Choosing and Researching Keywords, concluded

You’ve brainstormed a ton of keywords for your website, and you’ve started using some online tools to help determine which ones to use. What factors do you use for making the “final” selection of keywords to use? And once you have selected them, how do you use them in your website? This article will help you answer these questions.

Before I dive into this subject, let me recap from my previous article about choosing and researching keywords for your website. You learned that keywords are important because they are what searchers put into search engines to find the information they want. If you choose your keywords wisely, you will show up high in the search engine results pages (SERPs); if you do not, you’ll show up buried on one of the later pages that searchers never check.

Next, I mentioned four steps involved in choosing good keywords for your website: collecting initial keyword ideas; checking keyword research tools; selecting your keywords; and performing analytics. I explained each one very briefly, then went into greater detail about brainstorming your initial choice of keywords. I also began discussing the use of keyword research tools, mentioning Google’s Keyword Sandbox, Overture, and WordTracker.

In this article, I will continue talking about tools to use for keyword selection. In particular, I will cover some of the caveats to keep in mind when using these tools. I will also cover, to some degree, ways to calculate the potential performance of your keywords. Finally, I’ll approach the issue of analytics, or tracking your performance on your chosen keywords.

Additionally, in an area that really belongs right in between making that selection of keywords to use for your website and checking their performance, I’ll discuss what to do with all those lovely keywords once you have chosen them. Please keep in mind, when you read that part of this article, that those are only suggestions. Search engine algorithms change, usually in an attempt to keep ahead of “spammers” who will stop at nothing to get their website a top spot in the SERPs. Practices that may have been fine and/or widely used a few years ago can send you to the bottom of the SERPs (or even get your site banned) today. The pace of change has been accelerating, and I highly recommend that you regularly check a forum such as SEO Chat, where other SEO professionals discuss their efforts and what results they obtain. Such forums are very educational; you might save yourself a lot a pain.

In my previous article, I mentioned WordTracker and Overture as highly useful tools for researching keyword data. Please keep in mind that they will tell you relative keyword data. This alone is useful, but it is not the full story. They can be highly inaccurate when compared to the actual number of searches performed for particular keywords. In other words, the tools will help you to select which terms to target, but they won’t help you accurately predict the amount of traffic you can achieve from using those keywords. For that information, you can use programs from Google’s AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing.

WordTracker and Overture also have other limitations of which you need to be aware. WordTracker separates terms and phrases by capitalization, plurality and word ordering. Overture, however, does not. For example, WordTracker might show different numbers for the phrases “car loans,” “Car Loans,” “car loan” and “cars Loan,” but Overture would see no difference between all these phrase and lump them all together.  Plurals do sometimes deliver different results in the search engines. Changes in word ordering also deliver different results. But capitalization, or its lack, is much less important; most search engines don’t take notice of capitalization.

Incidentally, Overture has also been known to lump in misspellings. If that seems peculiar, remember that Overture is a paid search engine. An advertiser bidding on a term will show up not only on the term itself, but its misspellings. This may be great for PPC marketing on Overture, but you can see why you wouldn’t want to base your entire SEO campaign on these results.

There is a small caveat to using WordTracker, as well. In the previous article, I mentioned WordTracker’s Keyword Effectiveness Index, or KEI. WordTracker says that “Good keywords to target have a KEI of between 10-100. These are good value bets and you have a good to medium chance of reaching the top. Between 100-400 are your best bets and anything above 400+ is a gift!” This isn’t always true, however. Search engine optimizer Gerard Manning used WordTracker’s KEI formula on the word “Microsoft,” and came up with a KEI of 61047.484. So Microsoft should be a great word to use, right? Well, given that Google finds that term on 720 million sites, I’d say there is far too much competition to consider that a good term.

Given those caveats, however, there is a three-step technique that some people have found works fairly well for both generating keywords and focusing in on which ones to use. The first step is to go to the Google Keyword Sandbox, described in the previous article, to generate keywords. Then, go to the Overture Term Suggestion Tool to see how many people are entering those keywords into Overture. Keep the caveats about Overture mentioned in the previous section in mind.

