Whether you plan to do it yourself or hire a professional, I’m sure you will find that once you are done reading the series you will have a better understanding of how to better target search engines while keeping your visitors happy.
The Importance of Keyword Selection
A common question many people ask is "What keywords should I be targeting for my site?" It is an excellent question to ask because choosing the keywords that you put on your Web site should not be taken lightly. Keyword selection should be considered a major part of your total marketing strategy.
The words that you put on your Web site are eventually going to be indexed by the search engines, unless there is something preventing a spider from crawling your Web site. The textual content on your Web pages is how search engines will classify your Web site and how people will find your Web site when using a search engine.
The most basic idea behind selecting the right keyword is choosing keywords for which people are actually searching. It is important to think like your target audience and not to think like an expert or someone well versed in your profession. Let’s say I have a Web site for a ski resort. Now, I would not target the keywords "ski" or "snowboard." These terms are far too generalized and will have a ton of competing sites.
We are targeting people who want to go skiing. If a term is too general then you will have visitors who are looking for anything related to skiing and snowboarding, not visitors specifically looking to go skiing. People who are looking to go skiing are not typing those keywords in the search box. The type of people who are likely to come to your resort will be searching with keywords that look more like these: "ski resorts," "discount ski vacations" or even select localized terms like "Colorado ski resorts."
You also would not optimize a Web page for a single keyword like "doctor." With all the specialized areas in the medical industry you want to target people searching for specific doctors or specific health problems.
You can apply this idea to any business if you derive your keyword list from the various products or services you offer. If you sell a specific line of a product, or sell a particular manufacturer’s product you may find that people are searching for those terms more than generalized terms. Some specific examples of choosing keywords from a specific line or manufacturer are "Dell laptop computers" or "Harry Winston jewelry."
You should develop your content by focusing on phrases instead of single keywords. When you do this you will be driving people to your Web site who are looking for precisely what you have to offer and you will be avoiding people who are not looking to buy your product or service. Now if you provide your new visitor with exactly what they want, you have a highly motivated potential customer right on your Web site.
I must stress, do not waste a single second of your time optimizing your Web site for keywords for which no one searches. You must perform keyword research on all of your keywords. Your keyword research is going to provide you with important data that will help you decide which keywords you should target. The two most important factors you want to analyze when choosing keywords are the number of times that term has been searched for and the number of competing Web sites that show up in the search engine results for your keyword.
Finding the number of competing Web sites is fairly simple. Just go to your favorite search engine, type in your keyword and see how many sites are returned in the results. Unfortunately, figuring out what the majority of the people are typing into the search box is not as easy to figure out.
Thankfully there are a number of tools, free and paid, available to aid in keyword research. Let’s take a look at those now…..
Keyword Tools – The Keyhole To Free Traffic
Keyword tools allow us to peek into the world of search engine traffic. The greatest benefit keyword tools provide those of us who are searching for the "perfect" keyword is the popularity of the search term. You REALLY need to know if people are searching for the terms you are going to spend a lot of time promoting over the next, oh, three to twelve months (give or take). So how do we go about finding out how many times a keyword has been searched for?
Let’s start with some of the free tools available to us. It goes without saying, but the free tools are quite limited compared to some of the more popular paid keyword tools. But hey, it’s a cost effective way to tell us what we need to know.
The most popular free keyword selector tool is Overture’s Keyword Selector Tool. To use Overture go to http://inventory.overture.com/
When you get there you will see a search box, similar to the picture below.
Enter the phrase you want to learn more about and click the button. You will then be presented with a list of terms that are closely related to your term as well as the number of times that your term was searched for in the previous month. Check out the results for my key phrase – "Colorado ski resorts."
While there are more results returned by the tool than shown here we can see that my example key phrase was searched for 4583 times. I can also start to build my list and try different combinations of words using the suggestions given by the Overture Keyword Selector Tool.
Now I want to check to see how many competitors I am going to have to go up against for the term "Colorado ski resort".
As you can see there are over 1.5 million Web sites already indexed for the term "Colorado ski resorts." This term would be considered highly competitive and more than likely a very tough keyword to use to get into the top 10 results. While I wouldn’t shy away from targeting this keyword in the long term, finding alternative key phrases to target would be much smarter for getting traffic in the short term.
Paid keyword tools are services you pay for that allow you to delve deeper into the keyword statistics. Most get information from their own database of billions of search queries from a number of different search engines around the world. You can use this information to find what people are searching for, which search terms generate the most traffic, and which search terms to target in order to grow your online business.
Two of the more popular keyword research services are Word Tracker and Keyword Discovery. The two services have some unique features that make them different but they both revolve around the same process of starting with a generalized keyword and then searching their databases for terms which are related to your initial keyword. The major difference between the two tools is probably the different "keyword spinners" they have available.
Once these tools find all the keywords that they think are related to your initial keyword, you are presented with a list of keywords from which to choose. In most cases, the first dozen keywords returned are the keywords you will select. The keywords that are lower on the list usually have a low number of searches performed.
A really good feature of the keyword tools is the "keyword spinner" tool. It is used to help you find alternative keywords which you may not think of right away. These tools help you find terms with plural endings, present tense or "ing" at the end, and even misspellings. Now the idea behind spinning the keyword is to give you ideas. You still must find out whether or not people are typing that term into the search box! Many people make the mistake of assuming it is good to use different forms of the word without doing the research first.
After you determine your keywords the tool then applies the Keyword Effectiveness Indicator, or KEI. KEI is a logarithmic scale that aims to quantify the effectiveness of any search term. It is similar in principle to the Richter scale, commonly used to measure earthquakes. The very best keywords have high popularity (as in a large number of searches), but are not very competitive, that is they do not appear on a large number of pages.
So, are keyword tools worth it? In my opinion they are. These tools help you find keywords faster than it would take you to do manually as shown above. That alone is worth the price of admission. There are some really excellent tools and keyword spinners that the paid tools have available but the free tools just don’t. So if you’re a DIY SEO, invest in a keyword tool subscription.
Once you have your list of keywords, it’s time to start preparing to put the words on your Web site. Start reviewing your keyword list and begin to logically break your keywords up into groups of 2 or 3 key phrases. By logically, I mean start thinking about incorporating those words onto one page in ways that make sense to your readers.
In part two, I will show you how to put those keywords to good use within the content of your Web site.