I have been building websites for nearly a decade and promoting them professionally for 5 as well. Ever since I can remember we have referred to it as Keywords. Keywords research, keyword density, meta-keywords"¦ totally pervasive. Much of the last few years or so I really started to move away from the tight association using that term seems to invoke. More often than not you will be looking at 'phrasings' more than actual keywords.
The average end user (surfer/searcher) is evolving and becoming more Search Savvy in how they seek things out. You will see a lot of search referrers (search terms used to find a given site) with wild and varied search terms. It is rarely a 'dead hit' on the terms you're targeting. Some certainly are, but there is a vast amount of unique phrase searching going on. Learning to look at 'organic' phrasings and 'long tail' terms is important in your keyword/phrase research and development. It's more than just 'keywords' these days.
The importance of research
Keywords are probably the single most important aspect of all SEO activities. As discussed earlier, search engines sift through their indexes of web pages based on complex algorithms that help match the search term with the most relevant indexed results.
We know that our web pages should be optimized for particular keyword/s, the important question of how to choose the right keywords/phrases now comes into focus. One of the fundamental tasks of SEO is to identify and then optimize the website for keywords that will bring in the most traffic to the website. It is generally accepted that you optimize a single webpage for 1-3 keyword only. We often use secondary target pages in support of a given keyword as well. This would be something along the lines of optimizing the home page as well as an interior page for a given term target.
Often you may want to start by targeting less competitive terms (sometimes known as 'long tail') in the beginning and working your way onto the MONEY TERMs in your market as you progress. If you have a more established site with some reasonable rankings already, you'd want to look to build on 'money terms' 1st and worry about others later. In the end it is a never ending collection of terms and rankings until you've cornered the market.
Relevance "" Phrase Based "" Organic Phrasing;
Think further than keywords and move further towards phrases. Think in 2 ways; Keyword/Phrase targeting and Organic or Natural Phrasing targets. Search Engines are getting better at understanding relevance, correlations and processing phrasings. If we have a target of ' Business Development' or 'Internet Business Development' we would work it with a variety of 'extensions' for natural search phrasing such as;
Affordable Internet Business Development Services (full phrasing)
Business Development Services
Affordable Business Development
Affordable Development Services
Affordable Internet Business
Internet Business Development
Internet Business Development Services
You get the idea. With a few CORE terms and some 'extensions' I can reach quite a few targets. Build out some organic phrasing targets and you will be pleasantly surprised with the effects.
Keyword Research and budgeting – Show me the money!
For me, as I have touched on, I always look for an ROI. There is an associated cost with attracting traffic. If it's SEM (paid search traffic), SEO, promotional or other form of advertising, there is a price. With SEO it is often found right at the beginning. This is why the initial decisions towards WHAT terms to target, is often the difference between a strong or tweak ROI. Having a #1 on Google for a term the doesn't 'convert' is nothing more than bit of bravado.. 'Look "" I'm number 1!'
Keyword/Phrase Targeting and your budget
Every business/web site has its budgetary limitations. It's a fact of life. If you're doing your own SEO or hiring a provider, you must always consider cost in your term targeting. It's truly a game of ROI really… you need to look at what a given term is going to cost to get to a certain position.
When you are looking at term targeting you want to try and establish which terms are most likely to have the best ROI for your marketing dollar. Once you have a rough calculation of the associated costs of a term, you need to look at IF the traffic increase WARRANTS the investment. For example on a site with some existing rankings;
- Moving 'Widgets' "" which is currently ranking #3 it costs you $800 and gets extra 200 visitors/month and 2 sign ups.
- Targeting a weaker phrase like 'Blue Widgets' to move up to the 1st page from it's 25th ranking; it costs $800 BUT you 400 visitors and 4 sign ups.
That's merely an example so you can get the idea. No one has an unlimited budget, so we try to maximize the marketing (SEO) investment.
Once again, due diligence should always be used in the Keyword/Phrase research aspects of ones SEO Planning