Keyword Research is probably the most overlooked task when optimizing a website for search engines. A typical scenario goes something like this: A website owner writes down a few keywords and sends them to the web designer to add to web pages. The web designer does what he has been told and that completes the task. This method is so 2001 and will actually hurt your SEO efforts. In this article I’d like to introduce Keyword Research – the process of searching for and qualifying keywords to use for SEO purposes.

Why Keywords?

At the very basic level, keywords are used by search engines to determine what the website is all about. If you do landscaping, for example, then one of the keywords on your website can be landscaping. A number of related landscaping keywords can indicate to the search engine that your website is about landscaping in some way or fashion. It could be that you blog about landscaping or that you sell products for landscaping. So keywords are pretty important.

The Business Of Keywords

If everything were equal, you’d have all landscaping businesses competing for the same keywords. This means that competing for these keywords could be very competitive and generate little results. That’s why researching keywords is important. You need to find keywords with the right volume of searches but less competitive at the same time. In the next section I’ll show you how to research keywords effectively.

Process of Keyword Research

Although there are a number of tools out there to help you do Keyword Research, I’ll use Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool. Let’s assume we are tasked with researching keywords for a new home builder in Oklahoma City.

Using the Keyword tool, let’s start by searching for new home builder. This is what I got after running the search (click on the image to enlarge):

As you can see, the keyword new home builder generates about 110,000 searches and it is very competitive. This means that for a new website, it’ll take way longer to get ranked for this keyword. We need to revise our search so that we can find a more targeted keyword.

So, next we add location. This is a great way to get ranked because search engines like to provide local information that is relevant to the user. You will also benefit from local traffic as opposed to traffic coming from visitors across the country. So let’s try new homes oklahoma. This is what we get:

Now we have more localized search results that we can complete with.

Repeating this process can shed light into keywords that users are using to search for your business/company/products.

DO NOT assume anything. Keywords that you think we’ll help rank you high on search engines may not convert well because of the size of competition.

Alternative Keyword Research Tools

Here are two tools that can help you fine tune your keyword search:

  1. WordTracker
  2. SEOMoz Keyword Difficulty Tool

I hope you have enjoyed this discussion. SEO is a wide topic that required patience to master. With time you should see the fruits of your labor as you see your website being ranked higher and higher. Please do share this new found knowledge with your colleagues.