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Our Keyword Research Strategy Part 1

Justin Cooke Updated on February 29, 2020

Our Keyword Research Strategy Part 1

We’ve received quite a few questions regarding how we go about researching keywords for our sites.  It seems many people get stuck here, looking for the absolute BEST keyword they can possibly find to create a site.  That’s important when you’re researching keywords for an authority site or are looking for a name that can be branded, but with micro-niche sites it’s much less involved for us.

Keep in mind that this is only one of many different ways to approach keyword research for Adsense monetized sites.  We’ve found it to be effective at creating sites that make money for us and part of the reason we’re sharing our approach is so that we can help those that are looking for ways to be successful with AdSense, but also so that those with more experience can help us grow and determine better niches as we continue to expand and become more aggressive with our niche research.  Below, we’ll give you a step by step review of our process:

Editor’s Note: We used to use Market Samurai and loved it, but found it not as effective around October and switched over to LongTailPro as our keyword research tool of choice.  Still, the process works with either tool.

Step 1: Come Up With A Seed Keyword

When selecting a seed keyword, it can be as simple as looking around your office or house for ideas and things that people might be searching for.  As a general rule, we look for words that people would search for when they’re looking to buy something and avoid keywords that imply research as their intent.  For example, “swimsuits” might be a  better seed keyword than “swimming”, but this isn’t a hard rule and you can try both to start.

When selecting a seed keyword, we try to target 2 specific groups on a regular basis…housewives and blue-collar, Do It Yourself’ers.  Our thought here is that they are less likely to be “Ad-blind” and would have less reluctance to click on an advertisement if it was something they liked or that interested them.  We have no research on this, just a general feeling we have that seems to work pretty well.  We also stay away from more “techy”, “artsy”, and “internet” keywords like electronics, software, education, paintings, internet marketing, etc as these typically are much harder to rank or have a much lower CTR than some of the other niches.

Step 2: Research Seed Keyword in Market Samurai

Market Samurai is an amazing keyword research tool that saves us a ton of time.  Everything done via Market Samurai can be done manually, but it takes much longer and will give you fewer options to choose from later unless you spend considerably more time on your keyword research.  The first thing to do is relatively easy.  Open Market Samurai, select New Keyword, and enter your seed keyword from the previous step and select Update.  Now click on Keyword Research to go to the next area.

Now that you’re in the Keyword Research section, you’re going to want to login to the Google Keyword Tool.  Doing this through MS will provide many more potential keyword than you would receive otherwise.  We also suggest selecting a Phrase Length of between 2 and 4 words.  You don’t want to miss out on any great 2-word domains and any domains longer than 4 words are generally too many characters and won’t have that many searches per month, anyway.

Step 3: Narrow Down Niche Keywords

Now that you’ve got a nice selection of keywords available, click on Keyword Analysis at the bottom right of the page to go to the next section.  Here you’re going to narrow down your large selection of keywords to get those that will be useful to you for potential domains.  You’re going to want to create a custom filter that has the following:  (Anything not mentioned is unchecked and blank)


  • Total Searches: Checked, 800 (minimum)
  • SEO Traffic: Checked, blank
  • Phrase To Broad: Checked, 15
  • AdWords CPC: Checked, blank
  • SEOComp: Checked 200,000
  • SEOValue: Checked, 500

Our low Total Searches is debatable, but setting SEOValue at 500 will help to take out any keywords that have a really low search volume AND a low CPC.  Any keywords that are only getting around 800 searches per month will have a higher CPC that go with them.  Once your search parameters are set, click Analyze Keywords and let MS do the work for you.  Update: We actually use LongTailPro for our keyword research now.

Once MS is finished, we’ll click “Keyword” to sort the keywords left alphabetically and then select Export at the bottom right and put them in a spreadsheet.  Open that spreadsheet and you’ll have something that looks like this:

Step 4: Check URL Availability

In this step, you’ll want to go back to MS, use the checkbox to select all of the keywords on the screen and then click Find Domains.  (Note: If you have more than 50 keywords available here, you’ll want to select the first fifty or less and then repeat the process to check the rest.  The domain check will miss keywords if you select more than 50 to check.)  At this point, you’ll be in the Domains section of MS.

