The Ten Commandments of Keyword Selection

Is your website getting a lot of traffic, but not a lot of sales? Maybe you need to take a look at the keywords you’re using. Praveen Viswanath walks you through keyword selection process, and sums it up with ten keyword selection commandments to help keep you on track.

A term or a phrase used by a searcher to find information on a particular topic is called a “keyword.” “Keyword selection” is the process of scrutinizing different prospective keywords to select the right ones for your campaign. It is the stepping stone to your success in the Web world. Find the right keyword, and you strike gold. Make a mistake, and you’ve just punched yourself in the face.

There are two categories of people interested in keyword selection: those trying to get more website traffic in general, and those trying to get more ‘qualified’ traffic. This article is for the latter type. What is the use, if you have some 10,000 hits a day but the business conversion is just 0.1%? Wouldn’t it be better to have only 1000 visitors with a 30% conversion rate? After all, 300 is better than 10. From here on, whatever we do, our final aim shall be to get more “qualified” traffic.

Keyword Analysis or Keyword Research

We move on with the first step in keyword selection. This is keyword analysis. To start with, we need at least one keyword. So we determine a primary keyword. This should be very specific. If you are trying to sell televisions of some particular model–say Sanyo–use the primary keyword “Sanyo television” instead of “television” alone. In a recent study conducted by one of the major search engines, it was revealed that more than 65% of all searches made use of phrases rather than single words.

Visit the following websites, type in your primary keyword, and get a collection of highly searched related keywords. Look for the top 30 of the collection. Don’t forget to make a note of the count of each keyword. Please note that the count may differ with various websites since the amounts of search traffic they get vary. So take the count results from only a single site.

Now that we have a good collection of keywords, we start taking note of the competition that you have for each keyword. This part is easy. Just search for each keyword enclosed with double quotes in Google and take note of the number of websites shown on the top right corner(you will see something like 1-10 of “the total number” ). We move on to the next step.

The Ten Commandments of Keyword Selection

Keyword in double quotes

The Ten Commandments of Keyword Selection

Overture tool in use

The Ten Commandments of Keyword Selection

Gauging Competition – Google top right section

{mospagebreak title=Keyword Selection}

Now, we set up our selection of 30 keywords, with the amount of competition and the number of searches on a spread sheet. Apply the following formula to each of the keywords to calculate an index which you’ll write next to the corresponding keyword.

The Index = 50*(X+Y)


X= (No: of Search for the particular keyword)/(Maximum number of Search in the list)
Y=1 – (Competition for the particular keyword)/(Maximum Competition in the list)

Just set the formula in a Excel sheet, and you won’t have to take much trouble.

Now we sort the list in descending order by the value of the index. Trim this list to a maximum of 15 keywords with the highest index.

Here I must emphasize a very important point. Don’t always search for  keywords with high traffic and less competition alone. Always discriminate first on the relevance to your site, not potential traffic. Remember what we observed at the beginning: less traffic that buys more product is often better than more traffic that buys far less product.

Let us assume that a person wants to buy a television. Read the mind of your clients. What does he search for? Imagine that he searches using the keyword “television.” The result would be mostly a list of websites featuring major television companies. He may be confused and mostly want to buy a television from a shop near his own geographical location. So next he might search using a keyword phrase with “television” and his geographical location. This time, there is a very good chance that he will find the website of a local shop from where he buys the television. Add such keywords to the top of the list.

Next, find out the spelling mistakes people make. Don’t forget the words which people use to represent the same object in different regions of the world–for example, a “sweater” in the United States is a “jumper” in the United Kingdom. Also ask each of your friends to tell you a few words that they would use to search if they were to buy the products you’re trying to promote on your site. List the additional keywords, and include them in appropriate positions in our previous list. Now we have a list of approximately 25-30 keywords.

If you have competitors, then find out the keywords that have been used in the highest ranked website. Check if you have missed any; I bet you haven’t. In case you have missed, add those words also to your list.

You’ll find Wordtracker very helpful in all of these tasks. Beginners would find it a very helpful tool for the tasks I described above. But it would be nice if you know the basics before you use any tool, because it gives an insight into what is really happening. Also, no tool is perfect. So whatever you do, don’t forget to apply your intelligence and common sense.

{mospagebreak title=Keyword Placement}

Optimize each of your Web pages for not more than 4-5 keywords. Preferably, use the top 5 keywords on the homepage. For a first hand reference, analyze your competitor’s website and take note of the places where he has included his keywords on his Web pages. Try to use the keywords towards the top of the Web page, because this helps in improving the ranking of the page. Following is a list of important locations for putting up your keywords.

  • Title Meta Tags
  • Alt Tags in Pictures that are Links
  • Alt Tags in Pictures that are not Links
  • Anchor Text
  • Header Tag Content
  • Title Tag in Anchor Tags
  • Bold/Italic Tag Content
  • Body Text on top, middle and bottom of page
  • URL/Filenames
  • Meta Keyword Description

An important parameter left to work on in keyword placement is frequency. The optimal range is between 4% to 9%.  At least here, more is not better. Don’t ever cross the 9% frequency limit. You are risking penalties from the major search engines.

The keyword placement process is the most difficult part. It  never ends. You must keep experimenting, and analyzing the results. You might go through a fairly large number of iterations before you achieve the ideal placement.

{mospagebreak title=The Ten Commandments}

  1. Quality is better than quantity.

    Concentrate on grabbing more and more qualified traffic to your website. Qualified traffic implies a higher percentage of visitors to your site are interested in any product or service that you are offering. This will give you a higher number of repeat visitors and more subscribers for the service that you offer.

  2. Be a mind reader.

    Get into the mindset of your clients. What do they search for? What are they interested in? How are they going to act on a particular search result? Sketch out a detailed plan as to how you will use your clients’ thought processes to your benefit. This takes a lot of time and effort, which I am sure you are ready to contribute.

  3. Be specific – don’t beat around the bush.

    Make it very clear what your website is all about. State clearly the intent of your website, and the services that you offer. Visitors shouldn’t be confused when they reach your site, or they’ll leave as quickly as they came.
  4. Phrases are better than words.

    Research proves that the majority of searchers use phrases rather than single words. Using phrases for search implies that users are looking for more focused results. Optimize your pages for commonly used phrases to get more quality traffic.

  5.  Trade off.

    Learn to trade off between various parameters. In the calculations above, we traded off between two important parameters, namely number of searches and competition.

  6. Divide and conquer.

    Don’t try to finish off the big hamburger in a single bite. Distribute your keywords on various pages throughout your website. Focus on only a few keywords on a single page.

  7. Be competitive.

    Don’t sit numb and let things happen. Make things happen.

  8. Follow good ethics.

    On any issue, do only what you think is right. Remember the point I emphasized above, about choosing keywords that are highly relevant, not just ones that have high traffic and little competition. This will both increase the number of qualified visitors to your site and help prevent visitors from feeling deceived. Also be considerate enough to take any suggestions that others may give you–evaluate them and apply them as necessary.

  9. Go by what your elders say.

    Take the experience of your predecessors as a lesson. Don’t just start off in haste because you want to do something. Get to know the experiences of various people, read articles and various forums. Learn your lessons thoroughly; remember, this is an ongoing process.

  10. Practice makes perfect.

    Have patience and don’t worry about needing to do the same things over and over again. You’ll do things better each time.

That’s it! Go forth and get recognized by the search engines–and your customers.

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