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Basics of Keyword ResearchThinking about building a niche site? Consider this…

90% of niche site builders fail simply because they neglect to do one thing properly…keyword research. How are you doing your research? Are you on the path to failure?

In order to be successful, you will need to know the difference between good research and research that will leave you running out of time and out of money….

WARNING: This is meant to be a beginner’s guide…

If you are a beginner you should probably start from the beginning of this post and read the whole thing for greater understanding.

If you are a supreme guru feel free to skim through or pretend you read this post.

Alright, let’s do this:

** What is a Keyword? – A keyword is a word or group of words such as “Josh loves lumpia” (lumpia is an amazing Filipino dish, btw). When you build a site, you’ll want to target specific keywords and rank for them. This will bring you traffic from the search engines (such as Google). **

The 3 Pillars of Keyword Research

There are 3 major pillars that create the perfect formula for keyword research. If you screw up any one of these, you may be kissing your earning potential goodbye. However, if you do this correctly, you’ll earn yourself with more money than Donald Trump on a Saturday (possible exaggeration).

Here are the 3 Pillars: Search Volume, Commercial Value, and Competition.

Let’s break these down.

Understanding Search Volume

When most people think of keyword research this is probably the first thought that jumps in their head. Out of the 3 Pillars, Search Volume is the most identifiable and most easy to understand.

Choose a keyword with high search volume = Get high amounts search traffic
Choose a keyword with low search volume = Get low amounts of search traffic

Sounds simple right?

You can find the search volumes of keywords by using the free Google Keyword Planner.

To use this tool you must have an AdWords account. You can create one by visiting:

Once you’ve created your account and you’re logged in, you can click on Tools and Analysis from the top menu bar and select Keyword Planner.


From the keyword planner you can select ‘Search for keyword and ad group ideas’ and enter your keyword ideas.

After you enter the keywords, select the ‘keyword ideas’ tab and you’ll have a nice long list of keywords (up to 801 keywords to be exact) to go through.


Rather than going through all 801 keywords, I suggest setting up filters, which can be done by using the ‘Customize your search’ box on the left side of the screen.

If you’re building a niche site you will typically want your main keyword to receive over 1500 Avg. Monthly Searches.

** Note 1: You may have heard talk about filtering ‘Local’ and ‘Exact Match’ searches. With the new keyword planner, this is no longer relevant since it automatically applies these filters for you (yay!) **

To speed up your keyword research process I suggest using Long Tail Platinum. This program has allowed me to find a ton of great keywords in a fraction of the time. I honestly wouldn’t build a niche site without it.

Search Volume and Trends

Search volume can sometimes be deceiving. For example, if it’s around April and your keyword is Easter egg designs, you might see some high search volumes showing up. However, don’t be surprised to find out that this volume will drop off dramatically after Easter is over.


You can view keyword trends like the one above by visiting: and typing in your keyword.

Keep in mind that some sites are actually profitable with seasonal terms because their periodical explosion of sales makes it profitable enough for them to sustain themselves even during the months of hibernation.

This is okay. But you should definitely make sure to note this from the beginning so that it doesn’t come as a surprise later on.

So now you’ve chosen a keyword that gets a bazillion searches per month … you’re good to go right? Wrong! Remember, search volume is only the first of 3 pillars and if any one of them fails, the whole site could fail. So let’s move on.

Understanding Commercial Value

Congratulation! You just ranked #1 for “best knock knock jokes!” But wait…what’s this?

You’re seeing traffic come in…why aren’t you seeing any money? This is happening because you messed up!

Allow me to explain:

Some keywords have great commercial value, and others don’t.

Picture yourself searching Google for “best knock knock jokes.” What are you looking for? Are you thinking, “I want to buy jokes online!” or are you like the majority of people who are simply looking for a quick free joke to tell their friends.

No matter how much traffic you pull in, if your audience isn’t looking to spend money, then you’ll have a hard time generating profit.

Here are a couple of examples around commercial value:


Last year I ranked # 1 in Google for the term “Natural muscle relaxers”. Although this term receives 4400 exact monthly searches and I was seeing loads of traffic, the site wasn’t making nearly as much money as I expected.

What happened here?

If you type in “natural muscle relaxers” in Google, you’ll notice that only a few people are advertising for this keyword.

After doing some digging I found out that the majority of my search engine audience was looking for natural foods and techniques for relieving their sore muscles. Most were not looking to buy anything.


Last year I was also able to rank #2 in Google for “NTB tire sale”. People searching for this keyword were looking for tire sales and they were hungry to buy.

If you type “NTB tire sale” in Google, you’ll notice that the sidebar is riddled with ads. Needless to say, this keyword made me a lot of money ($120/month on avg).

adwords competition

The bottom line – Before you go for that keyword, ask yourself “If I was searching this term, would I be looking to buy something?” If you can understand this concept early on, then you can save yourself from future tears.

Understanding Competition

Your heart is racing and you’re super excited because you found a keyword that gets high search volume and screams “I’m looking to purchase something!”

The magic keyword you found is………… “car insurance”. Good luck with that!

In case you didn’t know, car insurance is an extremely competitive term. By going for this term you are pitting yourself against giant multimillion dollar companies like Esurance, Progressive, Allstate, and Statefarm.

These companies are ranked in the top 10 spots of Google – and trust me, your chances of beating one of these guys out is virtually nil.

So how do you get on the first page of Google? The best way to do this is to only target keywords that have weak competition

In order to determine this you must Analyze the Top 10 sites in Google. These top 10 sites are the only sites that should concern you.

Here is what you need to be looking for:

Relevancy of Site Content – First and foremost, the Google search engine wants to give its audience exactly what they are looking for. Their goal is to deliver results that provide the end user with the most valuable and relevant content.

If you’re doing your keyword research and you find websites that do not provide value to the end user, then this is a sign of competition weakness.

Relevancy of On-page Optimization – Google uses algorithms to calculate how relevant your content is to the keyword being searched. By utilizing good On-page optimization you can assist them in matching your site with the relevant search term. This includes using relevant Titles/Headers, Tags, and Meta Descriptions for your pages.

Let’s look at the term “Josh loves lumpia”. Here is what Google shows when I search this term:

low competition keyword

Notice that while some of these pages talk about loving lumpia, none of these pages specifically talk about how much Josh loves lumpia. If I was an end user searching for this term, I would be thoroughly disappointed.

Backlink Profile to the page – A backlink is when another site links to your site. In a sense, Google counts these links as popularity votes for whether your site should be ranked high on the search engines. However, not all links are counted equally.

Some links will carry more power than others. Established and recognized websites will have stronger votes than weaker less established sites. You can check a websites backlinks by checking Majestic SEO or by downloading a program called SEO-Spyglass.

Page Authority – This is a metric (scored from 0-100) that a company called SEOmoz uses to identify the potential for a website to rank high in the search results. It takes into account a variety of factors including backlink popularity, backlink trust, and social signals.

The page authority score can be viewed on

Page Rank – Is a ranking factor that Google created in 1996. A while back, this used to be one of the strongest determining factors for ranking a site. Google has since determined it not as important, but they still note that it counts as one of the many ranking factors for positioning a page on the search engines.

So there you have it.

Once again this is a beginner’s guide to keyword research and it is essential that you understand how the 3 Pillars of Keyword Research can either make or break your website.

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