A neophyte guide to understanding keywords

February 08, 2010

connecting search to social networks
photo credit: Search Engine People Blog

What’s a keyword?

Keywords (or keyphrases) are the words people type in the Google box to find something specific on the web.

Why do I care?

Let’s say you run a daycare centre in Toronto. A searcher types “Toronto daycare centre” in the search box, and you just happen to have this phrase on your site.

The engines find your site, determine that it has the keyphrase and surrounding information to support it, and in seconds your site is recommended to the searcher.

If your site is on the first page of the SERPs (search engine results pages), chances are good that the searcher will click through for a visit.

How do I know what phrases people are using to find sites like mine?

People search like they talk. They don’t necessarily know industry jargon or model numbers. Think like your customer. If you were chatting with your neighbor over the hedge, how would you ask him for a recommendation on buying a widget?

Here on some basic guidelines for creating a list:

a) Write down as many phrases (2 – 3 words each) you can think of that describe your product or service. Ask your salespeople how customers refer to your product or service. Talk to your front desk personnel about questions callers are asking. Get ideas from friends and neighbours who don’t know your business like you do.

Avoid very generic words like “furniture,” “used cars,” and “vacation.”  They are simply too broad and difficult to compete with. Be as specific as possible to narrow the field.

b) Now that you know which phrases appropriately describe your product or service, you want to whittle your list down to those that are actually searched for. To do this, you can purchase Wordtracker or SEM Rush.

c) Next you want to see how much competition your phrases have. An easy way to do this is to go to Google and type: allintitle:“yourkeywordphrasehere” (make sure to include the quotes).

The pages Google returns for each phrase will be pages that are using that exact phrase in the Title Tag. (The Title Tag is a key area that search engines looks for keyphrases.) You’ll find this number on the right hand side of the screen right above Sponsored Links. The fewer competing pages, the better your chances of ranking for that keyphrase.

If your business serves customers in a specific geographic area, be sure to include geographical keyphrases such as “insurance broker in London” or “Edmonton wedding planner”.

This sounds like a lot of work. Is there an easier way?

OK, so you’ve got better things to do. Plus you want to make darn sure your keyphrases are right. Fortunately there are professionals who specialize in this very thing. A keyword research specialist will do all the footwork for you, present you with a solid list of keyphrases, and recommend which ones are suitable for each page on your site.

If you’re looking for a keyword specialist, we know some good ones. Ask us and we’ll set you up!

Big job. Done.

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