The beauty of e-commerce is that you don't have to pound the pavement in search of buyers—they are already pounding the cyber sidewalk looking for sellers. However, you must still help your market find you amongst the billions of web pages competing for its attention. Strategically selected keywords can be your best friends in attracting niche traffic that is willing to spend.

If you are an Internet entrepreneur, a reliable strategy for building profits is to define the narrowest niche possible without squeezing your target market size out of substantiation. There are millions of people surfing the web with a few bucks to spend on a good fix, and if you can articulate the right fix to the right prospect, you're in business. Anyone who says that niching will exclude too many potential buyers doesn't know why he is in business in the first place. Moreover, a prospect pool with no common reason to buy from you is a headache that will cost time, money, and more patience than your sanity can afford. Get over your desire to be popular with the whole wide world and instead choose a niche.

Now that we've got your ego out of the way, let's talk about what it takes to implement a keyword strategy that attracts highly targeted, qualified leads to your website.

If you know not only who your customer is (demographics) but how he thinks and feels (vamlues, needs, and desires), you can select keywords that will lead prospects straight to your front door with cash in hand. Start by brainstorming a keyword "seed list." (If your SEO consultant doesn't ask for this, take your money and run.) Resist the urge to think in terms of product or service naming conventions, although you may end up using some. People in your target audience may not be aware of such terms, but especially if you provide a niche product or service that has not yet been commoditized in the marketplace. Instead, think in terms of "answers"—answers to your audience's most burning questions. Answers are what your best (read: loyal) customers will pay for. And if the answers (read: solutions) you provide are not easily duplicated elsewhere, they will pay handsomely.

As you brainstorm the seed list, be sure to cover a range of investigative thought processes. For example, if I am an online shopper looking for a way to protect my old hardwood floors, I am going to search on terms like "antique hardwood floor cleaners," not "Joe's Super Sonic Latex Shield for Veneer." This is an admittedly silly example, but it illustrates the ridiculousness of trying to attract quality traffic by grandstanding, beating your chest, and yakking on in a language that only you, the seller, can understand.

Once you have established a seed list of about thirty to fifty terms, your SEO consultant can then begin the research process, usually with the help of a keyword tool such as Wordtracker ( Here we find out what people are actually searching on. This is the exciting part (okay, maybe "exciting" is a stretch). Numerous phrases you had not thought of will reveal themselves—an excellent opportunity to brainstorm new content for your site.

During this research stage the important thing to focus on is specificity, perhaps the most overlooked tactic for attracting web traffic that will convert into sales or inquiries. This is as opposed to choosing sweeping or irrelevant descriptors that say nothing about your site's offerings, product benefits, or how those things relate to the desires of your target market. In short, optimizing for non-descript or one-word terms being searched on by non-descript, aimless surfers is the equivalent of jumping into an SEO abyss. And if a fly-by-night SEO has promised you the ever-elusive top ten ranking, your site is about to be optimized for keywords that no one within a thousand miles of your target market has ever searched on let alone heard of.

Once your keyword list has been finalized, your SEO consultant will map two to three key phrases to each page of your website. At this point, the work of page optimization begins, a process that involves HTML editing, copy editing, page rewrites, and sometimes a total content overhaul. The resulting page copy should flow well and not actually "look" like it has been optimized. If it sounds stiff or silly on account of lame keyword integration, get another SEO. Search engines don't appreciate this kind of content any more than your visitors will.

A true niche marketing strategy for keyword selection is unapologetic. It zeroes in on the desires of your target audience and doesn't flinch because of the traffic it leaves behind. If you have a good copywriter on board, keyword niching also creates a website that conveys visitor relevance and stimulates a desire to act. Remember, the goal of Internet marketing is not to generate boatloads of traffic but to increase conversions. Niche boldly, know your audience intimately, and give visitors the specific keyword-rich content they are looking for. Anything more is superfluous and will dilute campaign impact. If you stick to your guns as a niche marketer, you'll be famous with the people that matter and generate the "specific" ROI you have been aiming for.

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August 29, 2006

Karri Flatla is a business graduate of the University of Lethbridge and principal of snap! virtual associates inc., a virtual consulting firm providing business communications and Internet marketing services to the progressive entrepreneur. Karri also produces Outsmart, the email newsletter for small business with big purpose. Visit for more information. Click to follow Karri on Twitter.

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