This is where most important efforts begins in SEO. It is critical that you research and determine the most important and relevant keywords for your website.
Time spent upfront in this endeavor will reap great rewards later. If you fail to complete this important step, your chance for a top ranking is greatly diminished.
So What Are Keywords?
In the context of the Web, a keyword is a term that a person enters into a search engine to find specific information. Most people enter search phrases that consist of between two and five words. Such phrases may be called search phrases, keyword phrases, query phrases, or just keywords, but they all mean the same thing.
Your most important keywords are those best and most relevant search phrases you want your website to be found for on a search results page in Google. Good keyword phrases are specific and descriptive. It is better to have 100 highly-qualified visitors who find your site listed in Google under a particular search phrase than to have 1,000 visitors who find your site listed under a generic search phrase and then aren’t that interested in what you offer once they get to your site.
Important: Your ultimate objective shouldn’t be just to get lots of traffic to your site from high rankings (although this is important), but instead should be to get a high sales conversion. Having a #1 listing in Google means nothing unless you can convert visitors to your website into satisfied customers or have them at least take a next desired action like filling out a form.
The more targeted and specific your chosen keywords are, the greater the chance that visitors to your site will find what they are looking for. You want a high “click-to-sales” or high “visitors-to-customers” ratio. As such, you need to start thinking like your customers. Determine what it is that they need, what problems they have, and what solutions you can offer to help them.
So how do you determine which keywords are most important and relevant for your website? There are two main methods, as follows:
1. By using an online keyword tools. The gold standards are KeywordDiscovery(http://www.keyworddiscovery.com) and Word Tracker (http://www.wordtracker.com). Do this first and spend time doing it right.
2. By analyzing your website traffic statistics. Do this later over time to validate the results of method 1 and to find new keywords.
Using Keyword Research Tools:
KeywordDiscovery and WordTracker are online keyword research tool that find all possible variations and permutations of search phrases, including synonyms and common misspellings that people have actually entered into search engines to find sites similar to yours. In addition, they will tell you how many people have actually used that particular search term over time. There are no other programs currently available that offer this much information. There are other tools out there, like the Overture or AdWords Keyword Suggestion tools, but they aren’t near as accurate or as robust and are not recommended for this purpose. Indeed, KeywordDiscovery and WordTracker have been the better-kept secrets for increasing relevant, targeted traffic to websites by analyzing the true search habits of people on the Internet.
Until KeywordDiscovery came around, I used WordTracker exclusively. Now I use KeywordDiscovery as my primary keyword tool as it as a larger and more accurate data set than WordTracker, and better export features. However, WordTracker has several unique features not available in KeywordDiscovery. I encourage you to sign up for either one or both. Each costs about $50 per month, which is a pittance for the wealth of data you will receive. I use both of them on a daily basis.
Before you use KeywordDiscovery or WordTracker, you should first brainstorm and make a list of all possible words and phrases that you think a customer may use to find those products, services, or information that you are offering on your site. Don’t include industry jargon, acronyms, or buzzwords that only experts in your industry or marketers would know. Think like your customer. This is an important distinction to keep in mind.
There simply is no better way to research the best keywords to use for your website. You can also use these tools to estimate beforehand how much traffic you can potentially expect to receive so it is an invaluable tool for general business research. Step-by-step use of these tools is beyond the scope of this book. I encourage you to read the manuals and become acquainted with the interface and learn how to use these tools effectively. With that said, here are a few pointers I’ve learned over time.
Pay attention to the word form. See whether the plural form or the singular form of a keyword phrase has a higher Search number. This is important as one form of your word will be more important than another.
Don’t get hung up on KEI. Don’t focus too much on the KEI value that KeywordDiscovery or WordTracker provides for keywords. KEI by itself is a very general indicator of competition. It’s primary value is in identifying some of the "low-hanging" secondary and tertiary search phrases that you should be able to optimize for fairly easily. So if the high-KEI phrase fits your site, you should optimize for it.
Just because a relevant keyword phrase may have a real low KEI number (like 0)doesn’t mean you should ignore it, ESPECIALLY if it is has a high Search value.Don’t be discouraged by a large number of competing pages, you may have less true competition than you think.
Export your results to Excel. KeywordDiscovery and WordTracker allows you to export your research results to Excel, where you can then easily sort (and resort) the data any number of different ways. I highly encourage you to do this.
Both these tools offer you to store keyword Projects online. I find this feature somewhat limiting and typically don’t use them. I’d rather store my data offline on my computer for more advanced manipulation.
