What makes a keyword a GOOD keyword?

Guest Post by: Marcus

Back in 2005 when I first started online I couldn’t get this question out of my head. Every which way I turned I was told that learning how to do keyword research was an important part of the whole Internet marketing process, but even though I understood that point in theory…I really didn’t understand what a GOOD keyword was.

I’m not talking about any keyword in particular here…I just couldn’t grasp exactly what it was that made one keyword stand out more than any other – in any niche.

So I set off on a mission to find out if anyone could give me some answers, and along the way I learned plenty of stuff that made things a lot clearer. Things like…

Long tail, relevance, low competition, search volume etc…

They all struck a chord with me and definitely made the process of identifying keywords a lot easier.

I then began to question if that kind of knowledge was really necessary because let’s face it…the way keyword tools are designed nowadays, you only have to push a couple of buttons and within seconds they will spit out 100’s of potential keywords (And then some!)

But do they really help to find GOOD keywords?

Now at the risk of sounding a little cranky, I later discovered that no matter what I learned about the keyword research process…and regardless of how many whistles and bells my keyword tool had on it, I was only uncovering keywords that MAY have potential.

You see, things suddenly became clearer for me when I realized that…

A keyword only becomes a GOOD keyword when you learn how to do something good with it!

But really…just what the heck is a keyword?  Many people overlook the simplicity of it all,  and therefore fail to understand keyword research.

A keyword is simply something that people type into search engines when they are:

(a) looking for information
(b) looking to solve a problem
(c) looking to buy something
(d) bored…and again, they will be looking for info

So thanks to my collection of keyword tools I thought I had become something of an expert at spotting some amazing keyword opportunities, but in reality those weren’t good keywords that I was finding, they were just…well…keywords.

That was when I had my first ‘cart before the horse’ moment (one of many I might add), when I realized that keyword research means absolutely NOTHING if you don’t know what to do with what you find.

I’d already been busy with my hoard of keywords up until that point…ranking high in the search engines with articles on some pretty random keywords, and I regarded this as a pretty big success.

But was I able to MONETIZE them?

Well I won’t say ‘not at all’, but I will say…HARDLY.

All those hours of hard work that I’d put in – pretty much a total waste of time.

Then again, there was a major positive that came out of this whole experience, and for that reason I’m so glad that it happened. My brush with ground zero conversion rates had forced me to learn how to focus on the person behind the keyword and connect with them and their issue, rather than just hitting them with some loosely related content and hoping it would just do.

Let me tell ya…that was when EVERYTHING changed!

And it’s no coincidence that we talk a lot on here and at WA about building relationships with visitors to our websites/promotions (see Eddie and Jennifer’s posts), and it emphasizes the fact that how we use keywords is fundamental to our success online.

All successful marketers know and understand this point…but at the same time, most people struggling online DON’T.

Keywords allow us to open the door of opportunity in any market we choose, via any medium of online promotion. Understanding how to interpret and use them and understanding the person behind the initial keyword search is one of the most important skills that you could ever possess as an Internet marketer.

So if you ever found yourself wasting hour after hour scouring the Internet for those elusive keywords that you can dominate, think back to my early experiences and how I discovered that they didn’t really exist, without my own consideration for “people” behind the search. I promise that when you do, you’ll end up with more good keywords than you can possibly handle :)

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


19 thoughts on “What makes a keyword a GOOD keyword?”

  1. Marcus, In a general sense what you say makes some sense, but as one who has not done keyword research, nor has had any training in keyword research, I can’t really do anything with what you are saying here. How does someone new learn how to go from ground zero to where you are?

    What you are saying here is almost like telling someone who has never worked on cars that when their car isn’t running right, they just need to adjust the timing, perhaps do a whole tuneup. If this person has never done that before, the general statement makes sense, but has no real use to the inexperienced person.

    So…to tell me that I need to get into the mind of the person doing the search and then connect with them…that makes sense, but, ummm, ok, now what? A person who has never done keyword research like myself is just sitting here twiddling their thumbs saying to themselves…”Ok, yeah, sure, right. So what do I do with that information?”

