Good Keyword Research - Simple Steps to Data-Driven Success
Anyone exploring SEO for their business will quickly realize that keyword research is a core component. Consider the following: would you rather rank #1 in Google for a keyword that is searched 25 times a day, or 50 times a day? Obviously you'd want the one with more traffic, but that is not the only consideration. What if the keyword that is searched 25 times a day represent people twice as likely to buy something from you? And what if the keyword that is searched 50 times a day will require 5 times as much SEO effort to achieve that #1 ranking?
These are the questions and decisions that are guided by the process of good, careful, strategic keyword research. Here's a few tips to get you started.
Tip #1: Define your target. Think of demographic, geographic, lifestyle, age, and other characteristics that represent the person you are trying to reach. A good SEO effort requires targeted thinking to lead you to targeted actions. Once you define this target, build a list from your own head that includes the types of words and phrases that they might search for.
Tip #2: Don't confuse traffic with commerciality. There are 3 types of keyword searches performed on Google and the other search engines: Navigational, Informational, and Transactional. If you are a business looking to use SEO to bring new traffic to your site, you most likely want to target keywords which are transactional.
Often the more transactional keywords are more specific - for example, a person searching for "golf equipment for sale" is more likely to be a transactional searcher than one searching for "golf equipment". The latter may just be looking to read about how to use the equipment (informational searching).
Tip #3: Find the "sweet spot". Every SEO effort will have a different keyword sweet spot, defined by the balance of a keyword that provides daily traffic from the search engines to those who are highly ranked for the term, with a competitive strength that is attainable for the level of SEO you are prepared to do.
You'll probably never rank for "golf equipment", because hundreds of retailers have been chasing this phrases for years, and sites like Amazon.com have targeted this phrase, with thousands of links pointing to their well-optimized pages. However, if you are a specialty golf shop in Miami, you may be able to rank for "Miami golf shop", or if you sell left-handed clubs, you can rank for "left handed golf equipment". If either of these searches has decent traffic with low competition, you might be able to rank in the top 10, which could bring you profitable traffic.
SEO is a Matter of Balance
In theory, any site can do the work necessary to rank for any term, but every business has to deal with the question of return-on-investment, and understand that the level of SEO they do must translate to actual sales, brand equity, or customer action. Relating those goals to the selection of keywords is the trick, so think of keyword research as a strategic business process, not just an exercise in data collection.
Start with Google
If you are getting started, explore the free keyword tool that Google offers within their AdWords system, and you can begin to see the traffic associated with various different keywords and phrases. For each phrase, Google offers an estimate of competitive strength, which in their case is based around the competitive bids for paid clicks. However this can serve as a starting guide for how competitive keywords are, and this will provide some useful insight as you begin your SEO effort.