Keyword Research and Usage — Why and How They Contribute to More Effective SEO

Keyword Research and UsageThe game of keywords is now quite different from years ago. It used to be that any webmasters can fool the search engines into believing that a Web page is relevant to certain keyword by blatantly repeating the same keyword over and over again, either in the Meta keywords and description tags, or as content below the footer (or completely hidden from the browser).

It is very important to comply with search engines nowadays, if you want to get long term result and avoiding being weed out as search engine spammers (or sploggers).

Search engine rankings also depend on external factors. Most popular content will rank high — but not necessarily the best one. Nevertheless, keywords still play an important role to determine rankings.

Why Keyword Research?

In Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, it is obvious that Google recommends the use of proper words. As a blogger, you already are creating useful, information-rich site.

In the document, it says that “you should think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.”

Your page and site structure as a whole help search engines determine the correlation and relevance of your content. Generally, the home page, which is the trunk of the site, is optimized for broader term.

A site or blog should contain no more than 3 levels of depth and the deeper the level, the more specific and targeted the terms are.

While you can think about the words a customer uses to search for information in your niche to a certain extent, you will always be missing something in the process…

“You Don’t Have a Clue What Your Customers Enter into Search Engines!”

Many bloggers and site publishers presume they know what a customer would use in search engines because they are part of the market themselves.

If you are an expert in the industry, perhaps what you will use to find your site is something entirely different, most likely it consists of jargon. The problem is, most people don’t think this way. Your customer may use more generic terms and slowly move towards specific phrases. And none of them contains jargon.

Keyword research and discovery should be an ongoing effort, part of your blog building process. You will be surprised how people find your blog pages using obscure phrases. You don’t even know your blog ranks for that keyword before you discover it in the web stats.

Bottom line is if you try to design the content of your site around what you think the readers want, most likely they’ll never find you — or you will significantly decrease organic search engine traffic.

The keyword discovery process for a new blog can be broken down into the following steps:

1. Brainstorm Initial Keywords List

This is the only place you can get creative. Although you may certainly use keyword research tools to find related terms and phrases, starting your thinking process may prevent you from missing certain words.

Remember that in this step, you try to come up with generic words.

Even generic terms like “garden” or “yard” are fine. While you certainly don’t want to target any of these, you can use the tools in the next step to nail down the specifics and find out what options are available and actually being searched by the visitors.

Both research- and purchase-oriented keywords should be part of the blog keywords list. The former keywords help you build credibility and expertise by providing information to the niche audience while the latter bring you customers.

It is important that you keep going, so if you get stuck, ask friends or anyone to bring in more ideas. Competitor’s blogs and sites are valuable places to assist you with the initial keywords list.

2. Check and Expand Using Keyword Research Tools

Keyword research services and tools provide more than just a list of keywords people use in search engines. They also give you the activity data for the keyword you feed into the tools and subsequent keywords — usually more specific terms from the one you enter as the base.

Two of my favorite keyword discovery tools are:

You should also be interested in the competitiveness of each keyword. This will affect the strategy you use to rank on search engines. More on this later.

3. Know When to Stop!

As I said earlier, keyword research is an ongoing process. You will find that certain keywords are going to bring you a lot of traffic from search engines. Web stats are the tool to find those terms out. Once you have them on the updated list, blog about the topic and expand your content related to those keywords or key phrases.

For this reason you should not spend too much time for your first keyword list. It will not be something set in stone. When you have quite a comprehensive list of keywords, you need to stop.

With a list of keywords, you are ready to design and plan your blog content structure. Even for blogs, you should approach content design with silo. It maximizes the flow of links and contributes to the rankings of your blog pages. This will be another post though, as this post is merely about keywords.

Individual Keyword Phrase Analysis

Terms with higher search frequency tend to be broader. They should be the main keyword for the blog (home page / title) and tier-2 of the blog content.

The rest of the keywords are part of the tier-3 pages. Well, I cheat a bit and reveal a diagram to help you understand the structure.

Website and Blog Content Structure

When creating a SEO game plan, it is necessary to gather data about each individual keyword phrase. At the very least, you need to analyze the content and inbound links to each of the top 10 results for that keyword. This is true for tier-1 and tier-2 keywords, although you certainly can do the same for other keywords as well.

Keyword Density

Keyword density is the percentage of the appearance of a keyword throughout a blog page. Bloggers should not worry about keyword density too much. Basically, the longer your blog post is, the more primary, secondary and thematically related keywords should appear throughout the content.

Rather than forcing keywords into the content, you should keep in mind relevant terms and then use them sparingly when appropriate.

For more competitive niches, you will need to at least maintain consistency and produce a lot of related content around the same group of keywords. Search engines will take that, and a lot of other factors, into account.

Strategic Places to Insert Keywords

The overall content page is analyzed by search engines, but a few places are more important than others. For instance, if the headings contain certain keyword, it is more significant than the appearance of the same keyword in the content page near the end of the blog post.

Here are strategic places where you can insert keywords into your blog posts:

  • Title tag. This appears on the browser’s title and also search engine listings.
  • Meta tags (description and keywords). Optional but still useful for some search engines like Yahoo.
  • Heading tags (h1, h2, etc.). Used as subheadings to separate content sections.
  • Anchor text. The underlined text in a link. Used by search engines to determine page topic.
  • Alt attribute in image tag. Search engine spiders can’t see an image, alt attribute help describing the image.
  • Page content. Think about this as inverted pyramid. The content at the top of the page is broader than below. Your primary keyword should appear near the beginning of the blog post.
  • URL of the page. Don’t sweat it if your blog doesn’t use clean url scheme though.

Certain formatting like bold and italics are also necessary to emphasize the keyword in the page, but it should appear naturally.

Keywords are the core of the content, at least from the search engines’ standpoint. If you are to build any kind of site, including a blog, you should analyze your keywords thoroughly before you dive into the content creation process.

Return to Blog SEO — Whitehat SEO for Bloggers in a Nutshell.

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