Keyword Research is such a broad topic and an incredibly deep topic — we could literally cough up a 200 page book about the topic. I’m trying to present this information in a simple, easy to follower way that everyone — even tech dummies — can follow. To make this information palatable and easy to digest, I’m going to have a series of big articles on singlemoms.org about Keyword Research that will walk you through the whole process.
Keywords, Keywords, What are They?
If you want to make money online with niche websites (or any website effort that relies on web traffic), you are going to have to get down and dirty with keyword research. This is something I’ve had to do for many years now over the course of my ‘internet marketing career’ — a career that started back in 2009 when I quite my job. I have a fair bit of experience doing keyword research — I’ve made hundreds of websites. I fully confess that many of those websites were complete failures, but there were also some successes as well. I’ve had a pretty good overview over the past view years with what works as far as keywords go and what does not work.
I’ll be sharing my personal tips here in this article to help you guys find the best niches to make money with online.
So, back to Keyword research.
Keyword research is really just a fancy new term for online market research tuned for the search engines.
If this terminology scares you, don’t be.
A keyword is simple just a word or phrase people type into a search engine. For example, to highlight our previous discussion on the topic, ‘dogs’ is an example of the keyword.
So is ‘dog food’
as is ‘dog food for pit bulls’
and ‘dog food for pit bulls with allergies’
as is ‘dog food for pit bulls with skin allergies’
A keyword can be anything. You can have a very broad keyword like ‘dogs’ (these are called the ‘head’), to a middle keyword like dog food (these are called the ‘body’) to the ‘tail’ like ‘dog food for pit bulls, to a very narrow long tail term like ‘dog food for pit pulls with skin allergies’.
Keywords are basically, in marketing terms, markets. Middle and long tail keywords are ‘niche markets.’ Our ultimate goal here is to build websites about niche markets. This means we need to find keywords about some specific topics we think we can make money from.
Keywords vs. Niches
We will be throwing around the term ‘Niche’ and Keyword quite bit in this article and the upcoming ones. SO let’s clarify what a niche is and what a keyword is and how they are related.
A niche is just a fancy name for a segment of a larger market. For example, we have the (rather large) pet industry/market. Then we can narrow this down into sub markets.
- We have the pet food market
- We have pet health market
- We have pet toys and so on
We can narrow these markets down even further into what we call ‘niche markets’ — narrow, focused markets.
In market and SEO circles, we often call keywords that capture larger or broad markets ‘the head’. So in this case, ‘pets’ would be a HEAD keyword. These general terms often have a lot of traffic, but there is not a lot of focused buyer/commercial intent when people type these exact ‘head’ keywords into the search engines. This means we need to dig a bit deeper. The longer the keyword, the more focused and ‘niche’ that keyword is. And often, the more money we can make if we target that term with a website (within reason…we need enough search traffic for a term as well).
Ok, so ‘Pets’ is wide market segment. Let’s drill down into a more narrow segment. Let’s say ‘Pet Toys’.
There’s a lot of different types of pet toys for different animals. New we could, with enough time and effort and marketing skill on our parts, make a website about pet toys and probably make money if we know what we are doing and if we RANK that site. Possible. But it might take a while. It’s easier to look at a more narrow sub market under this because there is likely to be less competition for that term (more about this later) and it’s easier to rank a website for a more narrow topic. So we go down deeper now.
If we look at the ‘Pet Toys’ market, we can come up with a few narrower ones:
- Dog Toys
- Parrot Toys
- Cat Toys
- Ferret Toys
- and so on…
We can choose on of these and go down even further and get into even more specific niches.
Let’s take Dog Toys for example:
- Pitt Bull Toys
- Toys for Puppies
These are all examples of ‘markets’ but niches refer to sub segments of a greater market. Pet food is a niche of the pet market, dog toys is a niche in the pet toys market, while Toys for Puppies is a niche in the Dog Toys market.
We can even drill down further and get more specific (often called ‘the long tail; keywords):
- best Pitt bull toys
- rubber pitt bull toys
So…Keywords are simply words or phrases that represent a part of a market — either broad or very narrow.
All niches are keywords but not all keywords are niches.
For example, let’s take our example ‘Dog Toys’. This is a smaller segment from the Toy market or from the Pet Supply market. Dog Toys is a keyword and a niche.
But we can easily think of keywords that are not part of a market. For example this keyword:
‘History of Christopher Columbus’
‘Why is Grass Green?’
I”m sure you could come up with any number of keyword examples of your own that do not relate in some way to a market. For the purpose of making money online and keyword research, we are looking specifically for keywords about niche markets. This is where the money is.
