Many Search Engine Optimization experts claim that if content is king, then SEO is the queen! Well, I am not sure if SEO is feminine gender but sensible linking and good keywords definitely make your content more visible to the organic traffic aka search traffic.
Finding good keywords is no rocket science these days as search engines have mostly exposed search data (for their own business reasons) and keyword suggestion tools have made it easier to find keywords. Hence this post is not necessarily about how to pick good keywords but more about the traits of keywords that make them good based on what and how people search for.
Behavior and types of Internet search users
Even before getting into keywords, let us first try to understand the search behavior of the typical internet user. Majority of the newbies do very raw ad hoc searches (e.g. ‘best web hosting’) as they are totally clueless about any brands or even how to get started. The second category of the search users are those who know something. Their typical search would include some specific brand or product name (e.g. ‘hostgator hosting packages’). And the third category or a little more advanced users would go a few steps ahead and qualify the search phrase with actual destination related information (e.g. ‘dollarshower hostgator deal’ – not that I have an offer right now)
Now, traffic means money. Hence the Internet marketer’s aim should be to convert as many of the above categories of searches into sales. The conversion ratio of the first search category mentioned above will be very low where as advanced searches result in better conversions. It is practically impossible for any Internet marketer to target huge number of search phrases along a broad category of Internet users and hence it makes sense to understand various keyword types and seek some SEO help to pick the best ones.
Types of keywords
When it comes to what converge and convert, there are essentially three types of keywords:
1. Basic search or browse keywords
2. Comparison keywords or key-phrases
3. Keywords used for immediate buying
The above three are the logical three steps that form a buying decision. In the first step the product search takes place, then the comparison of different products and finally the purchase decision and execution.
Needless to say, if you want to sell more you need to have more comparison keywords and or more offer, deal, coupon related keywords.
Deriving from the above logic the best keywords are those phrases which are:
- between two to four words in length (e.g. ‘hostgator coupon code’)
- Not too generic or broad (e.g. ‘sewing machines’)
- Popular terminologies (e.g. use ‘tv’ instead of ‘television’ in a good search phrase)
- Not too specific (e.g. ‘Hostgator coupon code for June 2010’ – Good luck!)
- Not having many two letter or three letter words
- Not too competitive. This is more from the cost point of view
Optimize for those keywords
Now when you try to optimize for these keywords there are several things to be kept in mind.
Long tail v/s competitive keywords: Sometimes it makes sense to optimize for the spillover search terms than the most queried phrases, if cost is a concern. In that case, one can optimize the pages for long tail keywords.
Prepositions and connectors: While the search phrases may have prepositions and connectors, you may not necessarily optimize for them.
Misspelled keywords: At times it makes sense to optimize for misspelled keywords as well.
Keyword research tools
As I have maintained before, for consistent organic traffic, it is a good idea to optimize your web pages (posts, pages, homepage) for good keywords. There are several free tools that allow you to find keywords for your content.
The Google adwords keyword tool has recently revamped and it definitely has built all their search intelligence into it. However, it is targeted more at their PPC advertising customers rather than SEOs or webmasters. Most of the time the search numbers that you find there is hyped and based on the advertiser competition. If you want more realistic search numbers, you may use the free keyword discovery tool or the wordtracker free keyword suggestion tool.
The keywords part of the ‘queen’ err SEO is a lot based on research and at times using trial and error as well. Keywords alone do not make good SEO but you need to have your pages back linked from other sites using those keywords as anchor text. I have talked about these topics in detail in my SEO – link building series that starts with the post titled ‘how search engines find your blog?‘. Please read those posts for more details on other relevant SEO aspects.