SEO Keyword Research – where to start

This is a quick tutorial on how to start gathering keywords to use in optimizing your website for the search engines.

The first step is to brainstorm and jot down a list of what you think the phrases are that people are using who might want what your website offers. What are the phrases that people are typing into the search engine search boxes?  Keywords are a form of advertising. Make sure you only use keywords that match what your site offers. The search engines want to match people’s searches with websites that truly match those searches, so if you are selling affordable housing, don’t use the keyword phrase “ocean front villas”.  It is important to be honest.

If your website offers multiple things – homes for sale and vacation rentals, for example, put together a list for each facet of what you offer, so you would come up with one list for your home sales, and one list for your vacation rentals.

Keep in mind, also, that people might not be aware of your product name to search for it – so if you have a product with an obscure name that cures headaches – make sure your keywords include “headache cure”, “getting rid of headaches”, as opposed to the product name. Sometimes you need to optimize for the symptoms rather than the solution.

Then, go to the google keyword tool website:

When you arrive there – click on the “Previous Interface” link in the top right of the page. (see image below)

Then, paste your list of keyword phrases into the field “Enter one keyword or phrase per line:” make sure that “Use synonyms” is checked, and then click on the button, “Get Keyword Ideas”. (see image below)

This will give you  your list of keyword phrases with how many times people use them to search.

To make the data easier to read, go to the show/hide columns drop down menu and HIDE the local search volume AND the advertiser competition. (see image below)

Make sure to select “Exact” from “match type” (see image below)

Then export your list to csv (for excel). Export a copy of the “Additional keywords to consider” as well that google lists under your list. (see image below)

Consolidate both excel files into one and then go through the keyphrases and eliminate any phrase that is not relevant to your website. Make sure that you only keep the keywords that are truly what your website is about.

The next step is to find out how competitive those keywords are. We do this by doing a google search for the keyword specifying that you want to see only websites that have that keyword in their title tag. If a website has the keyword in their title tag, then they are most likely your competition. You do this by typing

allintitle: “keyword”

make sure to put the keyword in quotes.

When you hit the Google Search button, the number of results will appear underneath the search bar. (see image below)

Add that result number next to your global monthly search volume in your excel sheet. In the image below I’ve named the allintitle results “competitors”. (see image below)

The keywords that are going to bring your site the most targeted traffic are the ones that have a low competitor number compared to the search volume number. You can certainly include some of the keywords that are not in the least competitive, if they are truly what your website is about, but also make sure to include the competitive search phrases. Also, make sure to include your business name in your keywords.

Where to put the keywords?

  • Put them in the content of your pages – the text
  • Put them in the content headings
  • Put them in the meta tags
  • Put them in alt tags of images and title tags of links

The more often the keyword is found on your site – or within links to your site – the better you will place in the search results for that keyword.

It is important to have the keyword not just in the metatags and not just in the page text, but in both places.

Include your keywords in  your page headings and in bold font – and also in internal text links that bring people from one page of your website to another.


Many of my content management systems give my clients an interface for adding and updating the meta tags on their website pages. The most important meta tag is the title tag. Make sure to include your best keyword phrases at the beginning of your title tag. Include your company name in the title tag as well – for your home page, about your company page and contact page.

Google will only show 60 – 70 characters of your title tag, but you can certainly make it longer.

The title tag of a page should include only keyword phrases that have to do with that specific page.

You should try to include 3 keyword phrases in your title tag:

Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword 1, Secondary Keyword 2

Put your keywords in your keywords meta tag. List the keyword phrases that have to do with the specific page, the most important first, and separate them by commas. The keywords meta tag is the least important meta tag. According to google webmaster central, google at this time disregards it completely for its search results. However, other search engines do look at it, and since you have the keywords handy in your excel sheet, go ahead and copy and paste them into this meta tag – it can’t hurt.

Put the keywords in your description meta tag. The description tag is often what search engines will show under your page listing in their results, so make sure it describes what the page is about and is phrased in a way that will make people want to click to the page. Read what google webmaster central has to say about the meta description tag.

This is a start to researching and adding keywords to your website.

Make sure to optimize each page of your site specifically for the content on that page. Make sure your keywords are a good match to what you really offer.

If you have separate areas of your site, create separate lists of competitive keywords for each section.

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