Keywords may seem insignificant on first glance. They’re only a single word or phrase after all aren’t they?

Yes, but keywords are key to SEO success in a range of different ways. They’re much more important than some might think.

Keyword research can make your website successful and at the same time they can destroy it. You need to do a fair amount of research before deciding on the best keyword or phrase to use, and in the process you’ll also learn more about the market of your website and the kinds of visitors you need to focus on. With keyword research, you can be ready for any changes in the market and shifts in customer demands. Keywords are what your customers are typing into Google every day, so make sure you choose wisely.

How can you tell what keyword is going to be the most effective?

The difference between choosing ‘cheap handbag’ and ‘cheap purse’ might seem small, but keywords have to be very specific. The reason people use search engines is because they’re looking for something in particular and don’t know where to find it, so you need to cater to their exact requirements or they’ll go elsewhere.

Keyword research tools such as Google Adwords’ keyword tool allow us to find this information, but there is another more extensive method that we can do ourselves to discover the value of a keyword. It sounds long-winded, but if you make it standard practise for every keyword it’ll very quickly become, well, quick!

You’ll need to ask yourself if the keyword is fully relevant to the content on your site. A basic question, but one which needs lots of consideration. If you can happily say yes, and you are confident that users will find what they’re looking for without much risk of them clicking away or being confronted with irrelevant content, then you can begin testing it. Search for it in major search engines and make a note of which websites already rank for it. You’ll uncover the competition and how hard it will be for your website to rank alongside them.

The results

If there are lots of adverts along the top and side of the organic results, the keyword should be reasonably high value. Multiple ads mean the keyword is highly lucrative and popular, so it could do very well for your organic website, as long as the organic competition isn’t equally as strong as the number of ads.

If your site doesn’t rank well for the keyword, you can then give it a little test by purchasing some ‘test’ traffic to find out how well the keyword converts. In Google Adwords you can point the traffic to a specific page on your website by choosing ‘exact match’.

Monitor and make a note of impressions and the conversion rate that Google Adwords provides and you should find out how successful the keyword converts into actual results. For further information on determining the exact value of a keyword, head over to Moz for their comprehensive guide to keyword research – highly helpful but warning – there’s a lot of maths involved!

Google Adwords

One of the most common starting points for keyword research, of course, is Google Adwords. If you want to know which keywords to target, Adwords can show you the demand for any word or phrase and the amount that running a campaign with that word will cost. There are many other similar tools around the web, but Adwords is the most comprehensive. It isn’t a miracle worker though. You’ll still have to do basic things like making sure your website is in full working order with fully operational and correct navigation.

The keyword you’ve done all your homework on might be steering everyone to your website, but they’ll steer right back off again if they can’t successfully look at what they’ve been directed to because of a broken link.

It’s also ideal if you only choose one keyword or phrase per campaign, so that customers aren’t overwhelmed with too many options or bombarded with content that isn’t relevant to what they’ve searched for. Plus, you’ll also have more options when it comes to future campaigns.

You could also cater for misspelt keywords, as there are lots of people out there who will type their search incorrectly. Make sure you know the most common misspellings, and don’t pick mistakes which are too glaring and potentially damaging to your credibility.

Whichever method you choose to do your keyword research, be it with Google Adwords or the test-and-try method, just make sure you do the following three crucial things.

1: Don’t just link to your homepage if your campaign is for a specific service or product. People have already done their searching with a search engine and found your site with your keyword; they don’t want to continue searching on your website.

2: It may seem blatantly obvious, but make sure the keyword you select is relevant. If Google doesn’t think your keywords are suitable then your site won’t be displayed and you’ll get a limited number of hits.

3: The most important thing of all, keep a close eye on the performance of the keyword. Trends change all the time and your keyword could be completely irrelevant by next week, so it’s important to check your campaigns throughout their duration.

A good amount of market research for business planning will often point you to the most relevant keywords and your target audience. Make keywords a part of your overall online marketing strategy and you really can’t lose.