Coming up with keywords is easy, but how do you know if those keywords are popular search queries in the search engines? You have to research them, using online keyword tools. This is called keyword research. And it’s one of the most important things you can ever do for your site to achieve high rankings in the search engines for relevant keywords. In this article, I’ll show you how to choose your keywords, find out which combinations and variations to target, and how to place them in your content so you rank in the search engines.
Before we start, let’s go over the meaning of short-tail and long-tail keywords. A short-tail keyword would be something like “shoes”, and a long-tail keyword would be something like “black dress shoes for men”. Individually, short-tail keywords are the most popular search terms, but that means they are also the most competitive. On the other hand, long-tail queries individually get relatively low traffic. However, there are far more long-tail queries than short-tail ones, so as a group, long-tail queries have the most total traffic— over 70%. As you would expect, long-tail queries have less competition. So, your best SEO strategy is usually to come up with specific, relevant keywords rather than target broad, short-tail terms, for which big companies occupy page 1.
First, make a list of all possible keywords you could target. While on your site, go through your content and write down any keywords you can think of that are relevant to each page. For example, say you have a pet store website, and you’re determining keywords for the ‘Cats and Kittens For Sale’ page. How do you know whether you should target “kittens for sale”, “cats for sale”, “buy a kitten”, “buy a cat”, “adopt a cat” or “adopt a kitten”? This is where using a keyword tool comes in.
There are many keyword tools out there, but my personal favorite is the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. You could also use Wordtracker, which is a good tool but costs money to use (their free version isn’t that effective), as well as a plethora of other tools like Keyword Discovery, Microsoft Advertising Intelligence, Google Insights for Search, and Google Trends. But for now, let’s stick with the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, as it has everything you need to do a basic keyword analysis.
Once you’re on the Google Adwords Keyword Tool page, first go over to the left sidebar and un-check Broad under Match Types, and check [Exact]. This will give you results that count only searches of that exact phrase, instead of all results related to those words. Then check the box for “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms”. What this means is, only show keyword ideas including my specific terms. You can choose to un-check this later, to show keyword ideas related to your search terms but not necessarily including the exact words you entered. Next, press the X on United States for Locations if you want worldwide results. Now you’re ready to type in your keywords you want to research. Let’s say you are deciding which top keywords to target for your ‘Cats and Kittens For Sale’ page. If you have a group of similar keywords and synonyms you want to compare, then you can type them all in at once, making sure each keyword is one per line. For example:
cats for sale
kittens for sale
adopt a cat
adopt a kitten
buy a cat
buy a kitten
Then type in the captcha, and press Search. You will see that there are 2 result boxes: Search Terms and Keyword Ideas. Under Search Terms, it will show the amount of monthly searches for only the terms you entered as is. The Keyword Ideas box will show you other related searches that include your entered terms but also have other words, such as “bengal kittens for sale”. Sort your results by clicking on Global Monthly Searches—this will list your keyword in order of highest to lowest searches per month. You also want to take note of the level of competition for each keyword, which gives you a sense of how many advertisers are bidding for that keyword and competing for high Google rankings. Preferably, you want a keyword with a high amount of traffic but a low level of competition. So, from this search we have discovered that out of the 6 phrases we compared, “kittens for sale” is the most popular keyword, “cats for sale” is also a pretty popular query, and “buy a cat” and “buy a kitten” are significantly smaller queries. We discovered that “adopt a cat”, “adopt a kitten” and “buy a cat” are highly competitive keywords, and would be harder to rank for. We also learned that “bengal kittens for sale” and “persian kittens for sale” are good keywords that we could target. And much more! These are just a few examples of what you could take away from this research. Also, if we go and un-check the “only closely related ideas” box, now we can see that the keyword “puppies for sale” is much more popular than “kittens for sale”, for example. You can use this tool however you like to find out not only which synonyms and related keywords to use, but also what other keywords are out there that you should be targeting that you never even thought of.
You may have noticed on the sidebar that there is a link called Traffic Estimator, under Tools. This is also a useful tool, used to determine traffic estimates on specific keywords if you’re thinking of doing paid search (PPC), such as Google Adwords. All you do is type in the keyword you’re thinking about buying, your maximum per-click budget (CPC), and optionally your daily budget. It will give you the results of how many searches per month that keyword gets, both globally and locally if you entered a location, the average CPC, estimated ad position, estimated daily clicks and estimated daily cost.
So now that we have come up with a list of keywords, researched them and found out which ones to target, and compiled our final list of top keywords for our site, it’s time to implement these findings. Each page should be dedicated to 1-5 keywords. I tend to choose 2 most important keywords per page. These top keywords must now be placed within the content, in the right places and in the right amounts—these 2 factors are very important. If you have a keyword mentioned once on your whole page, and it’s near the bottom, chances are it won’t rank for that keyword. In order for the spiders to know your page is about a specific keyword, it must be reoccurring throughout the content, especially in the page title, heading, first sentence, and in your title tag. But you don’t want to repeat the keyword so much that it looks spammy—this is called keyword stuffing, and Google will penalize you for doing this. So use it often throughout the text, but make sure that it doesn’t sound redundant or would look like a spam site to Google. After doing this for each page on your site, you are now optimized on-page for relevant Google rankings, and on your way to achieving page 1 results!