Internet Marketing Basics: Identify your Search Engine Keywords


What are search keywords?

Google search engine keywords

Search keywords are words and phrases that your target customers use to find your product or services on search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing. When used effectively during website planning and development, they can make a big difference in how easy your site is to find online.  Identifying valuable keywords is just one aspect of good search engine optimization.

How to Identify Possible Search Keywords

  1. Brainstorm a list of likely keywords that you think potential customers would use to find the products and services you offer.
  2. Look at the statistics for your current website.  When site visitors search for you, what key words and phrases are they using?
  3. View keywords from websites of current competitors.  Get keyword recommendations based on a list of words you supply or words used on a particular website – even a competitor’s website.  The Google AdWords Keyword Tool is free, you just need to sign up.
  4. Use the tool to evaluate keywords for monthly search traffic volume and level of competition, eliminating keywords that aren’t a good fit for you. View the list to identify additional keyword ideas that you may also want to add to the list.
  5. When you have a list of keywords that accurately represent your products and services, you are ready to finalize your keyword list.

What keywords should you target?

Once you have your list of keywords in the Google Keyword Tool or in another keyword tool, you can export them to a spreadsheet. This will allow you to sort keywords by traffic and by competition – I like to save two versions, one for each.

Keyword Search Volume

Sorting your keyword spreadsheet by monthly search volume will allow you to rank keywords from most popular to least popular.  You may be able to rank well for a keyword that is far down the list, but if no one searches using that keyword, it won’t result in traffic to your website.  If there are no or few searches for a particular keyword, you might want to focus on higher-ranking keywords instead.

Competition / Difficulty

Sorting your keyword spreadsheet by competition (or difficulty in ranking) will allow you to see the relative difficulty of appearing on the first page of search engine results for that keyword.  Competition indicates the value of a keyword to advertisers, and implies that sales or leads are more likely to result from website visits using this keyword.  It’s also an indication of how much competition you’re likely to have as you publish content on your website containing the keyword to improve your rank on page one of Google for that keyword.  A keyword with a high competition value will be more difficult to rank well for than a keyword with a lower competition value.  For example, the keyword, “craft beer” is likely to have greater competition and result in more revenue than the keyword, “free beer” because people searching for “free beer” aren’t intending to pay for beer.

How do you currently rank for these keywords?

Consider how your current site ranks for your selected keywords.  You can evaluate this by reviewing your current statistics, as suggested earlier, and by performing actual keyword searches and evaluating the results.  Keep in mind that Google searches are affected by the location set by the searcher and other variables, so you may not see exactly what your potential customers see.  You may rank well for particular keywords even though the competition is high. If so, you will want to identify the pages responsible and take care to preserve the content and keywords as you improve this ranking.  Protecting valuable website assets is an important consideration when performing a website redesign or updating website content.

Use More Specific “Long Tail” Keywords

An important keyword may not be a good target for improvement efforts because the competition is too intense to rank well or because it’s not targeted enough.  For example, if you are a cosmetic dentist, then you may want to use the keyword “cosmetic dentistry” instead of the more generic “dentistry”, or an even more specific keyword, “cosmetic dentistry teeth whitening”.  Adding a modifier to a keyword that is very competitive can result in higher ranking on search engine results pages and drive targeted traffic to your website.

Categories and Campaigns

Depending on the number of products and services you provide and the number of target markets you serve, you may want to categorize your keywords.

Final Keyword List

Your goal should be to create a keyword list that will help you create content that will get you found by search engines for your most important keywords – and to direct potential customers to exactly what they need, when they need it.

Next Steps – How to Use Keywords

Once you have a list of keywords to target, it is important to use keywords effectively so that potential site visitors can find what they need quickly and easily.  Keywords are used in the content of your web pages and in the code behind the web pages, and I’ll talk about that in a future blog posting.  If you have categorized or identified campaigns for specific keywords, then you will create specific website pages and content that is optimized for those keywords.

Evaluating Results for Future Improvement

Search engine keyword planning isn’t a once-and-done task.  Your competition may change their website, keyword values may change, or you may expand your products and services.  It’s important to evaluate your keyword performance regularly by reviewing website statistics and actual sales resulting from your keyword improvements.  Then, if necessary, you can re-evaluate your keywords and make additional changes to keep your keywords – and your website – relevant and working for you.

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