‘Keywords’ or ‘search phrases’ are the phrases that people enter when doing searches on the internet on search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. ‘Target Keyphrase Research’ provides you with a list of search phrases, relevant to your business, that have been used on search engines during a certain period of time. Target Keyword Research is the first step on any new project we take on, including work for existing websites.
In one sense your Target Keyword Research is a powerful marketing tool, as it gives you insight into what people need, want or want to know about on the internet related to the products/services/information you provide. Because of this it makes sense to develop the content on your site based on this research.
More commonly Target Keyword Research is used in Search Engine Optimization in order to be sure to use popular search phrases in the best way so that your website will come up higher in search engine results for searches on these phrases. This is a very important step in Search Engine Optimization, but you must also be sure to use the phrases effectively on the site for best results.
Keyword Research is not only important for traditional brochure style websites. It is important for any pages on the web that you want indexed by search engines: e-commerce sites, blogs, newsletters, etc.
Keyword Research Tools
- Wordtracker – For years I used multiple Keyword Research Tools, but Wordtracker was the most used. Wordtracker is a UK based company, but until a couple years ago, they only provided US based research results. The Keyword Universe Tool was excellent to come up with variations on the phrases that we came up with ourselves. A couple of years ago, when Wordtracker added it’s database of UK searches, they also rolled out a new tool Keyword Researcher that streamlines the steps to do the research and made it easier to handle multiple projects. Both services allow you to dig deep to come up with a full listing of keyphrases and then also obtain the number of times the phrase appeared on selected search engines. An annual subscription to Wordtracker costs $329 and a monthly subscription for $59. You can take a free 7 day trial first to see if you like the service.
UPDATE 09 April 2009: How’s this for timing? @wordtracker just tweeted a link to an article on their site “The SEO Pro’s Secret Path” with some helpful information on Keyword Research, especially on how to use their tool to do it. There’s some interesting tips on finding initial phrases to start with: trade publications, competitor sites, your site statistics, etc. Worth a look.
- Google AdWords Keyword Tool is provided by Google to help AdWords users to select the phrases they bid on, but it is available for anyone to use. As Wordtracker didn’t provide UK data until a couple of years ago, and I never felt that UK database was very good, I also researched on the Overture UK Keyword Tool. Overture was a very popular Pay Per Click advertising system that fed into Yahoo and a number of other high traffic sites. In October 2007 that tool came down, so I started using the Google AdWords tool for comparison.
I started using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool while managing AdWords campaigns for clients. Until recently Google provided very limted information on the number of searches. They provided on a scale 1-5 which phrases were most popular, but you didn’t get more concrete data on the actual numbers searching. This was still helpful on a basic level, particularly as Google has been the most popular search engine over the years. The Google AdWords Tool became even more valuable in the past couple years when they added a feature to get results for visitors from a specific region. As I am based in Ireland, this is particularly useful. In the past year, they have started showing data more related to the actual numbers of searches, to make this a more comprehensive tool — and it’s FREE! I don’t think that I will be renewing my Wordtracker account.
- Keyword Discovery is another Keyword Tool that I haven’t tried but it sounds very similar to Wordtracker. This service costs from $599.40/year ($69.95/month) to $4,455/year ($495/month) for the Enterprise package which allows a much higher number of searches and API access.
Using Keywords in Your Website
So now you probably have hundreds, if not thousands, of phrases related to your products/services. What do you do now?
- Review the list and automatically delete any phrases that do not relate to your business.
- Highlight the phrases that very specifically relate to your business (i.e. ‘Search Engine Optimization Clonakilty West Cork Ireland’ for me)
- Take your site map (for existing or planned site) and assign the keyphrases to target on each page.
** The phrase must be related to the content you plan to have on the page, because you do actually have to use the phrase on the page. (I’ll cover how to properly use the phrases in a future post.)
** I select one popular phrase and two less popular, but related, phrases for each page.
- If there are phrases left on your list that are relevant to your business that haven’t been assigned to any page, plan to write new pages with content based on these phrases. If a number of people are searching on this phrase related to your business then it’s probably worth having a page about it on your website.
Prioritising the Keyphrases Used on Your Site
As it will probably be a big job to write/re-write content for your site, prioritise the work by how popular and/or relevant the phrases are. I’ve seen many people that never fully optimised their sites because they just saw it as one big block of work they never got around to doing!
- Most of the extremely popular keyphrases may not be the best for you to target as they may be too general (i.e. ‘search engine’ vs. ‘search engine optimization’ or even ‘search engine optimization ireland’). Be sure that the phrases you selected are specifically related to what you are offering/talking about on the page. Don’t get tempted to target very popular phrases in hopes of getting millions of visitors to the page. Besides the fact that it probably won’t be very successful on search engines, you’d be less likely to sell to the visitors that come through the very general phrases – as there is a lower chance that you are offering what they are looking for.
- For many clients we started out using the regional version of a phrase as the primary keyphrase, if there was enough projected traffic for just the regional phrase. As we showed success for that phrase we then targetted the national/general version of the phrase on that page, with the regional phrase secondary (i.e. test out ‘search engine optimization cork’ first, then after seeing good results target ‘search engine optimization ireland’) If the regional and national/general phrases are both very popular, and/or the national/general version is just as related to your site, it would be better to target the phrases on separate pages so that you can be competitive for both.
- The Long Tail is a theory that while 20% of searches are made using the very popular phrases; 80% of searches are made using a large variety of less popular, more specific, phrases. (Looking at the stats of a well optimised site will confirm this as the information on the keywords used to reach the site will go on for pages and pages.) While the number of people searching on each of these phrases is far less than the popular phrases, added together they make up a much larger percentage. Another reason this is so significant is that, as mentioned above, you are more likely to interest and make a sale to a visitor that found you via a search very specific to what you are offering.
- KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Indicator) is a statistic that many people will tell you to ignore. It’s based on the number of searches made of a phrase and the number of pages targeting that phrase on a specific search engine. Both Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery include this statistic in their results. Phrases with high KEI rating may be excellent niche phrases — but only if very relevant to your topic. It wouldn’t be wise to ignore other relevant phrases because of a low KEI rating. So KEI is only a useful statistic when used with other factors in mind.
- If Plurals, Misspellings and Regionally Used Words come up on your list with any popularity, you must target them separately to the more commonly used version of the words, but be sure to keep your target audience in mind and make a common sense check on whether they’d use these derivations or not. In some cases you may find that the derivations are actually more popular than the ‘root’ word (i.e. ‘hotels’ is normally more popular than ‘hotel’).
In your goal to improve your search engine rankings, it’s very easy to overly focus on all these words and numbers — and lose sight that this is a good way to guide you to the information that your target market is looking for. So be organised in your research, use your site map, prioritise and don’t lose sight of the fact that these searches are being made by individuals that are interested in what you have to offer, so talk to them in their own terms!