How to identify website keywords

When writing articles on your website, do you consciously target certain keywords, or just write whatever comes to mind and hope for the best? Search engine optimisation (SEO) can be a daunting prospect, and it’s not hard to get so bogged down in keyword analysis that you end up not writing anything! Because of this, I suspect most bloggers don’t bother to optimise the vast majority of their posts, if any, which creates an opportunity for those who are prepared to do a bit of digging. This can yield big rewards in terms of search engine traffic.

Choosing sensible website keywords needn’t be that complicated, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. Today I’m going to outline the process I use, which is what I’ve distilled from many different sources – so it’s nothing revolutionary, just what works for me.

Website Keyword tools

There are a number of keyword tools out there, some free, some not. My weapon of choice is generally the Adwords keyword tool, which gives me everything I need: terms that people are actually searching on, and an indication of the volume of searches and what kind of revenue potential those terms have. And you don’t even need an Adwords account to use it! I’ve also recently come across Google’s search-based keyword tool, which provides much the same sort of information, but bases its results on actual search traffic for a particular site. For this reason it’s obviously of most use for optimising an existing site that already gets some search traffic. For the remainder of this article I’ll be using the Adwords tool though.

How to identify candidate website keywords

The Adwords keyword tool can operate in two different modes:

  • keyword suggestions are based on analysis of an existing page or site
  • keyword suggestions are based on words or phrases entered by the user

Note: to view CPC (cost per click) data, you need to select Show Estimated Avg CPC from the Choose columns to be displayed selection box.

The following suggestions are displayed for the term “creative writing course”:

keywords for creative writing course

Selecting the best website keywords – step 1

First of all, sort the list by search volume by clicking on the Approx Avg Search Volume column. You might be forgiven for thinking that the terms with the highest search volume are the best ones to choose, but that’s not necessarily the case. Why? Because these are also likely to have the most competition, and thus will be much harder to rank well for. When using search engines, most people don’t get beyond the first couple of pages of results, so to get search engine traffic it’s definitely better to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond. In other words, it’s better to dominate the results for a fairly obscure long-tail search term rather than find yourself unable to compete for a more popular one.

Now scan down the list for multi-word terms that are related to what you want to write about (or have already written about). A good rule of thumb is to select candidates that match the following criteria:

  • phrases that are 3 words or longer
  • average CPC between $0.50 and $2.00 (or the equivalent in your chosen currency) – this indicates that the terms have some revenue potential, but competition is unlikely to be too stiff
  • are grammatically correct (remember, you’re going to use these terms in the text of your site)

Selecting the best website keywords – step 2

Once you have a list of candidates, pull up the ordinary Google search page and enter the following, for each candidate in turn:

allintitle:"your search term"

This is a way of guaging the competition you face from optimised pages competing for the same term. A rule of thumb here:

  • less than 1,000 results – should be quite easy to get a good ranking
  • between 1,000 and 5,000 results – can achieve a good ranking with good optimisation and focussed link building
  • more than 5,000 results – stiff competition; you may be better off focussing elsewhere

(Thanks to John Cow for these rules-of-thumb).

Go forth and optimise

Once you’ve selected your website keywords, you’re ready to put them to work on your site. But that’s a topic for another day…

Related posts:

  1. Bing traffic converts well
  2. Success with AdWords

64 Responses to “How to identify website keywords”

  1. Gravatar of Microsoft.NET development 1 Microsoft.NET development

    I do check out the keywords that suits the site. M doing search for the relevant keywords.
    Your article will be very helpful for the newbies in the SEO industry..
    Good one..

  2. Gravatar of Dover 2 Dover

    I am going to have to play around some with sktool, that is a new one to me.

    Google trends is another pretty cool one, because it shows the number of searches for a keyword and lets you compare them and even group them by location and several other attributes.

  3. Gravatar of Erik | Shower 3 Erik | Shower

    I was quite happy to come across the Google Adwords Keyword Tool some time ago. It offers a lot of information and functionality for the perfect price. :) And it’s easy enough to use so it doesn’t take much time to refer to it when posting an article or creating a blog.

