As the Web continues to grow, users are looking online for information, goods and services in greater numbers than ever before. It's important to optimize your site for search engines as research says anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of users find Web pages through search engines.

Your choice of keywords is crucial because these words will bring traffic to your site when users type them into a search query box. Careful selection of keywords used in Web page copy goes a long way toward attracting traffic that converts to sales.

Dos and Don'ts for Generating Keywords

How do you generate the keywords and phrases most likely to drive targeted traffic? Here are the dos and don'ts that result in selecting your best keywords.

  1. Think from a customer viewpoint. What words would potential customers use when searching for your offering? Get feedback from multiple sources by picking the brains of your customers, suppliers, brand managers and sales people.

  2. Expand your keywords into a list of key phrases. After brainstorming an initial list, put these terms into WordTracker, which is a Web-based tool that provides ideas for additional keywords by telling you how popular your keywords are on other Web pages and how many people have searched for these keywords in major search engines in the last 24 hours.

    Your best terms are those that aren't overused but are still fairly popular. Another trick is to use uncommon combinations. WordTracker's Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) will tell you the number of times your keyword appears in its database and the number of competing Web pages. This reveals the keywords that might work best on your pages. A high KEI means the word is more popular and less competitive. A KEI of 100 is fairly good, but anything over 400 is super.

  3. Create Multiple Permutations. Vary the order of words in your phrases to create different combinations. Use very unusual combinations. Create phrases that ask a question. Include synonyms, word substitutes, metaphors, and common misspellings. Include brand names and models of products sold. Use additional qualifiers to create more specific terms by creating two-, three-, and four-word phrases.

    For example, if broadband is one of your keywords, you might come up with phrases like digital broadband, digital wireless broadband, wireless digital broadband, accelerated for broadband, broadband news, digital wireless broadband news, broadband wireless communication, etc. From the key phrase software solutions, try traffic analysis software solutions, traffic analysis reports, traffic reporting tools, B2B software solutions, e-commerce software solutions, etc. Note that the keywords don't necessarily have to make sense, although when you use them in copy, they must make sense.

  4. Use Concept Qualifiers to Qualify Visitors. Specify the concept in your key phrases, such as e-commerce software. Be specific enough so the key phrase is not too broad, such as e-commerce software solutions, e-commerce security solutions, business-to-business e-commerce software, B2B e-commerce software, etc.

  5. If You're Branded, Use Your Company Name. It pays to include your company name in your keyword phrases if you're a well known brand. A site like RadioShack should use key phrases like RadioShack computers, RadioShack electronic compoments, RadioShack telephones, etc. If recruiting employees, use key phrases like work for RadioShack, RadioShack jobs nationwide, and executive RadioShack positions to recruit specific levels of employees.

    However, if your name is Joe Smith Realty, very few people will type that in a search query unless they know you, so it doesn't pay to include company names in keyword phrases when you're not branded.

  6. Use Geographic Location. If your location is key, include it in your keywords. For instance, Joe Smith Realty in Rancho Cucamonga may find Rancho Cucamonga real estate to be a useful keyword.

  7. Review Your Competitors' Keywords. It's a good idea to look up your competitors' keywords to get ideas on some you might have missed. Don't copy anyone else's material because you don't know how it was generated. Just look for an idea or two to supplement the keywords you've generated yourself.

  8. Don't Use Keywords or Phrases That Are Too Broad. Instead, use modifiers to make generic keywords and phrases more specific. A site offering insurance-related services might use health insurance quotes or auto insurance quotes.

    To prequalify your visitors, your keywords and phrases should identify your niche. If you're in the entertainment business, use entertainment news, entertainment jobs, or entertainment center. Identifying your niche attracts the kind of traffic you need. This is important no matter what you sell. A smaller, targeted audience is more likely to result in conversions than a large volume of traffic that came thinking you were selling something else.

  9. Don't Use Single Words. Multi-word phrases work better than single words. It's difficult for search engines to return relevant results on single-word searches because there are too many answers to such a query, and users won't wade through hundreds of result pages. They learn quickly to be very specific. A user looking for an e-commerce software solution for an auction site won't be searching for software.

  10. Don't Use Trademark Names Other Than Your Own. Stay away from competitors' trademarks in your keywords or you might get sued. Some companies will give permission to use their terms. An automotive site wanting to use Kelley Blue Book can contact Kelley to request permission. Permission will depend on potential affiliation � a manufacturer will likely give permission to use its name to promote and sell its products on a vendor site. However, using another company's trademark or product name to profit from its brand is unacceptable and breaches federal trademark-protection laws.

These strategies will help point prequalified visitors to your site. Keyword selection is among the most important tasks in search engine marketing, so take the time to do it right.
May 13, 2002

Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for strategizing and implementing search engine marketing activities within Red Door's Internet Presence Management (IPM) services.

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Search Engine Guide > Paul Bruemmer > Finding Keywords That Drive Traffic to Your Site