23 Jan '12

One of the first steps in an organic SEO campaign is keyword research. You build your campaign with the keywords selected, and although monitoring performance and tweaking is part of ongoing SEO work, you would prefer to identify as many high-performing keywords the first time around as possible – right? But how do you know which keywords to focus on?

Well, you have to do the research.

Study the website you’re optimizing (if not a new site) and analyze competitor sites. Review your analytics and PPC data (if available). Look at trends and demographics. Create persona's and get inside their heads to determine what keywords they might use in a search. Build out a list of terms, making sure each one is relevant to your site’s content. You don’t want visitors bouncing because they didn’t find what they searched for.

All of this and more is part of a process to finding the optimal keywords for your SEO campaign. But your research doesn’t end here. It’s not enough to create a list of keywords you think your target audience will use and go with that. You need to research those terms.

That doesn’t mean simply put your list into a keyword tool and pick relevant terms with the highest search volume. Those keywords you select may also have the highest competition. Getting top ranking of a keyword with lower search volume is generally better than getting low ranking for one with higher search volume, especially for new or smaller sites.

You also don’t want to select keywords because your tool shows they have the lowest competition. Maybe there’s a reason very few competitors optimize or purchase ads for that keyword.

Although Wordtracker and other keywords tools are used, we like Google’s best. We can insert our list, look at estimated search volume and competitor data, and get ideas for additional keywords. We can select the ones that look good and ask for more like those selected, and there usually won’t be lot of junk terms to go through. We then download the list of selected keywords into an Excel spreadsheet and research the competition.

Next we Google each keyword considered to get an idea of the level of competition. Use a tool such as SEOquake to analyze sites ranking on the first page for each keyword. Put all of your data into columns of the Excel sheet. See which keywords have the optimal balance of search volume and competition. Look for low hanging fruit as well as keywords with high-traffic potential. You will undoubtedly find some gems in there. Want help with your next online marketing campaign? Let’s talk!

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About the Author Terri

Terri Stevens loves to travel, especially aboard cruise ships (floating casinos!), and spends free time with family and enjoying the outdoors.

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