  4. Gravatar of Minnesota Attorney 4 Minnesota Attorney

    Oh thank you, as an article writer, this is indeed a big help. I’ll keep this in mind. I wish I am a keyword expert…

  5. Gravatar of Bluetooth Home Phones 5 Bluetooth Home Phones

    i was taught to use an application called Market Samuri. it give your LOTS of information about the keywords you are searching. google it. you can even get a free trial!

  6. Gravatar of hunting scopes 6 hunting scopes

    I used to try and optimize for keywords but have stopped. I would see so many different rules (suggestions) from everyone regarding the best way to optimize it would just get too overwhelming. SO I just started writing naturally without regard to keywords.

  7. Gravatar of Tom – Stay At Home Business 7 Tom – Stay At Home Business

    I use Google Trends and Google keyword tool to determine what keywords to use.Normally you need to avoid those short keywords everyone else are using.Long tail keywords work really well.

  8. Gravatar of promo 8 promo

    Google keyword tool is a good one. I have tried lot of free keyword tools but out of those google keyword tool is the best one for keyword research.

  9. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 9 Rodney Smith

    Scopes: true – there is a lot of misinformation out there. You really have to find what works for you and then stick to it – which is one of the reasons I published this post; what I’ve said is nothing new, but I’ve had a measure of success using this approach, so thought I’d share it. There are probably more sophisticated strategies out there, but I’m still pretty new to SEO, and you have to start somewhere!

  10. Gravatar of Fixed Gear Bikes 10 Fixed Gear Bikes

    Great tool. I use this all the time – I hope they keep it going forever.

  11. Gravatar of Bluetooth Home Phones 11 Bluetooth Home Phones

    ive also been taught to build links. link building is CRUCIAL to ranking in google. you need to get one way links into your site that are relavent and strong based on the site you’re linking from. take yahoo answers for example. they have an eight pagerank. if you can get your website link on there properly, then you get a great link and more power in google’s ranking system.

  12. Gravatar of Seth 12 Seth

    That’s an intersting suggestion Bluetooth. The problem seems to be finding a question on the homepage that’s relevant to the website you want to get a link back to. The vast and open nature of yahoo Answers makes it a bit potluck.

    Still one of the problems I’m having is finding sites with a high page rank to get a link from, so any tips like your are welcome.

  13. Gravatar of Province of Cavite 13 Province of Cavite

    I am looking for a tool for me to check what keyword or niche to work on.

    And I found your post, a great resource for me.


  14. Gravatar of leanie belle 14 leanie belle

    Google keyword tool helps me a lot all this time. Your post has been very helpful. Im grateful that I have visited your page. An optimize keywords could surely hit the target in building more traffic to our sites. Thanks.

    Your First $100

  15. Gravatar of Kawasaki motorcycles 15 Kawasaki motorcycles

    Keyword refers to the words or phrases, which your prospects are likely to use when searching for web content.
    This is a very crucial step as the success of SEO depends on this largely. Proper identification of keywords could hugely boost your business.
    On the other hand, improper selection could conceal your business from the eyes of prospective customers.

  16. Gravatar of website laten maken 16 website laten maken

    Don’t forget Google Insights ( as it’s a valuable tool that shows search volume (even per region and per timeframe!)

  17. Gravatar of Chelle 17 Chelle

    Researching keywords can help immensely in bringing traffic to your site, finding ones everyone else hasn’t already capitalized on tends to make it a bit trickier though :)

  18. Gravatar of GregR 18 GregR

    I agree, I use the keyword tool in Google Adwords for all sorts of things including using it for keyword targeting.

  19. Gravatar of SEO Services Company India 19 SEO Services Company India

    A good way to start your keyword research but while selecting keywords you have to keep your target geographic location in mind as well. Some keywords are frequently used in Asian nations but not in US/Europe and vice versa.

    Seek help from Google Trends to decide wisely.

