Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Would you enter an F1 race with a Go-kart? (Optimising keywords and Google’s own keyword tool)

By Jon Paget

So you need to re-develop or create a new website and are eager to get that much coveted first page Google ranking. But, just like the cars in a F1 race, you need the right mechanics supporting you in order to compete.

After all, there are more and more websites with which to compete for the top, most lucrative spots. So don’t crash and burn at the first corner, take the time to get your keywords (and then your content right). With a little time you might just find your site in pole position.

But before we begin I should clarify something. The title of ‘optimising your keywords’ is a little misleading. Especially if you’re expecting this to be a similar process to optimising a site’s Meta title or Meta description (see previous posts).

Why is this? Well it’s because selecting the right keywords is one of the most important tasks that you’ll undertake when establishing optimising a website.

Researching the right keywords is not rocket science but there is a process which should be followed if you want the best results. There’s a lot of different software out there which works through this process (most agencies/SEO experts will use something like this) but there are some great free and easy to use tools to get started.

Google’s own keyword tool (type ‘keyword tool’ into Google and click the first result) is as good a place as any to start…

If you currently have a list of keywords from an existing site or have some initial ideas, simply type them in and click go. If you are starting from scratch type in a couple of related words that you would use personally to find whatever it is you’re attempting to identify keywords for.

The default settings of the keyword tool will then fetch results for the keywords you yourself entered as well as some keywords that Google suggests may be similar to those you entered (this can be turned off by selecting ‘filter my results’ and checking the box ‘Don't show ideas for new keywords’).

Either way you’ll then (hopefully) be presented with some results. Here is a brief explanation of the three columns you’ll be presented with:

Advertiser competition: this gives an indication of how strong the competition is for that keyword or phrase. The more full the bar (the more shaded) the greater the level of competition. If it’s completely full you’re likely to be facing a lot of other companies wishing to be at the top of Google. If this is the case you have two options. You might decide it’s worth pursuing (this will be dependent on other keywords available to you) in which case you’ll need to have a lot of patience and a very strong SEO strategy.

The second option would be to move on to another keyword that doesn’t quite have the same level of competition.

(Of course there are instances where opportunities are present despite a seemingly high level of competition – but that’s for a different post!)

Local Search Volume: this is the number of searches for that keyword or phrase over the previous month. The ‘local’ search volume refers to the country in which you’ve specified (e.g.: google.co.uk – Great Britain)

Global Search Volume: this is the average number of global searches for this keyword/phrase taken from the last 12 months. (It is possibly to have a higher local search volume than Global search volume.)

Of course when you’re refining your keywords there are a variety of factors you might wish to consider. These include:

• Your timeline for success (if you need results quickly you’ll want to pay more attention to a low level of advertiser competition)
• Just because a keyword has x thousand searches every month, this does not mean you’ll see all of these searches turn into visits, even if you’re ranked No.1 (suggested figures are that 25-40% of searches will visit your site if you’re ranked within the top 2 results in Google)
• How many keywords will you be optimising your site for? If it’s five your choices will vary greatly than if you need to choose dozens.
• What is the competition doing? Is your level of competition likely to change?
• Will you be able to create quality content that supports the optimisation of a page’s keywords?

Of course as good as the Google keyword tool is it can’t tell you lots of important information such as specifics about the competition or which sites are performing well for individual keywords (and most importantly how they’re achieving their success).

However the above should get you started and give you a basic understanding of what the process is and what’s involved.

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