Here’s a quick keyword refresher: A keyword is the word (or phrase) you want searchers to find your page for. (About that phrase; it can be a twelve-word phrase and still be referred to as a singular “keyword”.) The keyword should clearly identify the one main thing your page is about. It’s generally not a good idea to have two keywords for a single page. And if there’s no obvious single keyword, perhaps the page isn’t written in a way that will serve a reader’s need for information.
Choose a keyword that:
- Represents your content well (the keyword for this page is “keyword”)
- Searchers are likely to use when they want information about that one main thing (this page is basic information about keywords, and it links to more information)
If your keyword is actually a phrase, the order in which you use the words matters. As an example, “Symptoms of COPD” is not the same as “COPD symptoms”, and returns different rankings
Understand who your ideal reader is, and use the same natural language and terms as they do. This means knowing your market and your buyers. If you’re selling equipment to cattle ranchers, for example, you’re going to use somewhat different language than you would if you were selling similar equipment to a university.
Do the research to discover likely keywords. Ask people, drill down in social media, do a survey, see what’s already being used, and/or use a keyword research tool such as the Google Keyword Tool.
Here’s an example of a keyword search using the Google tool. We used “keyword” and “keywords” and found that in both cases the competition is “low.” (“Low” is a relative term. There are close to 3 million searches on “keyword,” but there are one billion results.) Note that adding the “s” to “keyword” for “keywords” cut results by about 45 percent.
Talk to real live people
If you have existing customers, listen to the language they use. How do they describe your products? How do they talk about the problems they are having? When they get excited about new features, what words do they use to talk about them?
- If you go to a conference or event, take an informal survey. Ask people, “If you were looking for (my product, a solution to this problem, etc.), what would you search on?”
- Drill down in social media, especially if you’re just launching a product.
- Read blog posts and do lots of research on a wide range of sites. As an example, see which Twitter search terms turn up your current customers.
After you see what’s already being used, look in your current analytics solution and see which words visitors to your website are currently using to find you. In Google Analytics, this is under Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic.
More ways to use keyword research tools
Finally, you can use keyword research tools such as the Google Keywords Tool to see how searchers in general are looking for information. You can get still get basic information via anonymous access, but Google has stated that in the near future you will need to log into a Google AdWords account to get access to this information. Creating an account is free and provides better information than anonymous access, so it’s worth doing sooner rather than later. Once you access the tool, you can get a rough estimate of how many searches are happening each month on a specific term. You can filter by location, languages, devices people are using to access the search engines, and other factors.
For example, if you’re planning to offer a white paper on a landing page, you want to know how people look for the term. Are they using the one-word “whitepaper” or the two-word “white paper”? It turns out that searchers are more than twice as likely to look for “white paper” than “whitepaper,” so that’s the term you should use.
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Most of this post was taken from the white paper SEO 101: The Basics (and Beyond). The paper also covers other page optimization techniques including writing SEO-friendly content, long-tail keywords, and metadata, and website optimization techniques.