There are dozens of keyword selection “strategies.” All you have to do is Google keyword strategies to get 50,100,000 search results the day of this writing. That is over 50 million hits on a very narrow, industry-specific subject, but it makes a good point.
Anybody – everybody – working in the web space, from site owners to W3 marketing gurus, has a theory about keyword selection. The diversity of opinions offers up another point: there is no one way to select the perfect set of keywords.
The fact is, keyword optimization is more art than science. However, by using several helpful tools you can gather empirical data, test the results for your site and tweak your keyword list to increase site traffic and, simultaneously, deliver a more highly-qualified buyer – knowledgeable, motivated to find a solution and willing to pay for that solution.
The solution you sell.
Image via davidkjelkerud
1. Start with your own industry / business knowledge.
First, trust your instincts. What keywords would you enter into a search box? You know the insider jargon, you know your target market, you know your products or services so start with a list of the search words you’d use.
But don’t stop there. Remember, you bring a bias to the search. You already know the lingo. So, your intuitive keyword list brings with it a bias. Same with lists developed by other knowledgeable executives in your company. Even so, these keyword lists provide a foundation for finessing a keyword list over time.
2. Test your list of intuitive keywords.
I like Google’s keyword generator for a couple of reasons.
First, Google controls the largest share of the search market so why not go with the 600-lb gorilla. Second, Google’s keyword generator delivers empirical data – the actual usage figures of Google users over the past 30 days.
Enter your URL and intuitive keywords into Google’s keyword tool and click check. One of three results will be immediately evident:
– Your intuition is correct. Keywords you selected are popular search words.
– Your intuition is incorrect. Your search terms are too sector- or B2B-specific and, as a result, the search terms don’t drive much traffic.
– Or, the most likely result – the affirmation that some of your keywords are on target with SE users, some aren’t and, happily, you’ll discover additional keywords used by searchers. Happy surprises that you might not have considered.
3. Test the strength of each keyword.
If you operate in a commercial sector that crosses numerous business and industries, Google will hand you a list of a few thousand keywords used by its patrons. Narrowing the list down is a crucial part of the development of an effective list of 10-15 keywords.
There are a couple of ways I test the strength of a keyword to deliver good SERPs for my client. First, I use a term extractor, available for use (free) on SEOmoz.org. This tool identifies strong keywords on an existing site that’s been indexed properly by search engines. A quick examination of the results of term extraction always reveals some interesting data.
Example: I had a client that provides hearing aid advice online. The site offered a free consumer download, articles, product reviews and other helpful information for people conducting research on an upcoming hearing aid purchase.
The site owner, intuitively, selected hearing aids as his primary keyword but couldn’t understand why his bounce rate was over 80%. Well, hearing aids, when extracted, proved to be a strong keyword. The problem was, the site didn’t sell hearing aids – the objective of a SE user querying “hearing aids.” No hearing aids for sale? Bounce to the next site.
A simple adjustment to this client’s keyword list in the site’s meta, alt and title tags and playing down the keyword hearing aids in the site’s corpus did the trick. The client’s bounce rate dropped to 40% in a matter of weeks.
Use a term extraction tool to identify which keywords and phrases are strong with search engines. You’re almost certain to be surprised at the results.
4. Calculate the “pull” of a given keyword.
I use SpyFu, a very useful tool in determining the effectiveness of any keyword.
The software is actually an AdWords metrics tool that identifies bidding ranges of given keywords for AdWords placement. Of course, I use SpyFu to help my clients get a bigger bang for their AdWords buck, but it’s also a great tool for determining the effectiveness of a keyword – even if you don’t use PPC advertising.
AdWords functions much like a stock market with investors bidding up the price of keywords, just as investors bid up the price of stocks. SpyFu shows me the range of bids for a keyword. And if AdWords users keep that keyword at $1.27 a click, well, I know that’s a keyword that pulls and more than pays for itself at $1.27 per click.
Conversely, when SpyFu identifies a low cost AdWords keyword – six cents per click (see chart), for instance, I know it’s not popular, I know it doesn’t pull but I don’t necessarily cross it off the list. Here’s why.
5. Use lower-ranking keywords to beat higher ranking competition.
If you’re just launching a new site, if you’ve just added several sub-domains that don’t show up on SERPs, or if you’ve made significant changes to your business or revenue model, you can often upend deep pockets competitors by using lower-ranking keywords.
Let’s say you own a small site that sells digital cameras and accessories. You’re in a highly-competitive market sector up against the likes of Amazon, Best Buy, J&R and other well-known, branded names. So, a search of “digital cameras” reveals that your little site is on page 34 of SERPs, and when was the last time you drilled down 34 pages searching for anything?
Using the identical keywords that deep-pockets, well-known competitors use will bury you. BUT, if you deploy lesser-used keywords, for example “digital cameras real cheap,” you won’t see as many SE users entering those particular keywords, but those who do will see your site at the top of page one of Google’s SERPs. Why? Because the heavy hitters aren’t using those long-tail keywords. Once again, before you opt for a long-tail, test it on all major search engines: Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Inktomi.
Also, run that long-tail through an AdWords metrics generator. This will enable you to uncover strong terms that aren’t being used, even by stronger sites. Look for keywords that haven’t been bid up in price but still pull a good quantity of traffic each day. This eliminates the stronger competitors.
Check out the spread sheet showing keywords and prices for digital cameras. I’ve highlighted popular search terms that haven’t been “discovered” by the competition because the AdWords bid price is comparatively low. Consider :
1. Using these less popular keywords as your primary search terms or
2. Add the most promising candidates to your existing list and incorporate them in your site’s meta data, description tag, alt tags and title tags where appropriate.
One last piece of advice: keyword list refinement is an ongoing process. It’s not something you do once and forget about it. Use tools like Google’s keyword generator, SpyFu and other AdWords metrics analyzers to determine the best list for your site – a list of keywords that pulls, but also isn’t used by more powerful competitors.
Then, as your business grows, you can add more of the most-used keywords and go head-to-head with the cost-cutting big box stores. That day will come a lot sooner if you select the strongest keywords for your site.
This guest article was written by Edward Khoo, a full time blogger from Malaysia. You can also write a guest article and share your tips and tricks with our readers.