The use of appropriate key words is one of the most important aspects of search engine optimization. Selecting and targeting pertinent key words and phrases is crucial for building web traffic and getting the audience you want for your web pages. Like any other type of advertisement, your key words must be carefully chosen to ensure that you achieve both high page rankings and relevant traffic. Achieving high page ranks is useless if the traffic it brings you is not the right audience. For this reason, many experts believe that the target key word list used for a site can mean either success or failure for a web site or online business.
It is no longer enough to simply choose a relevant domain name for an online business or web site. Choosing the right key words for the site is now equally if not more important. The majority of people who visit a site get there by using a search engine. They will type in two or three words that describe what they’re looking for, scan the resulting list generated and pick one that seems relevant until they get the answer or product they need. This is where target key words are utilized. Key words are what enable people to find your site; choosing the right key words for your site will ensure the right people find you.
With this in mind, identifying your target audience is the first step in creating relevant key words and phrases. Again, this is not dissimilar to targeting television advertisements. Consider location when you are developing your target market. For example, if you own a used car dealership in Hayward, California, any traffic you get from outside a very specific area is virtually useless to you. Similarly, if you operate an online business that does not ship outside the USA, generating traffic from other countries will not help you make sales. By adding key words that are specific to your location as well as your product, you will better hone into your target audience, improve your rankings, and achieve a better conversion rate, which will help increase your site’s page ranking, in turn.
Keyword competition should also be taken into consideration when developing a site’s key word list. Going back to the used car dealership example, let’s say a potential customer types in the word “cars” into a search engine. They’ll never find what they need, because it’s far too general–generating around 500,000,000 different sites to choose from. Typing in “used cars” generates almost 70,000,000. That’s still too many to deal with effectively. Using “used cars Hayward” generates almost 900,000 hits, and narrowing the focus even further by using the zip code rather than the city name reduces it to less than 25,000.
Choosing key words for your web site works the same way. If your key words are too general, your target audience will never find your site, because the search terms generate so many web sites that it is impossible to look through them all. However, if you go too far in the opposite direction and use too many key words, or key words which are too specific, you risk losing business as well. The best key word phrases are no more than three words in length.
So how do you choose the right key words? The first step is brainstorming with colleagues, friends or an SEO professional, to come up with a list of 20 or more appropriate key words. The Google Keyword Tool is an excellent place to research key words. By entering key words into this tool it will give you an idea of the popularity of certain words and offers you alternative key words and phrases.
Once you have a good list of terms, you may want to refine it to call out the strongest terms that have the best potential for sales or traffic conversion. There are several good online research tools available, which can help you decide which words will be most effective for you. Some good examples are WordTracker and Keyword Discovery. These sites may charge a fee for using their database. After reviewing the terms, eliminate the key words that rank poorly or are very unpopular, then prioritize the remaining terms according to search popularity. These terms will become the keywords you will want to focus your initial SEO campaign on.
Always remember that when it comes to key words, you are focusing on optimizing your traffic rather than maximizing it. Setting up the right keyword list for optimization is the cornerstone to a successful web site.
~Ben Anton, 2007
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