You know all about leeching now, and you understand the importance of the title in getting an article to rank in the search engines, but now let's look at the 3 step process to getting your articles ranked:

1. Research
2. Construction
3. Backlinks

Research

The first thing you need to do is research the terms that you want to target, so first of all head
over to the Google keyword tool at:
https://adwords.google.co.uk/select/KeywordToolExternal

Change the country at the top to ‘All countries and territories' and then type a word or two into the search box to do with your niche (enter different phrases on different lines), enter the captcha characters and click ‘Get keyword ideas'. So for the acne niche then it would look like this:

The results that come up show the monthly searches made in Google for the past month, and the second column is the average monthly volume. Search volume is not always a sign of how competitive a phrase is going to be to rank for, but it is a good start because the higher search volume terms will be competed for by the people with big sites and big budgets, the much smaller search volume keywords should be easier to beat the competition on.

Sort the data into descending order by search volume by clicking once on the header for the second column of figures:

Now look down the list until you get to phrases with 3 or more words in them, typically the longer the phrase then the more focused the searcher is on getting an answer, the less competition there is, and the fewer searches there are.

I start looking around the 1000 searches per month range, and I use the average volume column, the ‘Global Monthly Search Volume' column as it is called now. Go down the list and you are trying to find keywords that you can write about but which also gel with what you are trying to promote (that is important!). So there is no point in trying to rank for ‘best acne pill' if your site promotes an affiliate offer for an ebook on acne, you might get some conversions, but the searcher already has it in their head that they want a pill not an ebook.

So make a list of phrases that you like the look of in Excel or Notepad, and if you are struggling to get many with smaller search volumes then dig deeper. So in the search results I have above then two of the top phrases are ‘cure acne' and ‘care acne' ? type them in as your search phrases instead and you'll dig deeper into those phrases and hopefully get some different low volume phrases you can use.

Now you have a small list then let's head over to Google and do some spying…

Before we start this though then understand it is far from an exact science, some articles will get to the top position easily, others will never even get a whiff of the front page or appear in the results at all. Concentrate on the winners and let the losers fall away. Now we are looking at how much competition that keyword actually has, there are a few things that go into this:

1. The title tag, do the sites on the front page have the keyword in their title?
2. The description, do the sites on the front page have the keyword in their description?
3. Authority sites, are the top results filled with sites like Wikipedia and About.com?
4. Backlinks, how many backlinks do the top sites have?

If we look at all of this then we can start to have a rough idea of what we are up against, again this is not an exact science and I'd much prefer to quickly get out 3 or 4 articles than spend all night analyzing the competition and trying to find one perfect keyword, because even if things look perfect then sometimes it just doesn't work like it is supposed to! (unless someone can reveal Google's algorithm then we will always be guessing).

So to start with then type one of the keywords you chose into Google, make sure if you are not from the US that you go to the US Google otherwise the results will be skewed to your country. I have taken ‘treating adult acne' with 880 searches, let's have a look at the results:

You can see there are some interesting results here, in position number 7 there is already an EzineArticles.com article which shows that the site can hit the front page, but then above that you will see about.com twice and webmd.com twice, both authority sites, I am thinking I could probably take spot #4, but I might look at other terms first as the top 2 or 3 spots get most of the traffic.

So let's look at ‘homeopathic acne cure' with 880 searches, for that we get:

Now that's more like it. I don't see any major authority sites in that list (you'll start to recognize which are authority sites as you dig because they are large sites which rank again and again for loads of different terms). Finding a web 2.0 site on the front page is usually a good sign too, like Squidoo.com, Weebly.com, Hubpages.com etc, as you then know those sites are capable of reaching the front page so you can use the same site with your article and try to beat the one there already, or try a different site and see if that gets higher up.

Now the next step is to search for the amount of sites that have that exact phrase in the title or description of their page. That gives us a rough figure as a further idea of the level of competition. We have discussed how important the title tag can be in SEO, so any page without the exact phrase in it is probably not specifically aiming to rank for it.

To do this then search for the term again, but enclose it in speech marks this time so Google only finds pages with that term in either the title or description of the page, like this:

These results are not relevant to anything other than the level of competition, nobody will really search for the term in speech marks so don't get excited if it changes so all the pages on the front page are easy to beat. While some of the other pages you saw on the front page for the last search may not have the term in their title or description tags, then if they are on the front page they are doing something Google likes and are still the pages you need to beat.

Now the figure you are looking for is in the top right of the search area:

You can see there are 1,300 results when you search in speech marks, this is a rough idea of your competition. Some people say anything with less than 50,000 results can be beaten by EzineArticles.com with a bit of work, and anything below 20,000 should be even easier, but again you'll get some keywords with just 5,000 results you can't seem to rank for and others with 50,000 you'll rank for in a heartbeat, this is just a rough idea.

So you can see this has very little competition and if I was an affiliate for anything related to this keyword, any kind of natural acne cure, then I'd keep this keyword as one to use. If you find that the level of competition is creeping up around the 20,000+ mark then I'd probably take another factor into account the number of backlinks the page has.

Backlinks are the lifeblood of SEO, Google treats them as votes for your page and they tell Google how relevant and popular you are for any keyword phrase based on the text that is used to link to you (known as anchor text).

In broad terms then the person with the most relevant page (title tag, keyword density for the keyword etc) with the most links pointing to them with that keyword phrase in, will rank for the term in the top spot. There are a whole Pandora's box of other things that need to be taken into consideration, but for now that explanation is a good overview.

So I'd check the backlinks of the top 2 results for that term, that gives you a rough idea of the level of backlinks that you need to get to beat them. It is only a rough idea though, first of all you are using a page on a high authority site, sites like GoArticles.com and EzineArticles.com are big and trusted sites in Google, so that should give you a head start already. Second of all then they might have some of their links with the anchor text ‘click here' or something which are not really anything to worry about as they don't have the keyword term in.

It provides just another rough measure of competition, if one keyword has pages with 1000 links at the top and another has pages with 10 links at the top then I know which one I am going to be spending my time trying to rank for!

To check how many links a page has then in the search results right?click on the link to one of the search results and go to ‘Copy shortcut':

Then head over to yahoo.com and type in ‘link:' then paste in the link you just copied afterwards and hit search.

This will bring up the Yahoo Site Explorer which will then tell you how many links they have found:

You can see for that page then it has 31 backlinks to it which is easily beatable. Now go through your list of keywords and repeat this procedure for each one until you have a shortlist of ones you can write articles on.

If you want to find more keywords to write articles about and you find the Google tool too time consuming then try something like Micro Niche Finder, or you can sign up for a Wordtracker subscription.

Article Marketing does not have to be hard. Check out the software that I use every day to completely automate my article marketing to hundreds of the top directories.

P.S. Don't forget to check out the special bonus just for MasonWorld.com readers.

Previous Articles in this series include…..

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