Keyword Types: Head, Body, and Tail
We can look at all keywords and classify them into one of 3 categories (well 4 if we really want to).
1. HEAD keyword
The head keyword is the ‘root’ keyword. It’s often a one or two word single keyword or keyword phrase that captures a broad market. You might think as a head keyword as a market segment.
- Mixed Martial Arts
These get a shit load of traffic (usually), but the traffic is often not focused and may be a mix of commercial and non commercial intent behind the searches (i.e. people typing that exact keyword into google search). There is usually a LOT of traffic for head keywords. Hundreds of thousands to millions per month.
2. Body keyword
These are keyword or keyword phrases that contain the HEAD + something else. They are more focused and indicate the searcher is looking for something more specific. You might think of a body keyword as a general niche or a niche (smaller market segment under a main market segment)
If the head keyword is ‘shoes’,
a body keyword could be:
- basketball shoes
- running shoes
- baseball shoes
- rugby shoes
- comfortable shoes
- and so on
note that the BODY always contains the HEAD + something else?
Now, I find terms that are usually two or three words are often ‘Body Keywords’. The ‘head’ as the root keyword — the main category as it is, and the body keyword as a sub category. Body keywords are usually very good money makers if you rank a website on the front page of google for that term, provided it’s a commercial term and there is traffic. There is usually very good traffic for body keywords (tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of searches). The keyword is not as focused, but there is so much traffic and there is usually some commercial intent that you can make money on the volume of searchers coming to your website for that term.
So, ‘Shoes‘ would be a head Keyword.
‘Basketball shoes‘would be a Body keyword.
3. Tail Keywords
Take keywords are BODY keywords + something else. They are usually a phrase and something very specific.
So if ‘Basketball shoes’ is a BODY keyword, then some tail keyword examples could be:
- best basketball shoes
- comfortable basketball shoes
- cheap basketball shoes
- air jordan basketball shoes
- what are the best basketball shoes
Tail keywords are usually 3+ keywords. Traffic can very for tail keywords, but can range from hundreds to thousands of searchers per month. Tail keywords are where the best bang per buck lay when you do niche website marketing. There is usually a lot of intent behind the search (the searcher is looking for something specific) and there may be enough searchers per month where you can make decent money from that term. Tail keywords also have far less competition (competing websites) and because of this, it’s easier to rank. However, tail keywords may not have lots of traffic.
4. Long Tail Keywords
Now, technically, Tail keywords are Long T ail keywords, but we can break the Tail keywords down a bit furthur into what we call long tail keywords. these are very specific keyword phrases that are often 4+ words. They are phrases or questions or a keyword that’s very very specific.
Long Tail Keywords are the best keywords to go after if you are a niche marketer. You might not get a lot of traffic for a long tail keyword, but it’s very specific which means a significant percentage of the searchers who type that term into google search are looking for something specific. If you can provide exactly what the are looking for (or convince them they need what you have), you can convert them to an ad click, a sale, or to commit some action that makes you money.
Long Tail Keywords also have the least competition (other websites) for them, so it’s far easier to rank for a long tail then it is a tail or body keyword. Now, the downside is that long tail keywords usually only have anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred (and maybe a few thousand) searchers per month for that term. My rule of thumb is I like to pick terms that have 2000 exact keyword searchers or more a month to make it worth my time to target a keyword with a website or website page (more on what I mean by this later).
some examples of long tail keywords
if shoes is the head
and basketball shoes is the body
and air jordan basketabll shoes is the tail
then a long tail example might be:
- best air jordan bastketball shoes
- what are the best air jordan basketball shoes
- comfortable air jordan basketball shoes
- are air jordan basketball shoes better than nike shoes
Now all that about body, head, and tail is simply to make it easier for you to understand this: long tail and tail keywords are often the best keywords to make a website about because it’s easier to rank that website with the less competition. Body keywords are awesome, but they take a LOT of work which is good, but you need to really commit months to years on single site to rank for GOOD body keyword terms. Head keywords are very competative and are usually only given to established websites with a lot of authority (huffington post, wikipedia, forbs.com, and other ‘big brands’). You can certainly rank for a head keyword, but it will take a long while and a lot of effort. By that time, your website is usually a big authority in that niche.
Why Are Keywords Important?
Keywords are important because they represent the ‘niche market’ we will make a website about. If the niche market is something that’s both tangible and intangible, the keyword represents that actual action people take connecting them to that market (i.e. they physically type a keyword this into google and a list of websites are shown about that keyword which that person might just click on).
You see, people type those keywords into Google, see a list of search results, then click on one of those search results. If your website is one of those search results for that keyword, you will have a search visitor coming to your website looking with some intent — looking for something specific.
