You’ve got your website up and running and now you need to drive traffic to it. There are a number of ways you can do this, and you shouldn’t rely on just one method. However, a large number of them have keywords at the heart, so it’s essential that you understand exactly what they are and what you should be considering when you choose yours.
What is a keyword?
A main source of traffic for many websites is search engines. Think of it from a users perspective. When they’re looking for something they often go to a search engine and type in a phrase. Although it’s a phrase, this is what is known as a keyword.
The search engine will look through its indexed sites and return those sites it thinks most closely matches what the user is looking for. The most relevant will be at the top of the list. The user will click on a link, usually one of the top three, and will visit the site.
Therefore you need to build your site around the search engine terms people are looking for, provided of course they’re relevant to the content of your site 🙂
How To Do Keyword Research
It’s no good just assuming you know what people are looking for, you need to find out. Fortunately, there are a number of keyword tools available to help you do this. A good place to start is with the Google keyword tool. It’s got an extensive database to draw from and it’s free to use. Just type in a phrase related to your website and look at what’s returned.
Tip: If you haven’t already got a Google account, get one. Then, when you use the free Google keyword tool, make sure you’re signed in. Why? Well two reasons really. Firstly you don’t have to wrestle with that horrible captcha box. Secondly, and most importantly, because Google will retrieve more keywords 🙂 For any given keywords it will retrieve up to 800 other keyword search terms.
Not only will you see a list of keywords related to your seed term, but you’ll also see how many people are searching for the terms. Brilliant 🙂 But this is only one half of the equation. Success is a function of both supply and demand. The number of searches is an indicator of demand. Now we need to look at the supply side of the equation.
How Many Sites Are Competing For My Keywords?
The Google keyword tool also has a column headed competition. While you might initially think that this is an indicator of supply, it’s a bit of a red herring. It actually refers to the number of advertisers bidding on the keyword in Googles Adsense program, relative to all keywords across Google. What we really want to know is the actual number of sites also targeting our keywords and that will obviously include a large number of sites not involved in pay per click advertising.
To get a feel for the number of competitors, go back to the Google search engine and enter your keyword in quotation marks, e.g. “golf”. For me this returned 1,610 MILLION results. That’s quite some competition! Tomorrow I’ll talk about long tail keywords and how they can help you to attract more targeted traffic, but here we’re only concerned with getting a feel for demand and supply.
Obviously you could type each of your keywords into the search engine and make a note of the number of results returned, but this would be extremely time consuming and boring. What you really need to find is a keyword tool that can help you identify the volume of competition in a time efficient manner.
Unfortunately I don’t know of a free keyword tool that will help you to do this. There are however a number of paid products available. They range in price and payment terms. Some require a one off payment while others require a monthly subscription. Some are affordable to most people, while others can only really be justified if you already have an established and profitable business.
The best keyword suggestion tools give you a lot more data than just supply and demand related figures. Different products offer different services and therefore to get a comprehensive understanding of your keywords it’s always an idea to invest in two or three of them. But to start with just get one and learn how to use it before you add another to your arsenal.
The one I started with is Market Samurai, and although I’ve purchased more since, this is the keyword suggestion tool I would recommend to others. It covers far more than keyword analysis, such as SEO competiton analysis, content ideas and how to monetise your site, it’s constantly being updated and it has some great training materials.
OK. I Know the Search and Competition Volumes, Which Keywords Do I Target?
While you may be tempted to target keywords with high search volumes, these often attract large volumes of competition. Just think back to the golf example above. If you were competing with 1,610 million results, what do you think the chances of your site appearing on the first page of the search engine rankings, let alone the top three, would be?
The volume of demand for a keyword search term is totally irrelevant if there’s no chance of your site ever being seen.
What you should look for are keywords with sufficient demand to suggest a profitable market, but with a low level of competition, thus giving your site a chance to be ranked. The actual search and competition volumes will vary depending on your market, so you’ll have to try things and test. If you’re using an analytics package, which you should be, you’ll be able to see which keywords are bringing traffic to your site. You don’t need to pay for this, Google analytics is free. And if you’re using WordPress, the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin makes installation a doddle.
Over To You: How important do you think keywords are to your success? How do you find yours? What tools can you recommend? Do you know of a free tool which reports competition volumes?