Choosing Keywords for SEO

The first and one of the most important steps in an SEO project is deciding which keywords to optimize on your site. There is very little chance for success if you choose the wrong keywords. If you choose to focus on a 6-word phrase with no search activity, then ranking #1 for that keyword will not get you any site visitors. On the other hand, you may end up ranking well for a keyword with a large amount of search activity and get a lot of visitors, but if it has a low conversion rate then it won't help you much either. There are several things you should consider when you are trying to determine the "right" keywords to focus on.

Top SEO Keyword Considerations

Site Relevance
The first thing to consider is whether or not your site is currently relevant for the potential keyword. In other words, would someone searching for that phrase in a search engine think your site a good result? Try to be as objective as possible when answering that question. Think like a random searcher – not like the owner of your site. Remember that answering no to this first question does not mean you cannot optimize for any particular keyword.

Search Activity
Search activity refers to the number of times a particular keyword is searched. It's quite obvious that if all other factors are equal, a keyword with more search activity is a better keyword. However, it should never be the sole determining factor in selecting a keyword for search engine optimization purposes.

Competition Level
Another thing to consider when deciding on a keyword is whether or not good rankings are a possibility. If you own a brand new site with minimal PageRank or link importance, then it's unlikely that you will be able to get onto the first page for any semi-competitive phrases that are 2-3 words in length. This is not to say that you should not make competitive phrases a long term goal. Assuming your site is relevant for the phrase, or can be, then by all means you should. However, you should also target related long-tail keywords that are less competitive so that you can have some short term success.

Potential Conversion Rates
In addition to relevance and search activity, there is another factor that needs to be considered when selecting keywords, and that is the likelihood of conversion. The definition of a conversion is going to change from site to site. On your site a conversion might be a transaction. On another site a conversion might be a quote request form.

All Things Considered
There are many factors that need to be considered when choosing keywords. Search activity is a no brainer (more is better), but again, it should never be your only consideration. Aside from search volumes, you also have to consider competition level and how long it would take to begin outranking the competitors in that space. Finally, you have to consider relevance and potential conversion rates. Based on our descriptions, it may seem that relevance and potential conversion are essentially the same. However, that is not always the case. For example, let's assume that your site offered LCD TVs. It would be very easy to optimize for "buy Samsung LCD TV". It would also be easy to optimize for "Samsung LCD TV reviews". Assuming your site had reviews, relevance is essentially equal for both phrases. The buy-related keyword, however, is probably much more likely to be a converting keyword. In general, you should focus more on terms that are more likely to lead to conversions.

Google AdWords Tool

Quite honestly, the only tool that is worth using for keyword research is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. That tool will show you how often any keyword is searched in Google. Considering Google's market share it doesn't make much sense to go elsewhere and there is minimal upside from doing so. It returns monthly averages as well as the number of searches in the previous month. Be sure to understand what match type you are viewing when using the Google AdWords Tool. By default it returns Broad match and those numbers will be inflated.

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