I realized that I write a lot about keywords. Or at least I mention them a lot. For example, I’ll often advise using words “people naturally search for” or “terms important to your site” when talking about creating YouTube accounts or writing Web copy. However, picking keywords can be a bit tricky. And if you’re not going after the “right” ones, then it really doesn’t matter how well you do incorporating them into your site. Because you won’t be bringing attracting the right people.
And that’s what keywords are all about. It’s about picking the terms that people are looking for when trying to find companies just like yours. You want to rank for the terms and phrases that are most likely to convert. With that in mind, here are some tips for picking good keywords.
Use Your Brain
Your first step into keyword research should be to make a list of all the terms someone would use to find you. Rack your own brain before you go anywhere else. How would you search for what you do? What terms naturally come to mind? Don’t go for the big dollar terms like “flower” or “dog”. They’ll be very difficult to rank for and won’t covert very well anyway because they’re too generic. Think of both broad and targeted terms. Informational and buying-focused. Get a good mix. Then move one.
Once you have your initial list, trying using keyword research tools to help you narrow it down. Tools give you the chance to “test drive” certain terms before you invest in them. By entering a phrase into Google’s keyword tool, you’ll get valuable insight into the competition for that term, its monthly search traffic (local and global) and related terms that you perhaps hadn’t thought of. For example, though you’d never want to try and rank for [shoe], by entering it into a tool like Wordtracker, you may find promising long tail keywords like [athletic shoes], [converse shoes] or [wholesale shoes]. Make note of how many people are competing for these terms (the competition for advertising is a fairly good metric). This number will tell you how hard it will be to steal rankings for that term.
Below is a list of good keyword research tools to help you get started.
- Google AdWords Keyword Tool (free)
- SEO Book Keyword Research Tool (free)
- Wordtracker (paid)
- Trellian Keyword Discovery tool (paid)
(You may also want to try non conventional tools like Google Suggest, which does an excellent job helping you identify related terms.)
Use Your Site
You may also be able to uncover some hidden keyword gems by digging around your own site. For example, check what phrases users are typing into your site search, what queries they’re using to find you, where they’re abandoning. Use your analytics to collect information about how users are searching and then make changes to your site, as needed. Often, they’re telling you exactly what terms you should be ranking for, you just need to be paying attention to notice. If you’re that local shoe retailer and enough people type in a specific model of shoe, that may be a sign that you should be focusing on that brand more than you are.
Sometimes it’s hard to identify what terms a normal searcher would use to find our site because we’re not “normal” when it comes to our topic. You’re an expert in what you do. The person looking for you isn’t. So it makes sense that they’d use different types of terms to find you. Try asking friends, colleagues, family members or even past customers for help.
Who else can you ask for keyword help? Google! Ever perform a really broad search in Google ["flowers", "pets", "cars", etc] and notice the Related Searches Google populates at the bottom of the page? They’re giving you valuable information about how users search, how terms are clumped together, and what phrases are most popular.
You can also “ask” your competitors by taking a sneak peak at their Meta Keyword tag. What terms are they going after that you forgot? Does their list help jog your memory about another area you can explore? Is it spying? Eh, maybe. But it’s all lying right there on the Internet.
Keyword research is the backbone of any business’ dip into search engine optimization. It’s about identifying the terms people are looking for to find your kind of business or service. Once you know your keywords, you want to find ways to naturally incorporate them into your Web site. Some common places may be in your Title tag, in the alt attributes use for images, anchor text, headings, page names, etc. Good luck!