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Articles

  By: SEO Rank
  Published   2004-05-05
  Category   Search Engine   Optimization
  Type   Medium
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Keyword Research for Search Engine Optimization

Importance of Keyword Research for Search Engine Optimization

Keyword Research is by far the most important aspect in any Search Engine Optimization initiative. This article shall discuss the important aspects of keyword research process.

Keyword Phrase Research is a process of selecting the most “optimum performance” keyword phrases that can help visitors find your site. You may have spent days and months on fine-tuning your web pages for a better ranking with the major search engines, yet it will all amount to a big waste if the right keyword phrases are not targeted. It’s like not being able to reach your destination even after running your best race because you started out on the wrong road. Even if you achieve high search engine rankings, you may not get relevant traffic if you select the wrong keywords. Therefore, the foremost step in any SEO campaign is identifying your target audience and researching what
keyword phrases they might be searching in the search engines to locate a site like yours.

For any marketing strategy to succeed, it is critical to know your audience and the means to reach them. A certain focus is required which could be location specific, region specific or country specific; it could be business, trade, service, product specific, since we are talking specific audience. For instance, a dentist practicing in a particular town would most likely target people living in the same region, instead of targeting the entire country. Just as a patient searching for a dentist would search for one in his own area. Focus on region would help her get targeted visitors, not just wasted traffic.

Facts, Not Gut Feel

A common pitfall is to start the website optimization exercise with a set of “gut-feel” keyword phrases. Site owners often come up with ‘common sense looking’ key phrases, which though look obvious, may not match with the ones your buyers are using as their search term. Very often, being from within the trade narrows the vision and you tend to assume that trade-specific terms are easily understood and popularly used. Not so. You need to think out of the box.

Doing Keyword Research invariably means departing from one’s gut-feel and going by the facts. ‘Facts are sacred’ in website optimization as they provide the exact data of what people are actually searching for, thus saving you from starting on a wild goose chase. As mentioned earlier, targeting the wrong key phrases might get you a good ranking for keywords that have few or no search requests or just get you irrelevant junk traffic. So, how does one get the facts and the data regarding a particular search term? There are several online keyword research tools like Wordtracker and Overture, which offer data pertaining to your search term. Relying on search tools to analyze keyword phrase data helps you to get a grip on your target audience.

Keyword Research Process

Keyword Research process involves the following important steps. These steps can be described as:

Discovering Keywords
Analyzing Keywords
Selecting Keywords
Deploying Keywords

The Discovering phase should focus on identifying as many keywords as possible that are related to your website and target audience.

The Analysis phase involves adding information about existing competition; PageRank based limitations and potential for ranking.

The Selection process involves objective measurement based shortlisting of keywords keeping the site focus and target audience within the limitations analyzed.

The Deploying phase is about making optimum use of your selected keywords on your website copy, HTML code and tags.

Step 1: Discovering Keyword Phrases

Starting out Keywords

The nature of keyword research tools that help you identify various keywords is such that they need initial starting out keywords. It is important that you identify good 15 starting out keywords, tightly focused on your business. You can brainstorm with your colleagues and clients to identify search phrases that are most likely to get qualified traffic to your site. This brainstorming session is intended at discussing the most relevant keyword phrases to the product or service you offer. An initial list of 15-20 keywords can be compiled at this stage, which can be generic in nature. For wider keyword coverage, you will get better results if you have one or two keywords rather than longer phrases.

Using Wordtracker, Overture to Collect a Corpus of Keywords

Keyword Research tools like Wordtracker and Overture can be used to expand on your initial list of starting out keywords. These tools allow you to find the number of searches being made on a particular term and also look for all related terms that include your search term.
Wordtracker and Overture are the two most widely used services that give you the ability to research and find out what people are actually searching for on the major search engines along with information on how popular a search term was in the last 30 or 60 days.

Wordtracker

Wordtracker is a fee-based service that allows you to look up popular keyword phrases. Wordtracker is most popular in SEO industry, as it offers a good search term database and makes searching for keyword related information easy.

The database is constantly updated, with the oldest data being removed and replaced with the latest information every week. As of writing this article, Wordtracker offers access to a database size of 324 million entries.

Although Wordtracker is a paid service for regular use, it offers the benefit of one-day free trial, which can be used to complete your keyword research if you are fairly organized.

Competition Search can also be made at Wordtracker for your short-listed terms. Competition Search allows you to ascertain how many web pages exist for these search terms on different search engines. This helps you determine your chances of ranking with a particular search engine for your search term. Ideally, lesser number of pages with a search engine means a better ranking chance for your search term.

