What are good Keywords for SEO?

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.

Final thoughts

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.

Happy SEO!


  1. That’s really a great combo!

    When I was a beginner, I used to put all the words as keywords in All-in-SEO plugin.. 😀

    Currently tracking popular keywords and topics!

  2. You have covered all of the needs for seo. Pretty neat! I certainly missed out the use of misspelled keyword, and it can be a let down to regular users who find a typo.

    And I’d say keep writing — researching needs time 😀

    • @Indialoka, thanks. Sometimes misspelled keywords optimization can be fun and can attract good traffic. But as a thumbrule, one shouldn’t optimize for Google’s own brand keywords. i.e. if you try to optimize for Gogle, it may not work as Google has already fixed that loophole.

  3. This information is really great. Thanks for sharing it. I am now in your link building series page to learn more about SEO.

    Thanks dude.

    – Felix Albutra

  4. Well , my blog index on page one for some really long tail keywords, i need to master the art of flashing for short keywords on Google SERP

    • @Shanker, if your blot has higher authority, you will get hit on a wide range of prominent keywords as well as long tail. Just check for how many keywords, problogger home page appears on top 🙂

  5. Google adwords tool is the best key to search the high volume searched keywords,you can enhance the traffic on your site.

  6. Starting out, I used REALLY broad keywords, but I’ve found a lot of tools to really help determine win-able keywords.

    I have found that the Google Adwords used in conjunction with SBI’s Brainstorm It program works awesome together.

    I think that no matter how good a keyword tool is or claims to be, you should always have an equally reliable program for a second opinion.

  7. Thanks for sharing Ajith. We all want to improve our search engine results

  8. Picking right keywords is very important. For keyword selection I am using Google adwords keyword tool external and Keyword discovery tool. I also check the PR of the top websites which comes in first places for my targeting keywords. Though PR is not much important, at-least we can say how much tougher the competition will be.

  9. Market Samurai is hands down the best keyword research tool.

    A trial is available and everyone should definitely check it out.

  10. What you are saying is right as it is very difficult to predict how users use Google to find services. It is wise to optimize our website for multiple keywords.

  11. Having and choosing the right words to place are very crucial in building and promoting a site. This will spell the advantage to others.

    When i was starting, I used to place every words that I can think of to have maximum coverage of my site.

  12. Hi Ajith,
    good information about Keywords for SEO.
    well i am a beginner for this profession.
    I really wish to see your kind of people who spread good information about seo.
    looking forward for some more inputs by you.

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