Keyword research is one of the most difficult aspects of search engine optimization (SEO). Not only does it require you to sit down and devote hours of your precious time examining charts and statistics (a taxing experience to say the least), but there’s always a dark cloud of doubt hanging over your head once the process is over. Did you manage to get the best keywords for your website? Are there better keywords you might have missed? Could you have mistakenly picked the wrong keywords? All of these are legitimate questions that can keep even the most seasoned webmaster up at night.
The consequences of having the wrong keywords
Getting your keywords right is important. It serves as the foundation of your entire website. Three things could derail the future of your business if you fail in keyword research.
First, implementing keywords that do not have enough monthly searches can lead to poor sales and conversion rates. Your website relies on traffic in order to flourish, and using keywords that are unpopular won’t get you the exposure that you need. Even if you somehow manage to get the top spot for a certain keyword, it won’t do you any good if only a few people are searching for it at any given time.
Second, gaining rank in keywords that have a large amount of competition is so difficult that you’ll be better off spending your time elsewhere. Always check the level of competition when it comes to specific keywords. Failure to do so will lead you down a road where you’ll have to frequently butt heads with more popular and well-established websites, an uphill battle you probably won’t win. It’s safer to avoid that altogether.
Third, keywords that have no relation to your business or niche need to be weeded out entirely. Do not run the risk of including keywords that are so far-out you need to take a few seconds to find even the slightest connection. Furthermore, search engines will notice this discrepancy and will likely penalize you for it.
How to get the best keywords
Now that the detriments of getting the wrong keywords have been established, the next step is to find the right keywords. This is more easily said than done, and you need to be prepared for a great deal of effort. However, these tips will make the process go smoother.
- Become a pirate: The standard maxim of entrepreneurs is “good artists copy, great artists steal”. When applied to SEO, this means taking a peek at the keywords that your competitors use. If you’re lucky enough, most of the legwork would have already been done and all you now need to do is examine the list of keywords and pick out which ones are appropriate. This method is entirely legal (if a bit sneaky) and can be done for free by searching “seo keyword analyzer” and then picking one of the top website tools in the search results that provide you this capability.
- Use Google Adwords: It goes without saying that Google Search is the top search engine today, taking up about 68% of the entire market share by most estimates. Therefore, when it provides a free service that allows you to plan your keywords, you would be crazy not to take full advantage of it. Keyword Planner, a tool under the Google Adwords product, offers detailed statistics on keywords including average monthly searches and level of competition. It allows you to find the best keywords that provide the highest number of visitors for the lowest number of competitors.
- Think specific rather than general: General keywords which are composed of one or two words such as “diet pills” are so oversaturated with market players vying for the top spot that it would be impractical to try to rank high on these searches. Look instead for specific keywords that target a particular locale or service. For example, “diet pills in Argentina” or “diet pills with no side effects” is a much more directed query that no other webmaster might have thought of using yet. Granted, you still need to find out whether the amount of monthly searches for the chosen keyword is adequate for your business to survive, but it is always better to have monopoly over a small number of online customers than trying to carve out a piece of the pie among hundreds of other business owners.
- Don’t be afraid to use paid software: As good as Google’s free services are, SEO experts do not recommend that you rely on them alone. Software packages are now available – some are still free, but most are commercially sold – that really break down the process of finding good keywords into an exact science. Rather than simply telling you how popular a keyword or what the level of competition is, you get more detailed information such as competitors’ keywords, rank changes in domains, optimum keyword suggestions, keywords in foreign languages, and so on. These tools often have a trial period so you can take full advantage of their capabilities before committing any money. Simply search for “best keyword research tool” online and you’ll see some of the top software available for you to peruse.
- Keyword placement: Finding keywords is just the beginning of the struggle. Once you have them, you actually need to integrate them into your content. Haphazardly placing keywords anywhere on your website is not the best way to go; search engines often pay more attention to some parts of a webpage than others, so the keywords need to be placed in these optimum areas to get maximum exposure. Placing keywords in titles, headings, subheadings, and the body of your articles (especially the first and last paragraphs) is recommended. Also, securing a domain name that is a keyword in itself is a huge boost in SEO. If this is not possible, then you should try to put a keyword in your article’s/blog post’s URL.
- Keyword density: Keyword density refers to the number of times a keyword is mentioned in the webpage. This has mostly been discredited by SEO experts; there is no “magic number” that you must abide by when using keywords in your content. However, too much keyword placement will cause search engines to consider your website as spam and lower your rank, while too little is hardly an effective strategy. Rather than trying for a specific percentage of keywords, the best method is to integrate keywords into your articles and posts in the most natural way possible. For instance, if including a keyword would make a sentence sound weird and clunky, then don’t do it. However, if it flows well within the overall structure of your text, then by all means go ahead.
This is just the beginning
Keywords are only one aspect of SEO that you must consider. Search engines are always evolving, and you need to remain vigilant and keep up with the times in order to succeed in your online business. Getting the keywords right from the get-go will help carry you along down the road when unexpected trouble appears and the competition gets stiffer. Take the time to research and integrate keywords properly into your webpages. It won’t be easy, but the rewards are well worth it.
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Greg D. says
For the most part, SEO can be straight forward. The tools that you mention and stuff like that are all relavant just like they were 15 years ago. What has changed is how Google sees it and that is what you have to keep an eye on.
William Keen says
That is what the “new guy” thinks. The basics of SEO is straight forward, but if you want to stand out, you are going to do the best that you can and that will cost you more hard work.
Kevin Doran says
I have been building websites over the last 15 years and so much has changed in regards of SEO. If you cannot keep on top of it, or you make a mistake with wrong keywords, the damage is some times not so easy to fix.
Great article. A lot of people try to mystify the keyword research process into some involved secret formula. The reality is that it’s just a matter of getting some good words and expanding on them. All you need to do is mess around with google keyword tool enough and you’ll get the hang of it.
What I like to do is to start typing in the google search bar something related with my keyword I’m thinking of using and hitting the space bar. This will give me some of the best related long tail keywords associated with my keyword.
Another way to do it would be to use a tool called ubersuggest which is basically the same thing but categorizes the results alphabetically. Then take those results and run it through a paid tool like market samurai or long tail pro. The reason to use a paid tool is that they quantify the competition of that keyword which makes the process so much faster.