Keyword Research: Don’t forget the obvious!

While there certainly are effective keyword research tools to use when trying to develop an effective and appropriate keyword list for your website, it is critical to perform research beyond these specific Internet tools in order to be most effective.

You will first need to develop a basic list of keywords that you think are “obvious”. In other words, if you sell cars, you would create a list of words like “cars, automobiles, trucks, car sales, etc.” But, beyond the obvious are terms like “trade-in value, car repair, foreign car reliability, etc.” It is critical to think “outside the box” when approaching your keyword list.

Sometimes, we forget to look in the most obvious places when trying to develop our keywords. For instance, a thesaurus can be an incredibly useful resource when trying to generate an effective list of keywords.

A thesaurus, while limited in its capabilities, does provide the ability to find multiple synonyms for the keywords that you think might be appropriate to employ. Rather than depend on your own limitations, take the time to research synonyms that you may not have otherwise thought of.

You may also want to take a look at the competition. Your competitors will most likely provide you with some of the best keywords out there. Be careful not to directly copy their approach, as this won’t do you any good when trying to top the rankings within your industry, but researching competitors keywords can be a great launching pad as you develop your keyword list and implement an effective, competitive SEO campaign.

Finally, beyond the thesaurus, competition analysis and keyword research tools, you must be strategic. You must invest time and energy into carefully selecting keywords that are realistic to top and will be most effective for targeting your audience.

Think like a customer, not a business owner. You may want to ask family, friends, peers and colleagues, even customers, what they might search for when looking for your business services and/or products. They may come up with very different keywords than you ever would have on your own. Sometimes it can be difficult to step outside of your own thoughts about your business because you eat, sleep and breathe what you do. But what others have to say in terms of keywords is usually much more useful and effective than anything you could ever think of.

Also, think like a search engine, not a website owner. While keywords are subjective, they must also be technically strategic. A search engine, although wise, is not a human. So make sure you are aware of current rankings, popularity of search terms and attainability of keywords. This is where those keyword research tools really do come in handy.

And finally, manage your keyword and SEO efforts on a weekly, if not daily basis. Keywords are like children. They require constant care, management and direction. So take your SEO efforts into your own hands and make sure your keywords are effective and working for you as well. You must be committed to this process if you want it to succeed.

Keyword Density

Keyword density is the amount of times keywords appear in your website content. Too high, and your keyword density has the ability to hurt your search engine rankings. But too low, and your keyword density will have an equally detrimental affect.

The key to keyword density is to attain a delicate balance of valuable content with keywords carefully, creatively and casually woven throughout in order to maximize your SEO efforts while maintaining a high level of legitimacy and quality for your customers and site visitors.

A good rate to shoot for when trying to achieve a perfect balance of keyword density is to ensure that roughly 3% to 5% of your website content is driven by keywords. Any less than that and your ranking may fall. Any more than that, and your site may be flagged.

So, how exactly do you tackle this keyword balancing act? Let’s take a look at an example of a sentence that effectively and casually applies a keyword (“website design”) as part of website content:

Our firm specializes in quality website design with a focus on branding, SEO and customer acquisition.”

As you can see, the keyword is inserted without force and offers substance. Now, let’s take a look at a poor attempt to include a keyword within website content:

Our website design firm specializes in quality website design with a focus on branding, SEO and customer acquisition for website design.”

The keyword is clearly forced, is not easy to read, and will most likely be flagged by search engines and what they consider to be “keyword loading”. In other words, the search engines “think” that you may not be a legitimate business and are only out to acquire site visitors rather than actual customers. This will not serve you well.

Trying to weave keywords into your site content in an organic way can be a difficult process. A good way to do this is to actually write each page first without trying to consciously include your keywords. Then, once you have a draft complete, go back and review the content and see if and how many times your keywords appear. You may be surprised at how often you actually use your keywords in a natural way. If not, then look for opportunities to insert your keywords in places where they will appear natural, even if they weren’t.

For example, let’s say you need to insert the keyword “website development” into the following sentence:

Our firm specializes in quality website design with a focus on branding, SEO and customer acquisition.”

You might consider adding your keyword in the following way:

Our firm specializes in quality website design and website development with a focus on branding, SEO and customer acquisition.”

Not all instances are this cut and dry, but if you are creative and can take some time to think outside the box, you can and will become an expert at keyword density, and just how little and how often to make it work. Remember, balance is “key”.

The #1 mistake to avoid with keywords

The difference between a good website and a great one is the proper use and execution of effective SEO techniques, in particular the implementation of keywords. Keywords are the very heart of the Internet and are what keeps it alive and well. Without them, your website… and your entire online business… are sure to die.

I am about to share with you the #1 mistake most people make when approaching keywords: They take a quick fix approach.

It’s that simple. Too often, people spend less than 20 minutes developing their list of keywords and move on. This is the most common and most detrimental mistake you can make! In fact, developing your list is the most critical part of your keyword SEO efforts. This quick list should only be the very beginning of your work. What follows should be extensive research into the popularity of these keywords, how realistic they are to top, and what other related terms might work for you as well.

