Good Keywords – How Do You Pick Them?

Created by Camille Winer

tech_keyIf you’re posting or overseeing web content and you know just enough about keywords to be dangerous—it’s time to learn more. Keywords are a critical part of search engine optimization, to drive traffic to your website and to find your company’s ideal customers. If you’re investing time and money on creating content and you’re not researching keywords, you’re not getting a full return on your investment.

Having the right keywords in your blog titles, ebooks, and other content can help you move up the ranks of search engine results and drive more of the right kind of traffic to your website. Read on to find out how to drive traffic to your website.

What are keywords?

Simply put, a keyword is any word or phrase that a person enters into a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

But there are a couple of other definitions you need to think about:

From the perspective of the person using a search engine, keywords are the words they use to describe their problems, needs, and interests. These can be very different from the words you use to describe your services, your products, and the world around you.

From your perspective as someone using web content to generate leads and customers, keywords are a way to do so—while helping people rather than annoying them. Because you’re going to help them find you—online—when they want what you’ve got.

From the perspective of a search engine, keywords and their popularity are the basis for moving your pages up or down in the list of websites users see when they do a search.

Why should you use keywords?

Identifying the keywords your ideal customers are using provides a wealth of valuable information about them. Not only will you find out what words or phrases people are using to find you, but figuring out these words and phrases will help you identify trends and adjust to changing market conditions.

How do you pick the right keywords? Choose keywords that are:

1. Relevant to your business
The search term “house painting” returns about 286 million Google results, virtually all of which link to content on painting the outside or inside of a house. To state the obvious, if you’re an artist who paints pictures of people’s homes, this is probably not the right keyword for you. Use a keyword that describes your industry or field unambiguously and in common phrasing (say, “paintings of houses” or “house portraits”).

2. Popular
Once you’ve identified a relevant keyword, run it through the popular search engines to see what kind of results you get. A search result with many ads along the top and right indicates a search term that is popular and potentially lucrative. But it is possible for a keyword to be too popular. If your company did in fact paint houses, “house painting” would be relevant, but so popular that it would be impossible, short of orchestrating some sort of global house painting scandal, to break into the first page of search results. And unfortunately, 75% of searchers don’t look beyond the first page.

3. Specific
To make your keywords rise to the top of search engine results, you need to add modifiers, creating long-tail keywords. Think about some of your best customers. What, specifically, describes their homes or the kind of painting company they wanted when they chose you? Choose modifiers that get specific about them and the services you provide to them. Interior or exterior house painting? In the Chicago area or Holyoke, Massachusetts? Low cost, high quality, creative, historic homes? Stop thinking about what you provide, and start thinking about your customers and why they hire you.

4. Accurate
If you’re running a high-end operation that specializes in custom work, will “low-cost house painting” attract a customer that you’re likely to please? Use modifiers that accurately describe specific products and services that you offer (sponging, stenciling, etc.) and you will attract people who are likely to become happy customers. Search engines do you the favor of screening out people whose buying criteria don’t match your services or products. Accept the favor!

To recap, here are some …

Popular types of keyword modifiers

  • Specifics about your type of business (“curly hair stylist”)
  • Geographic area served (“Atlanta area”)
  • Specialties (“circuit board manufacturing”)

Boots-on-the-ground next steps

Using the above tips, brainstorm some long-tail keywords on paper or in a file. Think about your ideal client or clients. Think about your existing clients: What services are you providing them? What were they looking for when they found you? Write as many as possible. Don’t hold back.

Then, dig deeper. Next to each idea, write three more variations that meet three of the criteria for successful keywords: relevant, specific, and accurate. Once you’ve dug as deep as you can, combine some of these phrases in different ways, adding to your list.

Now that you’ve got a long list of ideas, test them for the fourth criterion: popularity. You can do this by entering them into search engines, but that’s a painstaking process that’s difficult if not impossible to do with any regularity.

Pay services like WordStream and Google AdWords Keyword Tool can help you generate keywords, test their effectiveness, and make suggestions based on your business and the keywords you’ve already come up with. They also let you know your chances of breaking into the first page of search results, and other important metrics like how many people are using a search term and where your site ranks currently with that keyword. You can also hire an inbound marketing firm to do this work, ensuring that it gets done regularly and effectively.

Whether you know it or not, you are already using keywords in your online content. By using these criteria for success, you can start using the right keywords and attracting more of your ideal customers.

Create a keyword strategy based on your ideal visitors and increase your traffic organically.