The Ingenious Way To Use SEO

by John Hoff on July 5, 2010

Articles I typically read online include:

And a few others, but lately I’ve been reading a few SEO articles and forum posts and I gotta say, so many people get “good” SEO keyword research wrong.

Maybe not wrong, I suppose–just not well thought out enough.

You see, to truly succeed in whatever it is you want to do online, you must realize that 90% of the game is “Intelligence” (i.e. research).

Think about how this works in war. Assuming both sides have the same technology to work with, who would you say has the competitive edge, the ones who spend a lot of time doing reconnaissance and research into their enemy, or the ones who simply learned how to use their weapons and blindly jumped out of their holes shooting?

SEO is the same way.

You need to research what people are looking for. The problem is, so many people only do the job half way.

Okay, so what do I mean.

Basically, SEO and keyword research is about finding what people are searching for online–yes, but it’s also about finding what people are searching for online which also returns very little competition. In other words, don’t go for the big piece of the pie unless you’re willing to put years and tons of work into content, backlinks, etc.

So for example, one of the reasons why I don’t blog on a consistent schedule is because I’m busy making money online. I make more money online doing other things than I do through my blogging endeavors.

Right now I’m starting the process where I’m building a niche website for my mother. She knows a ton about how to incorporate your business in Nevada, the best state to incorporate in.

But simply designing a site is not enough. I need to drive traffic to the site and make it sustainable without much work from me down the road. I’m just too busy to keep going back and “working on SEO” for my mom’s site.

But with a little in-depth research into what people are looking for online, how they’re looking for it, what keywords they are using, and what my competition looks like, I can create a site which can get ranked relatively easy with some high quality backlinks.

My mother’s target customers are people looking to incorporate in Nevada.

So typically what you’d do is head over to the Google Keyword Tool and do a search for that keyword and see how many people are looking for that keyword phrase online.

Here’s the snapshot:

Looks like there’s 9,900 searches each month for that keyword phrase. Now the next step is the part that so many people forget to do. Now we need to know how many sites we will be competing with.

So head over to and type in the search, “incorporate in Nevada” (with the quotes) and see how many returned results you get. I get 15,500.

That’s actually not that bad. But can we do better?

Let’s take a look at “incorporating in Nevada”. It only has 2,400 searches each month, but guess what? When we head over to Google and type in “incorporating in Nevada”, the returned results I get are less than HALF.

That means I have just cut my competition down by over half.

So I might want to really try and target, incorporating in Nevada as my keyword because there’s a lot less competition.

There of course is a lot more to market research than this, but I hope this example made it clear how good SEO keyword research not only involves how many people are searching for something, but also takes a good look at who you’re going to be competing with.

If you want to rank near the top of Google, try to pick something you can easily rank for.

Also, note that in the image and example above I used the Broad search in the Google Keyword Tool. You might be better off using the Exact Match (local) figures to go off of to get a better real number to work off of.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Aaron July 5, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Great tips John. Title is most important, and using the keyword tool to determine it is a really good idea. Using tips like these will provide far better results than relying on an “SEO optimized” theme. All those themes provide is very minor tweaks. If there is nothing relevant to tweak, it won’t do you any good.


John Hoff July 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Yeah there’s been a lot of talk lately about “optimized for SEO” themes, but nothing beats real world research.

Everything helps a little, I suppose.


Cath Lawson July 5, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Hi John – I do more or less the same as you but I often optimize my titles, so I also search allintitle: KEYPHRASE to check out the competition for that.

Like you say, it really is important to choose keyphrases you can get ranked for. And you’ve got to keep tweaking any you have on the front page because your competitors will.

My traffic plummeted recently. Remember how I uninstalled all my plugins when I got hacked? I uninstalled All In One SEO pack. It’s taking me forever to put all my details from each post back onto it. Talking of hackers, I’ve just remembered, I need to send you a quick email.


Davina July 6, 2010 at 12:05 am

Hi John.

I love playing with these numbers for a client of mine. It’s a real bonus to find a high volume search with lower competition. I understand that blogging is pretty current, but how does this affect the same blog posts 6 months down the road as people’s searches change? I guess the answer is obvious, eh? And that’s why we keep posting and updating our material.

I guess the other trick is to choose key word and phrases that are not too artsy in the sense that they don’t accurately represent what the actual post is about.


John Hoff July 6, 2010 at 7:27 am

@Cath – That is another great way to research what kind of competition you might have. Thanks for sharing that. One thing I do hate about Google is that their returned results vary. One day it might be 15,500 and the next it’ll show 200,000.

