Proper SEO Keyword Research

Whether you’re launching a new site or just want to better optimize an existing site, your SEO efforts begin with proper keywords research. If done correctly, keyword research lays the foundation for a site that is fundamentally strong in the search engines. You’ll receive more qualified traffic and in turn convert more visitors into sales. Your choice of keywords should be reflected in your title tags, META tags, page headings, page copy, and anchor text for both internal links and external links.

What are your goals?

Before you start your research, you need to define the goals of your site. If you have a video game site, is your goal to sell games? Or is it to sell strategy guides? Or is it to get them to sign up for your forum? Or do you just want them to read your game reviews? It’s fine to have more than one goal for your site, but you should have those goals clearly defined before jumping into keyword research because it will effect how you approach your research.

Generate your own keyword list

The next step is to generate a basic keyword list. This will be your starting point for further research. A simple way to do this is to brainstorm key terms for each one of your goals by thinking about what you would search for if you were looking for what you provide. It also helps to check your keywords by Googling them just to make sure you are on the right track.

Continuing with our video game example, let’s say that I’ve decided that the goal of my site is to sell sports video games for the four major US sports (baseball, basketball, football, and hockey). Here’s the list that I come up with:

sports video game
sports gaming
baseball video game
football video game
basketball video game
hockey video game
madden video game

That’s enough to get started. The next step is to use the free tools available to expand the list and determine what terms are searched most frequently.

Use keyword tools to expand your list

There are several great keyword tools out there, and until recently I used each one individually and pooled the results. But then I found the Keyword Suggestion Tool on SEO Book, which basically integrates all of the best tools out there, relying heavily on the Overture keyword suggestion tool. Unfortunately Google and MSN don’t release their search data, so their monthly search volume is estimated proportionately to Yahoo’s data.

Using the Keyword Suggestion Tool, you should add any keywords to your list that are applicable to your site that you did not think of. You should also add the monthly search volume for each term to your list.

Select keywords

Now that you have a substantial list of keywords and their associated search volumes, determining your final list is just a matter of eliminating keywords that don’t apply to your site. Below is my final list for the sports video game site and the corresponding estimated monthly search volume:

madden 2007 – 280,879
nba 2k7- 35,032
nba live 2007 – 31,616
madden nfl 2007 – 26,610
2007 madden release date – 21,028
ncaa 2007 – 14,763
nhl 2007 – 10,602
mlb 2k6 – 8,864
nhl 2007 ea sports – 5,159
nhl 2k7 – 6,006

As you can see, my final list looks drastically different than my initial list. That’s because I discovered that specific game titles are searched much, much more frequently than the type of game or genre. A term like ‘football video game’ gets searched only 1,873 times, compared to ‘madden 2007’ which gets searched 280,879 times! Had I not done proper research, I may have optimized my site for the generic categories that are searched far less frequently. Instead, I will optimize the pages of my site for specific game titles.

How to use your keywords on your site

Now that you’ve selected your keywords, you can optimize your site accordingly. In addition to obvious changes to title tags, META tags, and image alt text, you should find a way to naturally use your keywords in page headings, links, and page copy. The key is to use your terms naturally. Search engines consider the surrounding text to make sure that you are using keywords in proper context and that you aren’t spamming keywords. So a text that reads “Madden 2007 is the only Xbox NFL video game that is licensed by the NFL and NFLPA” will help you more (and read better) than a text reading “Madden 2007 is for the Xbox and Madden 2007 has NFL Players. Madden 2007 is also on the Playstation 2 and Madden 2007 is officially licensed by the NFL.”