breaking away from the pack

The Key to Finding Targeted and Relevant Keywords

By on November 24, 2009 in Uncategorized

I hate to say this right off the bat, but there is no “key” to finding the right keywords that visitors will use to find you. Search engine optimization is a moving target and requires ongoing work. Now, there are tried and true ways to stay on track with your evolving search strategy. Back in August I completed the VTC Online University course QuickStart! – SEO and then in October their Search Engine Optimization 2006 course. While the latter is now a few years old, I found more than 95% of the content still current. The course instructor, James Gonzales, made some important points on the topic of search strategy for your Web site:

  • Develop a content strategy
  • Keep track of the keywords visitors use to find you.
  • Pay attention to new services search engines are rolling out.
  • Adopt a long-term strategy and ongoing commitment.
  • Start early with your site design.

James has some great free materials on his Web site geekmanuals.

Back to Keywords……
So finding and applying targeted and relevant keywords is absolutely critical to developing and implementing a successful search strategy. I just spent the past few days researching keywords for the Breakaway Media Web site and for thriller author M.J. Hawk for whom I am developing a new site. With Breakaway Media I did it in reverse, putting up the site before completing my keyword research. It’s okay to go back in with your keywords and in fact, as James Gonzales says, this is an ongoing effort, not a one-time deal and you’re done.

Be aware that the term “keywords” refers both to single words and keyphrases so you can have keywords ranging from “bike” to “mountain bike” to “mountain bike tours” to “New Zealand mountain bike tours”. You can see the progression from broad to highly targeted and relevant keywords in those examples.

Where do you start in researching your keywords? Some suggestions:

  • Do some brainstorming. The more you know about your subject/topic the easier it is to come up with a list.
  • Tap into the knowledge and expertise of your co-workers, clients, and customers.
  • Go to your competitors’ Web sites and see what keywords they are using in their content. View Page Source (Firefox) or View Source (Internet Explorer) to view their use of keywords in the title tag, metatag description and the copy contained within the top of the page.
  • Analyze your server logs with Google Analytics to see how your visitors are finding you, what keywords they use.
  • Use the keyword search tools.

There are many research tools available for your use. I just completed a 7-day free trial of Wordtracker, one of the top keyword research tools. I like this tool, but before I commit to the monthly subscription fee, I’ll do some more research into other tools and report back to you with reviews in a future blog post. Another tool mentioned in the VTC SEO course is Trellian SEO Toolkit. Trellian appears to be more of a comprehensive SEO application. These tools are designed to help you drill down to the most relevant, targeted keywords and find those keywords that don’t have the heavy competition of other sites.

The search engines offer free tools for keyword research. Just be aware that they tend to skew those results in favor of their own business models, but they are still very useful nonetheless. I’ve used the Google AdWords keyword tool to develop PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising campaigns and do some general keyword research. With Google AdWords, you can enter your Web site url and get suggestions for keywords. The Website Content function indexes the words on your site and makes recommendations based on that. This works well in combination with other keyword tools.

Next, you want to refine your keywords. With a master list of keywords, begin to pare them down to only the most relevant and targeted keywords. Here are some other suggestions:

  • Make sure you include plural words where appropriate. “vintage Trek bicycle” and ‘vintage Trek bicycles” for example.
  • Choose phrases rather than single words. “free Arizona hiking maps”
  • Upper and lower case: Thriller novels – thriller Novels – thriller novels

Focusing on keywords and phrases that your buyers use works for PR, not just for marketing. By focusing on your customers’ problems and creating news releases in response to that, you satisfy their informational needs and draw them to you. The role that keywords play? Use the keywords that they use and they will find you. In an upcoming blog, I’ll talk more about the role of keywords and SEO in PR.

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