Keyword selection is the very first step in the Search Engine Optimization process. Indeed, it is the most important step. Target the wrong keywords and you will not receive much traffic; and the traffic you do receive will not convert.
If you hope to rank well in organic search, then keyword analysis is a must. Even if your model calls for heavy use of Google Adwords advertising, keywords serve as the cornerstone for that process as well. In this three part series, we will show you how to:
- begin your keyword research (the subject of this article),
- use available keyword tools to select and expand your research (Part II), and
- use the selected keywords in your web pages for maximum affect (Part III).
Tip 1: Before you start this process, set up a spreadsheet to gather all of the data for later analysis.
Overview of the Keyword Analysis and Selection Process:
The keyword selection process can be broken down into the following steps:
- Identify the keywords that customers are using to find you.
- Analyze the keywords on your site.
- Research your competition and find the keywords they are using.
- Refine your list.
- Use keyword tools to find more keywords and gather statistics about your selections Covered in Part II of this series.
- Narrow down your list to a select few.
- Categorize your keyword list and match to individual web pages on your site.
- Use your keyword selections to increase Search Engine Optimization. Covered in Part III.
- Monitor your site to see affects.
Identify the keywords that customers are using to find you:
The first thing that you need to do is make a list of the keywords and keyword phrases that you think your customers are using to find you on the web. This is not as easy as it sounds because most of us think we know how our customers are searching for us, but we really don’t.
Forget about industry jargon and the like; customers do not search that way unless they have intimate knowledge of your industry. But, how can you be sure? Well, the best ways to find out is to ask your customers either through direct conversations or surveys (i.e. on your web page, or email). Another way is to review the web logs from your analytics program and see what keyword or keyword phrases visitors used to get to your site.
Enter your findings into a tab in the spreadsheet workbook you set up for this purpose.
This initial step is important. You need to be sure of how visitors are currently finding you; otherwise, you’ll need to go with your intuition.
Analyze the keywords on your site:
Use Google’s Keyword Tool on your own web pages. This will tell you what Google sees as your keywords. Add any keywords to your list that you didn’t think of in the initial step.
You should be clear on the theme that your website is supposed to have so that all of its pages and the keywords on those pages support the theme.
Research your competition and find the keywords they are using:
Using your initial list of keywords and keyword phrases, enter them into Google, one-by-one, and view the results. Make sure you enclose the keywords in quotation marks for exact search. This will give you better results for the words and or phrases you are looking for. The first 10 to 20 websites that pop up are your main internet competitors for the corresponding keywords.
Copy the URLs of the first 10 to 20 results for each keyword into a separate tab in your workbook. Then, go to each site and view the source code for the applicable web pages. Here’s how to do it:
- Using Google or your favorite web browser, go to your competitor’s site and right click on the page; then select View Page Source from the drop down list.
- Your browser will open the HTML code for that page. What you are looking for is a Meta tag named “Keywords”. This is the HTML code that contains the keyword and keyword phrases that the web page is supposed to be using. This Meta Tag is not as important as it was in the past, but most websites still use it. Here’s what the line looks like:<meta name=”keywords” content=”allergy,arthritis,asthma,…To find this line, you can also use the Edit ⇒ Find function to locate the tag. Now, enter your findings in a separate column next to the corresponding URL in your workbook.
- Load your competitors’ URLs into the Google Keyword Tool as shown in the above section to find additional keywords used in their content that are not in their Meta Tags.
Refine your list:
Review the keywords from your competitors’ sites and add only those you deem appropriate to your initial list. You now should have a decent size keyword list for further review.
Go through each keyword and add common misspellings (i.e. calendar and calander, etc.), words that can be split or combined (i.e. website and web site, etc), plural and singular versions, and local search terms. The idea is to expand your current list to see if optimizing web pages for them makes sense. Delete any keywords that do not fit your website’s theme.
Tip #2: Use Google’s Search Box to find additional related terms you may be able to use.
Additionally, see if you can combine any of the keywords into targeted keyword phrases. Just so you know, most people don’t use only one word when performing a search. They use a combination of two, three or more words. Your job is to find those phrases that have little competition that you can optimize your web pages for, bringing you highly targeted traffic. Targeted traffic means higher conversions.
Tip #3: Use Google’s Wonder Wheel to find even more related search terms.
- After entering your search term into the Google search box, click Google Search.
- Just above the search results on the upper left, click Show Options.
- Review the resulting list on the left and click the Wonder Wheel link toward the bottom. Google will show you, as a graphic wheel with spokes, additional search terms. Click any of the terms and Google opens a new wheel showing related terms. This is the Wonder Wheel for “Calculator”:
The Wonder Wheel is one of the lesser known Google gems. You’ll soon learn how valuable it is.
Use keyword tools:
I will cover this section in Part II. There are many free tools that you can use to analyze keywords. Principally, Web CEO (Free version), Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool, and Wordtracker’s Free Keyword Tool. These tools also identify additional phrases you may have not thought of yet. Keyword tools also show search statistics over time and other important information. Keyword tools help you solidify your selections.
Narrow down your list to a select few:
It is now time to cull your list and reduce it to those keywords and keyword phrases that are most appropriate for your website and that are not as competitive so you can increase your organic search ranking.
Again, I will stress that targeted keyword phrases will give you the better value and this is where you should spend the majority of your time cultivating. Broad phrases such as peas, shoes, boots, calculators, etc are too broad, too competitive to rank highly for, and will bring largely untargeted traffic. Although you will use broad terms in your web copy, you’ll optimize your pages for targeted keyword phrases. Remember, targeted traffic converts visitors to customers more easily.
Categorize your keyword list and match to web pages on your site:
Take your newly refined list and group them by the web page themes in your site. Use a new tab in your spreadsheet for this purpose. Column headings would represent a page in your site; the keywords listed below would be related to that page. At this point, delete any keywords that don’t relate.
Use your keyword selections to increase Search Engine Optimization:
I will cover this in Part III. Now that you have a keyword list matched to each of your web pages, it is time to weave them into your content. Select a few, three to five at most for each page and use them in your header tags, body of content, etc. More in Part III.
Monitor your site to see affects:
Use your web analytics program to monitor your site’s activity. You will not see immediate results. Search Engine Optimization is a continuous process. However, over time you should see your pages ranking higher in the organic search results for your selected keywords and phrases.
Well, there you have it! A blueprint for finding your important keywords and phrases for your site. As mentioned above, this is a continuous process. Keep your spreadsheet documentation for this project; you will be referring to it as you undertake this process again. In my opinion, you should do an in-depth keyword analysis at least once a year.
Next month, we’ll look at how to use a few of the popular Keyword Research Tools.