Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Choosing Keywords with Google

Google has so many great tools you can use for choosing keywords that it seems almost impossible to know about all of them. Recently, I learned about one called Wonder Wheel. It's intended to give a searcher more options to consider, but it can be used for other purposes as well.

To use Google Wonder Wheel, start by putting a fairly general search term into the Google search engine, and hit “search.” In addition to the search results, you'll see a column on the left hand side. Click on “Search Tools” or “More search tools,” depending on how often you use search tools. You'll see one that says “Wonder wheel.” That's the one we want. Click on that, and watch a bit of magic.

For purposes of example, we'll start with a search on “square foot gardening.” Clicking on Wonder Wheel after doing that search divides the main search result area in half. On the right side, you'll see a column of search results not too dissimilar to the list that took up most of the screen before. But you'll notice a big change on the left.

What happened? Wonder Wheel took “square foot gardening” and put it in the middle of a shaded circle. Spokes radiate out from this circle like rays out from a sun. Each spoke leads to a related key phrase. This particular search yields eight spokes:

Container gardening
Lasagna gardening
Square foot gardening forum
Square foot gardening spacing
Intensive gardening
Square foot gardening vermiculite
Square foot gardening tomatoes
Square foot gardening layout

Each of these terms is related to the search phrase “square foot gardening.” I've just gotten interested in square foot gardening myself, so I recognize some of these terms. But if I were starting a blog on my square foot gardening adventures (or misadventures, depending on how next season turns out), I might not have thought to describe it as “container gardening” or “intensive gardening.” And I know I never would have thought of “lasagna gardening”!

In fact, the term “lasagna gardening” is a little too interesting to leave alone, so let's investigate it a little further. Every term on the Wonder Wheel can be clicked. Clicking “lasagna gardening” creates another wheel. The original wheel with “square foot gardening” at the center glides below it, while remaining connected to the new wheel. The old wheel takes on a lighter color, but you can still click on every keyword in it.

And what do we have in the new keyword wheel – excuse me, Wonder wheel? Well, “lasagna gardening” sits at the center, and eight new keywords encircle it in the same way eight key phrases encircled “square foot gardening” earlier. I can click on every single one of them. There are only two major differences (aside from the new keywords) from when the original wheel dominated the left hand side of screen. First, there's a line connecting the new wheel to the old wheel. And second, as you would expect, the right hand column, which lists the search results, has changed to list results for “lasagna gardening.”

And here's a nice touch to satisfy my curiosity: the very first result includes a one-sentence definition for the phrase “lasagna gardening,” so I'm no longer in the dark about what it is. Now I know how it relates to “square foot gardening,” and can fit that bit of knowledge into the larger picture of what I know about the more general subject.

I can go even deeper if I want. Clicking on “lasagna gardening plants” gives me a third Wonder wheel. The first one, with “square foot gardening” in the center, remains visible only as a circle – though interestingly, it shows up as part of a keyword in the new circle: “square foot gardening plants.” And once again, the search results on the right hand side change. If I want to go back to my original Wonder wheel, I need only click that circle on the bottom, and I'm right back where I started.

For just a few minutes of effort, I discovered about two dozen key phrases that are related to “square foot gardening.” A number of these are terms I might not have come up with on my own. Many of them don't even contain the phrase “square foot gardening,” but clearly deal with related, relevant topics. I'm sure you can see how this tool can help you come up with new keywords to aim for on your own or your clients' websites. Good luck!

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