…

– “The Family Man” (2000)

Ah yes, wouldn’t it be nice if you could read some sage bit of Search Engine Optimization or Digital Marketing advice, call in one of your well trained staff members, ask them to implement and simply wait for them to bring you the results?

Welcome to the Real World

picture of man who's overwhelmed by the thought of SEO training

Is SEO training just one more thing on your plate? Then only worry about the essentials!

I don’t know about you, but that ain’t the business world I operate in.  I grew up in small business, literally, and I’ve spent the last 35+ years in a world where managing a business or a department tends to be like fighting 5 fires in a high wind with a garden hose and a shovel.

Taking time away from all the other concerns of a hectic day to become an expert in SEO simply isn’t an option for most small business managers.  If you’re like me, you long for information that is stripped down to the essentials.

It’s to fill that need in SEO that we created a new online training course called “Real World SEO: Essentials.”  This course is designed to cut through all the stuff that no one in the “real world” will ever do and focus on the meaningful concepts and the realistic actions most busy small businesses CAN take based on knowing those concepts.

The course is divided into 9 modules and is approximately 6 hours of video training.

Who is the Course For?

Business owners and managers

This course wasn’t just designed for business owners.  It is designed for ANYONE who has to get their website seen while managing other business operations.

Independent web developers

It’s also a perfect class for Web developers who need to perform SEO for their clients but need to focus ONLY on the essentials that will have the best shot at results.

Marketing professionals

Finally, if you’re a marketing professional who is expected to manage, or simply know about, Search Engine Optimization, this course is a compact way to bring you up to speed on those concepts that will benefit your clients and put you ahead of most other marketing agencies who are after their SEO business.

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course? Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

 Try it Out for Free

We know how valuable your time is, otherwise you probably wouldn’t have been interested in the premise of this post.  So instead of forcing you to commit to a purchase of the full 9 modules, we’re giving away the first 3 absolutely free.  Once you sign up you’ll also get a downloadable free bonus: our SEO Workflow Journal, a template similar to what our agency uses for managing an SEO project.

The free sampler we’re giving away carries a double benefit: Not only will you have an idea of the value of the training before you purchase the full course, but regardless of whether you get the full course, you’ll get valuable and actionable insights.

What you’ll learn in Real World SEO: Essentials

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course? Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

Module 1 – Introduction (34 minutes)

  • The Starting Point: pragmatic SEO
  • Be ready to roll up your sleeves and do some work
  • Expectations for the course
  • What you will need
  • What the goals of the course are

Module 2 – Basic Understanding (22 minutes)

  • How search engines find web pages
  • How they organize and store web page content
  • The anatomy of a SERP
  • Why certain sites are ranked higher than others

Module 3 – Evaluating Your Website (36 minutes)

  • How to evaluate your current website
  • The importance of KPI’s
  • Getting started with Google Analytics and Google Search Console
  • Resources for evaluating your website such as Open Site Explorer

Module 4 – Make it Search Engine Friendly (SEF) (62 minutes)

  • What SEF means
  • How to check for health problems using Google Search Console (GSC)
  • How to create an XML sitemap and let Google know about it, also using GSC
  • What a robots.txt file is, and why you need to check yours

Module 5 – Keyword Research (58 minutes)

  • Why keyword research is foundational to SEO success
  • How to do keyword research using Google’s “keyword planner”
  • How to determine whether a keyword is really competitive
  • Why “themes” are more important than “keywords”
  • How to set priorities for your SEO using your keyword research

Module 6 – Relevancy (56 minutes)

  • The important principle of “relevancy”
  • Key parts of the page for SEO
  • How to optimize a page for relevancy
  • What Panda is, and how to check your content for Panda-proof quality
  • The importance of a content-creation strategy

Module 7 – Authority (43 minutes)

  • The second pill ar of SEO success: Authority
  • What PageRank is and how it changed the search engine game
  • The impact of Google’s Penguin updates
  • Link-building basics

Module 8 – Conversion Optimization (27 minutes)

  • Why visits are meaningless without conversion
  • What factors keep people from taking action on your website
  • What conversion boosters will help you to get the most out of your SERP rankings
  • How higher conversions can also help your organic SEO efforts

Module 9 – Managing Your SEO (21 minutes)

  • Learn the difference between urgent and important
  • How to avoid SEO paralysis
  • How to get the most out of the SEO Journal that we provide as a bonus
  • What options are available to you to take your study of SEO and Internet Marketing to the next level

Bonus Materials

  • Sample SEO Workflow Journal (a handy team document for tracking and managing your SEO)
  • Google Special Search Operators for Keyword Research
  • Match Type cheat sheet to help you get the most out of Google’s Keyword Plan

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course? Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

Content Marketing Tip #1 – Remember to Prof-Read You’re Headline


Some typos are worse than others.

