We have posted previously on how to build your initial keyword list for your SEO campaign. In contrast to paid search where you cast as wide a net as possible, with your SEO keyword list, you need to be more selective and target the most important terms. You need to strip it down your keyword list to the essential terms that achieve a balance between search volume, relevance, and competition.
Your target keyword list should be comprised of terms that have a healthy search volume, are highly relevant for your website’s content, and have as little competition as possible. This sounds like a tall order, but if you want to target the right terms, doing a little research upfront will save time and enhance your performance.
Of all the keyword metrics, this is the least concrete. This means that there aren’t handy tools out there to determine this for you. You’ll have to figure this out yourself. However, there are a few steps you can take to help determine the level of relevancy for your initial keyword list.
First, do a gut check. You should be able to vet your initial keyword list simply by reviewing the terms and knowing which ones are mission critical for your business/product/service.
Second, use the search engines. Conduct search queries for the keywords that you think are relevant for your website. If none of your main competitors come up for a certain keyword it could mean two things: you have discovered a new keyword that your competition are not yet targeting (gold!), or this term isn’t relevant for your website or your competitors’ sites. More than likely it will be the latter.
Third, ask around. Use your co-workers or partners as a sounding board. Ask anyone who has a hand in the development of the website. You may get different perspectives you weren’t expecting.
With these steps completed, hopefully you will have already shrunk your keyword list considerably. Now, how do you choose from the terms that are left?
There are a few tools out there that will allow you to find the search volume for your initial keyword list. And by search volume, I mean the average number of searches that are conducted for each keyword per month. Here is a quick list of helpful tools:
The search volume displayed by these tools will vary. I would suggest using one tool for all of your search volume research. This way, you are using a consistent source and your numbers will be more valid, comparatively speaking.
Once you have found the search volume for your initial keyword list, then you’ll want to get an idea of what you’re up against in the search engines. To get a quick idea on the amount of competition you’ll face, you can take each keyword and type it directly into Google, Yahoo or MSN. Honestly, I think most people will use Google for this purpose.
You’ll notice at the top of the search engine results page there is a line that appears above your results:
This information is telling us the number of competing pages for this particular term. Here we can see that the keyword, “tennis shoes” currently has 16,100,000 competing pages within Google’s index. FYI: that’s a lot of competition.
Once you have put all of this together you should be targeting keywords that fit into these categories:
High Relevance & High Competition: There are going to be terms that are highly relevant for your business but have a lot of competition. If you are going to target these terms, know what you’re getting into and be aware that it’s going to be a long battle for good rankings.
High Relevance & Low Search Volume: You may find that some keywords that you have deemed highly relevant have a low monthly search volume. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You may be able to rank for these keywords with less effort. It also means that when someone does search for this term, you’ll be exactly what they’re looking for. And your chances of converting this visitor are pretty good!
However, ideally you’ll be targeting…
High Relevance & High Search Volume & Low Competition: Ideally, you want to target relevant keywords that are searched for frequently and have a low amount of competition.
Of course, we don’t live in an idealistic world and your keyword list will not be comprised of keywords that are solely ideal. You’ll have mix of terms. But as long you do the research upfront in order to get the right balance of relevancy, search volume and competition, then you’re already ahead of the game.