Almost daily from staff and customers alike, this question comes across my desk more times than I can count.
Picking keywords, like most aspects of Search Engine Optimization boils down to basic common sense. To get started, you need to ask yourself: “If I am Joe Public searching for these products or services – what key words would I use to search for them?”.
The more specific you can be, the better. You can start out by creating a broad based list of key terms and then narrowing them down. Try to stick to keywords that accurately describe your business without being too broad. Today, we had an architect that wanted to use “contemporary design” as a keyword. This is an example of being too broad. While I am sure that “contemporary” could be used to describe his work, this could also refer to any type of contemporary design, from furniture to interior design.
There is a catch though – being too specific can reduce the number of people that find your site simply because few people search for these terms. Painters are a very good example of this. When people are looking for a painter – they don’t tend to be too specific about what type of painting they are looking to have done. To most people – a painter is a painter, is a painter. Even if this is not exactly the case, it doesn’t really matter because when people look for painters they tend to paint them with very broad strokes.
It is also important to keep in mind that if you are a local based business, like most of my customers are, that people tend to input their local area into the search. So developing terms like Wichita Electrician rather than just Electrician is going to much more beneficial to you. It will reduce the amount of competition that you face when trying to rank well in the search engines and will also deliver more targeted visitors more likely to avail themselves of your services. I get a lot of resistance from customers who tell me things like “Well, I service many more areas than just Wichita.” The problem is that when you do the research. And I have. People in smaller rural areas are often using the internet to search in areas they don’t live. Often, they are the ones typing in Wichita Electrician because they already know who the electrician in town is – and if they haven’t already called him – it is because they don’t want to. In contrast, people in larger urban areas are much more likely to use the internet to find service providers because, aside from more complicated demographic reasons, they don’t know their neighbors as well and because there is much more selection. I often have people give me 10 cities they service in their area and only one, the large one, has any volume of searches at all.
Next, analyze your keywords to determine “how popular” they are. I usually use the Google Adwords keywords tool, which allows you to find keywords that other people are searching on and also offer search terms that are related to your keywords. It also allows you to dump your key word list into the tool and will tell you how popular your selected terms are. When you do your keyword analysis, really pay attention to the related terms to see if you have picked the best keyword/phrase. I recommend setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of all of your searches. You can even download a spreadsheet of selected terms right from the Google Adwords tool.
After you have arrived at a relatively short list of key terms that have a decent search volume – make sure that you have properly written, compelling content to back them up. I recommend creating a page of content for each specific key term and any supporting terms that you have developed for it. I recently developed a site for a psychiatrist. I chose Psychotherapy as a keyword and then fleshed out my page with a description of psychotherapy and then included other supporting keywords in the field of psychotherapy throughout the text to support that term. By the time I was finished I had a psychotherapy page covering Gestalt therapy; Intensive Short Term Dynamic Therapy; Group Psychotherapy; Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; Behavior Therapy; Body-oriented Psychotherapy; Expressive Therapy; Interpersonal Psychotherapy; Integrative Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy which all fall under the purview of psychotherapy. Then, after I was finished I took the most popular types of therapy (using Google Adwords Tool) and developed unique pages and content for each linking them all back to my psychotherapy page.
I know, it seems like a lot to take in, but when you consider the low cost of website ownership and the unprecedented ability it provides small business owners to capture the attention of their target market right alongside national competitors, if you are going to be spending time and money on something to promote your business I don’t think there can be any better investment.