Choosing the Right Keywords for SEO

Judy Vedder Search Engine Optimization

Choosing the right keywords is no easy task.  You may think you know what your ideal customer is typing into Google to find your company, but how do you know for sure?  Even the slightest variation – such as making a word plural – can cause dramatic differences in search results.

Where do you start?  First make a list of all the phrases you think people are searching for.  If you are running any analytics on your website, take a look at the reports and see what keywords real customers have already used to find you in the search engines – some of these may surprise you.  If these are not already on your list, add them.

Armed with your list of keywords, it’s now time to use some tools to analyze your list.  Google Adwords (Google’s Pay Per Click Advertising Program) offers a free keyword tool to help you build your keyword list:

Enter in your keyword list with each keyword phase on a separate line.  Click “Get Keyword Ideas” and Google will generate a list of suggested keywords based upon traffic over the last month and over past 12 months.  Look for similar phrases and compare the traffic data.  For instance, if you are a Family Law Attorney you may be quite surprised to learn that many more people (55,000 more in May of 2009) are searching for Divorce Lawyer over Divorce Attorney in Google.  That’s a lot of additional searches in a single month so you may want to revise your copy and keyword strategy to include this phrase.  Analyzing the results from Google Adwords and other keyword tools may open your eyes to some additional keywords that you may not have thought about before.  Remember, you want to focus on what your customers are searching on and not what you would search on.

WordTracker also offers a free keyword tool ( but I don’t find this as helpful as the Adwords tool.  If you want to try WordTracker, I would recommend that you sign up for their free trial at which is much more robust than their free keyword tool.

It is also important to see how many other websites are competing for your keyword phrases.  The free tools unfortunately don’t really give you much data in this area.  SemRush is an online tool dedicated to analyzing your competition.  WordTracker also includes statistics on how many site are competing for the same keywords.  Both offer free trials so that you can try before you buy.  You can also do some legwork on your own by typing your top keywords into Google and analyzing the websites of your top competitors.

One last thing that I’d like to mention is what the SEO world refers to as “long-tail keyword phrases.”  These are often hidden gems in the search engine treasure chest.  Long tail keywords are just longer phrases – 3 to 5 words long that are very, very specific to your product or service or even geographical location.  If someone types in a very long keyword phase, they are looking for something very specific and are ready to buy it now.  The great news is that there is typically less competition for these longer keyword phrases to being with, so your odds of being found are even higher.  So if you are a BMW dealer in Boston, you would be more likely to close the deal with someone who finds your website with a search for “BMW M3 Convertible Boston” than you would for “Boston Car Dealership.”

If you have additional ideas for how to choose the right keyword phrases, please share your ideas with us by adding a comment below.