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Finding your target keywords

Finding your target keywords

Find the Best Keywords

Let’s cover the basics first.

A keyword is a significant word that occurs in a document more often than would be expected to occur by chance alone. It captures the essence of a topic and is frequently used as a search term to gather topical information. For a keyword to be effective it must have relevance. Those seeking information must believe that “searching” for documents and sites containing that word or phrase will render the information they are looking for.

The “Best Keyword” is a word or phrase that you determine is the most likely to be used to find your Web page, and has relatively low competition compared to how frequently it is searched. When used on your Web page, it pushes your Web page higher up the list of search engine results.

A keyword isn’t necessarily one word but could be a short phrase, more accurately described as a key phrase and often referred to as a long tail keyword. The key phrase can be made up of three or four words linked together.

Your best chance of obtaining keywords that will be highly relevant and relatively popular compared to the competition is to create long tail keywords that narrow in on exactly what you are talking about. Of course, earning top search engine results with a long tail keyword will not generate as much traffic as ranking at the top with a very popular single keyword, but don’t worry about it. You will slowly gain ground with the single very competitive keywords held within your long-tail keywords.

The competition is so high for popular single keywords that you would have a very difficult time getting on the first page of results, let alone the top position, if you attempted it when you were first getting started. And unfortunately results on page seven are pretty much worthless. Think about it, how many times have you bothered to look past the first three pages of results? Often people don’t even look past page one.

There’s more good news about long tail keywords. People who use more words (detail) to describe what they are looking for are more likely to know exactly what they want. They more likely to be at the serious shopping stage rather than just checking things out – which makes sense if you think about how a person naturally researches something.

An example: Let’s pretend you are trying to plan your vacation this year. You’re not sure where you want to go so you search the keyword “travel” to see what’s hot right now. There you read an article on www.travelchannel.com about American national parks and become interested in Olympic National Park in Washington. So you search “Olympic National Park” and get its official Website. It looks like a great place, but you and your family are not big campers, so you search “hotels near Olympic National Park.” Results from a Website called Trip Advisor pop up, so you browse it and find a beautiful lodge that would be perfect for your family. Finally, you book the lodge and start looking for airline tickets.

I’m sure you noticed how the keywords searched naturally became longer as I began to figure out what I wanted and when I was closest to the point of purchase my “keyword” was actually five words long.

Another plus for long tail keywords is that they are far easier to rank in the top results due to the fact that you are only competing with people that fall into the much smaller category. Remember from the example we started out with “travel” if you had chosen to use that as your keyword in your marketing you would be going head-to-head with Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire and the Travel Channel. Not good odds for you. By narrowing down your market you stop competing for placement with companies that are only indirectly related to your business.

Why do I need keywords?

As I’m sure you already know or have figured out from our discussion that keywords are crucial to letting search engines and directories know what your content is all about and creating an easy way for information seekers and shoppers to find you. The more specific your keyword, the more likely you will reach the right people, but do be cautious. If you get too specific, you may just lose your audience all together.

How do I figure out what my best keywords are?

If you are trying to find the happy place between lost in the confusion and an empty parking lot, then check out Google’s keyword tool. For some reason they make the link insanely long so the easiest way to find it is to just search “Google Keyword Tool”. It will pop right up for you.

You will notice with the Google Keyword Tool that if you type in a keyword (you can use short or long tail) not only will it give you the level of advertiser competition displayed on a bar, and the local and global search results for that keyword, but it will also give you the results for some more targeted keywords that you might be interested in. It occasionally gives you some results out in left field, but for the most part the data is helpful in at least getting the ball rolling.

If you want more suggestions for long tail keywords try word tracker. It is also a free and the URL is a little shorter, http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/. If you type in a possible keyword it will generate all kinds of options for you to consider.

Although the Google Keyword Tool will give you the little bar depicting what the advertiser competition is for that keyword you should check to see how many Web pages are using that keyword too. To do this is really easy; just go to www.google.com and type in your potential keyword without parentheses and then take note of the number of results in the upper right hand of the page. For example the results for the key phrases “get promotions” are about 108,000,000. That’s right, 108 million. Next search Google again, but include the parentheses to see how many competing Web pages are using this EXACT phrase. Enter, “get a promotion” and today the results are listed at about 9,360,000. Still very high, but you can see how the results dropped dramatically when you asked for only the exact matches.

If you are considering a long tail keyword, make sure to type in the whole phrase with and without parentheses. The reason is that although you get more accurate results when you use them, most actual users don’t so it’s important to know what you are up against (and later how you rank) both ways.

How much competition is too much? There’s no clear-cut answer to that one. The more searches a keyword is getting the more competition you must be willing to put up with, but I think it’s best to start with the less popular and less competitive, highly targeted keywords and then slowly work into the bigger ones. There are several reasons for this.

First, you will get to the results of your marketing efforts sooner, and both the financial gains and the positive reinforcement is especially important when it can be frustrating to take on learning so many new things at once.

Secondly, often the most popular keywords are shorter phrases containing the same words. As you build your recognition and command more traffic, your efforts towards gaining clout with long tail keywords can eventually help you make progress on more popular shorter ones contained within your phrases.

If your product or service competes on a global or national level a good place to start is with keywords that are showing traffic “with parentheses” of 3,000 or less, and some anticipated traffic. If you can’t find keywords that fit into that category then go ahead and take on a more competitive keyword (or long tail keyword). Just understand that standing out in the crowd will take a little more work.

Note: If you have a locally distributed product or service this will not be an issue.  Make sure you include the city or region(s) that you serve in the keyword phrase.  Experiment with different word ordering to make sure you have all of the possibilities.

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