Keywords have always played an important part in search engine optimization. There was once a time when adding lists of keywords and variations to a website in the form of Meta keyword tags was an effective tactic to rank high in the search engine results pages for your target terms. Times have certainly changed and it is not nearly as straight forward as it once was, but keyword research and implementation still have an important role in SEO.
This beginner’s guide to keyword research is designed to help you find the best possible target keywords for your site and understand how to use them.
There are many tools out there to help you gain valuable insight into target keywords but there are still few better than Google’s own Keyword Tool, soon to be replaced by the Keyword Planner. When you start your keyword research, I would always recommend starting with Google’s tools before cross-referencing with any of the many other free or paid tools available.When considering keywords, think about what your customers or target audience will be searching for and what sorts of searches you would like to appear for.
The aim of keyword research is to find a suitable target keyword with a low level of existing competition in search but a good amount of search demand. Finding the perfect keyword, with masses of search volume and very little online competition is no easy feat and isn’t always possible. Many online markets are near saturated and when you’re competing against thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of other sites, very few keywords are going to fit these criteria. The key is to find a suitable balance; a keyword with enough search volume and not too much online competition.
Needless to say, if you’re selling ladies shoes, the keyword “shoes” is going to be incredibly competitive and virtually impossible to rank for without being a major brand. Consider some niche variations and test them until you find something that fits the bill. Perhaps “blue shoes” and “high heeled shoes” are still too competitive, but “unique ladies footwear” is more achievable?
Google’s tools will take the keywords you provide, report their competitiveness and search volume and also provide you with further suggestions based on what you’ve searched. Review these in detail by exporting the results to a CSV file and identifying suitable keywords.
This process can take time and shouldn’t be rushed. This is an important part of search engine optimization and sets the foundation for things to come. Take your time and don’t leave the research stage until you’ve found a unique keyword you’re happy with for each page.
Using Keywords on Your Site
When you have decided on your target keywords you need to incorporate them into your pages in several key places used by search engines to understand what your page is about. Here are the key places you should include your target keyword on the page:
- Page Title tag
- Meta description tag
- H1 header tag
- In the body of your page content
- In other header tags where appropriate (H2, H3, etc.)
- Image “alt” tags
Make sure that your pages are still constructed and written for the user and not for search engine robots. Don’t overuse your keywords or be tempted by old school emphasis tactics such as keyword bolding. Using keywords in excess is worse than not using them at all and could quite quickly land you in hot water with Google.
Keep your writing natural and simply use your keywords in natural places. If it doesn’t make sense to have your keyword in your page title and body content then it cannot be the right keyword for the page.
Do’s & Don’ts
In summary, try to remember the following dos and don’ts of keyword research and on-page implementation:
- DO be realistic when you select your target keywords – don’t go after hugely competitive terms that you could never rank for
- DO write for the user primarily, not the search engines
- DO target only one, unique keyword per page
- DON’T overuse keywords – two or three times on the page is usually sufficient
- DON’T abuse tactics like keyword bolding for emphasis
- DON’T waste too much time on Meta keywords – Google no longer uses them and they give your competitors a quick and easy way to see what keywords you’re targeting