Because the action of typing a keyword into google can be tracked and measured (and you can bet your house that google does this in every way possible), we can tell a lot about what the person wants (and more importantly, how we can market something to that person to make some money) just from what they type into google.
So keywords are a measurable indication of how popular a niche market is, how much money can be made in that niche, and what you can expect if you rank a website on the front page of google for that keyword.
Now keep in mind we are talking specifically about ranking websites in google, marketing to people using google. But there are certianly other means of making money besides targeting the Google search engine traffic. And we can talk about that in the future, but for now we will limit our scope to google search traffic — something that makes up a significant portion of all internet traffic and a source of FREE traffic you can make money from (hopefully).
So how do we do this exactly? How do we create a website about a topic/niche market that has a good chance of being profitable and making some money?
Keyword Research of course.
So now that we know how important keyword research is, let’s look at how to do it.
How to Find a Profitable Keyword Niche
There are a few simple (free) tools that you can easily use to help with your keyword research so you can find a niche or come up with some good niche ideas that may work for making money.
This is crucial to your success.
Your online success will start and end with your keyword research. If you screw this stage up, you may end up creating a website about a topic that is very hard (or impossible) to make money from. You could also end up with a topic people that’s so niche there’s not enough search engine traffic.
Now, the typical (free) way people go about keyword research is to simple open up the FREE google keyword planner tool and type a bunch of keyword phrases in.
If you want to follow along, go to https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner
However, while this can work and has worked, you often don’t end up with the best keywords.
The reason is that the google keyword planner does a very good job at spitting out closely related keywords to the keyword you put in, but does a poor job generating new keyword ideas outside of these related terms. You can certainly find keywords with the google keyword planner that you can work with, but it’s not the best tool (alone to come up with brand new keywords.
For example, think about the term ‘climbing‘ and what comes to mind.
You might think of a term of loosely connected terms that may or may not directly have the word ‘climbing’ in it.
- rock climbing
- best climbing locations
- how to rock climb
- climbing shoes
- climbing endurance
- finger strength
- climbing tape
- climbing ropes
- mountain climbing
- best mountain climbing gear
Let’s use the Google Keyword Planner and see what comes up:
The results given by the google keyword tool are directly related to each other, but we don’t get new keyword ideas outside of stuff directly related to ‘climbing’ — especially ideas that don’t haver ‘climbing directly as part of the keyword.
Now, many of these keywords are great ideas to build a website about (In truth, for this ‘niche’ about climbing, if you rank for many of these keywords, you can make money), but only relying on the Google keyword tool to give niche ideas is limiting.
A few years ago, I used to live and die by the Google Keyword Planner (in an older form it was called the Google Keyword Tool before Google gutted it and rebuilt it into something different). At one point, I literally had over 400 different websites created from niche ideas taken from the Google Keyword Planner.
I can certainly tell you that the keyword (niche) recommendations given can be a hit or miss after you actually start a website about that niche and find out that that topic makes no money, a little money, some money, or a lot of money.
You would be surprised how it’s some of the more unlikely terms can actually be the best niche markets while the most promising terms are actually complete duds.
The Problem with Google Keyword Tool
You will note that the Google Tool only gives specific keywords directly tied into the keyword ‘climbing’. This is a great tool for getting more ideas for related terms, but if you only stick to what the tool gives you, you will be missing out many opportunities for keywords that are related to ‘climbing’ but not directly tied to the actual word.
I call these related terms ‘semantic cousins‘ and the cluster of loosely related terms as a ‘semantic cloud’– terms that are related but not necessarily intimately so. This semantic cloud might contain dozens or even hundreds of niche markets you can tap into. The key is to find the right niche market.
The problem with only using the Google Keyword Planner for your niche research is that it’s great for showing many terms that include the keyword you are searching for, but it does not do a a good job showing NEW keyword ideas that are not directly related to the keyword root. This means if you ONLY use the Google Keyword Planner to generating niche ideas you miss many other terms that do not show up, yet may be awesome keywords to start a website about.
Another problem with using the Google Keyword Planner is that you are also targeting the same keywords that everyone else is targeting. How many thousand and thousands of other internet marketers are typing in ‘climbing’ into the Google keyword tool and see the exact same results? You can bet your kidney there’s quite a few.
But if you use some other methods to generate some related keywords, you may find other niche markets that are related with awesome money making potential that are relatively untapped.
This means you can set up a website about these topics and have a better chance of ranking for them and thus getting traffic and making money.
And the right audience of course.