Here, you’ll need to have an account with DomainFace as MS uses them to check domain availability.  (You could, alternatively, load the keywords into the bulk option at GoDaddy, but keeping everything in MS at this point seems to be the easiest.) Once you’re logged in, you’ll also want to have the following custom filter set:

  • Domain Variations: Nothing, we’re looking for EXACT match domains here
  • Domain TLDs: .com, .net, and .org only
  • Domain Filter: Nothing, we’re using new domains and don’t want hyphens

Make sure you’re logged into your DomainFace account and click Find Domains.

You’re now going to want to click on the Domain column, so that the results are sorted alphabetically.  You’ll also see a “check” button to the right of each potential domain.  You’re going to want to check each domain, as your first search is based on old information and this updated search will be done in real-time.  Once completed, you’ll have your list as you see below:

Step 5: Update Your Keyword Research Spreadsheet

Now that we’ve found the domains that are available, we will update this information to our keyword research spreadsheet and delete the keywords  that did not have domains available, ending up with something that looks like this:

You’ll see that this particular search led us to “air compressor hose” and “water hose”.  These will now be possibilities for us to use as we look at both Advertiser and SEO competition in Part 2 of our Keyword Research Strategy.

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Make sure to check out Our Keyword Research Strategy Part 2 HERE.

Have anything to add?  Let us know in the comments below!  Like what we have to say?  Consider subscribing to get the information fresh in your inbox, along with other valuable, actionable information.

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  • Hey guys, I was curious about how you deal with keywords that have strong competition on the first page in terms of backlinks and PR, but aren’t optimized for your specific key term. They are optimized for related content, but not the exact same phrase. Can you beat these guys with an exact match domain name of your keyword phrase and some basic on and off page SEO?

    Thanks for all y’all do. It’s a real inspiration!


    *Edited for clarity

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Taylor,

      GREAT question…that’s a tricky one, really, and we don’t have a hard rule there…would be a case-by-case basis decision.

      A few scenarios:

      1. The KW is recognized as being the same as your targeted KW by Google (You can tell this because both variations are bold) – Not a great sign…we know we’ll be competing against both variations/versions. Possible, but not great

      2. Quite a few root domains around the same subject but not exact match KW – Really not good…wouldn’t touch this one.

      3. Other AdSense sites, article marketing, etc. with PR around a similar, but different KW – Most likely ok…not great, but might go for it if upside is really strong.

      Hope that helps!

      • Fantastic Justin! Just the information I was looking for. I was looking at some “wrinkle cream” related KWs, but I think I’ll stay away for now. Not looking to get into anything too competitive.

  • Steven says:

    Hey guys,

    I know that a few months ago you switched to LongTailPro. I was just wondering what filters you use with the new program since it doesn’t have quite the same options was MS.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Steven…I don’t know offhand…will have to check it out. Maybe a good idea for a short post?

  • Farhat says:

    I found a niche but writing unique, quality articles quickly is the hurdle I am trying to pass. It is frustrating and I am thinking about outsourcing it so I can find another niche. Here is what to look for in niche high search volume greater than 1000 exact match, CPC above 0.49, 3+ advertisers on google, and finally low competition. After all that, an exact match domain! Easier said than done, I know but good luck.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Hey Farhat,

      Yes, outsourcing the actual writing is something you can start with right away, I think. I agree with your above criteria, but would emphasize the “low competition” part on the first page of Google. We’ll typically find 5 or more that match the criteria above and only ONE that has low competition on the first page. As a general rule, we end up picking around 20% of those that match all of the criteria and THEN meet the “low competition” rule…

  • katep says:

    Anyone else having trouble finding any niche in market samurai based on these criteria? I’ve spent days thinking of fairly obscure phrases and even tried more general ones and i can’t find one yet that meets this criteria. I am wondering if too many people have been doing this and the markets saturated, or maybe the criteria are too specific? There’s got to be a catch…any thoughts? I wonder if its that I’m using Exact vs. Broad?

    • katep says:

      I figured it out…my MS switched back to daily for some reason (I think after I bought the software post trial) where it was on monthly before. Thank goodness!

  • Djlest_uk says:

    I noticed a few things about the research tabs in MS
    you specify phrase to broad should be blank
    but i see in the screenshot its market at 15
    just curious what your thoughts are on PMBM and drilling

    also with SEOValue i know you calculate your own
    Do you leave this one blank too or still use the MS variations?

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Ack…that’s a mistake, I think…should be 15. Honestly, we’re not using MarketSamurai anymore…we’ve had too many problems and it’s not working for us regularly.

