Just about everything you do related to search engine optimization (SEO) is based on keywords. Specifically, your keyword sets are a group of keywords and phrases you believe will attract the right type of traffic to your site. Clearly, the need to identify the best keywords is paramount to your site’s success. How confident are you that you are using the best keywords for your site? Did you have a plan in place when you developed your list of keywords? Is that list still reliable?
When considering keywords, you have many options from which to choose: single word keyword, broad keywords, long-tail keywords, negative keywords, and so forth. A strong keyword strategy will include all keyword variables to some degree. You select keywords based on the theme of your website, products you sell, and services you offer. You want to be as general and as specific as possible when developing your keyword list. This does not mean you will use all the keywords on the list, but a good list is a necessary first step toward implementing SEO tactics.
Conducting Keyword Research
Deciding which keywords to add to your list requires research on your end. Too many site owners simply do not put sufficient time, energy, and resources into keyword research. They rely on a handful of keywords to implement their SEO plan. Soon they realize this is woefully inadequate. Good keyword research involves utilizing various keyword analyzer tools to generate a list of search terms that have recently been used by a targeted demographic (your prospective customers).
Many of these tools are free. Some SEO experts suggest using the keyword tools associated with search engine paid ad programs. For example, Google AdWord’s keyword tool is touted as a reliable way to find keywords. Other experts scoff at the tool for non-paying users and recommend other tools to determine keywords. Do your own research to see which keyword tools might benefit you the most. After selecting tools, dig a little further so you know what information is actually being pulled for your results. Tools used in paid ad programs may reflect the number of times a keyword is used on the ad network, not the actual search engines.
The reality is that it is okay to use more than one tool. In fact you should so you have a better picture of what search engine users are looking for online. Whichever tools you go with, the process will be similar. You simply type in a generic keyword. A list of related words will be generated. The list includes the number of searches associated with each keyword or search phrase. The ones that have the most searches will have the greatest potential but also the most competition. Then take those keywords and research them the same way, looking for broach and exact matches to see what comes up. Do not automatically eliminate the keywords that do not get searched a lot. A sound keyword strategy is to include keywords that are most popular and least popular on your list.
Analyzing Keywords for Value
Once you have your list of keywords from the various tools you used, compare the lists. You might find that a keyword that had little popularity on Google was the top searched keyword on Bing. You want to carefully weigh the potential value of each keyword, taking into consideration the search engines you plan to target for SEO. A keyword valued to be “0” should not be used since absolutely nobody actually uses the keyword on search engines. You will find that broad keywords are highly competitive. You can still use them but most people no longer use single word or generic keywords when conducting searches – they use keyword phrases to get as specific as possible. As search engine customers get more sophisticated, so will your keywords if you plan to remain viable.
Another way you can analyze keywords is by seeing what keywords your competitors use. Free tools are available to assist you with this process. You don’t want to simply use their keywords. Rather, you want to compare your list against their list. There will likely be similarities, but it is the differences that matter here. What words to they use that are not on your list? Why? Are they words that should be added to your list? Take those keywords and do further analysis to see if you should add them to your own keyword list.
Different Ways of Using Keywords
As soon as you have your keyword list, you can get to work. Begin with your single keywords. You can use those throughout your website to establish a general theme for your content. Add another word or two to describe each web page in a unique way. For example, your broad keyword could by fashion. You can then get specific by using “women Italian fashion” or “men urban fashion” as the keywords for individual web pages. Those particular keywords will be used in the page title, page headings, and as anchor text. Keywords can even be used in your site map or to optimize images across your site by taking advantage of the ALT tag option.
Long-tail keywords used in article writing can increase traffic to your site. You will also want to incorporate keywords in blog entries and social media postings whenever possible. Even using keywords only a few times will help with SEO. Anytime you use keyword phrases or long-tail keywords, you are targeting a particular demographic. Clearly by using different types of keywords throughout your content, you have the opportunity to attract general and targeted traffic to your site. Targeted traffic may appear sooner than the general traffic strictly because of the competition factor.
Frequency of Keyword Use
This is another point of contention among SEOs. Many argue that keyword density is no longer relevant. Others maintain that density remains an important factor of SEO. By now we all know that keyword stuffing can cause your site to lose rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). Whatever you decide on this subject, the intent should be to use keywords enough to be apparent by search engines during the indexing process but not too much that your content appears unnatural.
You should always write for your customer rather than focusing on your keywords. You can always go back and incorporate keywords where needed so your content flows better. You may have density restrictions on your articles depending on where you are having them published. Article directories, for example, have individual publishing guidelines that must be met before your article will be accepted.
Monitoring Keyword Success
Keyword usage is an ongoing SEO process. Too many site owners develop their initial keyword list and don’t revisit it for years. Rather than work harder, work smarter. You can easily monitor your keywords to make sure they continue to perform for you. If a keyword drops in value and does not rebound after a brief period of time, replace it with a new keyword. Replace keywords one at a time so you can test their effectiveness. Once you are satisfied with a keyword’s potential, go ahead and add it to your content and test your next keyword.
Web analytics are available to help you actively monitor how well your site is performing. You can also see which keywords are getting higher rankings on SERPs. All data derived from analytic sources and tools should be reviewed and acted upon as soon as possible to maximize your site performance. Many analytics provide real-time data so you can make adjustments as soon as you realize a problem exists.
Keywords in Summary
Using strong keywords is the main SEO ingredient for a successful website that gets more than enough search traffic directed to it. Keyword research helps you meet the primary goal of search engines which is to provide their customers with relevant content. Relevancy is measured by the degree your content matches their search query. Sites that are perfect matches to queries enjoy higher SERP rankings. If your site is low on relevancy, search engines pick up on this because their customers quickly leave your site. But when your site is relevant, your bounce rate for that landing page decreases substantially.
By incorporating specific keyword phrases into the mix, you have a better chance of exactly matching search queries. It just makes sense to start broadly and drill down to multiple word and long-tail keywords that have less competition. Clearly you want to spend significant time researching and identifying your keywords since you will be using in all things SEO from this point forward. The better prepared you are from the onset, the sooner you can realize a return on your investment.
You can get more organic traffic directed to your site by properly using keywords in both on-page and off-page SEO strategies. Track how and where you are using the keywords so you know where your traffic and, ultimately, your customers are coming from. This is invaluable information that you can use to make various decisions about your website.