It’s been a bit since I wrote an article but fortunately team members Brendon and Tristan have been picking up the slack. Tristan is working on a great series of blog posts about social media. I’m watching the metrics closely while also following the success of people like George Moen of Blenz coffee who just had a great launch party for Blenz’s new protein smoothies. And Brendon has been staying true to our core conversation around Joomla and small business websites.

Today, I’m going to mention four tools that I use when I’m working with small business owners on researching keywords for their websites. Two of the tools are external (ie. based on aggregated public data), two are internal (ie. based on metrics specific to your website and target market)…and all of them are from Google.

1. INTERNAL: Google Analytics

Do you have a website already? If so, then you should check and see if you already have Google Analytics installed because you may have internal data at your fingertips. If you don’t know if you have analytics, then an easy way to find out is by searching the source code of the homepage. No, it’s not complicated. Just press CTRL+U and then click Edit? Find and search for the words “analytics” or (if you are using the old version of analytics) “urchin”. That should take you to a few lines that say something like this:

<script type="text/javascript">
 var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www.");
 document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "google-analytics.com/ga.js' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E"));
 </script>
 <script type="text/javascript">
 try {
 var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-7505449-1");
 pageTracker._trackPageview();
 } catch(err) {}</script>

If you can’t find that or the old urchin code then your out of luck. And if you don’t have a login for Google Analytics, you’ll have to chase your original web designer. Get them to give you administrator access and you’ll be able to poke around Analytics and find out what keywords people are using to find your site. Compare those to what you would like to be found for (or what your competitors are ranked for). You may need to work with a consultant to understand all the data in here and make strategic decisions for your business but this is a great place to start.

2. EXTERNAL: Google Keyword Tools

If you don’t have analytics installed or you have not got a website yet, then you’ll need to start with some external data. Google provides two neat keyword tools that give you an idea of the number of searches for certain phrases each month.

Google’s Original Keyword Tool allows you to type in a bunch of search phrases and see what the “Local” and “Global” search volumes are. As far as I’m told, “Local” means all of Canada (for me in Vancouver). The numbers are also highly aggregated so they are not exact numbers. As such, you should use this data as indicators only for staring to focus the keywords on your site.

Google’s Search-based Keyword Tool (new) allows you to type in a keyword phrase and it shows you how many people are searching for some suggested phrases (longer versions of what you typed in. If you type in “web design” it will show you results for “web design company” and “web design agency”). This tool also shows you the relative competition and cost for PPC advertising. This is important because if you want to get your website ranked, you need to know how hard the competition is fighting for those positions already.

3. EXTERNAL: Google Trends

Google keyword tools only show you snapshots in time. So once, you’ve found some keyword phrases that you think you want your business to rank for, you should use Google Trends to compare how those phrases have changed over time. Google Trends is highly aggregated and it gives you no number values. But you can get relative comparisons. For example, I compared the phrase “web developer” to “social media” to see how each is changing. You can see why we at Yardstick Services are getting more and more interested in social media for small business. It goes without saying that you’ll want to pick keywords that are higher up on Google trends and are showing an increasing trend (or at least not a decreasing trend).

4. INTERNAL: Google Adwords

The real intelligence, believe it or not, is within Google Adwords. I really like setting up small (say $100) campaigns for my clients and creating a bunch of ads for keywords that relate to pieces of content in their website. There’s a whole science to setting up Adwords that I won’t get into here, but at the end of a month, you get some absolutely amazing numbers showing you exactly how many people searched for a particular keyword in your target market. It’s worth the investment because now you’ll be able to really refine the keywords in your website for you target market based on real solid numbers.

Check back in each of the above for a number of months and make small changes to the keywords in your site and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

As usual, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below or drop me a line @yardstickceo.