I’ve found that the Yahoo returned results often are more stable and sometimes I choose to go by that than Google’s.

Sucks about AIO. That goes to show (and proves in a way) that incoming links aren’t everything.

@Davina – I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a pro at writing headlines, but I do try to keep them simple and on target when I can. Like you said, it’s good to try and make sure that they accurately represent what the post is about.


Cath Lawson July 6, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Hi John – 15,500 and 200,000 is a big difference – I think I’ll try using Yahoo instead of Google.

The AIO thing is a pain. It was so good until I had to reinstall it. Like you say, it makes you wonder how valuable inbound links are. BTW – I emailed u yesterday but just checked and it went to your eventurebiz blog email ( I have about half a dozen different email addresses for you). Do you still use that one, or should I re-send it?


John Hoff July 6, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Yeah that’s not a good email address anymore. Sent it to blog at


Cath Lawson July 6, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Bugger – will resend it now.


Justyna Bizdra July 8, 2010 at 11:56 am

Hi John,

That’s a great, simple and quick way of showing what the keyword research is all about:)
I use the tool you write about, altogether with Market Samurai and some other ones, and what I see is that pretty many niches are getting quite competitive these days.

Anyway, I was wondering what is the percentage of internet users who have any idea of keyword research? Any ideas?

Thanks for the article


John Hoff July 8, 2010 at 2:11 pm

@Justyna – Market Samurai is a great program to use if you’re really trying to do some in-depth market and seo research.

Hmm, I’m not really sure what that percentage would be. I’m sure it’s quite low, especially in the blogging field. I hear so many bloggers say, “I prefer to write naturally”, which if they new anything about good seo then they’d know that you can do both.


Justyna Bizdra July 8, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Thanks John for your remarks.

Have a great day.



Keith Davis August 6, 2010 at 10:45 am

Hi John
I always thought that you were a secret SEOer.
When I first started setting up static websites (html plus CSS) I read a lot abour SEO and was a regular visitor to SeoMoz, Rand Fishkins website.
I’d still recommend his site, he has a few free guides and he does great videos – he even introduces humour into SEO.

I soon discovered the power of incorporating the geographic locator in your keywords to help cut down the competition.

One of my first sites was for a Public Speaking club that needed more members, they had a website but had never had a single response from it.

I worked hard on domain name, titles of pages etc and really used the geographic location whenever I could.
Managed to get the site to the top of the Google serps and now they have over 50 contacts from the website each season.

Thanks for the reminder John – keywords plus geographic locator plus lots of links will work every time.


John Hoff August 6, 2010 at 11:10 am

Hi Keith.

Ah, so you’re admitting yourself that you’re a secret SEOer! LOL

That’s cool about the membership site. Those sometimes can be hard to promote if the niche is too big. I once managed an entrepreneurial WordPress based topic forum. After awhile, it was just taking up too much of my time to get it on the fast track so I gave up (plus I wasn’t as knowledgeable as I am now).

But if you combine great research with excellent tactics, almost anything is possible.


Keith Davis August 6, 2010 at 11:26 am

Guess I should do this properly….
My name is Keith Davis… and I am an SEOer.
There, that feels better.

SEO is like magic when it works… and if you aren’t up there in the SERPS, take a look at your competitors sites.

I notice a mention above that some people forget about SEO and keywords and just write naturally. I do the same but then I tweak things ever so slightly in favour of keywords.

What struck me about a blog is that each of your posts can target different keywords and phrases – for a standard html site you would have to add another page for new keywords.

Not seen any mention of SEO plugins in the comments… what are your thoughts John?


John Hoff August 7, 2010 at 7:12 am

Hi Keith,

Actually–since we were on the topic of SEO, I was thinking of writing my next post on that (plugins/add-ons).

But since you asked, here’s what I like and use:

WordPress: All-In-One SEO (though it’s broke a couple times after upgrading the plugin. Now the title tag doesn’t work anymore).

Firefox: SEO Quake and NoDoFollow add-ons.

Just be careful with SEO Quake as it is a strong plugin and can get your IP banned from Google for an hour or so. I did a while back and since had to back off on some of the information it pulls from Google.

I’ll talk about it in my next article.


Keith Davis August 7, 2010 at 8:31 am

Look forward to that John.
BTW – does this post have a Google PR of 4 or is my Google toolbar playing tricks.
If it is 4 – how did you do it?


John Hoff August 7, 2010 at 11:44 am

I wish it were so, but no. Must be your toolbar playing tricks.


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