A little guide to keywords and why we need them

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 5th, 2009 at 9:40 AM

Most people know that keywords and phrases play a role in website search engine optimisation (SEO).  However, do you know why they are important and how they work? Do you know how to make sure your chosen words and phrases will bring people to your website?

Want to find out more? I asked website designer and developer, Robert Games of Pad Media, to help me put together a basic guide to keywords. And here it is.

The basics

Keywords are the words or phrases people use when searching for information on the internet. If your website doesn’t contain keywords related to your business sector, it’s unlikely people will find you.

Each page on your site should be individually optimised so people can easily find what they are looking for.  Start with some core keywords; words that identify and categorise the content on your site.  Make sure the words and phrases you list are relevant to the content on each page.  Taking my site as an example, and looking specifically at the pages that cover websites I’ve written   the content for, my list could look something like this:

website content
writing for websites
copywriting for websites
website copywriting
website copy

More than a bunch of words

However, finding keywords is about more than coming up with a list of words and phrases connected to your business.

A list of five to ten search phrases will not bring the amount of search engine traffic needed to make a website successful. But that list will be a vital tool when determining which phrases to use.

To be successful, the keyword list should contain descriptive terms and phrases related to the content. The phrases should receive a significant amount of searches.  And that’s why keyword research is so important.

Keyword research – why it’s important

The more precise you can be, the more chance you have of being found. But you need to be realistic. So choose words and phrases a potential customer would use when searching for information relating to your area.

Not everyone restricts themselves to a single word when searching online. Phrases of two, three or even four words are often used. These generally result in a more detailed search.

Ideally, the terms and phrases used should have little competition from other sites. The more you can achieve this, the higher your ranking in the important search engines.

In markets with thousands of sites, for example business training, and consulting, everyone is competing for the same keywords and search terms. This makes it even more important to discover one or two words or phrases that few others are listing.

You are looking for phrases that people are likely to key in to a search engine to look for the service you offer. However, say you are a marketing consultant.  There’s really no point choosing ‘marketing’ or ‘consultant’, or even ‘marketing consultant’ as your keyword. The chances of people, who keyed those terms into a search engine, flocking to your site are practically zilch.  Why?  Because there are just too many other sites competing for those terms.

So should you find keywords that no-one else has ever used then?  Taking our marketing consultant as an example again, how about ‘marketing consultant who wears six inch stilettos’?  Surely that would do it?  Er no.

It has to be a term that someone would use in a search and that means there is likely to be some competition. Don’t worry though, that’s a good thing. Because if there’s no competition it’s unlikely anyone is going to use the term in their search.

We are also looking for terms that will have high conversion rates because they precisely describe the product or service you are selling.

Now this is where we get to the clever bit.  What you are looking for are the keywords that lie in between lots of searches and competition, and not many searches and little competition.

Can I do the research myself?

Yes, you can. Here are some online tools to help you.

Wordtracker
Google AdWords
RankSense

You will need to devote quite a bit of time to research, and like everywhere else, experience counts for a lot in the SEO world.

Why invest in professional research

Profitable search engine optimisation takes years to learn and getting a professional to do it for you is worth the investment.  Think of it just like any other advertising or marketing cost.

Keyword analysis and research is vital if you want to attract traffic to your website.  It’s the first step to any search engine marketing campaign, whether that’s search engine optimisation or pay-per-click services.

Studies show that over 60% of users follow the links on the first page of their search results. Without SEO, your website will not show up on the first few pages.

About 80% of all website visits originate from a search query so search engines are the main way to drive people to your site.

While there are hundreds of search engines to choose from, there’s not much point being ranked on an engine that no one uses. Focus on the top high-traffic search engines such as AOL, Ask.com, Google, Live Search and Yahoo! They account for about 93% of all search engine use.

Most searchers look at only one or two pages of search results before clicking on one or abandoning the search.

So what will a researcher do that I can’t?

Of course you will be paying for the researcher’s time but more importantly, you’ll be paying for their knowledge. Experience, and an insight into how search engine algorithms work means they will get you the best results.

It’s not just about keywords

OK. Here comes the techy stuff. While keywords are important, there are other elements involved in optimising a website.  For example developers use W3C compliant coding to make sure search engines such as Google can index sites more effectively.  W3C stands for world wide web consortium and it sets the standards for how different code should be written.

Semantic mark-up is part of W3C compliancy and is a way of separating the page up into headers, sub-headers and paragraphs. It lets developers give certain content more importance.

Good developers also use other techniques such as search engine friendly URLs. These are URL structures that contain the page titles, and meta titles.

Other SEO bits to think about

Here are some other online marketing elements you need to look at if you really want to be up there in the rankings:

•        Pay per click
•        Link building
•        Affiliate schemes
•        Banner advertising
•        Online PR
•        Email marketing campaigns

Search engine optimisation takes a lot of time and hard work. It’s a continuous process that shouldn’t be taken for granted. It could be months before you see some improvement in your page rank. But the traffic you will get on your site makes it well worth the effort.

Wardrobe rage results in new word | VW Blue Motion ad makes me green with envy – a great illustration of clear, simple, but creative copy

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

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