    I’ve got a health related blog I want to get up and moving, and I’ve got another health related site I’m building that is related more to the fitness aspect, but health and fitness are two keywords that will take forever to rank, and may be impossible for me in the near future, so I’m wondering how do I apply what you are saying here, how can I use it successfully?

  2. @Jen

    Great point.

    I agree that trying to do something with a keyword like “homeschool” is going to be very difficult, although not impossible over time. The same could be said for any similar keyword actually because if say you had a continual SEO program in place then you might eventually rank well for it in the future.

    It’s a case of weighing up the pro’s and con’s. You could spend years trying to hit the front page of Google for a major keyword, but if you struggle to monetize it then I guess it could be regarded as wasted effort. This obviously plays a part in the whole “good keyword” debate!

    Yes there is a way to figure out your “entrance point” Jen, and this comes down to good old keyword/niche research. As you say, starting out with a keyword like “first grade homeschool” would be a more logical approach, and then you could expand your whole “homeschool” campaign around that. No doubt there are MANY keyword opportunities based on the homeschooling niche, and these could be used to scale your promotions over time.

    Thanks again for bringing up a great point :)


  3. I get what you are saying – keywords aren’t *good* until the person using the keyword *makes* it good. You gotta do something with it.

    But, if I have a huge keyword in mind, like “homeschool” for instance, it doesn’t really matter what I do with it – I’m not going to rank high for that keyword, right? I suppose it’s possible if I come up with something totally awesome and it goes completely viral – but those chances are pretty slim.

    Isn’t there a way to figure out what keywords would be “better” than others? (assuming I already have a good way to monetize the keyword) Maybe “first grade homeschool” would be better than “homeschool elementary kids”. By better, I mean, words I can actually rank for by putting out great content and stirring up active conversation.


  4. Been trying to do IM on my own.. this is the part I have yet to grasp.. what the person is thinking when he is typing that keyword in. The “why” part.. there are a million keywords out there but this is the part that gets me..

  5. @Larry Stahl

    I agree that empathy isn’t everything Lawrence, but at the same time I would say that many people over-complicate the process. This is something that comes with practice…not a lot of practice, but enough to realize that more focused content produces better results.

    I honestly believe that there’s no real technical aspect to it, and more than anything it comes down to a touch of good old common sense!

    Maybe we should expand on this? I think it would be good for visitors to the WA blog.

    Thanks for your valued input :)


  6. @Kent

    Good point. Your website cpanel can be a great source of new keywords, and it can often uncover keywords that you would never have thought of.

    Thanks for the great tip Kent :)


  7. @bob

    Glad you enjoyed it, and well done for making that connection :)

    All the best,


  8. @Daniel K

    Great point, and more than anything it just goes to show how much things have evolved.

    And that’s a good thing to be honest because it forces people to become more competent marketers. I also experienced similar to you with “buying” keywords for a time, but I always had this niggling doubt that it wouldn’t last.

    Well look where we are now!

    Building relationships is the key to becoming successful online…and it’s the new age of Internet marketing that we speak about constantly at WA. I can’t see that approach failing any time soon.

    Thanks for your input Daniel :)


  9. @Fay

    Great suggestion!

    As mentioned in an earlier reply, it’s actually not as complicated as many people believe.I always try and imagine keywords in a conversation…much in the way Eddie mentioned in his ‘The #1 Reason Affiliates Fail & How To Avoid It!’ post, and think how I would respond if a keyword was used by a friend in conversation.

    How would I respond then?

    Would I be vague with my response and not really care about the ACCURACY of my reply?

    No way!

    I would be as detailed and as helpful as possible!

    And the thing is, with the wealth of information that we have available on the Internet, we all have the ability to provide targeted, accurate, and helpful content for just about any keyword/search term.

    Having said that, maybe we should create a post related to understanding the person behind the keyword – as you suggested. I think it would help a lot of people.

