As highlighted a couple of weeks ago, I have decided that with the growth of the search engine optimization (SEO) industry, it is important to ensure that we don't forget the many newcomers. With many new business owners and webmasters exploring SEO for the first time, this first in a series of articles looks to assist with the basic information needed to start a search engine marketing campaign.

To begin with, I wish to ensure we discuss the importance of a solid foundation. When starting any SEO campaign it is tempting to leap straight in and start changing text. However, like any successful marketing strategy, it is vital to ensure that you know whom your audience is and how to reach them. In the same way traditional advertising agencies survey their demographic audience, search engine marketers must ensure that their SEO campaign targets the correct keywords or search phrases. Target the wrong search phrase and you could end up with great search engine rankings for keywords that have no search requests. A few hours now spent ensuring that the correct search phrases are targeted, can save months of useless optimization.

Brainstorm

When you started your company or developed your products, you no doubt sat down with your friends, relatives and business partners and discussed the needs of your target audience. You would have been foolish to stubbornly press ahead with your products without first testing the market to see if there was a demand. Likewise, when you start out on your SEO campaign it is important to brainstorm search phrases that are likely to bring qualified visitors to your website. Sit down with your co-workers and business partners and discuss which keywords are relevant to the products and services you offer. Compile an initial list of 5-10 search phrases that you feel best represent your company and which you believe people would type into a search engine when trying to find you. Consider the following factors when brainstorming:

  • Is your audience likely to search for industry standard terms or simple layman phrases?

  • Which of your products are in stock? There is no point targeting search phrases that are popular if you don't actually stock that item.

  • Which products have the highest profit margin? If you had just a $0.20 mark-up on a very popular product, could you sell enough online to make a profit? A product that is less searched but has a higher profit margin would be easier to obtain a search engine ranking and would yield higher revenues.

  • Identify your biggest competitors. View competitor websites and see which products they appear to target; which search phrases do they have rankings for?

Make use of any PPC data

Chances are, your decision to begin a SEO campaign is fueled by your desire to reduce costly pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. While reliance on PPC will be reduced with a good SEO campaign, you can make use of your current PPC efforts when researching your search phrases to target. Analyze your PPC keywords and look to see which of them have brought the highest traffic levels, best click through rates and greater sales conversions. It is likely a search phrase that brought successful results through a PPC campaign will be very relevant in your quest to obtain top search engine positioning.

Expanding your Keyword list

Once you have completed your brainstorming and have compiled your list of 5-10 core keywords, it's time to move on and expand that list. A list of 5-10 search phrases will not, as I am sure you will know, bring the amount of search engine traffic needed to make your website successful. However, that list will be a vital tool when determining which phrases to add to the mix. At this point, you need to turn to the search engines themselves and research which search phrases are actually being typed into Google, Yahoo, Bing et al. Fortunately there are some very useful tools you can use to expand your list. The most well known are:

Determining Competition

Once you have identified possible additions to your search phrase list, you must research further to determine if there is a good chance you will achieve your prized top search engine ranking or if the competition for that phrase is already saturated. While it can be tempting to target only search phrases that are very popular and searched hundreds of thousands of times in a single month, you must also consider the likelihood of you being able to obtain a ranking higher enough to capitalize on all of that great traffic. Many, many search terms are so saturated by competitors that it would be highly unlikely that you would achieve a high enough ranking to reward your efforts. Therefore, it is often worthwhile considering those search phrases that may not have quite the same level searches each month, but likewise do not have as many websites targeting that term.

Both WordTracker and WordStream have tools that will help you to determine the competition for your target keyword phrases.

For those of you on a really strict budget, there is an alternative, though not nearly as effective, answer. Enter each identified search phrase at Google, using quotations around the phrase (e.g. "discount computers"). Google will then display the search results for all pages that target that phrase exactly as entered. View under the search box and you will see the number of results Google matched. This number represents the total number of web pages that Google has identified as targeting that exact search phrase. This number represents your competition. Make a note of this number for each of your identified search phrases and pretty soon you will be able to see which of your search phrases have the most competition and which have less competitors and therefore a better chance of obtaining top ranking.

Selecting Your Keywords

By now, you should have an expanded list of search phrases to target, taken from either WordStream or WordTracker. In addition, you should also have a good idea as to the competition for each of those keywords, whether you used the tools provided by them or even using the basic Google method. Now is the time to start selecting the search phrases that will form the foundation for a successful SEO campaign. Ok, deep breath, we're almost there.

When selecting the keywords to target, there are many factors you must take into consideration. You will no doubt have your own unique considerations, but you must also take into account the following:

  • Is the search phrase relevant to your website and the page that you are optimizing?

  • Is there a page within your website that would be particularly suitable for targeting the selected search phrase?

  • How many other websites/web pages would you be competing against?

  • Do you offer competitive pricing for the product or service that relates to the keyword?

  • Will top search engine ranking for the search phrase generate enough revenue for your company?

Arranging Keywords into Themes

Once you have asked yourself the above questions, it will become easy to narrow down your list to the main search phrases that you wish to target. When doing so, remember that you should not try and target every selected search term on your index page. Your index page is the most important page of your website and likely to have the best positioning on the search engines, therefore choose 5-10 search phrases to target here and ensure that they are all closely related. Trying to target "desktop computers" and "dvd players" on your index page will get you top rankings for neither. Instead, identify the pages within your website that target those particular keywords and use those instead. The key to selecting keywords to target for each page is to think of "themes". Each page should ideally target just one theme. This will assist you in making sure the targeted page is relevant to the selected search phrase. In turn, this will not only increase your chances of obtaining top rankings, but also increase your customer sales conversions by bringing the visitor to the most relevant page.

In summary

When researching search phrases and targeting keywords for your SEO campaign, it is important to follow the steps above. Research your industry, talk to your potential customers and make use of the themes within your website. In addition, consider these final tips:

  • Determine the intent of the visitor. Thoroughly research all search terms to ensure that the searcher intended to find your product or service. E.g. reconsider targeting the keyword "DVD" if you store only sells blank DVD discs, the chances are the searcher intended to find DVD movies rather than blank media.

  • Know your industry. You must know your industry and account for any seasonal or other trends. E.g. the search phrase "red roses" will be more popular for Valentines than at Christmas.

  • Look for opportunities. Identify the search phrases that have been untapped by your competitors. Some search terms may have slightly fewer searches, but may have dramatically fewer competitors.

  • Target the right pages. This cannot be stressed enough. Do not try and target every keyword on every page. Identify themes within your website and group relevant search phrases around those pages. You will see much better results
Visit our Keyword Research Tips page for more information on finding the best keywords to improve your search engine rank and attract more customers.




Internet marketing consultant Andy Beal has provided online marketing advice to thousands of companies including, Motorola, NBC, Lowes and Quicken Loans and is a trusted resource for The Washington Post, LA Times, Dow Jones, NPR and CNBC. Andy provides consulting services on search engine optimization, business blogging and online reputation management. Read his blog and request a free consultation at Marketing Pilgrim.








Search Engine Guide > Andy Beal > Search Engine Optimization Basics - Keywords