Getting a website to appear in the first page of search engine results is a common goal for most webmasters, yet few possess the skills to actually achieve it. There are many steps to take in order to be found for terms related to your site, and taking your time to research the best possible phrases for your site is an important step on the ladder.
Many webmasters make the mistake of assuming that a ranking for one generic term related to their site will turn their website into a profitable success. Although that one generic term may provide a good stream of traffic and brand awareness, this doesn’t mean the traffic will convert into sales or leads, and the costs of targeting that term will tower over your return on investment. It is best for the webmaster to target multiple terms that not only drive traffic, but also lead to that all important conversion.
First of all you need to consider who your target audience is and the purpose of your site. Do you sell products online? Do you offer services? Is it more content focused? There are all sorts of potential visitors which will have varying ways of finding your site, so understanding your audience, and the reasons they will visit, will help focus your efforts.
With this in mind, you can now consider those generic terms that you think people will use to try and find your site. It shouldn’t just be one term – a trap that many webmasters fall into is assuming that one term will provide enough traffic to sustain business and are surprised that business doesn’t increase if they do achieve that ranking. Consider all of the possible phrases and themes of your site, even using a thesaurus to find related terms or checking competitor websites for ideas. It can be surprising just what terms your potential visitors will be using!
Once you have put together a list of short generic terms, you can start using tools to gauge how popular and competitive those terms are, and also refine those generic terms to be more targeted to your site’s purpose. The first step is to find out the popularity of terms, which can be done using various keyword suggestion tools.
Keyword suggestion tools tell you which terms were typed into searches, and how many searches were conducted on those terms. Typing a phrase in and will return a selection of alternative phrases that contain your generic term, alternative suggestions with a similar theme and also an estimate of how much traffic the phrase provides per month. These tools can be flawed as they query different search engines and the traffic estimations can be inaccurate, but they are still good for getting a ball park estimation of the amount of searches conducted, and for suggesting multiple terms you may never have thought of targeting.
The Overture Keyword Tool, located at inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/, is free to use and gives you a list of suggested terms as well as the amount of searches conducted on the Yahoo! Search Marketing network during the last month (Yahoo! Bought Overture and rebranded it Yahoo! Search Marketing).
A similar tool is located at www.wordtracker.com. Wordtracker queries the meta search engine Dogpile so may not be representative of what is being searched on the web as a whole, but is still good for suggesting alternative phrases and related phrases. Wordtracker has a subscription service, with which you can order between one day and one year’s access.
Trellian’s KeywordDiscovery at www.keyworddiscovery.com is a relative newcomer to the keyword suggestion market. KeywordDiscovery can query multiple search engines across the world and provides similar results to Overture and Wordtracker.com as well as other services, but with subscriptions starting at $32.50 per month this premium option is geared more towards search marketing professionals.
The next step in picking the best terms is checking how competitive they are. Ideally you want to find terms that have high volume traffic but few websites competing to rank for that term, and you can use various tricks to judge this. Any page that is optimised for a term will at least have that term in the title tag and in anchor text of links pointing to the site, so by going to Google and using the queries intitle:“phrase here” and inanchor:“phrase here”, you can figure out how many other pages have optimised for your chosen phrase. The lower the number for these searches, the less competitive the term is. For more information about what these Google advanced search operators do, go to www.google.com/help/operators.html.
Using these tools should have now provided you with a list of terms that are much more targeted than your original generic phrases. These can include breaking your term down by geographical location, or a specific product. You will be able to optimise your site for multiple phrases – remember that search engines index web pages and not just websites. That means all of the pages in your site can be found in search engines, which in turn means all of those pages can be optimised for different terms!
You may also want to consider the “long tail” of search phrases. These are obscure multi word phrases that are only searched a couple of times, but are so specific they can end up being the most targeted terms and carry with them higher conversion rates. The best way to target the long tail is to have a content rich site – the more content you have the more likely you are to be picked up for obscure terms that can be found in your copy.
So you should now finally have a list of the best possible targeted phrases for your website! As you can see, the process of choosing your keywords isn’t something that should be taken lightly, and there is a lot of work to do if you want to maximise the ability of your site to attract natural search traffic. With your final list you will now be ready to optimise your pages to be found for those terms, but that is for another time…