If you’re planning your first SEO campaign or even starting again because your site isn’t attracting the right kind of traffic then the most important step you can take before you do anything else is to make sure you’ve done some well thought out and well managed keyword research. Get it wrong, by targeting the wrong keywords (or the expensive ones) for your niche and you’ll find yourself collecting high ranking but meaningless search terms. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing keyword research for SEO, PPC or a finely tuned combination of the two, if you choose the wrong keywords you’ll be wasting both your money and your time.
This article will show you how to both research and then choose the optimum keywords for your website and for your overall marketing strategy. There are numerous tools out there that you can find and use to help you choose those keywords, some of the paid for, some free, but before you look into those tools, take twenty minutes to do one little thing. Take a paper and pen and give yourself half an hour to sit and write down all the phrases and keywords that you would most likely use if you were searching for a site that is similar to yours. Then repeat the same step for one of your competitor’s sites. After you’ve done this, try one further thing that most people don’t do. Rather than collecting data just from your own habits or even the habits of your peers who will probably be just as tech savvy as you are, ask your parents or grandparents if they would sit down and search for a site like hers. Write down the exact phrases and terms that they use and you’ll soon have a far more exhaustive and wider set of results. I do this all of the time on several sites I work on, including one on umbrella companies, and it always works out well.
After you’ve done that, try using one of the many keyword research tools available on the Internet. There are too many to list here, many of which are free but some popular tools include Hypertracker, Keyword Spy, Good Keywords and Google Adwords.
After you’ve compiled a full and complete list it is important to try and trim it a little. Start by taking out generic phases or words like ‘dvd’s’ or ‘books’. Words such as these are impossible to compete for and you will have no chance of sending any traffic from them to your website. Instead, focus on words that are precise, relevant and will lead to customers with an intent to buy stuff being driven to your website, such as ‘gardening books’ or ‘skiing dvd’s’. Similarly if you are trying to advertise your services as a lawyer, don’t even bother trying to achieve rankings for law or lawyer. Rather, concentrate on terms that focus in on the specific products or services that you are offering, such as ‘divorce law’ or ‘criminal lawyer in Manchester.’
One way to judge whether search terms are worth using is by utilizing research tools to see how many of your competitors and other sites are competing for that phrase or word and look at how strong those sites are in the rankings. Compare the word or phrase against the sites using it and judge whether you should use it. In addition, compare your list of search terms and phrases with those of your competitors. Check if there are any terms that you might have missed or any niches where they are not so strong and you know you could be. Lastly, using both your list and your competitor’s list, make a final selection of words that consists of both targeted keywords and wider and more general search phrases. These more general or broad terms might not do too much when it comes to rankings but they give some good natural descriptive terms to the search engines and may help to raise you visitor numbers. On the other hand your targeted terms should serve to bring you that quality traffic which leads to conversions.
One last thing. Keyword research is an evolving art and what works for you one year might not work the next. Try and repeat the whole process every few months in order to keep up with the latest search phrases and the phrases that your competitors are using.
Guest Bio: Alex is a blogger and seo consultant. He currently writes a blog for the Bedouin Group on finance and the contracting sector, covering mortgages and other topics.