How to Pick the Right Keywords for Your Website
Kate Headen Waddell – Tue May 12, 2009 @ 10:24AM
Understanding web keywords
The term “keywords” actually refers to words or phrases that search engines like Google use as one piece of the search result puzzle. When choosing keywords, it’s helpful to think of your website as a delicious snack in the grocery store, and keywords as the label you put on it to tell the search engines what visitors are going to find inside.
I say that they are only one piece of the puzzle, because each of the search engines has their own closely guarded formula for determining your site’s rank. These factors generally include a lot of things you don’t have direct control over, like how long your site has existed, how many times someone has searched for those terms and then clicked through to your site, how long visitors stay on your site once they get there, etc., etc. For more information on boosting your site SEO, see my earlier post, 4 Simple Steps to Turn You Into an SEO Web Copywriting Pro.
Picking your keywords
Picking your keywords is part science, part psychology. So what’s the best way to pick your keywords?
1) Sit down and brainstorm
Pretend you are a potential customer looking for exactly the products or services your company offers. What are you going to type into Google? Brainstorm as many terms as you can. If you have a very localized service, don’t forget to use the name of towns in your service area.
2) Look at the competition’s keywords
Type each of your search terms into Google and see who the top five organic listings are for that term. Click on each link, and when you get to the home page, go to the browser toolbar and click View > Source. A notepad with the page’s html code will open up. Look for a line that starts with:
3) Test them out
There are dozens of paid and free sites you can use to test out your keywords. Copyblogger has thorough review of some of his favorite paid tools here:http://www.copyblogger.com/keyword-research/. I like to use a combination of two free sites, the Google AdWords Keyword Tool (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal) and the Free Keywords tool from Wordtracker (http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/).
First, I enter the keyword into the Google tool to see how many times someone has searched for that term in the last month/year/what-have-you. If it’s a lot, I make a note of it. Then I go over to the Word Tracker tool. This tool shows you all the recent searches that included the keyword. If the top five don’t have anything to do with what you mean by that term, use that to temper what you found out about its search volume from Google. When you find a search string that is relevant to your company AND gets a lot of hits, consider using that as a keyword phrase instead of just the single keyword.
4) Narrow it down
You need to end up with 4-7 keywords. Take your top performers from your keyword research and add back in keywords that may not have shown a lot of hits, but are very specific to your offerings. Then start cutting the least relevant and most general terms until you have the right number. Keep in mind that your goal is not to attract the highest number of visitors, but the highest number of qualified visitors.