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Choosing effective keywords for SEO

We will briefly cover what keywords are, use googles keyword tool to find some sample keywords, and look at traffic for these keywords.

What is a keyword?

Any user performing searches in search engines will type in keyword search phrases, or single search keywords.
As with many IT related terms, the term "keyword" means many things. We use "keywords" to describe the terms used to query search engines.
When a user has entered their keywords into a search engine, the engine will return a sorted list of results. All the results will relate to the search in some way.

Sophisticated modern search engines use very sophisticated algorithms to attempt to extract meaning from keywords entered, and return the best possible site matches. One additional complication to this is that users may use many different keywords to describe the same thing. Therefore, it is wise to take this into account and research what users are actually typing into search engines when they look for your product.

There are many tools for checking how much traffic a keyword can get - and some will suggest alternative keywords. Very useful.

Avoid using keywords with an excessive amount of competition

Some webmasters try and include excessively competitive keywords into their sites - and stand no chance of ranking for them. This is not an optimal use of resources.
Imagine competing with Coca Cola for the phrase "cola". A more realistic phrase could be "buy soft drinks online", that closely relates to the industry; gets traffic; and is not excessively competitive. By carefully choosing keywords, webmasters can maximise their online exposure.

Some keywords for one product may be more searched for then others - very short phrases like "holidays" will get the most searches, but they will also have the most competition from other webmasters and SEO's.

More specific keywords like "holiday in the bahamas" will have less search volume, but they will also have less competition. Users are also, as a rule of thumb, more likely to purchase when performing these more specific searches - as they more closely relate to what they are looking for.

Finding keywords with traffic

The first step in any SEO campaign is logically going to be choosing which keywords to be targeted. We have discussed how some keywords may be ineffective as there is too much competition. It is also ineffective to have a page one site for a phrase that is never searched for - although it may be a good way to get SEO telemarketers off the phone.

We recommend that users new to keyword research use a free service. Once they have exhausted it, there are several paid alternatives.

For this example, we are using Google keyword tool - as it provides us with the ability to enter a phrase or keyword, and it will suggest alternatives.
It also provides monthly traffic figures for that keyword, and an average monthly traffic figure.

It is important to understand that Google's tool serves data based on the amount of adwords clicks. Adwords ads are not only shown on Google search pages, they are also shown on other sites which are part of the content network - including some landing pages full of ads that are "mocked up" to look like "real" sites.

It is also reasonable to assume that search habits of users who click on adwords ads are not reliably going to be identical to the search habits of users who use the natural search results. For our purposes however, it is a good starting point.

Google's keyword tool allows us to examine keywords, find alternatives, and view traffic and competition levels.

By entering a phrase or keyword into the tool, it is possible to see a list of alternatives and traffic.
As we keep banging on about, it is very important to strike a balance between search volume, and advertiser competition. The most ideal keywords would be those with high traffic, and minimal competition.

Following that rough guide should give you many ideas for keywords you can use on your website pages.

We hope this guide has helped explain the very basics of keyword research. If you have any comments, or feedback we would like to hear it. Happy SEO'ing!

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