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”:
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…