With all the talk about blogging and social media lately, you'd think there was nothing left to do in the world of search engine optimization. I'm guilty of tunnel vision myself. After all, social media is far more fun to talk about than title tags, keyword selection and canonical issues. That said, sometimes the best way to give your site a boost is to go back to basics. Whether it's a refresher or your first shot at optimizing your site, here's a trip down content revitalization lane.

Step 1: Pick the Right Keywords

When you're talking organic search, it's hard to argue that choice of keywords is the single most important factor in a successful search engine optimization campaign. (Yes, yes, I know...everyone thinks links are most important, but if those links are helping you rank for the wrong keywords, it won't do a lick for you.)

Selecting your keywords isn't simply about making random guesses and popping a few words in your title tag. It should be one of the foundational elements of any search engine optimization campaign. The keywords you aim to rank for define the type of traffic a successful campaign will eventually send to your site. Aim for too broad a phrase and you'll have trouble ranking well and will end up with traffic that doesn't convert. Aim too specific and you'll get good quality traffic, but not enough to keep you going.

That's why it's essential to understand the keyword buying cycle. (The process of refining a search over time to reflect the move from researching to being ready to buy.) It's also essential to tap into a keyword research tool so you can find out what phrases people are actually using when they search. Time and time again I've seen companies be surprised at what people are really searching for.

For a super general example, I ran a quick search on the phrase "cakes" and built the following list. (Your list should be quite a bit larger, but the concept is the same.)


Now, you may be reading this and thinking "but I've already done my keyword research." Well sure, but how long has it been? Did you put up a site a few years ago and haven't thought a thing about your keywords since then? If so, how do you know you aren't missing out on new traffic from new keywords? Remember, the way people search changes over time. If you haven't done keyword research in the last six months, I'd suggest taking an afternoon to see if your keywords and phrases are still current.

Keyword research can also give you the kick in the tail to add new areas of focus to your web site. Maybe you've been thinking of expanding your business, maybe you'd like to take your blog in a new direction. Keyword research can be a great way to dictate which direction you head. After all, if you stumble upon a topic with a lot of searching and not much competition, you're gold!

Step 2: Divide Keywords into Groups

Once you've built your list of new keywords and phrases to target, you'll need to sort those phrases out into groups so you can come up with a content plan. The best way to do this is to break your list down by topic, like so:


Now you can see what started as one big list turning into some distinctive content areas. While the groups in the image above may show us new areas of focus (i.e. types of cakes, events, wedding related content) the groups can be broken down even further.


Step 3: Start Creating New Content

Once you have your final list divided up into specific topics, you're at a point where you can being mapping out some content. Your best bet is to take each group of keyword phrases and write up a couple of ideas to go along with it. Decide what type of content is a good fit and what the focus of the content should be. For example:


Keep in mind that new content doesn't always have to be pure text. For example, you might have noticed the keyword phrase "wedding cake pictures" on the list above. I suppose you could write an article about how to take the best pictures of wedding cakes, but it would make far more sense to build a photo gallery of the wedding cakes you have created. After all, photo galleries don't have to be made up solely of pictures. You can easily write up some descriptive text describing the style of the cake, the type of cake, the decorations and so on.

Keyword Research Can Spark a Content Rush

It's easy to think you've covered every angle and every perspective of content for your site when you've been writing awhile. Bloggers talk about writer's block and business owners feel like they have nothing new to say about their products. Sometimes taking an afternoon to go and do a little keyword research can give you a great reminder that there are still plenty of ways to talk about your business. Even if you only get a handful of blog posts out of it, you're still ahead of the game.

April 30, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Thanks for such an informative article. I've had quite a bit of info on keywords and how to use them cross my desk. This is the freshest and most innovative method I've seen so far.

Love the graphics too!

I have seen too many people shocked to hear what people are really searching for when it relates to their product to think that keyword research need not be done! It is the most important, vital to your success step in this process. Thanks for the reminder!

Jennifer, a solid post. I speak to 1 person start-ups every day that have invested time, energy and $ in putting up a site. They seem to think that their domain name will be enough to drive traffic to make them rich and famous. The concept of researching key words is foreign and way too much work. Many people just guess.

Sometimes the most simple things make the most sense fro people getting started in SEO and content building. Everything listed here is perfect example of that.

A very good piece of advice. Their are really a lot of people who don't take keyword research serious enough or forget to repeat it every couple of months.

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