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Importance of Keyword Research for Search Engine
Keyword Research is by far the most important aspect
in any Search Engine Optimization initiative. This
article shall discuss the important aspects of keyword
"Identifying the right keywords for your website is crucial starting point
in your SEO campaign. Select focused yet popular keywords which have ranking
potential based on your PageRank."
Phrase Research is a process of selecting
the most “optimum performance” keyword
phrases that can help visitors find your site.
You may have spent days and months on fine-tuning
your web pages for a better ranking with the
major search engines, yet it will all amount
to a big waste if the right keyword phrases are
not targeted. It’s like not being able
to reach your destination even after running
your best race because you started out on the
wrong road. Even if you achieve high search
engine rankings, you may not get relevant traffic
you select the wrong keywords. Therefore, the
foremost step in any SEO campaign is identifying
your target audience and researching what keyword
phrases they might be searching in the search
engines to locate a site like yours.
For any marketing strategy to succeed, it is
critical to know your audience and the means
to reach them. A certain focus is required which
could be location specific, region specific or
country specific; it could be business, trade,
service, product specific, since we are talking
specific audience. For instance, a dentist practicing
in a particular town would most likely target
people living in the same region, instead of
targeting the entire country. Just as a patient
searching for a dentist would search for one
in his own area. Focus on region would help her
get targeted visitors, not just wasted traffic.
Facts, Not Gut Feel
common pitfall is to start the website optimization
exercise with a set of “gut-feel” keyword
phrases. Site owners often come up with ‘common
sense looking’ key phrases, which though
look obvious, may not match with the ones your
buyers are using as their search term. Very often,
being from within the trade narrows the vision
and you tend to assume that trade-specific terms
are easily understood and popularly used. Not
so. You need to think out of the box.
Keyword Research invariably means departing
from one’s gut-feel and going by the facts. ‘Facts
are sacred’ in website optimization as
they provide the exact data of what people are
actually searching for, thus saving you from
starting on a wild goose chase. As mentioned
earlier, targeting the wrong key phrases might
get you a good ranking for keywords that have
few or no search requests or just get you irrelevant
junk traffic. So, how does one get the facts
and the data regarding a particular search term?
There are several online keyword research tools
like Wordtracker and Overture, which offer data
pertaining to your search term. Relying on search
tools to analyze keyword phrase data helps you
to get a grip on your target audience.
Keyword Research Process
Keyword Research process involves the following
important steps. These steps can be described
The Discovering phase should focus on identifying
as many keywords as possible that are related
to your website and target audience.
The Analysis phase involves adding information
about existing competition; PageRank based limitations
and potential for ranking.
The Selection process involves objective measurement
based shortlisting of keywords keeping the site
focus and target audience within the limitations
The Deploying phase is about making optimum
use of your selected keywords on your website
copy , HTML code and tags.
Step 1: Discovering Keyword Phrases
Starting out Keywords
The nature of keyword research tools that help
you identify various keywords is such that they
need initial starting out keywords. It is important
that you identify good 15 starting out keywords,
tightly focused on your business. You can brainstorm
with your colleagues and clients to identify
search phrases that are most likely to get qualified
traffic to your site. This brainstorming session
is intended at discussing the most relevant keyword
phrases to the product or service you offer.
An initial list of 15-20 keywords can be compiled
at this stage, which can be generic in nature.
For wider keyword coverage, you will get better
results if you have one or two keywords rather
than longer phrases.
Using Wordtracker, Overture to Collect a Corpus
Keyword Research tools like Wordtracker and
Overture can be used to expand on your initial
list of starting out keywords. These tools allow
you to find the number of searches being made
on a particular term and also look for all related
terms that include your search term.
Wordtracker and Overture are the two most widely
used services that give you the ability to research
and find out what people are actually searching
for on the major search engines along with information
on how popular a search term was in the last
30 or 60 days.
Wordtracker is a fee-based service that allows
you to look up popular keyword phrases. Wordtracker
is most popular in SEO industry, as it offers
a good search term database and makes searching
for keyword related information easy.
The database is constantly updated, with the
oldest data being removed and replaced with the
latest information every week. As of writing
this article, Wordtracker offers access to a
database size of 324 million entries.
Although Wordtracker is a paid service for regular
use, it offers the benefit of one-day free trial,
which can be used to complete your keyword research
if you are fairly organized.
Competition Search can also be made at Wordtracker
for your short-listed terms. Competition Search
allows you to ascertain how many web pages exist
for these search terms on different search engines.
This helps you determine your chances of ranking
with a particular search engine for your search
term. Ideally, lesser number of pages with a
search engine means a better ranking chance for
your search term.
Overture Search Term Suggestion tool, although
intended to offer keyword popularity information
to the PPC (Pay Per Click) advertisers, works
fairly well to carry out your keyword research.
Enter your main search terms and in response
Overture lists out all other popular search terms
that contain that particular term or phrase along
with the popularity count. Overture lists the
search terms in order of their popularity, giving
numerical count of past one month.
Being a free tool, Overture is quite useful.
