Keywords, Keywords, Keywords!

Unless your website is in truly desperate straits, the vast majority of its traffic should be coming in through search engines. When a person enters a question or phrase into a search box, they are given a list of results that Google or its competitors think best match the query. Your job as a webmaster is to make sure that you are placed highly enough in these rankings for potential customers to take notice.

Some keyword phrases are more competitive than others, but they also tend to be more lucrative. Keyword research, or discovering which keywords will bring in the best traffic, is one of the biggest determinants of success in SEO.

Image of magnifying glass over an address bar with the word "Keyword" in it. All around are gear icons and various other keyword related visuals like clipboard and folder

Identifying The Right Keywords

It is important to note that keyword research strives to connect with the best traffic, not the most traffic. One million viewers a day aren’t worth the effort if they never translate into some sort of profit, whereas 1000 visitors with a 10 percent conversion rate can provide a healthy living.

The first step in keyword research is to identify your niche. A niche is the main topic of a website or page, such as dog walking or amateur astronomy. As a general rule, it is best to keep a website focused on a single niche, but there are some exceptions. Every page of the site should explore a smaller “sub-niche” topic. Go through each page and write down the essential problem that its content solves, as well as any products being offered. These are the preliminary keyword phrases to research.

Refining Keyword Phrases

Once you have a rough list, it is time to find out what people are actually searching for. Perhaps the most useful application for this is Google’s Keyword Tool, which is geared toward advertisers but still provides valuable insights into how many people are searching for a specific term. The tool itself is simple. Type in the most important words from each phrase. Google then displays related phrases and an estimate of how many times they are searched per month. The competition ratings, from low to high, refer to the cost per click of advertisements.

The best phrases, especially for young websites, are known as long-tail keywords. Where a general keyword such as “chickens” has many domains competing for rankings, a page with a long-tail phrase like “DIY chicken coop plans” is much easier to bring to the top. Even better, it brings in people looking for chicken coop plans, making conversions more likely. Find the most successful phrase and its variants for each item on your list.

Image of a web page with a search box and lines of text under with some keywords highlighted in blue

Ranking for Keywords

Finally, when the keyword research is over, all of the tricks of SEO come into play to bring each page to the search engine’s attention. This is when on-page SEO and back-links are most valuable. The amount of work needed to rank a page depends on the competitiveness of its keywords. Some naturally float to the top, while others need a significant investment of time.

Ongoing Keyword Analysis

The strongest argument for a blog is that it supplies a steady stream of fresh content, and each post may be used to rank a new keyword phrase. The more pages and blog posts a website has, the wider a net it can cast, though there is a limit to the amount Google will index. Another free Google tool of note is Analytics, which can be used to monitor what keywords are driving the most traffic and how visitors interact with the site.

If you are new to Internet marketing, don’t be afraid to experiment. SEO is a long game, and even the most grievous mistakes can be corrected in time. It is, of course, easier to avoid making them in the first place, which is why so many business owners choose to learn and implement their marketing strategies with the help of an expert SEO consultant.

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