Before starting any on-site SEO and certainly before starting to build the all-important backlinks to your website, it is vital to put together a full and complete list of the keywords that you want to target. The subsequent on-site and off-site optimisation will all be focussed almost entirely on these critical keywords. So all of the time, money and effort expended will be wasted if the keywords are not right.
Getting the right keywords is the foundation to a successful SEO strategy.
I have worked with clients who have just come up with a list of likely keywords off the top of their heads because they think they know what a client is looking for. That is, of course, true in the real bricks-and-mortar world – they probably know their clients very well. But how people behave when searching on the internet is a completely different matter. Search terms are often straightforward such as “buy kitchen worktops” but they can also be just a series of words such as “wood granite corian” or they can be a highly specific phrase such as “buy high-quality kitchen worktops near Bristol”.
It is important for a successful online business to understand how their potential customers search for their product online. The best way to do this is to use a simple 4-step approach:
- Keyword Research
- Keyword Analysis
- Final Keyword List
The keywords that you can think of off the top of your head are, in fact, a very useful starting point for a brainstorming session. But is also important to think laterally and to bring in people from outside the business to give input that is not biased by a knowledge of a business and its products. This does not necessarily have to be a professional, you can always invite friends, family, ex-colleagues – I have found that offering a free lunch always works.
Encourage your brainstorming group to come up with keywords that have at least 2 words but no more than 5 words and to produce a list of approximately 20 keywords per product range. Depending on the range of products or services offered by your business, you may need several groups of 20 keywords to cover your whole range. At this stage don’t worry about prioritising the list as this will be done during the analysis phase.
The next step is to enter your keyword list into a good keyword tool, which will show you how many people actually use that keyword per month (both locally and globally), how much competition there is and also to find suggestions for alternative keywords that you may not have thought of.
It is always worth starting with Google’s own free Keyword Tool which can be found here although remember that this is focussed very much on Adwords customers so the figures don’t give an exact indication of the number of visitors you can expect. Be aware that you will not see all of the data unless you register for Adwords (which is free) and login. Perhaps even more worrying is that the number of searches shown varies hugely depending on whether you are logged in or not. I always err on the side of caution and set the “phrase match” option and look only at local monthly searches. If the “logged in” and “logged out” numbers vary I take the lower of the two. It is a useful tool, particularly for the keyword suggestions but don’t rely exclusively on it for SEO.
There are many other keyword tools out there to choose from but the majority of them use Google’s data so try one such as WordTracker – it’s not free but you can just pay for a 1-month trial.
Also a useful quick trick is to look at what Google suggests when you start typing a keyword you are interested in. This is much more recent data unlike the Google Keyword Tool data which is an average over a 12-month period so if you have a business concerned with the very latest trends then this may be more suitable for you.
Once you have all this data you will need to analyse it to make a judgement on which keywords you are going to target initially. You will need some popular, high-traffic keywords as these will take longer to rank well for so you will need to get started as soon as possible. You will also need some medium-traffic keywords that will be easier to rank well for.
Long-tail keywords (those with 4 or more words) are a useful source of visitors but generally do not have to be specifically targeted because they are niche keywords usually feature in the rankings because of the content of a particular page of a website. Each long-tail keyword may not bring many visitors but enough of them combined can contribute a substantial proportion of a site’s visitors.
So you have your final list of keywords and are ready to embark on optimising your website. This list will form the basis of your on-site optimisation and link building efforts that with hard work and persistence will propel your site upwards in the search engine listings.