However, it has a few downsides and its results
cannot be totally relied upon. They are good
to be used as a guideline. Some of the drawbacks
of Overture are listed below:
Overture does not make a distinction between
singular and plural search terms. Therefore,
it can lead you to assume that a keyword is popular
in the singular, though it could actually be
the plural you should target.
Related phrases are often collapsed into narrow
The different variations of a word are stemmed
Mis-spellings and punctuation are either ignored
or stemmed resulting in stinted data.
Google Adwords: Keyword Suggestion Tool
Search engines like Google offer some keyword
recommendation tools, which can be used as a
guide. However, Google does not indicate the
popularity count of each search phrase.
Coverage of Keyword Phrases
While selecting your key phrases, make an effort
to cover each aspect of your service or product
that could be searched on stand-alone basis by
the users. Each page on your website could be
dealing with a different topic (product or service),
therefore; the keywords for each page would be
different too, depending on which you should
try and place unique and relevant key phrases
on each page.
instance, it would not suffice to optimize
a dentist’s site only for the terms ‘dentist’ or ‘dental
surgeon’, as people are likely to make
specific searches on related terms like cosmetic
surgery, root canal treatment or RCT, dental
crowns, tooth extractions, cavities etc. Hence,
it is important that all these keywords are covered.
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Step 2: Analyzing Keyword Phrases
The second step is analyzing your keyword phrases.
This involves analyzing the competition for the
search terms, i.e. how many pages are indexed
in a search engine like Google. This gives you
an idea of how many pages are competing for the
top spot. While most of the time, the optimized
sites are ranking high, very often un- Optimized
sites show up highly ranked due to the complex
nature of the search engine algorithms. It is
therefore wise to be conscious of the extent
potential for ranking with a particular keyword
depends on several factors. The on-page
factors address your optimization efforts while
the off-page factors like PageRank affect ranking
in a major way. While it is beyond the scope
of this article to discuss the affect and weight
of all the factors, your site’s PageRank
is an important parameter in keyword analysis.
Thumb rule is that the higher your site’s
PageRank, the better the chance of ranking with
highly competitive keywords. Choose your keywords
keeping your site’s PageRank in mind. For
more information, read our detailed article on
Google PageRank Algorithm
Adding Information and Measuring Competition
After you have made your search on Wordtracker
or Overture, and short-listed your key phrases,
you need to collect information about their competition
as described above. Wordtracker offers an in-built
tool to find the number of pages for your keywords
indexed in Google.
Alternately, you can check the competition for
your keywords at:
Based on our experience with search engines,
the table below suggests a guideline for choosing
keyword based on the competition of pages indexed
in search engines. For instance, if your site
has a PR value of 7/10 on Google Toolbar, you
can expect to beat four million existing web
pages and rank well for your search term, whereas,
with a PR value of 3, you can expect to top
upto five hundred thousand web pages for the
same search term.
PageRank (PR) Good for Competition (Number of
web pages on Google)
PR0 Upto 30,000 web pages on Google
PR1 Upto 1,00,000 web pages on Google
PR2 Upto 3,50,000 web pages on Google
PR3 Upto 5,00,000 web pages on Google
PR4 Upto 7,00,000 web pages on Google
PR5 Upto 1,000,000 web pages on Google
PR6 Upto 2,000,000 web pages on Google
PR7 Upto 4,000,000 web pages on Google
While the above table is not a hard rule as
we have seen large variation in several cases.
The numbers assure that you would do a fairly
good job of your site optimization.
Note: An alternative to the above table is to manually check the PageRank of
the first few sites appearing in the SERP of Google for your selected Keyword
Phrases. If the first
few sites have PR rankings from PR5- PR6, then it is safe to assume that your
site/web pages need at least this PR value to compete for the Keyword Phrase
order to make this task more organized, we
recommend making use of Excel Sheets to feed
in all the data you have compiled. This will
allow you to make comparisons between various
search terms and at the same time, do away with
all the unrelated junk terms that are irrelevant
to your site and also the ones that exceed your
site’s PR requirement.
Step 3: Selection of Keyword Phrases
you have followed the above process of Discovering
and Analyzing keywords, you probably have between
50-100 keyword phrases that qualify as “high-yield” given
your site’s current PR range. Sorting out
which keywords you’re going to gun for,
out of the corpus of keywords you have identified
is a crucial task. Selection of keyword phrases
pertains to finding the most valuable keyword
phrases that most accurately describe specific
qualities of your website. Though generic keywords
are generally searched more, ranking with generic
key phrases often brings mediocre Return on Traffic.
Focused Key Phrases
you may have realized by now the focused key
phrases not only give your site a better
chance to rank, it gets highly targeted traffic
resulting in higher traffic to sales conversion
ratios. Since you have used a process, which
ensures that you are working with popular keywords,
ranking with any of the short listed keywords
assures you of incoming traffic. Amongst the
100 odd keywords you have short-listed, keep
your eyes on the ones that have a tight focus
on what your site’s offering within the
parameters of ranking possibilities and competitiveness.
Final Selection of Keyword Phrases
For making your final selection of 15-20 most
relevant keywords, we recommend working in the
Eliminate the keywords, which are difficult
to rank with considering the chart given for
PR vs. Competition.
