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How to "do SEO" for your small business #3: Choosing keywords

Esther Nelson
Keywords Image

When we talk about keywords, what we're really referring to nowadays is keyword phrases.

"Keyword phrases" are the words that search engines use to find webpages. Engines like Google and Bing use specific criteria to decide if a webpage is relevant. Choosing appropriate keywords will demonstrate to the search engine that the page it's pointing to is appropriate for the subject being searched.

User Intent

Above all, choosing your keywords wisely means understanding your clients and their search engine behaviour. Generally, web searches are short, dense phrases. Take as an example someone looking for Dove's Winter Care Body Wash. They might simply type in, "dove winter."  The search engines will then generate search results by checking for that phrase. Even if a vendor carries Dove Winter Care products, search engines won't necessarily recognise it unless the keyword phrase is mentioned in the site.

Choosing the right keyword is therefore about understanding how potential customers look for your services. For example, a company that sells novelty hats should start with nonspecific keywords, like "silly hat" and "novelty hat," to attract potential customers. Companies should also think about consumers who are looking for a specific service or product, such as a "black velvet bowler hat." Balancing general and specific keywords is an essential part of SEO marketing.

Competition

Another thing to consider is a keyword's popularity. Generally, a keyword that many sites are using means increased competition - thus, less value. This doesn't make a popular keyword automatically useless, however. Other factors to consider are:

  • Search volume: A low-competition keyword won't be of much use if nobody's searching for it. Generally, the best keywords have high traffic (many searches) but low competition (few results).
  • Page titles and hyperlinked text: Search engines pay particular attention to these, because they are supposed to summarise the content they link to. Keywords used in these positions carry more weight than keywords that don't.
  • Inbound links: The number of links your site receives indicates how useful the site is to other people. Thus, search engines favour sites with more inbound links. With relation to keywords, if you anchor text, ie the link text that takes the user through to the site, is made of or contains relevant keywords, it will rank better.
  • The site's age: Older, more established sites tend to have more inbound links accumulated. An older site looking to branch out may have the advantage over a newer, untested site. The age of a domain name will also help the site to rank higher - if you've had your domain name for  long time, or you've bought it to cover a number of years this demonstrates that your business has been, or is, here to stay.
  • Update frequency: Because a given post is likely to become less relevant over time, search engines favour regularly updated sites.

 

What keyword tools provide

All of these factors can be difficult and time-consuming to research, so most people turn to software that summarises keyword data. Google Adwords's Keyword Planner offers users a basic overview of keyword statistics, and conveniently summarises traffic and competition levels for a given keyword. However, the Adwords's keyword tool doesn't provide more than basic statistics on your keyword, and it doesn't do much to guide you to new opportunities. (Then again, it's free.)

For those seriously interested in an aggressive keyword campaign, we recommend SECockpit. SECockpit is the best keyword planner on the market, because it not only gives users advanced data on a keyword's usage, but also actively helps them find low-competition, high-traffic keywords. And with the best keyword planner comes the best customer service: SECockpit offers personal training for their subscribers.

Tools like Keyword Planner and SECockpit are excellent starting points for picking your keywords. What they don't tell you, however, is what to do with them. Part 4 of this series will guide you to keyword implementation.