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How to Select Keywords for Best Ranking Results
When beginning a Search Engine Optimization campaign, there are a few basic steps that every SEO knows to take before they begin. The first is always to build a keyword list of which there are varying methods of doing so. The right methods will aid you in creating and supporting a site-wide SEO strategy. The wrong methods will run you in circles, wondering what went wrong.
Lengthening the List
At this point you should have a good list of pseudo-generic keywords. The next step is lengthening that list using your favorite Keyword tool (I will be using Overture in this example).
Each time you plug a keyword into your tool of choice, it will return the number of searches conducted for that term over a given period of time. It will also suggest keywords from the tool’s database that are similar to the one you entered.
The basic idea now is to go through the list returned by the keyword tool and copy any and all similar terms as well as their corresponding search values, which relate directly to the site you’re optimizing. Then, paste them to a spreadsheet program so that they can be further edited later.
Once you have copied and pasted, just go through the list row by row. Delete keywords that don’t have to do with the website you’re optimizing (which is why it’s important to know what the site doesn’t feature) and repeat with the next pseudo-generic keyword on your list. The idea is to identify as many keywords as possible.
Narrowing the List
So you have a long keyword list; it’s time to narrow it down. I narrow my lists by deciding if the potential gain for a keyword is relative to the competition. In order to make that decision, I need know three variables:
Below is a method for thoroughly determining competition for various keywords:
The aforementioned is a meticulous method for determining the competition for all of your keywords, and unless you’re planning on building a tool that will automate this process, I would suggest taking a more general approach by using advanced search strings in the search engine of your choice.
The technique that I am about to demonstrate uses the following string: intitle:”Keyword Phrase” inanchor:”Keyword Phrase”. This string will return the total number of pages with, largely, the two greatest factors contributing to ranking for a keyword:
It’s a down and dirty method for assessing competition. This is how it’s done:
What you have done is created a ratio of competitors to searches. When determining competition, you generally want the keyword to be searched on more times than there are competitors for that word. So the closer the ratio is to 0, the better the keyword.
These techniques will point out which terms have the most competition, but competition alone should not dictate which words make the final list.
Remember when selecting keywords: words on a higher competitive level should be placed on pages that will receive deep links in groups of 2 or 3 where all of the keywords are very similar like:
This way, you won’t have to remove highly competitive, but potentially lucrative terms from your list, provided that you make a concerted effort to perform link-building for the pages on which those terms reside.
For smaller terms, in my opinion, the more the merrier. They can be given their own pages or be mentioned on other highly trusted pages of your site.
That's it. You should have all the information you need to select a strategically viable keyword list. Remember, keyword research is the cornerstone of a successful SEO campaign. Knowing the competition for your keywords will aid you in site layout, as well as focusing effort on SEO only where it is necessary. Ultimately, it will make your optimization process more efficient, allowing your sites to rank for more keywords with less work, which is a goal that all SEOs strive to attain.
About the Author: Mike Bradbury is an employee of Objectware, Inc, an Atlanta web design company specializing in ecommerce solutions, custom web applications, wireless integration, search engine marketing and custom shopping cart software. Mike is a search engine analyst for Objectware, creating value for clients by building greater search engine visibility.