  20. Gravatar of DomainChest 20 DomainChest

    I have been using, though had to pay for it. It searches Metacrawlers which is better, but the search numbers are totally out. It does allow you to find niche keywords and term though with their KEI ratings.

  21. Gravatar of Caesar 21 Caesar

    I can’t believe that you recently discovered Google’s search-based keyword tool. I’ve been using it for a long time and it has been really helpful. Google’s tool never let’s you down. OK, I will admit, it could “fail”, but that would be once in a lifetime.

  22. Gravatar of wii gamerz 22 wii gamerz

    There is another way to check the density and pr and keywords in a google search.. you can just download the plugin for firefox, SEO quake

  23. Gravatar of acai juice 23 acai juice

    I’m going to have to cast another vote for the Google keywords tool. It’s absolutely amazing as far as figuring out what keywords are working and how much competition there is. You can also figure out their general profitability from looking at the CPC.

  24. Gravatar of SEO Services Milwaukee 24 SEO Services Milwaukee

    I have evaluated a number of keyword analysis tools, and the Adwords keyword tool is by far the best. Just the fact that it provides traffic data right from the source is the best part to me. The ability to see how much people are willing to bid on keywords is also important to gauge popularity. If other advertisers see enough value in a phrase to bid it up higher, that phrase or a derivation of it is likely worth pursuing.

  25. Gravatar of Sberkin 25 Sberkin

    The google keywords tool is ridiculously inaccurate – compare the results that it gives with Google Analytics if you hold the number one ranking for a term, and you get nowhere near the traffic that the google heatmap calculations tell you that you should.

    An I mean it can be out by a factor of ten!

  26. Gravatar of SEO Services Milwaukee 26 SEO Services Milwaukee

    Like you, I have seen these differences and wondered why. A high ranking doesn’t automatically equate to high traffic. Factors that will affect click-through for a top ranking include the presence and quality of a meta description, whether a search engine chooses to display the meta description to a visitor at all, multiple meanings of a word or phrase (i.e. “transformers” as a toy or transformers as electrical devices) and the brand recognition of other high-ranking sites (i.e. Wal-Mart may be more trusted and clicked on than Google heatmap and other traffic estimation tools can only go so far in accounting for these variables.

  27. Gravatar of DTs Flash Drive Blog 27 DTs Flash Drive Blog

    Wow, thanks for pointing out these tools. I’m fairly new to all this and I know I still have to get deeper into keyword research. This surely will help me!

    As to including keywords in posts and articles I find the most fluent way is to first write everything down as it comes and then restructure it with keywords you’re targeting. Mostly it’s just a case of replacing words and tweaking around a little. IMO that’s quicker and more natural than to job down keywords first and then trying to build a text around it.

  28. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 28 Rodney Smith

    Milwaukee: I couldn’t have said it better myself – thanks for the excellent insights!

  29. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 29 Rodney Smith

    DT: I agree that’s a pragmatic approach, although it’s helpful to have an idea of your target keywords before you begin.

  30. Gravatar of Matt @ Money for Gold 30 Matt @ Money for Gold

    The Google keyword tool is solid for researching keywords…That said I haven’t used it as often as I should. When I have, it’s been a big help. SEO is just a pain even though it’s worth the effort. Sounds like life and job searching and marriage: do the work and you’re rewarded, but it’s work.

  31. Gravatar of Dirt Cheap Airline Tickets | Joe 31 Dirt Cheap Airline Tickets | Joe

    For me, chasing down keywords and finding hidden gems in those adwords keywords lists is the fun part of this business. Don’t know why, but keyword research is not a boring task for me.

  32. Gravatar of Dieta 32 Dieta

    You really feel that most people don’t care about SEO? That’s optimistic I’d say that over 60% of blogs I’ve ever visited was written in the way that showed the admins priorities as SEO > Ads > readers. And unfortunately those websites are rarely interesting or offer any insightful content.

