Five Steps to Effective Keyword Research

Good keyword research is one of the cornerstones of any successful search optimization campaign. If you want to rank well in the major search engines, attract a target audience and become an established resource in your industry, it is absolutely vital to choose the best possible keywords. Focusing on the wrong keywords is a waste of valuable marketing resources, so it always pays to conduct some careful keyword research before you begin optimizing your website.

Many marketers and website owners find task daunting, especially if they are new to search engine optimization. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can follow to simplify the process and ensure that the keywords you choose are the best possible match for your business and your audience.

1. Develop a true understanding of your audience.

Website owners sometimes believe that they have a firm grasp of who their audience is and what these viewers want. Unfortunately, these preconceived ideas about your core demographic can actually hurt your chances of choosing the best keywords and phrases. Before you begin researching keywords, start creating a detailed description of your typical customer.

How do you know who your typical customer is? Start by conducting some basic market research, analyze your own website reports, and perform your own customers surveys to learn as much as possible. There are numerous consumer trend reports available online that offer valuable information about different markets and industries, so be sure to use this information as a base for your future research. Look at your own website traffic reports to see where readers are coming from and what they are viewing on your site. This information can tell you a lot about your readers' interests and needs. Finally, consider posting quick research surveys on your website to learn more about your current audience.

2. Check out the competition.

As you begin assembling a list of possible keywords for your website, take the time to check out the keywords your competition is targeting. Conduct searches on the terms and phrases you are considering and look at the META information for the sites that come up first in search results. You can look at this information by clicking on "View" in your browser and then selecting "Page Source." The keywords your competitors are focusing on can be seen in the META keyword section located near the top of the page.

While you don't necessarily want to focus on the exact same terms as your rivals, this information can provide a lot of great ideas that you might want to pursue. Create a separate list with possible keywords and phrases that you discover during this process. Later, you can check out the demand and interest for these keywords and decide if you want to add them to your own list of target search terms.

3. Take Advantage of Keyword Research Tools

When it comes to keyword research, having the most information you can get is the best strategy. One of the greatest ways to determine if a keyword is worth pursuing is to utilize keyword research tools to discover how many people search for that specific phrase each day. There are numerous tools for this purpose, including the Overture Keyword Suggestion Tool and Wordtracker. Not only can these tools tell you how many users are searching for the keywords you are considering; they can also offer suggestions on keywords that might be even more popular.

4. Assess the Difficult of Succeeding with a Keyword or Phrase

Now that you've fine-tuned your list of potential keywords, you need to assess how difficult it will be to achieve results with each specific search terms. Some keywords are so competitive that it is virtually impossible to break into search results for that term. In these cases, focusing on a less competitive keyword or phrase can lead to much better results, even though this search term might not receive as many searches each day. There are a number of tools you can use to assess keyword competitiveness, including the Keyword Difficulty Checker.

5. Narrow Your List to Produce More Qualified Results

If you are focused on drawing in a very specific set of customers, it pays to narrow your list of potential keywords. For example, if you are promoting a lead generation service to online real estate brokers, then you want to direct your search optimization efforts directly toward these viewers. Instead of focusing on a generic term such as "lead generation," you will achieve more qualified results with a keyword phrase such as "mortgage lead generation." By narrowing the focus of your search terms, you can ensure that your website resonates with the customers you are trying to reach.

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