Filtering the Good Niches from the Bad
Before you even look at a potential niche, you need to have have some guidelines about whether that niche is a good market or not. You don’t want to find a niche, build a website, promote the website, and after months of effort find you can’t make any money from the visitors.
You can’t always avoid this, but you can vastly reduce your chances of wasting your time.
One of the best ways to ensure you choose a niche that’s not a dud is by making sure whatever keyword you are looking at has the following attributes:
- A Problem to be Solved (people searching for those keywords are looking for something — a product, service, or solution of some sort
- Commercial Intent (the searcher is willing to spend money on the solution)
- Low to Medium Competition (it’s possible to rank a website for that keyword without extreme efforts
Let’s go back to our list of keywords.
Our keyword ‘climbing‘
Is there a problem to be solved? Climbing is such a general term. Think about who might be typing ‘climbing’ into google.
- You could have a kid doing some research for an essay about ‘climbing’
- You could have someone looking for some tips on how to get started with climbing
- You could have someone looking for some local information about climbing walls in the area
- You could have someone looking to find the history of climbing
- You could have someone looking for climbing stores.
So the answer to the question ‘is there a problem to be solved’ can be yes or no — it’s not quite clear.
So ‘Climbing’ does not necessarily have a problem to be solved.
Is there commercial intent behind the word? For some searches looking for a product, then yes. For some searchers looking for a service (climbing instructors, climbing walls, etc) yes. But for many searchers who might be searching for general climbing information, NO.
So ‘climbing’ may not have a very strong commercial intent.
What is the competition for the term ‘climbing.’
We will talk more about researching how competitive a keyword niche market is on Google, but I can tell you that because it’s a ‘head’ keyword, it’s very very competitive. We can do a simple search on this keyword and see what pops up.
The problem with ‘climbing’ is that it’s a much too ‘broad’ keyword. You don’t really know exactly the intent behind the search for ‘climing’; the person could be searching for anything. Combined with how competetive it is to rank for a generic term on google, that makes ‘climbing’ a term you want to avoid.
You can look more deeply into some more specific climbing terms. This is where the Google Keyword Planner can be useful. You can drill down into a general niche and find a number of more specific sub niches that offer better opportunities.
Let’s look at ‘Climbing Equipment’
Now, there are a number of different methods to go about finding semantic keywords. I’ll go over a couple of the main methods.
Finding Niches with Google Keyword Planner (GKP)
The Google Keyword Planner (GKP) is a fundemental keyword reserach tool that pretty much every internet marketer and SEO lives and dies by. It gives you detailed information about keywords such as the amount of searches, the level of competition, the search trend a keyword has, and comes up with related keyword ideas.
Because of this, The Google Keyword Planner is an invaluable tool in helping us find some profitable niches to create websites about. Keep in mind that you should not ONLY just use this tool as there are some serious limitations when it comes to giving you niche ideas that are not directly related to the keyword you type in. Many of the best niches ideas will not show up in the keyword list the GKP returns.
So with this limitation in mind, lets see how the GKP can help us come up with some keywords about niches.
Note that you must have a gmail account or Google Account to access the GKP
So in the previous section, we fired up the GKT and put in ‘climbing’ and saw a list of keywords. We also noted how the niche ideas we came up with ourselves about ‘climbing’ were not visible in the keyword results.
This time, we are going to specifically look at ‘climbing equipment‘ one of the related keywords shown to us when we typed in ‘climbing‘ in the Google Keyword Tool.
This is what we see:
As you can see, we’ve drilled down into ‘climbing’ to see ‘climbing equipment’ and we’ve been given a number of more narrow keywords. These are better than the generic ‘climbing’ because there is a lot more search intent behind each phrase.
Where as ‘climbing’ is ambiguous, these body keywords consisting of 2 or 3 word phrases are far more specific and capture specific search intent.
For example ‘playground climbing equipment’ is a very focused search about something specific. Or Climbing Exercise Equipment. Any of these could have a number of even narrower keywords.
Some examples would be:
- best climbing equipment
- climbing exercise equipment for kids
- cheap climbing equipment
Now, you also need to look at HOW MANY SEARCHES A MONTH a keyword phase / niche gets. If you target head keywords (don’t do this), there are many many thousands of searches. But they are not focused searches. If you target a body keyword, you get focused keywords with intent possible a good amount of search traffic. If you target long tail keywords, you get very focused keywords with commercial intent, but (usually) limited traffic — dozens to hundreds. You need to rank for many specific long tail terms to get a decent amount of traffic.
We will talk more specifically in detail next post about how to tell if your niche market is a good choice or a bad choice based on a few criteria like search traffic, competition, and commercial intent.
