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Better SEO: How to Choose Good Keywords (Part 1)

One important component of digital marketing is search engine optimization (SEO). Being successful at SEO starts with knowing the right keywords to target. But what does this mean, exactly?

By
Diane S. Thieke,

Better SEO: How to Choose Good Keywords (Part 1)

by Diane S. Thieke

Almost every business suffers from the same problem: It’s a crowded market, and you have lots of competitors. When you start to build a presence on the Web, how do you stand out? How will people find your business – and choose it over the many other options that they have?

One important component of digital marketing is search engine optimization (SEO). Being successful at SEO starts with knowing the right keywords to target. But what does this mean, exactly?

The first thing to understand is that selecting keywords requires a good understanding of how people search. When looking to solve a problem, 95% of the time, people will start by entering a few words and phrases into a search box.

Thus, the first step toward choosing good keywords is to brainstorm words that your customers might use to search for your products and services. Start with a pad of paper, and write down all the words that you think they’d use.

Keep these tips in mind, while brainstorming:

  1. “Keywords” is a bad descriptor. It implies that search queries include only one or two words. But most of us don’t construct searches this way. We tend to use phrases. For example: “free credit reports.”
  2. We search with a purpose. People turn to the Web to answer questions or solve problems. If we’d like to apply for a mortgage but suspect we have bad credit, we’ll search to find ways to fix this problem. For example, “how to fix a bad credit score.”
  3. We have learned to be specific. A typical search returns more than a million page results, so searchers have learned that specificity yields better results. If I’m shopping for a wedding dress, I’ll search for the type I want: “ivory-colored wedding dress” or “lace wedding dresses.”
  4. Location, location, location. Local businesses should incorporate their town, nearby towns, the region and state in their keyword list. For that wedding dress: Bethesda wedding dresses, Baltimore wedding dress shops, Maryland wedding dress stores.
  5. Be mindful of variations. Search phrases can get sloppy. Always include plurals in your list (“dress” vs. “dresses”), as well as variants: shopping vs. shop.

After you’ve got a few words on the list, it’s a good idea to test them out on your favorite search engine. Chances are, as you’re typing, you’ll think of a few more.

Then, spend a day or two asking family, friends, colleagues, current customers, and heck, the local grocery store clerk, what words they’d use. You’ll be surprised at the many different ways that people can think about the same thing – and greatly expand your list.

In a future post, I’ll tell you how to evaluate the words on your list and determine which might be the most effective for your SEO efforts.

Diane S. Thieke is the president and founder of Simply Talk Media, a digital media marketing consultancy. With more than 25 years in digital media and technology, she helps clients build stronger relationships with their customers and communities, using both social and traditional channels. Follow her on Twitter at @thiekeds or visit her blog at www.simplytalkmedia.com/blog.

SEO Compass photo from Shutterstock.

About the Author

Diane S. Thieke
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