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Finding The Right Keywords To Drive Traffic to Your Site

As the Web continues to grow, users (including Canadians) are looking online for information, goods and services in greater numbers than ever before. Research says that anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of users find Web pages through search engines. Therefore you really need to optimize your site for search engines.

There are a number of things you can do to optimize it (see Sue Studios' article, Improving Search Engine Placements with Content). This article will deal with keywords – something that confuses many of us.

Keywords are crucial because it's the keywords that bring traffic to your site when users type them into a search box. There are a number of things to consider when choosing the keywords that will be the most effective for you and your business.


Considerations for Generating Keywords

1. Think from a customer viewpoint

What search words do you use while on the Web? What words would potential customers use when searching for your products or services? If you are unsure, you ask your customers, suppliers, brand managers and sales people for suggestions.

2. Expand your keywords into a list of key phrases

After compiling an initial list, put these terms into WordTracker. WordTracker is a Web-based tool that provides ideas for additional keywords by telling you how popular your keywords are on other Web pages and how many people have searched for these keywords in major search engines in the last 24 hours.

The best keywords are those that aren't overused but are still fairly popular. Look at uncommon combinations. WordTracker has another tool, called the Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI), which will tell you the number of times your keyword appears in its database and the number of competing Web pages. This reveals the keywords that might work best on your pages. A high KEI means the word is more popular and less competitive. A KEI of 100 is fairly good, but anything over 400 is fantastic.

3. Create Multiple Permutations

Vary the order of words in your phrases to create different combinations. Use very unusual combinations. Create phrases that ask a question. Include synonyms, word substitutes, metaphors, and common misspellings. Include brand names and models of products sold. Use additional qualifiers to create more specific terms by creating two-, three-, and four-word phrases.

For example, if you own a metaphysical bookstore, and books of course would be one of your keywords, some combinations may be new age books, metaphysical bookstore, books on spirituality, etc.

4. Use Concept Qualifiers to Qualify Visitors

Specify the concept in your key phrases, such as hot stone massage. Be specific enough so the key phrase is not too broad, such as hand massage.

5. If You're Branded, Use Your Company Name

It pays to include your company name in your keyword phrases if you're a well known brand. A site like Banyen Books should use key phrases like Banyen Books, music for sale at Banyen, Banyen gifts, etc.

However, if your name is Joe Smith Massage, very few people will type that in a search query unless they know you, so it doesn't pay to include company names in keyword phrases when you're not branded. Still have your company name as a separate key word or phrase on its own.

6. Use Geographic Location

If your location is key, include it in your keywords. For example, if you are a real estate agent, and you sell locations for spas in northern BC, then use that in your key words.

7. Review Your Competitors' Keywords

Look up your competitors' keywords to get ideas on some you might have missed. I don’t recommend just copying their keywords because you don't know how they were generated. Just look for an idea or two to supplement the keywords you've generated yourself.

8. Don't Use Keywords or Phrases That Are Too Broad

Instead, use modifiers to make generic keywords and phrases more specific. A site offering insurance-related services might use health insurance quotes or auto insurance quotes.

To prequalify your visitors, your keywords and phrases should identify your niche. If you're in the entertainment business, use entertainment news, entertainment jobs, or entertainment centre. Identifying your niche attracts the kind of traffic you need. This is important no matter what you sell. A smaller, targeted audience is more likely to result in conversions than a large volume of traffic that came thinking you were selling something else.

9. Don't Use Single Words

Multi-word phrases work better than single words. It's difficult for search engines to return relevant results on single-word searches because there are too many answers to such a query, and users won't wade through hundreds of result pages. They learn quickly to be very specific. A user looking for an e-commerce software solution for an auction site won't be searching for software.

10. Don't Use Trademark Names Other Than Your Own

Stay away from competitors' trademarks in your keywords or you might get sued. Some companies will give permission to use their terms. Permission will depend on potential affiliation — a manufacturer will likely give permission to use its name to promote and sell its products on a vendor site. However, using another company's trademark or product name to profit from its brand is unacceptable and breaches trademark-protection laws.

These strategies will help point prequalified visitors to your site. Keyword selection is among the most important tasks in search engine marketing, so take the time to do it right.


This article was adapted from Paul J. Bruemmer's article, "Finding Keywords That Drive Traffic to Your Site". Paul J. Bruemmer is the CEO of Web Ignite, a search engine marketing company founded in 1995. Web-Ignite earned a top grade in the Buyers' Guide to Search Engine Optimization Firms and has helped promote over 15,000 Web sites. Client testimonials report traffic increases of 150 to 500 percent.


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