Keyword Research Explained

An important phase in an SEO campaign is determining which keywords to use and optimize for a given web site. Careful selection requires an extensive set of tools that perform checks and validations. Choosing the right keywords will be rewarded with meaningful traffic and targeted visitors. Choosing the right keywords is like finding the best medicine for a disease, addressing the problem with the right solution.

Keyword Research Explained

Know your goals
Before diving into the keyword mining process, determine first what is the aim of the web site in terms of business goals of a business organization or simply how you want a visitor to interact in the site: make a purchase, subscribe to an e-newsletter, register as a member or participate in a survey. In this manner, you will know what priority terms to focus and drop less targeted keywords. For example, if Intercontinental Hotel wants to target luxury visitors, we may want to skip the search phrases with terms such as “cheap” or “discount”.

Look at your website content
Building an initial list of keywords starts at looking into the content of our website. Pick two or three keyword phrases within each page and build the list from there. We can’t pick target keywords that are not in our website.

Look at your competitor website content
Once we determined who are the competitors of our website during the goal identification phase, we can look at the words these competitors are using and observe how they perform their optimization. In some cases, competitors aren’t even aware of SEO while there is a growing trend that competitors are doing some degree of optimization. If we find that some deception is taking place, we can report it to Google Spam Report page.

Use tools to help build keyword list
There are various tools that help us identify related keywords in the market, in addition to client’s or our suggestions:

  • Search referral data from analytics tools. Note that this list is reflective only of terms that are found within our site and does not consider synonyms or terms with similar meanings.
  • Paid search data.
  • Google Keyword Tool
  • Google Suggest

It is important to determine the intent of a search phrase. A search phrase “medieval” can have multiple meanings (“Medieval” in PSP or an era in history). By doing a pre qualification step, we ensure that we are not including terms that have ambiguous meanings.

Determine the keyword popularity
At this point, we are expected to have plotted out our keywords in an Excel spreadsheet. We’ll determine the popularity of these keywords to verify if they are consistently used as query terms on search engines. We can use the following tools to determine keyword popularity:

Determine keyword competitiveness
Once we have finished tallying the values for keyword popularity, we then shift our attention to determining how competitive these keywords are. By knowing this piece of information, we can make conscious effort to decide which keyword to choose. Sometimes we have to settle for terms that have less search volume but has higher chances of ranking. Some search terms are so competitive that even if they have half a million searches in a month, we get no traffic from it.

Determining keyword competitiveness can be accomplished using these tools:

Once we have the numbers, we can assign an arbitrary variable value to compute for the keyword score. The higher (or lower, depending on the variable value) the score, the more desirable the keyword is. The key is to ensure that traffic flows into the website with the targeted keywords and phrases we choose. When visitors use a specific term, we must be certain that we are optimizing such terms at the most suitable landing page.

List Maintenance
Obviously, there has to be a maintenance that goes along with this whole process, just like the whole SEO process in gerneral. Since it is tedious to repeat the keyword research process if we missed some phrases in the initial list, we must take considerable amount of time to minimize occurrence of missing out on search phrases.

Once new pages are added into the site, repeat the keyword research process described above for the new pages and incorporate them with the existing list. We also need to pay attention to phrases that don’t do well. There may be a problem that prevents that search phrase from delivering traffic to the site.