      When we were using Market Samurai, SEOC would be variable…sometimes 300K or less, sometimes 500K. Joe and I would sometimes use different numbers there…I would go as high as 800K or less at times.

  • Itu says:

    its interesting that you chose your SEOComp at 200,000. That is one of the delimas that I have been having a problem with. I am finding good keywords, but unfortunatley most of the keywords have a SEOComp of 200,000 competing pages.

    Any Advice?


  • KevinGomes says:

    Is this real? after about half a day of searching i have 42 keywords with 4 seed words. Literally, I am following this step by step and astounded how much easier keyword research is after finding your post.

    • JustinWCooke says:

      Awesome, Kevin, that’s great to hear! We tried to lay it out simply/plainly. Good keyword research is the first step and required for niche sites…or to find anything to rank for, actually.

      Funny thing is we don’t really do any KW research for this blog/site, although we should.

      • KevinGomes says:

        Hey when I export the files, then try to import them, the format is ugly. What program are you using to read your files? I have OpenOffice and google docs but the info comes out all jumbled.

  • brian says:

    have you ever tried something like SEcockpit instead of Market Samurai….market samurai just seems to take forever to sort thru keywords ?

    • Justin says:

      Hey Brian,

      I’ve seen SEcockpit and I remember being impressed with the video I saw, but I haven’t tried it out because, honestly, I hate the learning curve of new tools and felt I had everything I need with MS.

      Depending on how it turns out with MS (and their new monthly paid option) I might have to look elsewhere and SEcockpit would definitely be an option!

  • Halfdan says:

    Allow me to say thanks for all the information just one more time. I’m currently buying a GoDaddy plan with a few domains (through your link, of course) and I’m looking forward to trying all this! 🙂

    • Justin says:

      Wow…GoDaddy affiliate income…sweet! 🙂

      For all of you who do a ton of affiliate marketing…how the hell do you track all of your affiliates, the income you receive, etc? It seems like such a pain if you’re using a bunch of different systems. I see why people stick with Amazon or eBay mostly…it makes it easier to track, I’m guessing!

  • Lemuel says:


    Thanks for the great tutorial. I’m a newbie of niche website and these posts are what I’m looking for.

    Question for you:

    “Total Searches: Checked, 800 (minimum)” is this the “Searches(Exact)” column on MS once you export it?

    And I believe this is Global Monthly Searches from the google keyword tools.

    Thanks for the clarification.

    • Justin says:

      Awesome…great to hear!

      Yes, we’re talking about “Searches (Exact) from Market Samurai. Yes, it’s Global exact monthly searches in the GKT.

      • Lemuel says:


        Thanks for the reply.

        That means we should target the Exact Total searches from MS at least 800?

        I’m starting to use MS and I’m loving it.

        All the best.

        • Justin says:

          Yes…at leat 800…the more the better. If you stick with the 1,000 – 2,500 exact match searches in Market Samurai, you’re more likely to find beatable niches or niches with lower competition on the first page. It’s not a requirement…it’s just that keywords that get that low volume search tend to have sites less optimized for them, if that makes sense.

  • jwcooke says:

    Hello Jay,

    1. The theme is either ProSense Blue or Heatmap Theme, depending on which site you’re looking at…we had similar results with each. We can’t give away CTR, but it’s decent with both themes. No problem with Google, although I think niche specific themes probably provide for a better user experience. We just recently bought CTR theme but haven’t used it yet. We use WooThemes for any of our premium WP needs and it works just great.

    2. Each page on the site has its own specific keyword targeted with the H1 tag being exactly the keyword the page is targeting.

    3. Yes, we deal with a certain amount of leakage, but the outbound links also open in a new tab. We only send those outbound links to really high authority sites as we feel it provides a decent user experience. There’s also an SEO benefit to having outbound links to such authority sites.

  • Jay D says:

    I noticed a few things on the sites your selling:

    1) same theme across all of theme? Any danger of this with google? (not a bad theme by the way – whats the name of it, and whats your CTR like?)

    2) same across all pages – as opposed to using a unique H1 tag for each page ??

    3) links to external pages (such as wiki) … giving the user an easy opportunity to navigate away from you page without clicking an ad link.

    I’d be interested in getting your thoughts, as some of my micro niche sites have these things in common with yours, and Ive often wondered about these issues???


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