Select Overture in Results (WordTracker only). When using WordTracker, I select Google and Overture (bought by Yahoo) in the Competition Search. This is an important feature that WordTracker has. The Overture bid prices are a great indicator of how coveted a given keyword phrase is in the marketplace. Some keyword phrases are so competitive that one can only get traffic from them by going the pay-per-click (PPC) route. The more expensive the keyword in Overture, the more prized it is. By looking at Google and Overture at the same time, it allows you to weigh the Search values against the PPC Bid price for a better determination of the “market value" of a given keyword phrase.
What is your Primary Keyword Phrase?
After using KeywordDiscovery or WordTracker, you should have a great list of keyword phrases. Ideally, you have a single keyword phrase that sticks out from the rest that best represents the category of service, product, or information your website provides. This is your Primary Keyword Phrase and is the one phrase that will be included on all your web pages, particularly on your home page.
In general, this will be your most generic and most competitive phrase, thus it will also be the most difficult to rank well for.
You should also have several other phrases that represent more specific or refined variations to your Primary Keyword Phrase. These phrases will be used on your specific product or service pages.
For example, let’s use a website that sells house plans online:
Primary Keyword Phrase: “house plans”
Specific variations: “country house plans”, “luxury house plans”, “Cape Cod house plans”
Notice how the Primary Keyword Phrase is contained within the more specific phrases? This is the ideal situation.
Do not try to go after very broad, generic keywords or single words. Those days are over, won by those that started the SEO game years ago and those that have deep pockets. Realistically, how difficult do you think it would be to get a top ranking for, say “computers”, “mortgages”, “cars”, “travel”, or “insurance”? You’d be competing with millions of other web pages and with websites that are eons more established. So you go for the niches for your riches.
What are your Secondary Keyword Phrases?
After using KeywordDiscovery or WordTracker, you should have a list of phrases that do not have as high of a search (traffic) number as your Primary Keyword Phrase but are nonetheless also relevant. These are your Secondary Keyword Phrases that, while also highly relevant to your website or business, are not searched on as frequently as your Primary Keyword Phrase.
Using the example above, here are some Secondary Keyword Phrases for “house plans”:
Secondary Keyword Phrases: “home plans”, “home designs”, “house plans”
Secondary Keyword Phrases should also be used on your site, just not as frequently as your Primary Keyword Phrase.
Specialized Keyword Phrases Convert Better
The more specialized or targeted your keyword phrase is, the more targeted your audience, the more qualified the potential traffic, and hence the greater the potential sales conversion rate will be on your site. Do not discount keywords just because KeywordDiscovery or WordTracker shows a low traffic value – singly they may not bring much traffic but collectively they can. A large percentage of search is very targeted and specific using multiple words – this is the vaunted “Long Tail”.
Don’t try to rank highly on one-word and even competitive 2-word phrases – instead try 3, 4 and 5-word phrases. These are MUCH easier to rank well for because the majority of your competitors are all chasing the same generic words and aren’t thinking about digging deeper. One easy way to get more specific is to put a geographic modifier in the keyword phrase (if applicable to you). If you are a veterinarian in Seattle for example, stop trying to optimize for the competitive “veterinary clinics” phrase and instead try for “Seattle veterinary clinics” since your business is confined to that geographical area anyway.
Put another way, focus on depth, not breadth on your site.
General Keyword Strategy
Now that you have your list of best and most important keyword phrases, here is the general strategy of how to use them on your web pages. Exactly how to optimize your use of keywords on your web pages is the subject of the next section.
The general rule of thumb is that you optimize each page for ideally no more than two different keyword phrases.
Each page should include your Primary Keyword Phrase. Your home page should also contain your best Secondary Keyword Phrase. Each product, service, or content page should also contain the best specific variation to your Primary Keyword Phrase.
Because your home page is generally the one that gets the highest ranking, and is linked to most from other sites, you need to place special emphasis on the use of your Primary Keyword Phrase there. Your home page will then link to other pages on your site that contain (and are optimized for) your other, more specific, keyword phrases.
Using the example again for “house plans”, here would be the general strategy:
• Home page: optimize for “house plans” (primary phrase) and “home plans” (best secondary phrase).
• Country House Plans page: optimize for “country house plans” phrase and any other variations, such as “French country house plans”. Note how these phrases already contain the Primary Keyword phrase within them. This is the ideal situation to achieve.
• French Country House Plans page: optimize for “French country house plans”phrase.
• Contact Us page: include the phrase “house plans” several times on the page. This page, along with the other “fluff” pages, are not really relevant for any specific keyword phrase. So use your Primary Keyword Phrase here.
• About Us page: again, include “house plans” phrase several times on the page for the same reason as the Contact Us page.
This example, while being quite general, nonetheless should give you an idea of how to move forward. Now let’s look at how and where to place keywords on your web site correctly.