One of the most effective means to rank in search engines is the effective use of keywords. There are, of course, other strategies that can be and are very effective, some are black-hat and most involve linking in some way. However, I don’t think any SEO expert would deny that fresh content and smart keyword use is fundamental to ranking highly and staying there.
If choosing the right keyword set is so important for search engine optimization, how do you go about choosing the right keyword set? That is the toughest optimization question I struggle with whenever I develop a domain, and it really comes down to the following questions:
- What keywords will searchers use while searching for your product or brand, and what is the traffic volume for those keywords?
- How many results did the search engine display for your search terms and what is the competition levels for those keywords?
- What are some alternative keyword sets, and what is the search volume and competition levels for those?
Some effective and free SEO tools to research these factors include:
- Adwords Keyword Tool
- Search-Based Keyword Tool
- Plain Ole Searching Around – Ask friends and family. Try to find products and brands similar to yours, what keywords or search terms did you use? How many search results did the search engine display for your keyword set?
- SeoQuake – While searching around, use SeoQuake to analyze how your competition got where they are. Was it good content and keyword use or linking that got them there? What keywords do they rank highest for?
Note: A very common mistake commonly made is using a business or brand name in the chosen keyword set. The brand name in the keyword set or domain name is often unnecessary, and the lost opportunity can be damaging.
Higher competition levels require optimization focus or a niche. For instance, ranking on the first page for “SEO” on a global scale would bring massive visitor volume, but would be nearly impossible because, especially with a new domain, there are a zillion other domains to compete with. Ranking for “Michigan SEO” or even “Upper Peninsula SEO” would be much easier, but would have much less visitor volume.
Therein lies the trade-off. Where narrowing down keyword fields and the competition analysis for those fields becomes more of an art, and keyword choice intuition. Some ways to narrow the keyword field include:
- Products or Services – Using your brand, product or service in your chosen keyword set can be effective.
- Location – Adding location can be an effective way to narrow your field.
It is important to keep in mind, searchers are becoming more sophisticated in the way they search, and are usually specific when looking for information. They are looking for a local product or service, or want specific information about a particular topic. The point is, while narrowing the field down can sometimes bring less overall traffic, it does allow for a more targeted keyword market.