This should be a "sticky" post because choosing and using keywords is so important. In fact, choose the wrong keywords for your business and your business may as well close.
I'm serious. Keywords matter. BIG TIME!
Even for you "offline" businesses. Imagine building a store full of sporting goods and you call it "The Shack." Wouldn't it be better to call it "The Sporting Goods Store?"
At the outset of any venture, you MUST do your keyword research. It's vital. So this post is about keywords: Their importance, how to research them, and how to use them.
Why Are Keywords Important?
Keywords are the foundation upon which you build your entire business, whether it's an online business or a brick and mortar store. Keywords are what the entire web is about: How search engines index and rank your website, how you construct ads, how people search, and how you find what you are looking for online.
Keywords can be–and are–single words or multiple word phrases. You may have heard of "long-tail" keywords; these are nothing more than 3 or more keywords in a phrase.
Generally speaking, I call keywords keyword phrases, simply because this term is all-encompassing; a phrase is simply one word or more strung together with some semblance of meaning or order. So that's the definition we'll adhere to here. I will abbreviate the term keyword phrase with the acronym KWP, or KWPs for keyword phrases (plural).
When you're setting up your online presence, you need to think like your potential customers, or prospects. How would they search for your products or services if they didn't know your website address (URL)? How likely would it be that your site appeared in the search engine results pages (SERPs)?
If your website didn't appear in the list of search results, how would anybody find you online?
Did you know that over half of all the people who search for any given keyword phrase winds up on the first 2 sites listed?
Obviously, you can create the best website on the planet, but if nobody finds it (and they find it predominantly through using search engines and to a lesser degree through advertisements and other links), it may as well not exist.
Therefore, wisely choosing your KWPs is vitally important.
You have some idea of what your business does. If it's a sporting goods store, one of your KWPs should be sporting goods. In fact, it may be your main keyword (more on that in a bit).
No big secret there. But there are literally thousands of other keywords that you could target that offer more qualified (i.e., targeted) buyers along with less competition (meaning your website will appear higher up in the SERPs).
There are various keyword research tools that are available; some are free while others cost money. I will first share with you the "mother of all keyword research tools," Google. Yes, that's right. It's not a keyword-specific tool, but it is the best thing you can use to do some cursory research to find out if you're even in the ballpark with respect to your keyword phrase research.
Google is the most dominant and most used search engine in the world. They have the data that you need to figure out what your keywords ought to be. In fact, most of the keyword research tools that are available for purchase actually use Google's data!
Pick a keyword phrase that you think people may use to find what you sell. Again, using sporting goods as the KWP, a person looking for what you sell (sporting goods) may search Google using the term, "sporting goods store." They don't want to learn about sporting goods; they want to buy sporting goods (that's another KWP, by the way, that you might want to look into).
Therefore, you may want to enter that KWP into the search box in Google.
You'll find (as of this writing) that there are nearly 25 million results in Google for the KWP sporting goods store. This means that Google has indexed and ranked 25 million web pages that they think is a good match for the KWP. Look at some of the results: Big-name sporting goods stores.
You may surmise, if you're a small time operator or just starting out in the business, that it will take a lot of time, money, and effort to appear on the first page of search results for this particular KWP.
But one thing you know for sure is that this is a valuable KWP. Otherwise, there wouldn't be so many companies vying for #1.
Of course, there's a better mousetrap than just using good old Google. In fact, Google has made KWP research a much more straightforward operation than it used to be.
Enter the FREE Google Keyword Tool!
Go ahead, click the link. Enter your KWP (in this case, sporting goods store) and check the box that says, "Only show ideas closely related to my search terms."
Google returns, from their live search results database, the 100 KWPs that most closely match your KWP along with monthly searches, competition, and trends. There's a lot of valuable data in those three metrics. Evaluate it. Get a sense of which KWP make sense for your website.
Of course, there is a plethora of keyword research tools available, some free, some you have to pay for. Market Samurai is one of my favorites. It piggybacks off not only Google but Bing and Yahoo and brings you a ton of valuable information all in a one-stop KWP tool.
I highly recommend Market Samurai.
You can find more on keyword research here.
I suggest that you pick a primary KWP and base your home page on it. Then, all of your other pages (or posts if it's a blog) can target KWPs that are either related or variants on your primary KWP.
For example, use sporting goods as your primary KWP. Then, one of your pages or posts, linked to from your home page, can be based on the KWP sporting goods store (a variant) as well as athletic equipment (related), and of course, many other KWPs to round out the content of your website.
This second tier of KWP, which are either variants of or related to your primary KWP, are going to generate, over time, some good traffic. In fact, many of these long-tail keyword phrases (LTKWP) will generate more traffic than your homepage.
Start out with your primary KWP along with 10-15 or 20 of these secondary KWPs. Build your site around them. Here's how.
How to Use Keywords in Your Webpages
Obviously, your homepage should be geared around your primary KWP. For a static site, your homepage is also named as index.html (or index.htm). Make sure that your meta description and keywords entries contain your primary KWP. Your meta keywords should contain your primary KWP and perhaps 3-4 related KWPs.
For a blog, you can even name your post with your primary KWP and set it as your home page. Alternatively, you can set your homepage default values (meta description, keywords, title) to contain your primary KWP right from within your blog admin interface (I highly recommend the free WP plugin called "All-in-One SEO Pack" to make this task super simple).
Sprinkle (naturally, of course–no keyword "stuffing") your primary KWP throughout your home page. There are no hard-and-fast rules about this, but I'd try to use your primary KWP in your title, H1 tag, a few times in the body of the text, and of course in your meta tags.
Your secondary KWPs are your inputs for all of your other pages. That is, author each of your other webpages focusing on only one of your secondary KWPs. Follow the same guidelines as above for your homepage.
If your site is blog-based, make sure that your categories make sense and tag each of your posts with a tag that matches your KWP.
It's very important that you keep a list of your KWPs. You should use this list to build webpages or posts so that you can continually add to your website. Not only that–use this KWP list to write articles and posts on other websites (as a guest blogger, perhaps) that generate direct traffic and that also give you backlinks to your site.