If you imagine that building an optimized site is like cooking a meal, then keywords are the essential ingredients. Would you attempt to cook a complex new dish without first referring to a recipe? Would you start before you had all the ingredients available and properly prepared?
In our analogy, key words are your ingredients and the rest of the guide (after this part) is your recipe. It is vital that you start by investing time in key word research. This may surprise you, but I would recommend you spend at least 25% of your time on this activity alone! That’s 25% of all your time, including the time you spend designing your site, building it, optimising and promoting it! Quite an investment, eh? But believe me, if you din’t get this part right your meal will not be a very satisfying one and no-one will want to eat it!
(a) What are your 10 key words?
You may think you know straight off. You are likely to be right about most of them but you will almost certainly make three common mistakes. Firstly, you will tend to pick single words (rather than chains of words). Secondly, you will tend to pick the same words used by other people. Thirdly, you will compound this by overusing these key words on your site and underusing related key words. The result will be a poor finished product and sub-optimal ranking or traffic.
So please be patient and walk through the following steps. From part two, you will remember Doug (who sells antique doors, door handles, knockers, door bells or pulls and fitting services).
Like Doug, you should start with a visit to the Overture Keyword Selector Tool (which I recommend in preference to Wordtracker, which is a paid service, and the Google AdWords: Keyword Suggestion Tool, which does not indicate the popularity count of each search phrase). This tool allows you to check for recent word search combinations (and their derivatives) on the Overture search engine, returning search frequencies for each.
Doug enters “antique doors” and is surprised to find that “antique door knob” and “antique door hinge” score higher than “antique door knocker” (his best selling product in the high street store). But far higher still is the category level combination “antique door hardware”. He had never guessed searchers could be so savvy.
Next he tries “antique door knocker” and finds a single derivative “antique brass door knocker”. He had not thought seriously about making brass a keyword. Now it is penciled in on his list.
Trying “antique door bell” and playing around, he discovers “antique door chime” is about as popular (reflecting a difference between UK and US English). This is also very enlightening, as he is hoping to sell to the US audience by mail order.
Perhaps you begin to see my point. As you will see later in the guide, I recommend a separate page for each product, service or information topic on your site. Through your Overture search, you should come up with an “A” list of about 10 key words for each page. At least four of them are likely to be site-wide in their applicability and common to each page. The remaining six will be page-specific. Put any left-over words onto a second page entitled “B” list.
In Doug’s example, he decides he wants antique, door, brass and hardware on each page in the site. On the door knocker page, he wants (in addition) the key words knocker, iron, decorative, engraved, pineapple and lion.
You too should do the same. If you find this activity overly difficult, can I suggest you revisit your proposition? It is quite possible you have not yet properly thought that through!
(b) Which key words do your competitors use?
Through searching for door knockers on Google and focusing on the top 15 results, Doug brings up their pages. He uses the menu option “view-source” in Internet Explorer to look at the key words used in the page metadata.
He is surprised to find some consistent themes. For example, almost all of the sites he finds whilst searching for “door knockers” also include “door knobs” in their metadata for that page. He also finds that several have used old as one of their keywords, in addition to antique.
Don’t read me wrong here. Metadata (particularly in isolation) is not the route to high search engine rankings (as you will see later). However, top 10 sites generally have done well with their optimization more generally (and their metadata is likely to reflect quality keyword analysis, repeated throughout the site in other ways).
Another key tool is the Google Smackdown, permitting you to compare the overall frequency of two competing keyword sets across the whole of Google’s results. Doug compares “antique door knob” with “antique door knocker” and finds the former is hugely overrepresented on the web compared to the latter (with over 2,000 results vs. under 200). He knows that knob is not searched on ten times more (from his earlier work) so decides to concentrate on knocker as a word where he has less competition.
However, Doug confirms the effectiveness of all competitor combinations using the Overture tool and revises his list to include some of these new words, relegating “pineapple” and “lion” to his B-list, in favour of “old” and “knobs”.
(c) How many related keywords can you identify?
Now for an important third step. Navigate your browser to the GoRank Ontology Finder – Related Keywords Lookup Tool. Like Doug, try entering “antique door knocker” and look at the results. For “antique”, the tool suggests related keywords of old, classic, antique, furniture, vintage, rare, Victorian, antiques, collectible.
Hmmm. Now he can see why his competitors use old in their list! Doug runs these related words back through the Overture tool and finds that “Victorian door” yields some decent results, so adds Victorian and Edwardian to his B-list (something he had never thought of previously).
Imagine if Doug had started with Victorian door knockers as his game plan. The Ontology finder would have shown him that antique door knockers was a much more sensible combination. He would then have been changing his A-list.
As Search Engines move ever further towards the use of semantic intelligence in their ranking systems, the use of related keywords will become ever more important. Make sure you future-proof your site through the liberal use of such words in page text content. More on this later in the guide.
(d) Building key word chains
Perhaps it might surprise you to learn that the majority of all searches on Google are for two or three word combinations. Why does it surprise you, though? Isn’t that what you yourself do when you are searching? Even if you start with one word, the results you get are generally not specific enough (so you try adding further words to refine your search).
Bearing this in mind, it is vitally important to come up with 3-5 keyword chains for each separate page on your site. When you write your page copy later, you will need to ensure that these keyword chains appear with reasonable density in your overall text.
Like Doug, pay a visit to the ABAKUS Topword Keyword Check Tool. Put in your competitor sites one after another and check out the results (using the default search settings). Study closely the two-word and three-word combinations that come up most frequently for each of your key pages in turn.
Through Doug’s exploration (for his door knockers page), he comes up with three favorite two-letter combinations: “door knockers”, “antique door” and “antique hardware”. For three-letter combinations, he settles on “house antique hardware” and “brass door knocker”.
Doug is surprised to note that “door knockers” is more popular than “door knocker”. He has learnt another key lesson; always pluralise your key words where you can. You will achieve higher traffic this way (because of the way search engines handle queries).
For a typical 10-page site, you should now have approximately 65-70 A-list words (with four of those being site wide) and perhaps as many as 200 B-list words (many of which will be related key words). You will have perhaps as many as 50 key word chains. Congratulations. You now have all the ingredients you need to get cooking. Read on…
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