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20 January 2011

Optimising Your Site in Search Engines: Keyword Research

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a hot topic in digital marketing.

For those new to the subject – SEO relates to organic search. Basically – the results in Google which companies haven’t paid for.

The first 3 pages of Google search results – this is where you should aim to appear. Quite often Google users won’t look beyond the first 3 pages. So, if you’re relying on lead generation from search – it’s essential you ensure you appear there.

But how do you know what your target market is searching for to find your offering? How do you know what your keywords actually are?

Without the right keywords, your SEO efforts are ultimately going to waste.

Keyword research is the first step (and essential) in developing a sound SEO strategy. Thus – it is what this post will focus on.


‘Short tail’ keywords vs. ‘Long tail’ keywords


‘Short tail’ keywords involve 1-2 words that define the market.

To name a few examples: “office supplies” or “iPod”.

Because these keywords are very generalised – thus bringing in a number of different audiences, they are highly sought after. Due to the competitiveness of ‘short tail’ keywords, it makes your job of optimising these keywords in search engines much more difficult.

Remember not to get too caught up in optimising for these keywords. They used to be the focus when search engines were much less mature. Nowadays, search engines are more sophisticated; people search for longer phrases. They even ask search engines questions.

Enter: ‘Long tail’ keywords. These are usually more than 2 words and highly specific.

Sure, they bring in less traffic than the traditional ‘short tail’ keywords. But they attract higher quality visitors who are probably more serious about spending time and money on your site.

And the lesson to be learned from this: Don’t simply focus all SEO efforts on the shorter keywords; consider longer phrases that potential customers will actually search for.


How do I establish potential keywords?


Now, how do you actually establish which keywords your target market is searching for?

This may seem quite daunting. But it really isn’t.

An easy and effective way to brainstorm ideas is through use of a simple table. This will consider your product offering.

Take the selling of iPod’s on an online e-commerce store for example:

Product / Service




Apple iPod


iPod Nano

iPod Touch

iPod Shuffle








This enables you to easily pick out phrases that your target market is likely to search for.

Thus – you can next devise a list of Prime Phrases.

Here’s a few using the example above:

  • Buy iPod
  • Buy cheap iPods
  • Buy used iPod nano
  • Buy refurbished iPod touch


How do I decide which keywords to focus on?


The easy answer:  Use free tools specifically designed for this purposeWordtrackerGoogle Keyword Tool.

How do they work?

Well, you just enter your ‘Prime Phrases’ into the tool. Simples.

It will then calculate the level of competition for these phrases and highlight the number of global & local (UK) monthly searches. The higher the competition, the more sought after the phrase is.

It even suggests ideas for other keywords & keyphrases that you not have considered previously.

Continuing with the iPod’s example, see how the prime phrases identified appear in the Keyword Tool:


Now it’s time to weigh up which keywords/phrases are most attractive. Ultimately you’re looking for keywords with lower competition and higher searches.

You may want to consider using the Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) – a clever formula that will indicate the more sensible keywords to focus on.


To sum up:


Once the most effective keywords are established, you are set to begin optimising these phrases for your site.

You’ll then be one step closer to achieving the aim of appearing on the first 3 pages of Google search results!

I hope you find this post useful in guiding you through the process of keyword research for your company’s SEO efforts.

As ever, please feel free to leave comments.