Having the right keywords and phrases incorporated into your website is of vital importance, as they maximise the chances of individuals finding your website via a search engine. An optimised website not only uses well targeted keywords that capture and reflect back the visitor’s search terms and language, but also groups those keywords intelligently, making the best use of groups of keywords to create extremely topical, on theme sections of a site.
To seed your site with the appropriate keywords and phrases it’s essential to identify how visitors look for the various services, products and information you have to offer. If you don’t take the trouble to do this, your chances of ranking well and getting visitors from organic search are very much reduced.
Build a list of keywords
Your first task in an effective SEO strategy should be to develop a comprehensive list of appropriate keywords, as these will be the foundation of all your future SEO efforts. It doesn’t matter how well you do any other SEO task – if you don’t have the keywords your customers are looking for on your pages, then you won’t appear in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), which in turn means you won’t get the visitors to your website.
Finding the right keywords
Finding the basic keywords using keyword research tools, like the Adwords Keyword Tool, is only the start of keyword research. It’s crucial that you don’t make the common rookie mistake of creating a list of 50 high volume keywords and believe your research is done. Keyword diversification is extremely important, however, using the exact same web tools as the competition means that you’ll never stand out from the crowd. This is a major drawback of relying on third-party tools to generate keywords for you.
The best source of suggestions for keywords is often the search query reports and web analytics from your own website, which will make the keywords used more personal to your product. Why not take this a little further and make notes after conversations with your customers, so you can remember the exact phrases they use and what they ask for. You will often find the language your customer uses to describe your products is very different from the industry terms you normally use.
Initial lists of keywords also need to be grown in the longer term and more long-tail keywords incorporated. An efficient search marketing campaign is only possible with the proper SEO keyword research as its basis.
How to use keywords
Once you have your keywords, you obviously need to translate this into conversions and search-driven traffic.
Each page on your website needs to incorporate keywords in elements such as titles and body text, meta tags, URLs and the file names for images. The most successful optimised websites incorporate not just a handful but also literally thousands of such strategically placed keywords and phrases.
It’s important to always remember that quality beats quantity! It is far better to use keywords intelligently in the important places on a page than to ‘keyword stuff’ a page to achieve a certain keyword density.
Distribution of keywords on the page
There are a few basic rules when optimising any HTML page that should be followed, whatever overall SEO strategy you choose to adopt. The most descriptive keyword phrase that describes the business should feature in specific page elements:
- In the page title
- In the page’s URL
- With variations throughout the body text of the page
- In the meta tags, with special emphasis in the meta description
- In the file paths for images, and also in the alt text for the image
- Where possible, in the anchor text of links which return visitors to the page from somewhere else on the website
Targeting through groups of keywords
In most cases, it would be impractical and look very spammy to construct a unique page of HTML around each keyword used.
Instead, you should split your keyword list into a number of separate groups each comprising related keywords. This will significantly reduce the effort involved to optimise your site whilst still allowing specific pages to be effectively targeted.
For example, a store selling clothes might create a group of keywords for all the footwear products. This could then be further broken down into groups of keywords covering such products as high-heels, thigh boots, trainers, slippers and the like, and these into even smaller and more specific mini-groups. In this way, the store can create one detailed page optimised for each of the small groups of selected keywords.
Keyword research can be extremely time-consuming. There are numerous tools on the web that can take the strain out of it by, for example, returning a range of suggestions that have been pre-organised into the most appropriate clusters. Other applications will take your list of keywords and group it for you.
Wordtracker delivers a list of high-performing keywords for selected pages and can help with ongoing keyword generation as the site expands. Searchmetrics is an enterprise platform for SEO, providing a range of marketing and content tools for digital solutions. Spyfu adopts a rather different but useful approach in that it reveals how competitors are conducting their own successful marketing campaigns, opening the way to either emulation or counter-strategies. SEMrush specialises in collecting SERP data for millions of keywords and domains and provides a wide range of marketing tools.
Keyword research is a complex and important part of SEO but it’s by no means the full story. Other considerations include analytics, usability and social media. Social media has become especially important as designers adopt strategies for reputation management, link building and creating user-generated content, and analytics helps users to define an overall SEO strategy based on understanding its performance and deploying resources as and when appropriate.
However, if you have to pick a single element of SEO to focus on, keyword research is the most important part of the strategy, in that it’s impossible to even begin planning an SEO campaign before you know precisely which words and phrases to target.
Keyword research is critical for SEO because when it is used most effectively it really gives you a road map for designing and building a website as well as for creating and developing its all-important content.