I’ve created hundreds of websites in the past targeting long tail keywords only. And for many of those very narrow keyword terms I ranked, but traffic usually only 10 to 30 visitors a day. I do not recommend this strategy now.
It’s better to target body keywords that are 2 or 3 phrases. The benefit here is that if you start ranking for a body keyword, you will inevitably also rank for long tail (4+ word phrases) related to it. Body keywords are also broad and give you more opportunity to expand your website.
For example, if we target ‘Climbing Equipment’ or ‘Best Climbing Equipment’ we could write articles on our website about:
- climbing equipment for kids
- the best climbing equipment
- mountain climbing equipment
- type of climbing equipment
IF we focus on long tail keywords (example: climbing equipment for kids), we often end up with a phase or series of phrases with very little traffic. And our website, should we build one about a long tail, can end up with many different articles about very similar topics. This can cause your website problems running into google penalties (Panda) that will penalize you for having too much similar content.
So, moral of the story — pick niches that are broad enough to cover different categories and niches, but not too broad that the search traffic will be too general and the competition too high.
Some other related niche markets with body keywords:
- Best Climbing Gear
- Best Climbing Shoes
Now, you don’t just want to limit yourself to the Keyword Tool. It’s your go to source for determining how competive a keyword phrase is and can indicate the commercial intent (i.e. how valuable the keyword is for making money with), but it’s also limiting too.
As we stated before, the Google Keyword Planner is great for showing very related terms to your actual keyword, but horrible at showing new keyword ideas or keywords that are not directly related to that term.
So it’s a good idea to look at some other methods for finding niches.
Using Wikipedia to Identify Niche Markets
Wikipedia is a gold mine when it comes to finding niche markets. Simply put your keyword idea into Wikipedia then look at the table of contents.
From this example, we can look at these related climbing equipment keywords and come up with some good niche markets to target. From the list above, we could look specifically at:
- Climbing Helmets
- Climbing Shoes
Using Forums to Find Niche Markets
Another great source for finding niche markets is to look at forums about a topic, then see if there are specific posts looking for a solution to a problem related to that topic. For example, say you have an interest in ‘Rock Climbing’ and want to create a niche website related to that topic. One method, is to use the Google Keyword Planner to come up with niche market ideas. Another is to use the Wikipedia to locate some niche markets. But another tried and true method would be to look at climing forums.
The first step here is to simple go to google and type:
[niche market idea] + forums
Now you’ll see a number of different forums bout the topic pop up. Now you simple visit these forums to do your market research and see what problems people are having and what sort of solutions they are looking for. Chances are, in only a couple minutes, you can find something people have a problem with — something that Google Keyword Planner or Wikipedia would never show you. Forums are a fantastic way to find less competitive but still lucrative hidden niches.
Here we look at one of the forums that popped up in the search results.
Just from a couple seconds of skimming the results, I’ve already identified a few potential niche markets:
- Climbing Shoes for Beginners
- Best Personal Anchor Systems
Now until we do more research, I still don’t know if these are good niches to go into or not, but at least we have some niche market ideas now.
Finding Product Niche Markets with Amazon.com
Amazon. is a fantastic resource for finding product niches. That is, niches about products. You simply type your keyword into the Amazon search and look at the resulting categories that pop up.
Putting It All Together
We’ve talked about the very first step to making money online with niche websites: finding your niche market. By using a number of FREE tools like Google Keyword Planner, Wikipedia, Forums, and Amazon, we can come up with a semantic cloud of niche ideas.
But just because we find a niche that looks promising, does NOT mean its still a good niche. To invest any sort of time and money into a niche, you want to be absolutely sure you have the best possible chance of
a) Getting that website to rank on google and rank fairly quickly
b) Be able to make money from the traffic
That means every niche must:
- Have people looking for a solution
- Have people willing to spend money (or click on an ad)
- Be rankable for in the search engines (lower competition)
There are many niches out there, but many many of these do not satisfy all three of these criteria. Now it’s certainly possible to create a website about any topic and rank, in time, for that topic.
And the goal here is to help you build high quality websites about a topic you are interested and care about and are somewhat of an expert on (or willing to become an expert). But by picking niches that have less competition and are easier to rank for while being profitable can save you a whole galaxy of effort. I’d rather make money sooner than later — and that’s the difference here. Pick niches where you can jump into and start making money within a year rather than a niche that requires non stop SEO efforts and a team of writers pumping out amazing content.
Once you’ve found some potential Niche Markets, we need to determine if you can make some money from this niche.
For the next article in this series, check out our Keyword Research: Determining the Commercial Intent of a Niche.