Posted September 3, 2010 10:21 am by with 27 comments

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I used to be a keyword research freak.

Seriously! If you found me at one of the big conferences in the early 2000s you would have likely heard me discussing the importance of keyword research. “Keyword research is the most important aspect of SEO,” I would say. “Target the wrong keywords and it won’t matter if you are #1 on Google or not.”

Yeah, I took it seriously.

I still do, and that’s why I’m sharing this experience from the WebmasterWorld forums. WMW member vivalasvegas follows-up on a report he submitted previously about the sudden loss of almost 5,000 visitors a day for one keyword combination.

My conclusion after doing some more research: the apparently popular 3 word phrase was made popular by the Search suggestions feature. It seems that people were typing in the first 2 words (or even just one word and a half) and the first suggestion was my phrase. Combined with the fact that the first 2 words make a very popular phrase with several million searches reported per month – the result was some nice traffic spilled in my direction. Needless to say – the 3 word phrase is no longer a favorite suggestion.

Bottom line. Google stopped using the keyword combination in Google Suggest and vivalasvegas lost 5k visitors a day. Ouch!

My point?

When you do your keyword research, you absoluteley need to ensure you are checking Google Suggest as part of that research. Start typing in the keywords that Google “suggests” and see what other phrases Google will likely be presented to your target audience.

For example, if you are targeting SEO related queries, try this:

Some queries will throw up local intent suggestions, but you’ll get a good feel for the keywords you should be adding to your mix. For bonus points clicks, don’t stop with Google Suggest. Take a look at the bottom of the results page and see what Google says are related searches:

Hey, you never know when these suggestions might result in an extra 5,000 visitors a day for your web site! 😉

  • Ann Williams

    Great article! Insighful. Useful.

    But what’s the “Yeah! I….” at the end of it?

    I feel a string left untied, a dangling thought hanging out there in the e-breeze… It’s like watching actors on TV who come into a home or an apartment, carry on with the script but then DON’T CLOSE THE DOOR!


    • I think that was probably meant for an open Google Talk window. Deleting it. 😉

  • Ann Williams

    Thank you. Now it’s perfect! 🙂

  • I never really thought of the negative aspect of a suggestion being *removed*. Very eye-opening! It seems that we (most internet marketers) get in a habit of looking for *opportunities* rather than alternatives or “backup plans”.

    But yes, doing keyword research off of Google’s suggestions can definitely yield a boost in traffic…especially when diving into those phrases and finding the ones with the least competition.

    Thanks for bringing this up!

  • Dan

    Wow, that’s sounds like a good idea, I never thought of doing that. Sometimes the best marketing strategies come from common sense

  • Of Course! I probably never would have thought of that, I even use that drop down menu myself. thanks much!

  • This is one of those golden nuggets you stumble across once in a while…thank you so much! I’m sitting here with a light bulb over my head; wandering over to Google right now…

  • Thanks everyone, glad you found the tip helpful! 🙂

  • art

    Any research on how to influence it? my client has a similar name of a company that has a poor history of working with consumers..Google always makes suggestion of the bad company…regardless of our first place rankings, Google still makes the bad recommendation.

    • That falls into the grey area of SEO. Yes it can be influenced, but it’s extremely hard and involves techniques that Google would likely frown upon. 😉

  • It seems that people were typing in the first 2 words (or even just one word and a half) and the first suggestion was my phrase. Combined with the fact that the first 2 words make a very popular phrase with several million searches reported.

  • Yeah I started hearing about utilizing the Google suggest feature a little while ago while doing some R&D into Local Search promotion for a few sites.

    While there’s a lot more to searches, think the majority of users will probably catch onto the suggest items pretty quickly (and all of us SEO’ers will need to keep up with that).

  • Try this too – to really go deep into keyword research – you will find gems -although its a bit tedious:

    Type “Search Engine a” – will get keywords starting with “search engine a” (algorithm, alpha, analytics, etc etc). then type “search engine b” and you will get “search engine blog”, “search engine basics”, “search engine business” etc .
    In fact, if you type a space before “search engine” like ” search engine” – you will get other keywords like “torrent search engine”, “rapidshare search engine” “craigslist search engine” etc.

    I have always been using this method of keyword research and have given me excellent long tail traffic!

    Good Luck!

  • Some very useful tips. Thanks a lot!

  • It seems so obvious, but I imagine autosuggest is overlooked quite a lot.

    Thanks for this!

  • Andy,

    really great points you make about the suggestion feature of Google.
    Even more impressive was that title! Awesome.
    I love keywords, so I’m with you on well, everything 🙂

  • thanks Andy Beal

  • Have any of you figured out a way to automate checking Google suggest? Tips or tricks? It seems like it might be challenging to make the time to check them by hand for each keyword.

  • Keyword research – very useful thing.

  • Jessica

    Great tip! I am actually in the middle of a web redesign project for my organization. There is much discussion about SEO. We decided not to hire someone to help us with keyword research and try to do it ourselves. In addition to Google Suggest, what other tools can we use? We don’t do Google Adwords yet but we will probably start soon. We are a local non-profit with similar independent organizations throughout the U.S.

    Thanks in advance for any advice! 🙂


    • Jessica,

      You might do well to find a consultant who would be willing to take a quick look at your keyword ideas. Some people (like me) will do it for pro bono for nonprofits. There is just a lot about selecting keyword targets for organic SEO that can only be learned through experience.

      Also, I don’t know if you are planning to go to the NTC (Nonprofit Technology Conference) in which is in DC this year, but if you do we will be doing a panel on SEO that will be heavy on keyword research.

      Best of luck, let me know if I can help.


      • Jessica

        Thank you, Eric. 🙂

  • Great post! This is what i have been doing to do keywords research, along with Google Adwords and SEO Book’s Keyword Tools. Since Google Suggest shows only those keywords idea that are searched frequently, targeting these will definitely help to get you relevant traffic. Google’s Wonder wheel is also a good option for keyword research. The Wonder wheel suggest what Google shows at the bottom of search results under Searches related to keyword.

    But with new Google Instant results Google Suggest shows only 5 keywords instead of 10 🙁

  • You can send a query to a Google suggest URL and get back the suggested terms via XML. Take these and send them again to the Google URL… multiply keywords suggested by google. This is perfect for related search terms etc.

    I love it!

  • I heard that Google suggest using three main factors : Content, Anchor Text and Search Volume to influence the search suggestion. What is your thought about this?

  • Thanks, a really usefull suggestion, and to think it was right under my nose all the time…L

  • Clare

    thanks that has been really useful, I have been researching keywords for a handmade natural soap site and this has given me loads of additional ideas