Keywords, the Tiny Building Blocks of Search

4 02 2011

I’d like to revisit one of the single most important aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), keyword research. Many of you, I’m sure, are aware that keyword research must be done, but are you doing it correctly? It’s not necessarily about optimizing your website for your industry terms or choosing the most popular keyword; when doing keyword research you need to take a number of things into consideration. I’ll start with these two.

  • The popularity of keyword phrases as compared to similar/relevant phrases
  • The competitiveness of a given keyword

The goal is to better understand which keywords have the highest potential to drive traffic (i.e. people are actually searching them), but have the least amount of competition. To find out the above metrics, utilize Google’s free keyword tool. Here’s an example of what the tool looks like.

For this particular example, I’m examining whether or not “search engine optimization” or “seo” would be a more valuable term to target as a primary keyword (remember, you should only choose one primary keyword that would go in your title tag & header tags). Based on the above data I’d most likely choose “seo” as it shows there are more monthly searches, and less competition. If you’re trying to decide between a few different keywords, this tool can be really beneficial. There are other tools available that can be helpful as well, such as KeywordSpy, Wordtracker, your own Google Analytics/AdWords data and your competition (see what keywords they are targeting in their title/meta/headers/body copy). There are many other tools out there, both paid and free.

Some other things to remember when doing keyword research:

  • Use both singular and plural versions. I tend to lean towards using the plural version as it already contains the singular version within the keyword, so you’re really optimizing for both versions.
  • Don’t forget to include misspellings. If you have a brand name/product that is frequently misspelled, include the misspellings in your meta keywords tag. I know, I know, the meta keywords tag is virtually invisible. It certainly can’t hurt to do this since you don’t want to include the misspellings in your body copy as that would hurt your credibility and make you look sloppy.
  • If you are a localized businesses operating in a specific market, make sure to use geo-modified keywords throughout your site. If someone were searching for a local Portland restaurant, there is a high probably that they will use ‘Portland” in their search query.
  • I mentioned before that you should target one primary keyword per page, but what I didn’t mention is that you should also have supporting keywords. Supporting keywords would be other keywords relevant to the primary, such as a synonym or acronym or maybe the singular version. In the example above, if I chose “SEO” as my primary keyword, I’d want to use “search engine optimization” as a supporting keyword throughout my copy. This will help strengthen the overall theme of the page, and can help it rank for both “SEO” and “search engine optimization”.
  • Be sure you aren’t optimizing your site for internal keywords. This happens a lot with B2B companies. They seem to have their own internal speak that not everyone, especially their customers, can understand. If you’re a B2B company, make sure you are optimizing your site for specific problems as this is how your customers will be searching. The have a problem, which they’ll be seeking the answer to. You have the solution. Optimize your site for the problem, then introduce them to the solution. For example, a search query from a potential customer might be “data recovery assistance”. You should be optimizing your site for “data recovery” related terms so you rank for that term. Once you get the user to your site, then you drive them down a funnel talking about your services or solution that can help them recover their lost data.

As I mentioned before (I’ll state it again as it’s worth repeating), keyword research is the most important aspect of SEO. If you don’t understand what your customers are searching for, or how to find keywords to optimize your site, you’re dead in the water. The above tips and tools should give you a great start for optimizing your site.

I’d love to hear how others go about researching keywords. What’s your process? What’s worked, and what hasn’t?

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One response

17 02 2011
Jeremy C

Great stuff, its hard to find good info that people arent trying to charge you an arm and a leg for…. so thanks for that! Keep it up! *Rss added*

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