Eliminate very low popularity Keywords where the search traffic for the terms
is very low.
Out of the balance keywords that qualify for ranking with your site’s
current PR, select the most popular keywords, which have the right focus for
Step 4: Deploying Keyword Phrases
After you have made a final selection of 15-20
of your most relevant and important keywords,
you need to use them on different parts of your
It is not advisable to use all your keywords
on all the pages. A good way to use the selected
keywords on your site is to divide them into
5-7 groups of keywords. Each group should have
closely related keyword-forming themes. Identify
various sections/ parts of your website that
closely match with the keyword group themes and
optimize your pages using these themes.
Keywords can be used in several portions/ codes
of your web pages. The important aspects are
Keywords Per Page
We recommend using your keywords 2-4 times per
page. Over-repetition of keywords on a page
might be interpreted as spam by the search
engines. Make sure you don’t put all
your keywords on one page.
Where to use the Keywords?
Your important keywords can be used in the following:
Title Tag: A Title Tag of about 90 characters,
inclusive of your most important keywords is
good enough. For instance, the Title Tag of this
article would be written as “Keyword Research
: Techniques for keyword research, keyword analysis & keyword
optimization”. Read our detailed article
on Title Tag Optimization.
Description Tag: You should write a Meta Description
Tag of about 250 characters with
your important keywords. Be careful about over-repetition.
For instance, the Description tag of this article
would be written as: “Keyword research
described: Learn all about keyword research,
keyword analysis, keyword optimization and marketing
keyword research.” Read our detailed article
on Meta Description Tag Optimization.
Keyword rich headlines and sub-headings placed
in <H1> and <H2> tags, not
only give a brief preview of what follows in
the body copy, but also pass the most relevant
information on the page or the subsequent paragraph.
For instance, heading of this article reads:
Keyword Research for Search Engine Optimization;
followed by a sub-heading: Importance of Keyword
Research for Search Engine Optimization
Text: Headlines in <H1> and <H2> Tags
followed by keyword rich body text can improve
your ranking chances.
Alt text / Alt Tag: Important keywords can be
used in the text that appears when you bring
your mouse over an image on a web page.
Title Attributes: The title attributes, are
short descriptions for the hyperlinks telling
the users about the content of the landing page.
Make use of your important keywords here.
Anchor Text: The words that appear within the
hyperlinked portion of the text are called Anchor
Text. Keywords appearing in the Anchor Text have
a high relevance weight in Search Engines. Read
our detailed article on Anchor Text Optimization.
Name: your page’s file name or URL
also makes use of the most important keyword.
For example, file name for this article reads:
Table Summary: The table summary in HTML code
describes the content of each HTML table in your
code. Though not visible to a user, it is important
for people with disabilities and text to speech
applications. It is an important place to use
your keyword phrases.
Given below are a few tips for writing keyword
rich copy. For detailed information, refer
to our article on Search Engine Copywriting.
Keeping your keyword phrases in mind, you might
need to make certain changes in the copy of your
web page. Therefore, instead of just writing
(taking the Dentist example) ‘This procedure
involves…’ one should try and include
their keywords by writing ‘ Root Canal
It is important to include both the singular
and plural versions of your keywords as most
search engines return different sets of results
for plural and singular forms of the same word.
Major search engines like Google are not case
sensitive. Therefore, headlines and sub-headings
can be written in upper or lower case or a combination
of both, as it makes no difference in your search
variations of the same word is another thing
you should look out for. Try to include
all different forms of the same word that can
be spelled differently or commonly mis-spelt.
For instance, you can write, ‘ Abscessed
Tooth, (commonly written as Absessed tooth) is …’,
thus smartly covering the mis-spelling without
giving the user a feeling that the site owner
does not know the correct spellings.
Don’t get swayed by the Keyword Density
formula many SEO experts profess, it’s
just over hyped. Though you may find a number
of articles written on the importance of keyword
density, we don’t think it is mission critical.
Write your language naturally while leveraging
higher use of the keywords in places where it
can be used, like substituting keywords in places
of articles like ‘it’, ‘this’,
Title or the Description of your web page should
not read like a thesaurus or a collection
of keywords, but should be descriptive and enticing
enough to make a user click on it and read further.
It is important to note that our findings on
user behavior have proved that sometimes a site
ranking number 5th in Search Engines has drawn
more clicks than a poorly titled site ranking
number 1 in SERP. For instance, instead of simply
writing ‘wisdom tooth extraction’,
a title that reads ‘painless wisdom tooth
extraction’ which is inclusive of your
USP would result in enticing more users to click
on your entry.
Place your keywords throughout the page, rather
than just at the top, but be very very careful
about over-repetition, as search engines would
consider that as Spamming.
The whole idea behind the Keyword Research exercise
is traffic optimization, not traffic maximization.
In a nutshell, a good Keyword Research helps
in bringing qualified traffic to your site that
leads to high sales conversions, by being focused
and targeting specific search terms.
last updated: 10th February
About the Author: Harjot
Kaleka is an SEO Copywriter at www.SEOrank.com,
a leading Search Engine
Optimization services company. She
has a Masters degree in Mass Communications and
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