I recently had the chance to do Keyword Research for one of my clients, whose site is still in the design phase (the seven stages of the software development life cycle are: (1) requirements analysis; (2) design; (3) implementation; (4) integration; (5) testing; (6) deployment; and (7) maintenance). This was a great opportunity to incorporate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) principles into the site’s development. Whether you are designing a new site or optimizing your current one, it is vital to choose the right keywords because they will have a great influence in brand image, site traffic, conversion rate, search engine ranks, and even merchandise planning.
In this article, I will focus on keyword selection, which is the process of selecting the top keywords for your Search Engine Optimization strategy from a more comprehensive list of potential keywords. I will not, however, cover other areas of keyword research, such as use of keyword tools and analysis of: market structure and trends, target costumers, competitors, brands, social media, etc. I have left those topics for another article.
After coming up with a list of 200+ keywords, I used three criteria to determine the top keywords:
This metric indicates the number of people searching for a given keyword. There are several tools that will give you the search volume. The three tools that I like best are Google AdWords Keyword Tool, Microsoft adCenter Keyword Research, and Wordtracker. Although search volume numbers obtained through these tools are not precise (because search engines don’t provide the real figures), the relative volumes will tell you what keywords are more popular.
Relevance refers to the degree that a particular keyword relates to your site’s goals. In other words, how would a searcher feel if he searched for a given term and found your site? Would the site satisfy the searcher’s needs? Once you have determined the most relevant keywords, you will need to develop specific landing pages for each of them.
Imagine an e-commerce site that sells scuba diving equipment. Here are some useful examples to understand the concept of relevance:
Competition refers to the number of sites targeting a given keyword. There are two primary figures for determining the level of competition: (1) the number of sites competing for the keyword advertising space on Pay Per Click (PPC) networks; and (2) the number of sites optimized for the term. With respect to the first figure, the Google AdWords Keyword Tool will yield a number that reflects the level of competition (between 0 and 1 to two decimal places). Unfortunately, this tool doesn’t allow you to differentiate between two keywords that yield the same number. The second figure is more difficult to pinpoint. Wordtracker determines the Keyword Effectiveness Index by comparing the search volume of a keyword to the number of sites that have their title and their inbound links optimized for that term. You can also use Google to get an overestimate of the number of sites optimized for a certain keyword. If you search “allintitle:keyword” you will see how many sites have their title optimized for that term. Similarly, if you search “allinanchor:keyword” you will see how many sites have at least one inbound link with that keyword in the anchor text. You must keep in mind that not all of the sites found using the allintitle and allinanchor operators will be fully optimized.
Final Keyword Evaluation
The most valuable keywords will strike a balance between search volume, relevance, and competition (relative to the other keywords). The three optimal combinations are:
1. High competition and high relevance: sometimes you have no choice but to fight for a competitive term. If this is the case, you have to make sure that the term has a high degree of relevance.
Example: scuba diving boots.
2. High search volume, low competition, and high relevance: ideally, the keywords on your short list will have high search volume, be targeted by a reasonable number of competitors, and relate to the site’s conversion goals.
Example: diving dry suit.
3. Low search volume and high relevance: even if the number of people searching for the term is small, the people who execute the query are more likely to land on your site and ultimately make a conversion.
Example: kids scuba gear.
After you have determined your top keywords, you should periodically refine your list through additional evaluation of your analytics data. For example, once your website is up and running, you will be able to determine the Click Through Rate (CTR) of the keywords that you are targeting through your PPC campaign. The CTR is the number of users who clicked on an ad divided by the number of times the ad was delivered. The keywords with the highest CTR are more valuable.
Using the three criteria mentioned in this article, I was able to determine the most valuable keywords for the client’s SEO campaign. Always keep in mind the objective of your SEO work: to help the company accomplish its business goals.Posted by Antonio Casanova in Keyword Research