Keyword Research is the foundation for any good search marketing campaign. Whether you are running a PPC campaign or optimizing your site for search engines, keyword research can make or break your search efforts. If you try to rank for keywords that are too broad you will end up lost in the mix. On the other hand, if you try to rank for keywords that are too targeted then you may not receive a lot of traffic. The key is to find that sweet spot. Try to optimize for keywords and phrases that are searched a lot, but do not have a lot of competition.

Things to think about when choosing the right keywords/phrases:

  • Search Volume: Make sure that people are actually searching for the terms you optimize for.
  • Ranking Difficulty: Understand how much work will be involved in ranking well for the keywords you choose. Usually the broader the keyword, the more competition there is, and the harder you will have to work to get to the top.
  • Local Modifiers: If your business caters to a local market, you will want to add that location in your title/meta tags, website content, and anchor text. The broader the region you are optimizing for, the harder it will be to rank well. For example, if your business is in San Diego, Ca., but you cater to all of California, you may still want to just target San Diego. The reason is that your site may not be able to beat out its competitors for those broader terms like California. Again, it comes back to how hard you are willing to work to make your site rank well.
  • Relevant Keywords: It may seem obvious, but make sure that the terms you are optimizing for is relevant to the content you are offering on your site. If you have a page devoted to blue widgets, make sure you are optimizing that page for blue widgets.
  • Assumptions: Do not just make assumptions that people will be searching for the keywords and phrases you think they are searching. Back it up with hard data.

Where to do your keyword research:

Free Resources

Google Adwords: Keyword Tool

SEO Book’s: Keyword Suggestion Tool

WordTracker’s: Free Keyword Suggestion Tool

Trellian’s: Free Search Term Suggestion Tool

Microsoft adCenter Labs: Keyword Forecast

Paid Resources

WordTracker’s: Paid Keyword Suggestion Tool

Trellian’s: Paid Search Term Suggestion Tool

HitTail: Long-Tail Keyword Marketing Tool


Tips to find the best keywords:

  • Test them in Adwords: You truly do not know exactly how much traffic you will get until you test it. Run a Google Adwords campaign for a week and see what type of traffic it is bringing. Keep track of your conversions and see if you are generating leads/sales from those keywords. Keep testing and refining until you have come up with a refined list of keywords that are producing.
  • Competitor Analysis: Analyze your competitors who rank well, by looking at their title tags, meta tags, H1 tags and anchor text for keywords/phrases they are optimizing for.
  • Ongoing Research: Once you have come up with your initial list of keywords, do not stop there. Constantly research new terms and phrases that you may have overlooked or not found before. Remember, the way people search is always changing, same rules apply with keywords.
  • Find Long-Tail Keyword: What this means is that you are optimizing for the longer phrases, instead of just the broad keywords/phrases. SEOmoz shows a great illustration as to what the long-tail looks like. As you can see the broader terms are searched about 30% of the time, while the long-tail phrases make up the remaining 70%. Chris Anderson wrote a great book on The Long Tail that I highly recommend.

Tips for optimizing your pages for your keywords:

  • Only optimize for 3 keywords or less per page: You want to create lots of small, targeted landing pages that are optimized for no more than 3 keywords. Remember, Google ranks pages, not websites. This means that each page you have on your site has a chance to rank in the search results. If you keep your landing pages targeted with good keyword-rich content you will have a much better chance to rank well for those terms.
  • Where to use those keywords: You want to use those keywords wherever it is possible. However the number one rule is to write your content for people, not search engines. Make sure that the content makes sense to the person reading it. Places keywords in your Title tags, Meta Description tags, H1-H6 tags, content, anchor text, etc…
  • Inbound Links: If possible, use those keywords in the anchor text for websites that are linking to you.