Now, this is not to diminish the importance of that original keyword list that you develop. However, while some of those keywords will in fact be critical keywords, some may not work at all. That is why you will need to employ a keyword research tool (like Google, WordTracker, etc.) in order to truly understand how these words may or may not be right for you.

If you are a large business with multiple locations and already have an established brand, you may be successful going after more broad keywords. But if you are small, start-up, then you will have to focus your efforts on a niche. Anything in between takes careful planning and a strong balance of both broad and specific keyword phrase combinations to truly target your audience.

Developing An Effective Keyword List

When considering the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the success of your website often depends on it. That is why it takes crucial planning and careful execution of the best, most appropriate keywords in order to improve your ranking and effectively capture the attention of your target market.

Coming up with a list of the perfect keywords, or combination of words, takes time. Some website owners often think this is the easiest step in the SEO process. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, this step should be the most difficult. Why? Because, sure anyone can come up with a list of keywords related to your business. But not everyone knows exactly what your customers are looking for.

When creating your list of keywords, you have to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and actually think like them, rather than try to sell to them. In other words, as a business owner, you may have a tendency to use buzzwords (like “niche” or “conversion”). But your customers may not be as familiar with those terms, or simply apply more commonly used words to the same concepts (like “group” or “sales”).

The trick is to come up with a list of keywords that not only apply to your business, but actually work. You may start with a list of 100 words, but in order to drive customers to your site, you will have to cut it down. A great tip is to take a look at some competitors’ sites. Try to get a feel for what keywords they are focusing on and how you might be able to improve upon and top them.

And don’t limit yourself to single keywords. SEO is about the recognition of single and mutli-word phrases. For example, if you are in the telecommunications business, you wouldn’t only optimize for words like “calling”, “telephone” or “wireless”. Instead, you might focus on keyword phrases like “call centers”, “wireless communication” or “home telephone services”.

The good news is, you won’t be alone in your SEO efforts. There are many useful tools available to help you develop the best, most effective and easy to rank keywords possible. Google, in particular, provides a tool that allows you to research how often keywords are searched. What you want to avoid are keywords that impossible to top.

For example, a very broad word like “cellphone” is searched over 2.2 Million times a month (according to Google AdWords keyword tool). This makes it nearly impossible for your site to come up within the first few pages of a search engine because the competition is so fierce. But a phrase like “cellphone service” is searched 14,800 times a month, making it easier to compete for a high ranking spot. Therefore, if you are in the cellphone industry, be it sales, service, accessories or otherwise, you will want to optimize for phrases and keywords that are searched often but not so often you lose your ability to be found.

Top 3 Keyword Research Tools

You don’t have to tackle the big, bad, SEO monster all alone. There are a number of useful tools available to you when it comes to brainstorming what keywords to use, as well as how well your chosen keywords are performing for you. These tools allow you to research potential keywords, find additional keywords that may work for you, and finally, keep track of the keywords you choose to implement.

Let’s take a look at the three most popular keyword research tools available for you to use on the internet:

#3 Wordtracker

Wordtracker claims to “save you hundreds of hours on research” by allowing users to look up common keywords and keyword phrases and tracking their activity. While this is a useful service, it pales in comparison to the power of others.

#2 WordStream

WordStream not only offers a keyword research tool, but they offer additional services and complimentary tools that will help ramp up your SEO efforts. While much of their offerings are not free, they do provide helpful SEO services that many other keyword research tools do not.

#1 Google AdWords

Not only is Google AdWords free, but it is quite possibly the best and most powerful tool available to website owners and internet marketers. While every search engine is a force to be reckoned with, Google is the end all, be all of SEO. As a search engine, Google is smarter, faster and more reliable than any other search engine there is. And therefore, it’s keyword research tool is equally as powerful.

Don’t forget – you can always try Market Samurai for free. I would suggest downloading it and watching a few of the training videos. About an hour of your time can get you access to comparing where you rank against your competitors and what keywords are GOLDEN! Get Market Samurai today!

What are long tail keywords?

Long tail keywords are simply expansions of basic or more generic keywords. Long tails may include a variety of combinations of keywords or keyword phrases, but are always extremely specific. In other words, they are the keywords and phrases people use to search for your business and/or products when they know exactly what they are looking for.

For example, a basic keyword phrase may be “organic cooking” while a long tail extension of this keyword phrase may be “organic cooking lessons in Rochester, NY” or “organic cooking for vegetarians” or “organic cooking made easy”.

The good news about optimizing for long tail keywords is that 1, they are much easier to rank for and 2, you are far more likely to see an increased conversion rate among long tails because customers searching for such specific keywords know what they want and are looking to buy it.

When using long tail keywords, it is also critical to assign a unique topic to each page of your website. Unique page titles make it easier for search engines to find and rank you, as well as trust the legitimacy of your site. So, while one page may contain the title and long tail keyword of “organic cooking for beginners” other pages might have titles and topics such as “recipes for organic cooking”, “why choose organic cooking” and “cooking organically for my family”.