Overture

Overture Search Term Suggestion tool, although intended to offer keyword popularity information to the PPC (Pay Per Click) advertisers, works fairly well to carry out your keyword research. Enter your main search terms and in response Overture lists out all other popular search terms that contain that particular term or phrase along with the popularity count. Overture lists the search terms in order of their popularity, giving numerical count of past one month.

Being a free tool, Overture is quite useful. However, it has a few downsides and its results cannot be totally relied upon. They are good to be used as a guideline. Some of the drawbacks of Overture are listed below:

Overture does not make a distinction between singular and plural search terms. Therefore, it can lead you to assume that a keyword is popular in the singular, though it could actually be the plural you should target.
Related phrases are often collapsed into narrow term listings.
The different variations of a word are stemmed as one.
Mis-spellings and punctuation are either ignored or stemmed resulting in stinted data.

Google Adwords: Keyword Suggestion Tool

Search engines like Google offer some keyword recommendation tools, which can be used as a guide. However, Google does not indicate the popularity count of each search phrase.

Coverage of Keyword Phrases

While selecting your key phrases, make an effort to cover each aspect of your service or product that could be searched on stand-alone basis by the users. Each page on your website could be dealing with a different topic (product or service), therefore; the keywords for each page would be different too, depending on which you should try and place unique and relevant key phrases on each page.

For instance, it would not suffice to optimize a dentist’s site only for the terms ‘dentist’ or ‘dental surgeon’, as people are likely to make specific searches on related terms like cosmetic surgery, root canal treatment or RCT, dental crowns, tooth extractions, cavities etc. Hence, it is important that all these keywords are covered.

Step 2: Analyzing Keyword Phrases

The second step is analyzing your keyword phrases. This involves analyzing the competition for the search terms, i.e. how many pages are indexed in a search engine like Google. This gives you an idea of how many pages are competing for the top spot. While most of the time, the optimized sites are ranking high, very often un- Optimized sites show up highly ranked due to the complex nature of the search engine algorithms. It is therefore wise to be conscious of the extent of competition.

PageRank

The potential for ranking with a particular keyword depends on several factors. The on-page factors address your optimization efforts while the off-page factors like PageRank affect ranking in a major way. While it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the affect and weight of all the factors, your site’s PageRank is an important parameter in keyword analysis. Thumb rule is that the higher your site’s PageRank, the better the chance of ranking with highly competitive keywords. Choose your keywords keeping your site’s PageRank in mind. For more information, read our detailed article on Google PageRank Algorithm

Adding Information and Measuring Competition for Keywords

After you have made your search on Wordtracker or Overture, and short-listed your key phrases, you need to collect information about their competition as described above. Wordtracker offers an in-built tool to find the number of pages for your keywords indexed in Google.
Alternately, you can check the competition for your keywords at:
http://www.seorank.com/search-engine-keyword-competition.php

Based on our experience with search engines, the table below suggests a guideline for choosing keyword based on the competition of pages indexed in search engines. For instance, if your site has a PR value of 7/10 on Google Toolbar, you can expect to beat four million existing web pages and rank well for your search term, whereas, with a PR value of 3, you can expect to top upto five hundred thousand web pages for the same search term.

PageRank
(PR)
Good for Competition (Number of web
pages on Google)
PR0
 Upto 30,000 web pages on Google
PR1
 Upto 1,00,000 web pages on Google
PR2
 Upto 3,50,000 web pages on Google
PR3
 Upto 5,00,000 web pages on Google
PR4
 Upto 7,00,000 web pages on Google
PR5
 Upto 1,000,000 web pages on Google
PR6
 Upto 2,000,000 web pages on Google
PR7
 Upto 4,000,000 web pages on Google

While the above table is not a hard rule as we have seen large variation in several cases. The numbers assure that you would do a fairly good job of your site optimization.

Note: An alternative to the above table is to manually check the PageRank of the first few sites appearing in the SERP of Google for your selected Keyword Phrases. If the first few sites have PR rankings from PR5- PR6, then it is safe to assume that your site/web pages need at least this PR value to compete for the Keyword Phrase selection.

In order to make this task more organized, we recommend making use of Excel Sheets to feed in all the data you have compiled. This will allow you to make comparisons between various search terms and at the same time, do away with all the unrelated junk terms that are irrelevant to your site and also the ones that exceed your site’s PR requirement.

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