Some typos are worse than others.

There’s nothing like a horrible typo or two to wake you up in the morning.

Perhaps you already can guess that the mistakes in the title of my article are intentional.  But even knowing that, doesn’t it jolt your sensibilities to read it? (If it doesn’t, or if you didn’t even note the mistakes in my article headline, alas, read no further.)

Editorial quality standards are important to Google.  They’ve been telling us that for years.  How ironic that editorial standards are in a catastrophic rate of decline.  Take this jarring, unpleasant example in a news story I saw not too long ago:

Antonin Scalia’s body lay in a Texas funeral home Sunday and officials waited word about they would need to perform an autopsy before the late Supreme Court justice could return home to Virginia

Say what?!

First of all the headline is so long that it’s practically a run-on sentence.  Read it out loud; it sounds stilted and awkward.  Additionally it confuses me; I have to read it twice to understand what the article is about.  Last but not least, the headline is actually missing a word!  (Hint: it sounds bad whether or not you spot the missing word.  Get it?)  Normally I would expect to see a headline like that in high school newspaper, or maybe in a blog post on an amateur website, or maybe on Tumblr.

So what low-brow publisher would allow a headline like that to appear?  Um, can you say “Associated Press”?  Don’t believe me?  Here’s the link.  And in case they decide to clean up their headline between now and whenever you read this, here’s the image:

Image of typo in associated press headline

My point here is not to take a swipe at the venerable AP.  Since I’ve been checking news stories on my phone I’ve noticed two things: the blizzard of stories (they come in at a rate of dozens per hour), and the poor quality of proof-reading, regardless of the publisher.  I spot typos in at least half of the stories I actually bother to read.  In the days of “wet ink” that would have been the death of a news outlet.

In our SEO training classes one of the “new generation” search optimization principles we teach is the necessity of quality content (see the part about Google’s standards again).  And yet the rush to keep up with online publishing deadlines, the ephemeral nature of digital content, and the desire to provide huge amounts of grist for Google’s information mill, have led all of us to risk sacrificing quality for speed.  I’m also to blame, as I’ve had my share of typos, none of which I intend to link to (hey, it’s my article, I can link where I like!).

I don’t have any hard, empirical evidence for my next statement, but I believe it anyway: Don’t!  Don’t rush to publish and ignore the proofing.  It’s not just about Google, it’s about your readers and the perception they create of your organization.  I have to admit that my opinion of AP’s quality dropped quite a bit when I read that headline about Scalia.  If they can’t bother to check their headline, what does that say about their commitment to checking their facts?

Fight the trend.  Proof read your headlines (and the rest of your content as well).  Rise above the crowd.  It becomes easy when the standards are fallng all around you.  (And yes, that last one was indeed intentional)


Google-Proofing Your Business, Protect Yourself from Google Algorithm Updates

Eat24 Gives Facebook a Not-So-Fond Farewell

In business, your best friend is you. Build up your clientele and customer-base. Sell yourself on your own merits. And most importantly, don’t rely on third parties. Case in point: Eat24. When a popular brand ditches social media, people tend to take notice.

Social media and web marketing outlineMuch like Google’s own fabled Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird, Facebook relies on complex algorithms to determine what shows up in a user’s news feed. However, as Eat24 notes in their “break up letter” to Facebook, the constant changes required by an ever-evolving online environment often have negative effects on businesses.

The trouble is that the algorithms used by Google and Facebook are more about furthering those companies’ own agendas, rather than servicing businesses. It’s become such a problem in recent years that some entrepreneurs actively seek to “Google-proof” their companies and protect themselves from Google Algorithm changes.

One of the most famous examples is Jason Calacanis, creator of the new app-based news service called Inside. Jason is the former owner of the website Mahalo, and when the Google algorithm “Panda” dropped in 2011, his business was heavily impacted. Essentially a human-run search engine, Mahalo nonetheless relied on traffic driven to it by Google searches. When Panda launched in February 2011, Mahalo took a 77% drop in site traffic, and has continued to drop since then (current estimates put it at a 92% decline as of 2013). Only one week after the Panda algorithm took its toll on Mahalo, Jason Calacanis laid off 10% of his staff due to the severe cut in business revenue.

Eat24 experienced a very similar story, but with Facebook instead of Google. Facebook applies similar algorithms (minus the animal-themed names), in order to direct what news an average user sees on their daily feed. Sometimes this shows relevant news stories or your favorite restaurant’s daily special…sometimes it’s Miley Cyrus’ new album cover or your next door neighbor raving about the sandwich they just ate.

