Keyword Research – What It Is, Why You Need It
Written by Jennifer Andreson
My clients have heard of keyword research. They know it's something they need. They know it's important. But they are not quite sure what keywords actually are or how they are used.
The idea of keywords comes to us from Library Science professionals. These are the folks tasked with connecting people to the information they want. It’s not so bad when you are talking to a human who can spell out their request. Let's say you need information on flowers.
“Well, do you mean for gardening, or are you more interested in the biology of pollination?"
Without a human who already knows what information is available and who can ask questions, you are left to search a database on your own. You are faced with a computer screen and a place to enter search terms. Search terms are specific nouns you think might be related to the information you want to find. They are very much like keywords.
Now, let’s look at it from the information publisher’s point of view. She has the opposite problem – she has some type of information, and she wants to make sure someone who is looking for it will find what she wrote. This is the problem we face on the Internet. We have a site we want people to find, but not just anyone or everyone; we want to find those people who are looking for what we have. Here’s where keywords come in.
The definition of a keyword is "a short, descriptive word or phrase that represents the material on a webpage or site." Before you can do any SEO task, you have to determine the best keywords for your site. Sounds easy, right? The basic idea is easy, but it gets a little more complicated in practice. First, we’ll need some in-depth research in order to find the right ones. In a nutshell, the right keywords are the words or phrases that have the most searches performed but also have the lowest dilution from your competitors.
For instance, take a look at this screenshot from the Google Keywords Tool below. If we choose the keyword "search engine optimization," we find that there are over half a million people searching for that term. You might want to choose that one, right then and there. However, if you also notice the little bar chart, you can see that the competition is fairly high for this keyword. Even though a lot of people are searching for that term, a lot of people are trying to rank for it.
Think about that for a minute. When someone performs a search, they are going to find many, many results for that keyword. Google can only display about 15 sites on a page for each search. Users will click on the first result that seems close to what they intended and few will click any further than the second or third page. That’s why rank is mentioned so often. If my site doesn’t come up near the beginning of the search, very few people will even see it.
Back to the listing below. If you move down the list, you can see that both "blogging search engine optimization" and "joomla search engine optimization" still have a decent number of searches, but the competition is much lower.
Ok, so we would choose both of those keywords, right? Not necessarily. Take our site, PC-Limited, for example. We take a lot of Joomla! SEO and website projects. So, if we choose that keyword phrase as one of our top keywords, then the person who is searching is going to find a VERY relevant website on the other end. That is exactly what we want: relevant searches coming to the site. There’s always a balance. You want to spread a net that will catch a lot of fish (general keyword) but you also want to catch the right fish (specific keyword). In other words, a keyword both attracts visitors and filters them at the same time.
If we just choose “search engine optimization,” then we will not only get people looking for SEO services, but also information about SEO, SEO tools, and so on. Fewer of those visitors are actually going to be interested in hiring professional SEOs for their Joomla! website. Plus, Google will see the terms "Joomla!" and "search engine optimization" in several places on our site, because that’s what we do. So they will also find that the keyword is relevant to our site and give it a higher rank than some other sites. So in this case, the keyword “joomla search engine optimization” would be a win-win for us. We have a better chance of being able to compete for that keyword phrase because there are fewer websites also competing for that phrase, so we have a better chance of being the very site the searcher was looking for.
If only 1% of those 40,500 searchers actually sees and clicks on my link, then we get a shot at 405 potential new customers a month. If only 1% of those people actually hire us, then that could amount to 4 or 5 new clients a month! And that's only one keyword. So yes, that's definitely a keyword we want to target and try to get a number-one rank on the search engines with it.
Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that. We have other metrics we look at, such as trends data, the value of the search term, the likelihood that the keyword is one that a buyer is using vs. a keyword that a researcher is using, and so on. We balance all of those factors and try to pick the ones we feel have the best chance of success. We then use those keywords as a basis for everything else we do where SEO is concerned. Now we know what kind of a slant to take on your blog articles, what titles to put on your pages, or what edits need to be made in your website content. This first step will be some of the most important time spent on your search engine optimization. Without it, you simply have no direction.