Yes- it’s another link building article! It is by far the most common question I am ever asked , (well maybe number 2 just after” how do I get my site to be number one in Google ?”). Talk to a web developer and he will tell you that the key to high rankings is a well designed site. Talk to copy writer and they will tell you copy is everything.. Talk to me… and well, it really is the links!

Actually, we are all right. Copy, structure and inbound links all work together to create the magic search engine mojo that gets your site to the top. Without a well structured site that allows crawlers to index your great content written by a copy writer that is so fantastic everyone just naturally wants to link to -you won’t get competitive rankings. The common thread that holds it all together is the number one most important factor to your entire link building efforts- the keywords. Your keywords and keyword research is the cornerstone to it all. You have to make time to do this- if you can’t do it then hire some one who can. It is necessary investment to create a successful online presence.

Your keywords are used in menus, navigation links, meta data and anchor text. Your keywords and keyword phrases are the terms you will use every day in online ads, directory submissions, press releases, blog posts and bios. Pay careful attention. Do NOT guess what they are. Do not glance at your web stats or web logs to see how people found you and use the most popular terms and call it a day.

Yes, go through your web stats. The terms people are using to find your site are useful. These terms can be expanded. Your most popular terms might just be popular because no one else is using them - this is often the case because you rank high for your own business name. People come to me all the time telling me their nephew (or best friend or cousin …) got them to rank #1 in all the search engines and isn’t that great. Depends. If your business is “Stan’s Wichita Widgets” and you rank #1 for “ Stan’s Wichita Widgets” I won’t be impressed. Chances are not many people are competing against you using the terms “ Stan’s Wichita Widgets”. You will probably also rank pretty well for “Stan’s Widgets” If you rank #1 for “Wichita widgets” you’d have my attention. If you’re ranking #1 for “Widgets” I’d tell you to forget about me and hire your nephew.

With a reasonably well designed site and basic optimized meta data you should be able to rank for your own name. Looking at your logs and webstats will tell you how people are all ready finding you- we want to grab those people who are looking for what you sell but are not finding you. People searching for : orange widgets, travel widgets, gift widgets, hard to find widgets, cheap widgets, collectors widgets and even misspelled wigits.

How can you tell if some one is looking for you but never found you? Keyword research. I have used Word Tracker for several years and like it a lot. Many SEO professionals swear by Keyword Discovery. Google Suggest can also give you some ideas for your initial research . All of them have pretty good online tutorials- take some time to play with these tools and learn how to use them. The effort will pay off. Any money you spend on keywords you “think” (guess) people are using will be wasted.

You are looking for that “sweet spot” – a just right combination mixture of solid keywords and no competition. Keywords Your competition is not using in their anchor text and yet people ( no- potential customers!) are typing them in search engine forms over and over again. These phrases are also called “niche keywords”. A more evolved term for niche words is “long tail searches- buts that another part in this series) You may have hundreds, if not thousands of widget companies all using “Widgets” and “ Buy Widgets” and “ Online Widgets” in their keyword strategy. You can actually see in Google who is using what keywords by typing in the phrase “allinanchor:KEYWORD” . Try it and see. If you sell widgets try “allinanchor:widgets” . all those companies have used “widgets” as anchor text. Probably 80% everyone selling widgets are using ONLY these terms, and they are the hardest to achieve rankings. All those people spending all that energy on a handful of phrases and there are only 10 top spots. The other 20% have done their keyword research and looking for alternative ways for people find their services. They are going after expanded keywords phrases they discovered in their keyword research.

Where to start? Write down all the keywords you THINK people are using. Ask your friends and family what words that they might use to try and find your business/product/service. You might be surprised. Sometimes when you are in the business you lean heavily on industry terms not many lay people would use. Having a fresh ear can sometimes help you discover new terms. Do away with pre-conceived ideas of what terms you THINK you should be ranking for. The list a client hands me at first meeting is very different then the list I hand back to them after several hours of keyword research- rarely do the twain meet.

Go to your logs. You can use trial version of click track and analyze your raw logs easily. You can also try Google Analytics, you need an AdWords account but it doesn’t take long to set up and , hey- its free. I prefer ClickTracks but many small businesses are perfectly happy using Google Analytics or even the info their web hosting company provides.

You should have a pretty long list of words and phrases at the end of this. Now the fun part- going to your Keyword research tool of choice and crunching the terms and seeing what comes out. Try the free trial of both Keyword Discovery and Word Tracker. See which one you are most comfortable with- look for the phrases that will be your “niche keywords” . Words people are searching with and not a lot of sites a competing for those terms.

What to do with those keywords? Stay tuned for Secrets of a Professional Link Builder, Part 2 : Anchor Text Away!

I will write about my number one pet peeve that I see time and time again when it comes to anchor text and link building. I will also discuss long tail search and its power.

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Search Engine Guide > Lisa Stewart > Secrets of a Professional Link Builder Part 1: It’s the Keywords, stupid

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