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Choosing the Right Keywords

The majority of traffic to websites originates from a search engine with 91% of people using search engines to find their way around cyberspace1. At the heart of the search indexing system that the engines use is the recognition of keywords in online content that defines the nature of the information that it contains. This requires that web pages are tagged so that the crawlers know what they are looking for as they attempt to place them in their correct place in the index. This makes the choice of keywords vital for every web page designer and copywriter.

There are two types of keywords that are commonly used for most websites: short and long tail keywords. Short tail keywords are usually single words that are associated with a niche or a topic, while long tail keywords are short phrases that describe more exact aspects of the topic. For instance, a baker may use ‘bread’ as a short tail keyword and ‘multi-grain loaves’ as a long tail keyword. Most websites will use a set of keywords to describe their content that is made up of a set number of these keywords that they intend to use in their content, like blog posts and product descriptions. The reason that it is important to focus on a set of keywords for your niche is that by using a predefined set of keyword tags for your published material you are increasing your chances of a good ranking in the SERPs.

The simplest way to begin to assemble a list of keywords for your website is to make a list of words and short phrases that relate to your niche or industry. Some of the terms will be obviously the right ones to use, but to build the most practical set of keywords it is good to get some analysis of their value to the search engines and the competition that you will have for the front page of Google’s search results. To do this, you can access Google Adwords free Keyword Tool which will generate a list of associated words and compare them according to both their global and local monthly searches, as well as the amount of competition that exists in the SERPs for each term. Often looking through the list can help you find keywords that you would otherwise have not thought of and if you haven’t there is a good chance that others in your niche haven’t either. Ideally, you are looking for the keywords with the most monthly searches and the least competition to use for your own page, to give yourself the best chance of dominating the SERPs for as many keywords as possible.

Depending upon how broad the topic is a practical set of keywords for it could be anything from six or eight words to a couple of dozen. Too many keywords and you won’t have enough content online to generate a good SERP ranking while too few will make the search parameters for your page too narrow and miss too many potential customers. Don’t be afraid to compete for the high competition keywords, as the extra competition indicates that they have a higher value but will require more effort to use effectively.

Even when you have settled on the right keywords for your website it is still important to monitor the statistics for your site and see which keyword terms are bringing the traffic to your pages. Often it is the case that a good deal of traffic might be generated by a less central keyword or an image that has been tagged, and it can give you a good indication of how to modify the set of keywords that you are using.

References:
1. Search Engine Use 2012, Kristen Purcell, Joanna Brenner, Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center

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