SEO Part IV - Enter the Research

Welcome back to phase II of your keyword strategy training. In this continuation from the last post, we'll focus on how to perform keyword research. Research is crucial to the success of your website, and it is here where you will need to determine which keywords are right for you. But make no mistake, the world wide web is a battle ground for keywords. And to triumph, you'll need to learn to pick and choose your keywords carefully.

SEO Part IV - Enter the Research
Enter the Dragon, "Warner Brothers Pictures"

Finding Keywords to Target

If you're not familiar with it, keyword research can seem a bit overwhelming, but not to worry. The best place to start is with what you know. So start by putting together a list of keywords you think people might search for when looking for the content that can be found on your site. Also, think about what you envision the ideal keyword to rank for would be? Is ranking for that keyword realistic, or should you perhaps target a slightly lower traffic long tail keyword instead?

As you go about doing this, write out a list of of all the keywords and their variations, and group them into related groups. When you're done, you've suddenly got a base of keywords to work with. From here, move on to checking out your competitors websites to see which keywords they are targeting. See what kind of keywords are in their titles, their headers, their content, etc. When you're done with this, review those keywords against your list, and add any ones you feel are relevant to your site.

Determining Search Volume

Once you've established all the potential keywords you think you want to target; it's then time to evaluate whether these are terms that people are searching for. The easiest way to do this is with Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Type in your keywords, select your match type, and see what the search volume is. And be sure to pay attention to the related keywords list, as you might also spot some additional keywords to add to your list that show up here. Also, be mindful of factors such as global searches and local searches. If you only have a presence in the United States, global search volume is not going to be a good indicator for your potential traffic opportunities.

Finally, be mindful of how competitive the keyword is. If it's highly sought after, the stronger site is going to rank better and get more visits from that search volume. Studies have shown that the there are diminishing returns in Click Through Rate (CTR) from the top ranked result in the SERPs on down. In fact the first 10 results on average account for almost 90% of the CTR for a search, with around 35% of that going to the first result. As mentioned in the previous post, good meta descriptions can help with your CTR, but ultimately the stronger site is going to rank better. SEOmoz and Opensite Explorer are again both great tools that can help you determine what the field looks like and where you stand in it.

Remember, chose wisely when picking your keywords. If your keywords are too difficult and your site is not strong enough you may never be ranked in a position to capture significant traffic. But in the end it comes down to relevancy. Target what you feel best represents your content. If you're site isn't strong enough, target the easier wins and slowly climb your way up to the more competitive keywords. And if you find success in the rankings, but your keywords still aren't converting for you, then re-evaluate whether they are the right words for you. And if they are, then perhaps your site is at fault.

Trial and error and learning to read your data are all part of the experience in becoming a keyword research ninja. However, in order to have a well rounded strategy, you must also learn how to manage your keywords. So stay tuned for our next blog post where we wrap things up and complete your training.