In simpler times keywords were a specific word or two that people searched for and you could rank for if you stuffed them into sentences until the keyword density was right. Now there’s long-tail keywords, semantic search, and an unknown number of other factors in the algorithm. Many have found it all so complex that they’ve just gone with the advice ‘just create high quality content’. However, ignoring the importance of keywords means you could be missing out on a lot of traffic.
One of the many pitfalls of keyword research is not being able to distinguish between keywords that can get you lots of traffic and ones that are a waste of time.
Before you start keyword research you need to understand your target audience, the content of the page you are finding keywords for and how the content serves your target audience. Armed with this information you should be able to make an educated guess of the words and phrases your audience will use when looking for the type of content, service or product you are offering.
Having made a list of posible keywords and phrases you need to use a tool to discover how many searches there are for the words and phrases you’ve selected.
Probably the most well known of these tools is the Google Keyword Planner. It’s generally believed this is not as good as the Google Keyword Tool and you have to remember it’s aimed at people advertising with Adwords, but it can still be useful. Ignore the request for billing information and you can use it as a keyword research tool.
The tool will show search volume data for your keywords and phrases, and suggest other keywords too. You’ll also get the number of average monthly searches and the level of competition for each keyword or phrase.
Ideally you want a word or phrase with lots of searches (which means higher interest and demand) and low competiton.
Another approach you should try is to check which keywords your successful competition is using. However if they have a page rank of 4 or above it’s likely to be hard to compete with them for that word or phrase.
Even if you identify useful keywords you can still misuse them, effectively making them useless. Place your keywords in your titles, anchor text, any HTML based text, and within the body of your content.
Once you have done your research and written your content using the keywords correctly, it’s time to publish and monitor the traffic it receives. Over time you’ll get a better idea of what works and it’ll be easier to distinguish between great and useless keywords.