May 6, 2010: At the foundation of an search engine optimization campaign are keywords. Google’s free keyword tools can be an important tool for uncovering opportunities, but it’s not always as simple as just finding a keyword and placing it on a page.
This post is designed to offer background and recommendations for identifying keywords and applying them to an SEO strategy, in coordination with the use of Google keyword tools.
Remember Search Volumes are Estimates
It is important to remember monthly search numbers are estimates.; complete accuracy in the numbers should not be expected or anticipated. Instead of taking the number at face value, use the information as a gauge for measuring key differences:
- Adjectives and root words
- Singular versus plural
- Synonyms and comparable phrases
This will offer more valuable insight into how people search and what they are typing into Google.
Differentiate Search Volume Match Types
Google’s original keyword tool provides filters for match types: broad, phrase, and exact match. Make sure to at least check values for broad and exact match, to get an understanding of the projected search volume on the specific phrase (exact match) and how that term is broadly used with similar words and phrases.
To Filter or Not Filter
While most times you will want to see different keyword ideas, sometimes its preferential not to; particularly when a keyword set has already been refined. Take advantage of Google’s filtering options if you want to screen out some of the noise and focus on a specific set of keyword opportunities.
Spreadsheets Will Become Your Best Friend
There will be a lot of data to absorb. Particularly when working on large-scale sites with hundreds (or thousands) of pages of available content. Download or copy/paste keyword values into spreadsheet format for easier management, sorting, and better formatting options.
Here is a sample template via Google Docs.
Now that you have a list of keywords, take a look at the type of content that ranks well for each opportunity. Important questions to ask yourself in this process:
- Does your existing content resonate with the results viewed?
- Do you need new content or better content to compete for this keyword? (subjective of course)
- What type of domains and web pages rank well? Is their material more informational or transactional?
Keyword relevance is critical. It’s not advisable to set a keyword goal without understanding the types of content relevant for that particular keyword strategy.
Maintain Realistic (Practical) Expectations
It’s easy to choose keywords with the highest potential search volume as the primary opportunity, however that doesn’t mean it is the correct tactic. It is equally important to understand your capacity and opportunity in relation to the sites ranking well for a particular keyword target.
For example: if web pages ranking well (for a keyword opportunity) are all from Fortune 500 companies or top online destinations (and your website is not), you should question the viability of success for the particular keyword in question; at least in the short-term.
The most competitive keywords are not always the best opportunities. It’s just as important to get keyword traffic that converts goals, even if that means going for less competitive opportunities.
Implement, Evaluate, and Adjust Accordingly
Keyword strategy is never a “set it and forget it” operation. Once the research and implementation is done it is important to evaluate your changes over time using web analytics. The important questions to ask are:
- How much traffic and how many referrals are being received from specific keyword targets?
- What additional variations of primary keyword targets are also sending visitors to the website?
If you’re keyword strategy is working correctly, not only will your site draw traffic for a particular keyword, but also for many of the variations associated to it.
If you’re not seeing the results desired, reassess keyword strategies, potentially refine messaging, but also make certain you’re acquiring quality links and working on other facets of the marketing strategy that may benefit your SEO campaign as well.
Good luck with your keyword strategies and please feel free to ask questions or provide feedback (and criticism :-)) via comments below.