    Thanks for your input :)




    Totally. And you know…many people think that there’s some huge secret behind how successful marketers use keywords, but there really isn’t. As you say, it’s all about understanding the person behind a keyword and making that connection.

    i failed at that many times in the past, but ironically things became a lot easier for me when I stripped things back to basics and focused on the searcher and what they reveal within their keywords/search terms.

    Thanks very much for your input :)


  11. @Michael

    You have it spot on Mike.

    Starting broad with your keyword research is the first step in uncovering the real golden nuggets…in any niche market.

    One thing I discovered on my journey (and it’s one of the points I highlight in my post) is that expensive keyword tools don’t really matter. As you say, the Google keyword tool is more than capable of helping you drill down from a broad keyword and find more specific, targeted keywords for your campaigns.

    When it comes to discovering keywords for specific PPC ad groups, it’s VITAL that you keep the common keyword concept in mind. This is the beginning of the ‘relevance factor’, and you need to maintain that train of thought throughout the entire structure of your campaign.

    Regarding the keywords you think of yourself…lol…Kyle taught me that one! It’s really satisfying when you create a tightly focused campaign and then add a keyword to one of your ad groups that just ‘comes to you’, only to see it consistently return double-figure ctr’s – it’s very satisfying :)

    Thanks for your input Mike!

    All the best,


  12. Marcus you have help me out in the past and I wanted to say thanks! I like your post and I wanted to bring up the common keyword theory. For anybody reading take notes and it will help you out. When you start out a keyword search start out broad then work your way more targeted. What I mean is say you are looking for a targeted keyword of how to make money online. You go to the google keyword external and type in make money online and say there are thousands of results. You are looking at all the relevent keywords they have provided in front of your face. This is when the common key word theory comes into play. Some key words common to making money online??

    Make money online
    Make money online with adwords
    Make money online with clickbank
    Make money online with adsense
    Make money online today
    Make money online fast etc..

    See the common relation with all of them now you can make a ad group.

    I Know this is a saturated niche but it is just a example that you can use with any niche you choose.

    I remember Marcus sometime ago tell me the best keywords come strait from your brain and that is true too.


  13. You have told several thousands of us the real truth,unlike what is ‘popular’-
    choose a key word and you will succeed. It is the person ‘about’ the key word that matters.

  14. There was a time when you could find a “buying” keyword, put up a quick ad on Google, and link to a merchant offering the product that the searcher was searching for. At that time there were “good” (profitable) keywords and those that weren’t so “good”. I used to make $1000s of dollars per month finding these “good” keywords.

    But today this is almost impossible. Today a relationship is more important than ever, and Marcus’ point is right on.

  15. marcus thank you for your wisdom and insite to the right way to search and use of keywords that make a difference a relationship is very important in our every day lifes so this should be easy to carry over into our internet business

  16. An added benefit of starting out by focusing on your customers is that you’ll end up stumbling upon keywords you may have overlooked. For example, if you write content around “blue wigits” but make it real (versus keyword-stuffed nonsense), you’re likely to find that people find your site when they search for “waterproof wigits.” These unintentional keywords can help uncover some pretty huge markets.

  17. I understand everything both of you said, and it’s good stuff! My problem has been seeing through the keyword to the person and understanding their reason for using it. It has been off and on regarding my ability to do that. I know it takes more than mere, good old fashioned empathy! There has to be a technical aspect to it at some point.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Lawrence Stahl
    e-m novice and ex WA ( don’t misinterpret that- I got A LOT out of my year with you! )

  18. You’re right Marcus!

    Keywords are not what make you successful online. Too many people spend too much time searching for these “golden” keywords that are somehow going to springboard you towards success.

    This is just not the case.

    Behind a keyword is a person who is searching for it and in order to make the keyword work for you, you must know about that person and determine WHY they searched in the first place. This is one reason why a keyword may be GREAT for one marketer, and a not-so-good keyword for another.

    The bottom line when it comes to keywords is not to spend all your time searching for a keyword that will make you RICH! When you find a keyword, ask yourself if it is relevant to what you are promoting. Then look behind the keywords at the person and determine why they searched it. When you know your audience, you can turn any old keyword into a success!


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