  33. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 33 Rodney Smith

    Dieta: sounds like you’ve been finding a lot of spam blogs! I didn’t say people don’t care about SEO; just that they don’t bother to do it consistently because it can be hard work.

  34. Gravatar of Stu @ Hair Transplants Toronto 34 Stu @ Hair Transplants Toronto

    I have access to Wordze, but still find myself using the FREE AdWords Keyword tool for quick lookups.

    Hadn’t seen the search based tool though – that’s pretty sweet. Thanks! :-)

  35. Gravatar of Web Developer 35 Web Developer

    I use keyword elite for keyword research and it helped me a lot but if you are looking for free stuffs than go for some nice free keyword tools by Google. :)

  36. Gravatar of Rick @ Hosted VoIP PBX Systems 36 Rick @ Hosted VoIP PBX Systems

    The online keyword tools provide a value, but let’s not forget the importance of effective writing. Think about the craft of putting together a paragraph or a string of paragraphs to form the narrative that is cohesive, coherent and meets the objectives of why the article was written in the first place. You have to be careful not let the keyword focus cloud your writing, so it ends up sounding deliberate or forced. There is no substitute for good writing. Thanks for the article, Rodney.

  37. Gravatar of Henne@Schmerzen 37 Henne@Schmerzen

    Some nice thoughts. Thank you.
    I don’t get it with the allintitle:”your search term”.
    When I try my keywords, there will be almost everytime more than 5,000 results. A lot more, but I don’t feel that it’s to hard to rank.

  38. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 38 Rodney Smith

    Henne: well, it’s only a rule of thumb – use what works for you!

  39. Gravatar of Fishing Guide 39 Fishing Guide

    These are valuable tips helping all of us finding better keywords I think. I’m using the Google KT as well and think it is invaluable for a free tool anyway.

    Great tips for keyword sites selection though.

  40. Gravatar of DS Fly Fishing 40 DS Fly Fishing

    As we are pretty new, I started using some of these ideas and so far we have been able to cut where we come up on search engines by 1/2. A little more work and time should get us where we need to be – thanks.

  41. Gravatar of thiet ke web 41 thiet ke web

    Really difficult to SEO with keywords in a language other than English, hic hic .. Anyway thanks also for shared information.

  42. Gravatar of Roxy 42 Roxy

    I too use the Google Adwords Keyword tool. Keyword research underpins everything else – including site design. Thorough keyword research can highlight the top terms for which you need to provide landing pages that have rich, authoritative and engaging content that isn’t spammily crammed with keyterms.

  43. Gravatar of Insurance Investigation 43 Insurance Investigation

    organising the keywords and trying to use them in the ads you run are very important
    because the keywords is what drives the traffic finally

  44. Gravatar of alex 44 alex

    When I search this allintitle:”sth here”
    google says:We’re sorry…

    … but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application.

  45. Gravatar of Bob Sloan 45 Bob Sloan

    Keywords are very important and will get u a better ranking for sure, but sometimes its maybe better to write an article and then insert relevant keywords afterwards. By doing that u will stay focused on writing a good article, and that is what everybody wants :)

  46. Gravatar of Furniture 46 Furniture

    well, i’m not a big fan of writing articles just for the keywords. rather, write an article about an area of concern, interest, passion and the afterwards intersperse with keywords. the writing usually turns out to be better quality and more informative.

  47. Gravatar of Miami Web Design 47 Miami Web Design

    I give more importance to content than keywords .keywords are important but over stuffing it would be of no use and looks as a SPAM

  48. Gravatar of SD @ Discount Airfares 48 SD @ Discount Airfares

    Another thumbs up for the Adwords Keyword Tool

    Why pay for tools when you get the info straight from the source?

  49. Gravatar of Portishead 49 Portishead

    i was taught to use an application called Market Samuri. it give your LOTS of information about the keywords you are searching. google it. you can even get a free trial!

  50. Gravatar of Adam Pieniazek 50 Adam Pieniazek

    Very nice guide. Was not aware of the search based keyword tool until I read this post. Thanks for the easy to understand reference.

