Jennifer Laycock

Jennifer Laycock


By Myla Kay Marks, SEO Research Labs

Choosing keywords or keyword phrases can be extremely confusing to site owners. There are some very simple ways to get started on keyword research for your web site. It's not a complicated process, if you have the right start.

If you don't have the right keywords/phrases optimized on your web site, you won't get the targeted traffic that you need. Targeted traffic is visitors who stay on your site and read your information, buy your product or service, subscribe to your newsletter, request more info, or otherwise take action.

Some of the most common mistakes you can make in your keyword selections are choosing keyword phrases that are too competitive, too broad, or too unique.

Too Competitive

An example of a too competitive keyword is "Microsoft". That keyword currently returns 105,000,000 web sites on Google. It's doubtful that people searching for the single word "Microsoft" are looking for your product, even if you do sell something made by or relative to Microsoft. The likelihood of reaching the first page of search results is slim to none.

Too Broad

An extremely broad keyword phrase would be "computer parts", which returns 2,910,000 on Google. Again, people searching for computer parts are not likely to find what they want in that search, and will most likely refine their search with more specifics and try again.

Overly Unique

An overly unique phrase, "I want good keywords", returns zero web sites, no matching documents, nothing.

There are some simple methods for finding keywords that are relevant to your web site and that will bring in the targeted traffic that you require to run a successful online business. Let's get down to the nuts and bolts.

Keyword Research Tactics

First you need to sit down alone or with your colleagues and have a brainstorming session. You don't need a computer for this. Have a thesaurus handy and of course, a pen and paper.

Start by addressing the actual product or products you sell. How narrow/broad is the focus of your site? You'll need to address that fact before you start picking keywords. If you only sell a very specific kind of computer peripheral you don't want to go with "computer parts."

If you sell "outdoor clothing", that might seem at first as if it's a great keyword phrase but "outdoor clothing" has a return of 2,070,000 on Google. If you decide to target "outdoor clothing", understand that you could spend a lot of time and money gaining top rankings, only to find that you aren't getting very many customers because the term is too vague.

For best results, be specific about what your online business sells. Exactly what kind of clothing is it?

Do you have name brands, or does your company hand make the clothing? Is it specifically for fishermen, bicyclists, or some other sport? Does your online business provide more than just outdoor clothing? Do you provide any other kind of hunting or outdoor information on your web site?

Now get out the trusty thesaurus for a little deeper dive:

"Clothing" (noun); Definition: attire

Synonyms: accouterment, apparel, array, caparison, civvies, clothes, costume, covering, drag, drapery, dress, duds, ensemble, equipment, feathers, finery, frippery, frock, full feather, garb, garments, gear, get-up, glad rags, habiliment, habit, hand-me-downs, livery, mufti, outfit, overclothes, panoply, rags, raiment, regalia, rigging, sack, sportswear, tailleur, tatters, things, threads, tog, toggery, tout ensemble, trappings, trousseau, underclothes, vestment, vesture, vines, wardrobe, wear

Okay now, that's a lot! Obviously there are some words in there that you are not going to use. Let's see, "outdoor raiment"… I don't think so. But there are a lot of words in there that you can use.

Another way that you can get ideas for keywords (and content) is to visit online forums that discuss your product or service and see how people are talk about your industry. By following the strings of conversation you will get a good idea of the wording and terminology that people use

By searching through online directories like and, you will come up with additional ideas for keywords. More importantly, you will identify many of your major online competitors, if you haven't already.

Visit your competitors' sites and see how they present the same products and services. Read their content and see what keywords they are utilizing in order to get traffic.

Remember that we're after targeted traffic though, and don't repeat the mistakes your competition is making. Your competitor's web site may be targeting the wrong keyword phrases, so don't just blindly copy their keyword meta tags as a guide.

The product of all this effort will be an extensive "seed list" of excellent, relevant keywords. Further research using tools like Wordtracker will help you discover which of your keywords are the most popular with searchers, but even without other tools, you are now well on your way to a great keyword strategy.

If you want to take it a step further, a great way to test those words for conversion potential is to set up a Google AdWords account and run a few limited campaigns to see which terms get the most activity.

Good keyword research can be a time-consuming process, but the rewards that you reap will be more targeted traffic, better sales, and better search engine positioning.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

This article first appeared in the Successful Sites newsletter.

Myla Kay Marks is the lead keyword consultant for SEO Research Labs, a provider of low-cost keyword research services for web site owners, site designers, and search engine marketing consultants. For more information, visit SEO Research Labs.

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Keyword Research: Getting Started

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.