Finally, after you have gathered your list of keywords, go back to Google — but this time, go to the home page. Search on your keywords, and see how many sites are listed for them. You are aiming for keywords that are frequently used by your target audience, but do not have many competing pages. This way, you will have a better conversion rate. This technique is not as sophisticated as using WordTracker, but it has the advantage of being free. (I would still strongly recommend that you give WordTracker a try; even the free trial provides you with some powerful information).

I’d like to emphasize how important it is to target the right terms. There are a number of factors that need to be weighed when choosing keywords to target. One is the conversion rate, or the percentage of users who search with those keywords that convert (i.e. click an ad, make a purchase, and so on). Sometimes someone who types in a more specific set of keywords is more likely to buy than someone who uses a less specific set, because they’ve already done their research and just want to know where they can purchase it (and for how much). A second factor is how many searchers will be using those keywords this month.

A third factor, described as “value per customer,” is the average amount of revenue earned per customer using the keyword to search. For instance, someone searching on the phrase “men’s suit” may be less likely to buy a suit than someone doing a more specific search, such as “Hugo Boss men’s suit.” Finally, the fourth factor is keyword competition, which is a measurement of the competitive environment surrounding that keyword. Issues that affect keyword competition include the number of competing sites, the strength of those competitors’ links, and the financial motivation to be in the particular sector those keywords represent.

Once you have your keywords and key phrases, you need to start using them in your site. So how do you use them? First, keep in mind the caveats that I mentioned in the first section of this article about search engine algorithms changing on a regular basis. Be that as it may, here is where it would be a good idea to have an experienced copywriter lend a hand, though you can certainly do it yourself. After all, you’re an expert on your own business, right?

One prime place to put your keywords is in your website’s content. For this to work, you need to write a message that makes an emotional connection with your target audience, promote your product and/or service, and include the necessary keywords. On top of all that, it should sound as natural as possible to keep your potential customers on the site! Good places within your site’s copy for keywords currently include the very top of your page (above your logo), the headline, sub headlines, the first paragraph, and the last paragraph. Note that search engines will be looking for exact keywords, not close matches (though artificial intelligence on this point is getting better all the time).

Keywords should also go in your meta tags. If you use a site design program, look for the tab that takes you to the HTML code and click on it. There will be a space for you to type in the site title. If one of your keywords is “juggling equipment,” you could type into this space “juggling equipment for all levels from beginning to advanced jugglers.” Note that this phrase doesn’t include the name of the business, but it does provide a short description.

Other meta tags you will see are for keyword and description tags. For the keyword tag, you might type in “juggling balls, juggling equipment, juggling books, juggling lessons,” or whatever you decided was appropriate. For the site description, you’ll want to sum up your business in 25 words or less, including your most important keywords.

Interestingly, you can use a different site title, description, and keywords for each individual page if you want to. You might want to, because that will give you a way to track which keywords are performing better by how many hits your pages get.

You can also put keywords in your ALT tags to good effect. For example, if your site includes a picture of a young person juggling clubs, you could include an AL tag that says “juggling lessons for all ages,” a phrase which includes one of your key phrases. Remember, spiders read your ALT tags just like they read your meta tags, so this is a way to raise your position in the SERPs.

Keywords also belong in your domain name and page names. Even if you really think you should have your business name as your domain name, there’s no reason you can’t try to get a domain name that also includes your best keyword. How about “www.magic-maven-juggling-supplies.com”? You might title separate pages with other keywords, especially if you have set them up to describe particular supplies or services, such as “juggling-balls” or “juggling-lessons.” Then you would have pages that look like “www.magic-maven-juggling-supplies.com/juggling-balls.html.”

Once you have your site set up, you can use an online tool such as Google Analytics to keep track of your visitors and the performance of your keywords. Do not expect that your first time setting up keywords for your website will be your last time. After you have enough performance data, you will probably want to change and adjust your keywords based on the new information and further refining your keyword research.

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