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How to Conduct Keyword Research: Basics of Selecting Keywords for Optimization

Updated on April 20, 2014
Keyword optimization is a crucial first step before you create your online content. With billions of webpages on the internet, this is how you can ensure that search engines can find you.
Keyword optimization is a crucial first step before you create your online content. With billions of webpages on the internet, this is how you can ensure that search engines can find you. | Source

Want to get really in-depth on keywords and optimization?

Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search, Social, and Beyond
Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search, Social, and Beyond
Learn how to use good keywords and SEO all over the internet for the best findability, reactions and conversions.

Keyword research is the first step to building any new site, or before bringing it online. Good keyword research can help you get better search rankings and make it easier for your target audience to find your content. You may also discover that keyword searches help give you some insight into the type of information that’s needed in the marketplace, and that may not have good sources right now. This can help you differentiate yourself with a new angle on your content, helping to truly add value for your visitors and customers.

On the flip side, failure to do keyword research may mean that you just don’t get found. You may spend countless hours trying to optimize your site for searches, but it’s just buried under the thousands of others who had the same idea for keywords. Worse, there may not be anyone out there searching for your subject using the exact words you’ve chosen. Maybe you have the best information out there for what they need, but they don’t know because they can’t find you. The solution? Take a few minutes and do some keyword research before publishing your web content, whether you’re building a new site or adding articles to public databases.

Where do I start researching keywords?

Before you do any keyword research, you have to know what you’re trying to find. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you may be surprised how many people charge blindly into keyword statistics without a real idea what they mean. Without a little preparation, you’re just looking at a bunch of nonsense numbers and ranges. Put simply, at least to start, you want those keywords that have decent search numbers, but minimal competition.

As your page gains rank and traffic, you can eventually tweak the content to include popular, high-competition keywords. Alternatively, if you’d rather not have to do a bunch of tweaking or aren’t sure at what point to do it, you can start off with one very popular keyword that has high competition. Combine that keyword with good long-tail keywords, allowing your page to rank for both. If you’re not sure what a long-tail keyword is, check out the video to the right of this article or the link at the bottom of the hub for a more detailed description.

Which keyword research tools should I use?

Keyword tools are a tried-and-true way to shortcut the keyword research process, and most of them are free. There are literally hundreds of tools available for public use. Each of these tools offers data on any keyword you choose. They will show you how people have searched for that word, and some will even show you which sites were clicked and how long the visitors stayed there on average. You will probably have to pay for really in-depth information, but most major search engines have free keyword tools that offer plenty of information to get started.

Arguably the most popular free keyword tool is the Google AdWords tool. Check at the bottom of this hub for a video tutorial on how to use this particular tool. It has very little learning curve, and can show you the number of searches and amount of competition for any keywords you like. If you already have a live site, you can feed your own URL into the tool to see how your current keywords stack up. The information it gives is Google-specific. Since Google is still the biggest search engine in the world (as of 2013), the information is probably pretty representative of global non-Google searches as well.

Overview of Long Tail Keywords

How do I use tools to find good keywords?

Once you’ve selected a keyword tool and know the subject on which you want to create content, it’s time to initiate the keyword-finding process. The tools usually give suggestions for closely related keywords to one or two you might type into the search box, but there are literally millions of ways to think about and word an idea. You may miss some great opportunities by not starting your search with a wide range of keywords to research.

Take some time to brainstorm. Consider the purpose of the content page or site. Are you trying to sell something? Promote a particular interest? Offer useful information on a specific subject? Start writing down everything you think someone might type into the search engine to find that page. Don’t be afraid to use common misspellings, bad grammar, awkward phrasing – anything that someone would put in that search box. Keep your own search behavior in mind; do you always type a full, correct sentence, or just throw in a handful of words that are relevant to your search? Your potential readers may not always search with a syntax that makes sense in actual writing or conversation.

Now go to the keyword tool and start typing in the words and phrases you put on your brainstorm list. Group them by maybe five at a time, allowing you to speed up the research process. Anything that turns out not to have searches, or not a significant amount, cross them out. Add in anything you don’t have on your list, but that has decent search numbers and reasonable competition levels. Make notes regarding how much competition and how many searches each of the keywords on your brainstorm list gets.

How do I use the keywords I identified?

Your brainstorm list should now be culled to a small number of keywords that have good search numbers and low levels of competition. Now you need to think about the layout of your site or content. Are there multiple pages, and if so then how many? How much content are you planning to include? Pick one very popular, high-competition keyword for which you’d like to eventually rank well, and use this one on every page, in your subheadings, and in your meta tags.

Secondary keywords are those low-competition keywords that you’ve already identified. Pick two or three for each of your pages, trying to put the most relevant keywords on each page. Many will be long tail keywords that are subject-specific, such as “how to research keywords” instead of just “keywords.”

If you’ve done this right, your primary keyword will be very easy to fit into the content naturally without even trying. Even so, make sure it gets into your content a couple of times in each paragraph, and again in your description and title. Long tail keywords or phrases are a little harder to fit, but each should be in the content about 6-10 times, depending on the length of the content. Aim for about once every 50 words, but always as part of a natural, well-worded sentence.

That’s all you need for your initial publication. Remember, this is just a starting point. As you get more traffic and your page is indexed in search engines, you will be able to use Google Analytics and other such tools to tweak the content based on your own traffic and customers. Check out the links below this hub for an introduction to Google Analytics, as well as some other helpful content development tools.

I hope this hub has been helpful to you, and thank you for taking the time to read. I’d love your feedback to help in the development of future hubs. Please take a moment to leave a comment answering this question – what is your single biggest challenge when it comes to getting quality traffic to your site?

Video Tutorial for the Google Keyword Tool


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