How to choose the best keywords for organic SEO success
For the uninitiated, SEO can be a bit of a minefield. With an overwhelming amount of information available online, it’s easy for your website to become buried under the weight of related content, and practically invisible to your audience. Well-selected keywords are the foundation of any successful SEO campaign, and can make the difference between a trickle or a cascade of site visitors.
Know your customers
One of the most important considerations when selecting your primary keywords is an understanding of your customers. The way they interact with the internet and how they find your website are key factors in selecting your keywords. A good start can be made by spending some time analysing the search terms that are already sending traffic your way. If you’re already using Google Analytics, you’ll have a good head-start in this respect, as it logs all the referrals from Google’s results pages, combined with the search terms used to get there. Once you’ve seen how you’re being found, the next step is too see if you’re missing a trick.
Know your competitors
Your competitors’ websites can be a valuable resource when it comes to selecting keywords, especially if you’re trading in a particularly competitive sector. Spend some time analysing their copy with a strong focus on their
<h1></h1> tags, their
<title></title> tags and their link/ anchor text, and you’ll soon get an idea about which keywords they find most valuable. Try typing those keywords into a search engine, and see how your site performs in comparison. If your competitors are on page 1 of the results, and you’re not, you’re missing out on the lion’s share of the traffic for that keyword.
Of course, your competitors may themselves be missing a trick, so by keeping an eye on their SEO performance, you could well out-manoeuvre them by targetting a keyword or phrase they’ve missed.
Know your medium
Take some time to learn about the readily-available toolkits to help you plan your SEO campaign, such as Google’s keyword tool. Not only will it tell you what the most commonly-used words and phrases are for your area of business, but it will also provide a list of related search terms, and an indication of their competitiveness. The more competitive a keyword, the harder it is to rank highly for, but the greater the reward if you do.
Once you’ve identified your most valuable keywords, it’s important to be realistic about what results you should expect. SEO is an ongoing exercise, and should never be considered ‘done.’ Ranking highly for a competitive search term could take months or even longer depending on how much time and money you have to spend on it.
One final word of warning: make sure that your SEO effort accurately and honestly reflects your business. By choosing less competitive keywords, you could in theory increase the traffic to your website quite quickly. But if your new audience doesn’t find what they’re looking for when they get there, it’s going to be money wasted, because they’re not going to buy your products or services. Similarly, if you aim too broadly, you may end up with lots of traffic but a poor conversion rate. A seller of reptile foods would be ill-advised to spend all their effort ranking for ‘pet food.’ Chances are that 90% of your new site visitors will be looking for cat or dog food – a wasted effort.
To ensure the most efficiency, your keywords should accurately reflect your products and services, combined with the words and phrases your customers use to find your kind of business. But remember, SEO isn’t a replacement for effective web design. It doesn’t matter how many people land on your website—if it fails to effectively sell your products, you’re not going to make any money.