Fun and profit with the Google External Keyword Tool

There are 1300 Google searches per month on George Bush sucks, 1000 on Ron Paul sucks, 2400 on Hillary Clinton naked, 185 million on hotel, and 110,000 on asdf. Or so the Google External Keyword Tool claims. Many more examples can be found over on Text Technologies, where I also gave a few practical usage tips. (E.g., it doesn't always play nicely in Firefox, but it's just fine in Firefox + IE Tab.)

But Google External Keyword is a lot more than a toy. Used correctly, it's an indispensable aid to even the most basic of search engine optimization, because it tells you what keywords people actually search on. Like all tools, it can be misused, usually by inducing people to try for a highly popular keyword that's only partly relevant to their business.

The correct way (well, one correct way) to use Google External is this:

  1. Brainstorm a list of keywords/keyphrases you think that your best prospective customers would use.
  2. No, not just you and your closest colleagues -- ask people outside your company, preferably in actual customer organizations.
  3. When you have your candidate list, run it through Google External. See which ones actualy get used.
  4. Search on the best of them. Look at the results. See if you think you can get near the top of those results at your budget and skill level. Be honest.
  5. If you don't like the honest answer to #4, try to find more restrictive keywords/keyphrases that are less competitive. Repeat until done.

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