18 April 2012

How Keyword Research Can Improve Your SEO

keyword researchThe web runs on keywords and, yet, most website owners don't know the first thing about how powerful keyword research can be or how to integrate it into their websites.

A keyword or keyword phrase is a word or series of words that a user enters into a search engine. Keyword research refers to the process of choosing a few of the infinite number of possible keyword phrases to use in search engine optimization efforts for your website.

For example, if you're planning a family trip to Disney World and want to find the weather forecast, you might search for the phrase: "average Orlando weather in June." Google takes this text and compares it against the billions of web pages in its index, using its complex algorithms to determine which sites represent the best matches.

Here's a look at what you need to know about keyword research for your site, why you should care and how to get started:

What makes a good keyword?

Getting a high rank in search engine results pages is important, but it's the specific keywords you're ranked for that can determine how successful your website will be.

To understand the difference, compare a site that's ranked for "make money online" to one that gets a high ranking for "online tutorials on underwater basket weaving." Because more people are searching for the first phrase, a search engine ranking for that term can generate significantly more traffic and hopefully enable the site to make more money.

Two important concepts help us determine which keywords to target: search volume and competition. Volume refers to the number of people who enter your chosen keywords into the search engines. Greater search volume is usually better, enabling your site to draw more natural traffic.

But search volume should be tempered by a careful analysis of the competitiveness of the keyword phrase. In the example above, the keyword "make money online" receives significantly more volume, but it will be much more difficult to get your site bumped into the top 10 search results for that phrase than for "online tutorials on underwater basket weaving."

How do I conduct keyword research?

The first step involves researching potential keyword phrases to target. There are plenty of tools that provide this data, but one of the easiest to use is Google's free Adwords Keyword Research Tool.

You can enter phrases related to your website or just your site address, and the program will generate a list of keywords to consider. The tool also will provide data on how many global and local searches occur for a particular word or phrase each month, as well as Google's estimate of the difficulty of getting ranked for the keyword.

Unfortunately, there are no "search volume versus competitiveness" rules to follow when choosing keywords to target from this list. But keep in mind that while the competitive keywords will require more time and effort to build a high ranking, they can pay off in increased search traffic to your site.

As you research keywords and integrate them into your site, you should start to see a pattern in terms of the ideal mix of search volume and competitiveness. Much will depend on how big an investment you're willing to make in search engine optimization.

How do I integrate keyword research into my website?

Once you've identified a few potential keyword targets, start integrating them into your site. To increase your chances of getting ranked for your chosen terms, you'll want to follow standard search engine optimization practices, including any of the following:

  • Create pages on your site featuring helpful content based on your target keywords.
  • Incorporate your target keywords into your page's HTML in various places, including your site's title, heading and meta description tags.
  • Build backlinks pointing at your site using your target keyword as anchor text. The anchor text of a link refers to the part that remains visible and underlined on the referring page. For example, the link <a href="http://www.yoursite.com">keyword phrase</a> would appear like this: keyword phrase. This lets the search engines know that this phrase is relevant to your site.

It will take some effort to target particular keywords but, over time, your research should yield significant improvement in search traffic volume.

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The above article was originally published by Entrepreneur and can be seen here.