Everyone knows what the “perfect” keyword looks like: thousands of monthly searches with only a handful of sites actually competing on the term. Unfortunately, that ratio can be hard to find, and it’s no good to you unless the keyword is related to your site topic. So how do you separate the good keywords from the bad?

This post provides a few tips on how to do effective keywords research analysis.

Keyword Research Analysis: Website Traffic’s Golden Ratio

The key to increasing your website rankings is to target the ratio of monthly searches to competition.

It seems obvious, something akin to the Wall St adage: “buy low and sell high,” but how do you tell if a keyword’s competition is ripe for the picking?

One misconception is that you want to look at the total number of results for a keyword. Unfortunately, when you search for a term Google inevitably comes up with millions of results. A few thousand search a month doesn’t seem worth it when you’re competing against millions of pages, so you’re better off targeting the higher search terms anyway, right?

No. The trick is to look at the quoted search result, or QSR. You’ll find that for most phrases, the QSR result (that’s the result if you type a phrase into Google surrounded by quotes) will be only a few hundred exact matches. Obviously this isn’t your entire competition, but it’s a good starting point.

When you’re searching for QSR, you have to watch out for prepositions and easily ignored words, such as ‘the’, ‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘of’ as Google will commonly ignore these words regardless of an exact match.

In general, I look for a Monthly Search to QSR ratio greater than 1. However, my ideal keywords have a QSR under 300 pages and total monthly searches of a minimum of 50, but ideally above 100.

For example, a keyword that has 160 monthly searches and a QSR of 112 is an ok keyword, but not an optimal match. I would probably write down the keyword in a list of topics that I might eventually write on, but would not prioritize it. A phrase that has 125 QSR competition with a monthly search volume of 260, on the other hand, looks very attractive, because there are relatively few competitors in relation to the potential payout.

On the other hand,even if a keyword has very few exact matches, say 8, but the monthly search total is only 32, I will usually ignore this keyword despite the fact that the ration of 32:8 is 4. This is because the effort required to write an article for that keyword does not, in my mind, provide a good opportunity for a profitable ROI.

Finally, there’s the example of a keyword that has a lot of searches, let’s say well over a thousand. Even though the potential “payout” of this keyword is quite high – ranking on the first page of Google will certainly yield a lot of hits to my site – these keywords are usually fairly competitive. Even if the golden ration is over 2 (1000 searches to 400 QSR, for example), the amount of competition for the keyword is strong enough to discourage me from targeting it, unless I already have a very high-performing site.

I know that understanding keywords can be a complex topic, and I hope that this helps you understand a few techniques I use when I’m trying to decide how to find keywords for a website.