Keywords or phrases are the ‘words’ searchers type into the search engine box when they are looking for information regarding a particular topic, products, services or information. Optimising your site for the ‘right’ keywords can be the difference between a few customers and lots of customers. It’s great to rank in the number 1 position for a search phrases but if it’s not the ‘right’ search phrase (ie one people are actually using) there is virtually no benefit for you. Here are 8 tips to get you started on good quality keyword research.
Make use of every source available to you for ideas – start with your own list then ask friends, colleagues and customers for their input, use suggestion tools (eg Google Suggestion Tool), your site web logs for your web traffic and if you have them the logs for the search function on your site itself will give you customized and valuable insight only you will have into exactly what your customers are searching for.
Never try keywords that are not relevant for your site. Sure you are going to increase the traffic to your site, but will this traffic convert? NO. At best you’ll annoy your customers and at worst you’ll annoy the search engines!
Consider the language your target audience actually uses rather than what you or others in the business might think they should search for. It’s of no benefit ranking for “jandals” if all your customers are searching for “thongs”. Likewise, there it is pointless using industry jargon if your customer does not understand these terms. Consider that most people use natural language when they search and they typically include 2-4 keywords in their search phrases.
There are a range of tools available online to investigate search volumes (although some are arguably better and more accurate than others). Google, Yahoo! And Microsoft all have excellent free resources for this or for a paid subscription both Keyword Discovery or Word Tracker provide excellent data.
If you’re still not happy with the results (or need ‘real’ stats to convince a key stakeholder) a ‘trial’ pay per click campaign can be an excellent way to get real data for your local market about what people are searching on, which results they click through from and most importantly which keywords or phrases convert to paying customers!
Once you’re at the stage of allocating words to pages remember that a page will only rank well for 1-2 key phrases. If during your research you have identified particular keywords or phrases that could have real value but you can’t seem to fit them anywhere you might want to consider developing additional pages focused specifically on these topics. Just remember to link these pages within your site structure – they should not be stand alone pages otherwise the search engines may not be able to find them or other pages on your site!
Keyword research is not a do it once and forget it task – you will likely have to fine tune and repeat over time as markets trends emerge, terminology changes, websites are updated, new products are launched etc.
It does not have to be perfect first time – better to have your site improved from no keyword research optimisation to some optimisation rather than doing nothing until you feel you have ‘finished’. Doing the hard work at the start and regular fine-tuning of your keyword strategy will provide you with the best possible chance of driving the right kind of traffic to your website. However, if you don’t have the time available or do not feel you have skills necessary then this job should be outsourced to specialists.
By Charlotte Whiter
Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).