As you can probably imagine, many people might search each of these long tails for various reasons. By anticipating these searches, you will put yourself ahead of the game and at the “top” of the charts.

Performing and Applying Keyword Research

Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). That is why it is so important to perform critical research before you formulate your list of keywords. Then you must apply and continually manage those keywords in order for your SEO efforts to really make a difference.

Create an initial list.

Before you actually begin the SEO process, try to first come up with an initial list of keywords that you think you may want to go after. These should include obvious keywords that are most relevant to your business and words and/or phrases that pertain to your industry.

Find out with how well your site is currently ranking.

There are a number of valuable tools available on the Internet that allow you to find out how well your site is ranking. You can find out where your site current falls within searches as well as which keywords are allowing your site to rank. If you are already ranking for particular keywords, start with a focus on improving your rank with those. However, don’t limit yourself. You will probably need to optimize for new, additional keywords in order to truly improve your rankings.

Use a keyword suggestion tool.

While you don’t want to conclude your keyword list with hundreds of words that are unattainable and unrealistic to top, keyword suggestion tools can be extremely helpful in the creation of your list. They are a great way to also discover keywords and phrases you may not have thought of. Google and Wordtracker are the most popular tools, but others are available. However, be aware that not all keyword research and suggestion tools are free.

Finalize and prioritize your keyword list.

Once you finalize your list of keywords, you will want to prioritize that list. Begin by assigning a priority percentage to each keyword, with the most relevant keyword having the highest percentage to the least relevant keyword with the lowest percentage. Think of it this way: What percentage of customers is searching for each particular word? Are 100% of your customers searching for any particular keyword? Probably not. Just use common sense.

Your list of keywords should be ever-changing.

Once you go live with your new SEO efforts, you will want to keep a close eye on how well your new keywords are performing. Which keywords are being searched the most and generating the most traffic? Which keywords are performing as expected? Which keywords are exceeding your expectations? Which keywords are not doing as well as you expected? Pay attention to trends, good and bad, and revise as often as necessary without harming your efforts that are working.

SEO, especially successful SEO, takes time. It takes patience and most importantly, it requires a lot of attention. But ultimately, it will pay off if you not only keep up with it, but truly invest your time and energy into making it the best it can be.

Use Keyword Generators Sparingly

Of course it is helpful to use a keyword generation tool to help you complete your keyword list. Not only will it help you round out your list with keywords and phrases you may not have thought of, but it also gives you ideas on what others may be searching around your topic.

Take the keyword “copywriting” as an example. A copywriter might think of obvious keywords to optimize for, like “copywriter” and “copywriting” but may not think to optimize for “copy writer” and “copy writing”. Believe it or not, people often search for products and services by using common misspellings and because they are misspelled so often, the search engines recognize them as actual searches. This requires creativity and know-how on your part.

So, for these reasons and more, keyword generators can be and are very useful tools. However, they are not meant to do your SEO work for you. In other words, they are there for guidance and word generation. They are not meant to serve as keyword managers nor do they have the ability to create entire SEO campaigns for your business.

Only you can create the best, most effective list of keywords for your website and it should be completely unique. Why? Because your business, although it may be one of many in its field, is one of a kind. Therefore, you should optimize it as such. After all, that is what sets you apart and will continue to set you apart as you gain new customers from well planned and effectively executed keyword optimization.

How to put your keywords to work

We all know what keywords are, how to find them and why they are important. But are you sure how to use them? Here are a few ways that you can apply keywords to your site in order to make them work for you and improve your ranking.

Optimize your content. Keywords will only be helpful to you if they appear organically within your site content. What does that mean? It means they must be part of your copy without seeming forced or out of place.

For example: Take the keyword phrase “terrible twos”.

Organic – “The terrible twos can be extremely difficult to manage.”

Inorganic – “A difficult toddler who has the terrible twos might be in the terrible twos stage.”

Believe it or not, search engines (particularly Google) are smart enough to recognize content that is inorganically loaded with keywords. Weaving keywords throughout your website content takes time, expertise and strong writing skills. If you are not equipped to do this, consider hiring a professional copywriter who is well versed in SEO and able to write quality keyword-driven content for your site.

Meta Tags. Meta tags are the information that is included in the header of your website on each page. Viewers to your website can not see meta tags, but they can be viewed in HTML. They provide information to browsers as well as search engines which ultimately impacts your rankings. If your meta tags are named correctly, they will help with your SEO efforts.

Meta keyword tags should always: include keywords that you have specifically chosen to optimize; be separated by commas, not spaces; only appear once; and are frequently updated and continually managed.

While keywords can be put to use in many ways, content and meta tags are a great place to start. Conquering these two aspects of keyword SEO is an essential piece to the puzzle and will help to ensure your SEO campaign is a success.

Keyword Research Check

Update your keywords. Search for your keywords and see where your website ranks. Record these results in your spreadsheet.

I use Market Samurai to help guide me with what keywords are being used in the search engines. There is a free trial that you can use. Make sure you watch the videos for the step-by-step and this will give you the results you are looking for.