  51. Gravatar of Tenant Screening 51 Tenant Screening

    The adwords tools are great for this. It’s very important to know if the trend is changing on a search term. I found half way through my SEO process of one of my sites that the same searches I was optimizing for were actually becoming less used and the industry terms for what we were doing were changing. Although they meant the exact same thing.

    Finding out early means getting cheaper bids on adwords, and a jump start on SEO for your natural positioning.

  52. Gravatar of Allan | nike dunks 52 Allan | nike dunks

    I am pretty much familiar with Google Adwords keyword tool but this search based keyword tool is pretty new for me. On the other hand, I use some sort of analysis which is known as KEI, it determines search volume per day and total competition. I think keyword analysis is not an easy task anymore but it is series of different tasks.

  53. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 53 Rodney Smith

    Alex:It happens sometimes – try deleting your Google cookie, this normally fixes it for me.

  54. Gravatar of Zoran 54 Zoran


    Very good article. Google Adwords keyword tool is great. Thank you for some new info about this tool, especially three criteria for selecting the keywords (1. phrases that are 3 words or longer, 2. average CPC between $0.50 and $2.00, 3. grammatically correct words). Also I wasn’t aware of this useful line, allintitle:”your search term”.



  55. Gravatar of Acai 55 Acai

    Thanks for giving us these tips. Keywords are one of the most important aspects of a successful campaign.

  56. Gravatar of Carl 56 Carl

    Lots of useful information in this post. allintitle can be a really powerful tool. And Adwords keyword suggestion tool is something that I use daily. Good stuff!

  57. Gravatar of Internet Marketer 57 Internet Marketer

    Another great post. After I decide on a blog topic, the first thing I do is use keyword research to help me formulate the title and choose the words I would like to target in my post.

    I select keywords that have about 1000 searches per month in Google, because I would like to get ranked quickly. Trying to rank for keywords that have 30000 searches + per month is much more difficult.

    I figure if I can rank high on many searches, that is a better use of my time. The keyword tool I like to use in addition to Google’s is called Spacky ( it provides a side by side comparison of Google, Yahoo, and MSN search volumes and related keywords… very fast and valuable!

  58. Gravatar of Kamrul Hasan 58 Kamrul Hasan

    For content writer, it is difficult to find a suitable key word for article. It is not enough to write a quality article only. I think content write should focus more on writing a suitable title. They can take help from search engine.

  59. Gravatar of Costello – Air force ones 59 Costello – Air force ones

    It might be difficult to write around keywords but this always happen when we focus on more than 2-3 keywords. I think it is much better to add more pages to site if we need to work on more keywords but it is not good to optimize and write content for one page and several keywords. I always take care of that and I never failed.

  60. Gravatar of Green Times 60 Green Times

    I use the Adwords keyword tool and also check the source code of my competitors.

  61. Gravatar of Australia Immigration Agents 61 Australia Immigration Agents

    Adwords is actually a good resource for checking keyword competitiveness. I think it would be best to start writing an article about a certain topic, let the words flow naturally, and then replace or insert some of the keywords within the whole entry. Just be aware and check if the article/ blog entry still makes sense.

  62. Gravatar of Gold Coins 62 Gold Coins

    I am using google keywords tool because it provides me everything i need like getting the keywords of a website for free. I think it is good for people who do not want to lots of spend money.

  63. Gravatar of Tennis Chump 63 Tennis Chump

    I’m not sure if anyone’s mentioned this, but the reason search traffic is so desirable is because it converts better than most other types – in other words, you can make more money from it!

  64. Gravatar of Noclegi Gory Stolowe 64 Noclegi Gory Stolowe

    Truth, selecting a keywords should be one of the most important things when it comes to making your blog a blockbuster. There is a thing about search engine users that makes them put silly words and sometimes those silly words are not compared to what you want to say. I thing that sometimes it is more wise to choose that kind of keywords that could be helpful and then modify content to fit those keywords. There is nothing worse than annoyed user who is getting something totally different than he was searching for.

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