What most people don’t realize is that they’re asking the wrong question. You see, sites don’t rank: pages rank. If you want to rank for a keyword, you’ll need to determine which page is going to be the page ranking for that keyword.
Adding that keyword to the title of every page is not going to help. Nor is writing 200 articles about it without one central article to link all those articles to. You need one single page that is the center of the content about that topic. One "hub" page, if you will.
That page will need to be 100% awesome in all ways. Brian Clark of Copyblogger calls this type of content "cornerstone content"
Having a website is great, but it is even better when your website is getting targeted traffic and the visitors are being converted into customers or donors. Keyword research is the first step in considering how you want to receive traffic from search engines. The results of your research will dictate which keywords you optimize your content around.
To begin, write down all of the keywords you associate with your business or organization. For example, if I had a business where I train dogs I might write down keywords such as dog training and dog obedience.
Find Keyword Search Volume
Using the Google Adwords Keywood Tool I compare the search volumes for keywords from our list. When doing a search for dog training versus dog obedience I see that dog training (823,000 monthly searches) is more popular of a search term than dog obedience (90,500 monthly searches).
Examine Keyword Competition
Now to take a look at our keyword competitors with the SEO Book Google Suggest Keyword Suggestion Scraper Tool. When searching for dog training I see that there are 57,500,000 competing pages. The keyword dog obedience also is popular with 1,480,000 pages indexed.
While there are very high search volumes for the keyword dog obedience, I would have to compete with at least 1.5 million other website pages. To get into the top 10 pages of Google (or any other search engine) would take lots of time and effort. When you dive into your research you will find that the first keywords that come to mind often are not worthy of targeting.
Finding Long Tail Keywords
When my first list of keywords has stiff competition or low search volumes, I go back to brainstorming and my search tools to find long-tail keywords.
The long tail in keyword research is basically an expansion of a core, generic, high volume keyword phrase to include numerous combinations and permutations of the keywords and their associated or relevant phrases. – Wikipedia
I want to find long-tail keywords with acceptable search volumes and much lower competition like dog obedience Illinois (119,000 indexed pages) or dog obedience training classes (320,000 indexed pages). The keywords you ultimately choose will depend on your circumstances and strategy. If you are stuck on deciding which keywords to choose, consult an SEO professional.
Build Content Around Your Keywords
Now that you have your keywords chosen, optimize your website content for your keywords. Each page should target one or two keywords, no more! Select which pages of your website will target specific keywords and craft your website titles, descriptions, header tags, and content around those keywords.
This is just meant to be a basic overview of the keyword research process. If you are interested in learning more about keyword research read How to do SEO Cheap by Kate Morris on SEOmoz
Photo credit: Andy Z