Expressing  frustration very similar to Jason Calacanis’, Eat24 rage-quit Facebook once and for all, taking the opportunity to spell out exactly why in their blog “The Bacon Sriracha Unicorn Diaries” with a lengthy, sarcastic, and brutally honest letter about not just their reasoning, but how changes made by Facebook can affect businesses adversely.

“When we first met, you made us feel special. We’d tell you a super funny joke about sriracha and you’d tell all our friends and then everyone would laugh together. But now? Now you want us to give you money if we want to talk to our friends. Now when we show you a photo of a taco wrapped with bacon, you’re all like ‘PROMOTE THIS POST! GET MORE FRIENDS!’ instead of just liking us for who we are. That’s hella messed up.”

The letter continues in the same vein, mingling witty commentary with trademarked, food-centric attitude.

They continued to detail Facebook’s new attitude, “But we loved you, Facebook, so we tried to understand you and your algorithm. As far as we could tell though, it involves words like ‘affinity’ and ‘time decay.’ There also might be a Greek letter in there somewhere, but we’re not sure cuz we got bored and ordered a Panini. Look Facebook, all we’re saying is that we wanted to share a joke about chicken wings, not ponder astrophysics.”

That just about sums it up. Most businesses don’t have in-house tech support to decipher the Matrix. That’s where SEO comes in. You want Google-Proof? PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is one such way, allowing your company to stay at the top of the list for search terms, regardless of algorithm changes.

There’s an important point to be made in all of this: you can’t rely on any single third party. Your business’ best friend is you, the owner. Social media can be a powerful marketing too, but as Eat24 found out, even that is unreliable. The best way to keep your business from being held hostage by any single online marketing platform, be it Google, Facebook, or the “next big thing” is to ensure as much coverage as possible.  Post on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, as many social media outlets as you can manage. Make sure your website is constantly up-to-date, and blog about relevant topics weekly. The newest Google algorithm, Hummingbird, focuses on quality content, so create the best content you can think of, the kind that other people will want to link to. Most importantly, make your site visible to everyone and you will never end up on the receiving end of Google’s (or Facebook’s) algorithm changes again.


The Geo of SEO

Everyone remembers 8th grade geology class: rock samples, videos about volcanos, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and especially the charts showing the layers of the Earth. Well, at Horizon Web Marketing, we may once again refer to that chart, and break down how Search Engine Optimization works in layers too, with the goal of getting your website better rankings.

 SEO and Geology aren't so different.

Layer 1- The Inner Core: The core is the inner-most layer of the earth, the center around which everything else rotates. In geology, the core is made up of liquid rock and metal, and the inner core is the very center of the planet, generating earth’s magnetic field and burning at about the same temperature of the sun. In SEO, the Core layer is our basic setup process: localization. Even if you have a nation-wide business, you need to make sure your address, phone number, and other contact info is correct wherever your company is listed. Your homepage, your social media accounts, your Google+ local listing, and even on ad listings and reviews like Yelp.

Layer 2- The Outer Core: The outer core is slightly cooler, and significantly larger than the inner core.  In SEO, this outer core involves secondary setup procedures for your site. These include establishing Google Analytics and Google Webmasters Tools tracking, and linking all of your reporting sites to your business website in order to get all your data in one place, and keep track of traffic to your site.

Layer 3- The Mantle: Now we’re starting to get away from the basics. The Mantle of our planet is made up of molten rock and metals- essentially the same lava and magma that erupts from volcanos! While the core is our solid foundation for both the planet analogy and SEO, the Mantle is constantly changing, flowing and heating and cooling. This is where we have the maintenance and upkeep process for your website. Algorithms change and traffic ebbs and flows just like the flow of liquid-hot rocks and minerals in our planet. At Horizon Web Marketing, we maintain your website with constant new keyword research; updating and improving content to make sure your site stays fresh and continues to rank as current search trends change.

Layer 4- The Crust: You may think of the crust as the solid ground you stand on, but any good geologist will tell you that it’s far from stable. Tectonic plates are constantly shifting, seismic activity causes earthquakes, and erosion is constantly wearing the crust down and rebuilding it, all beneath your feet. This, our SEO-troubled friends, is the Google Algorithm itself. When nearly everybody uses Google to search for sites, it is a huge upset in the SEO community when the Google Corporation changes the game. First came Google’s Panda algorithm in 2011, then Google Penguin in 2012, and now we have Google’s Hummingbird. Each time they change their algorithm- aimed at making search more user friendly and responsive to the individual searcher- it changes how we optimize for keywords and content. Considering that we seem to be getting a new algorithm each year now, it truly is a tumultuous time for SEO, and the ground we stand on is far from stable.