The numbers game: choosing keywords for success

Thus far in our SEO gameplan for success we have discussed the types of goals you should have for your campaign and the types of information you should use to record baselines that you’ll build upon.  This article starts taking us past the prep work and gets us into the thick of things.  Obviously, a lot of what is done in SEO revolves around keywords.  One of the overarching goals of SEO is to improve your site’s visibility in the search engines for keywords that are going to bring you qualified traffic.  What constitutes a qualified visitor should have been tackled in “Determining goals and when to expect to achieve them” while taking a look into what types of keywords drive traffic to your site was referenced in “Determining and recording baselines”.  We’ll take this further and explore various ways to approach keyword research.

I would venture to say that there are basically two types of keywords in your future.  There are the general terms that have high search volume and there are the long-tail keywords that have low search volume.  With high search volume typically comes a big heaping helping of competiveness.  Reversely, the more specific a keyword phrase is, the less competition there will be.  As you would guess, these two types of keywords will also bring different types of visitors.  The general terms may bring a large quantity of visits but the quality of visitors could vary drastically.  Longtail keywords are more specific and will therefore typically bring a small amount of traffic but the traffic will be more qualified.  The final way I would recommend viewing these two types of keywords is related to how quickly you can expect to gain traction in the search engines for particular phrases.  Generally speaking, you’ll be able to affect your site’s ranking for the more specific keywords before you’ll ever make a dent in the broad terms.  This is why many times we will make two keyword groupings:  a short term goal based keyword set and a long term goal based keyword set.

When choosing keywords to target for search engine optimization for your site, I’d recommend considering at least the following:

  • Estimated search volume – you can use Google’s Keyword Tool for a very rough estimate of monthly search volume
  • Look into the competitiveness of each term – the number and quality of search results is a good place to start
  • Dig into your paid search data if you have it – which keywords are converting well for you in PPC
  • Dig into your web analytics data – which keywords bring qualified traffic to your site according to site metrics like bounce rate, average time on site, and probably most important, which provide conversions
  • Which will be your short term keywords and which will be your long term

Be sure and attempt to view your products and services from the point of view of a prospective client.  What would you type into the search box if you were looking for something but were perhaps unfamiliar with the industry jargon?  Would you use qualifiers like geographic locations, color, size, or any other descriptions?

Choosing keywords sometimes appears cut and dry in the beginning but once you really start researching from different angles and using actual data, you may find that reality is a bit different than your initial expectations.  We often find that the “obvious keywords” aren’t the ones that convert well.  We also find that choosing keywords isn’t something that you do once.  Let your list of target keywords evolve as you receive new data.

The next step in this SEO gameplan discusses how and why you should work on PPC and SEO together on your site.