Key word research is an essential factor in any SEO project. This allows your site to cater for the search behaviour of your target market, and to reduce focus on those not interested in your products or services.

Why Target My Site Towards Only Certain Keywords Or Key Phrases?

Imagine someone is looking for a new pair of curtains for their bedroom. They’ll aim to look in shops selling curtains, homeware, perhaps material (if they decide to make their own), or find a decorator who can perhaps find some for him.

Some shops he walks past may look interesting, but if they don’t sell curtains, he’s unlikely to go into the shop and even less likely to buy something.

The same logic applies to keyword research. If you sell sat navs or mobile phones on your website, you don’t want visits from people looking for clothing, or food, as they’re unlikely to buy one of your sat navs.

How Do I Find Out What My Target Customers Are Searching For Online?

As Google have the majority of the search market, most SEO’s use the Google AdWords Keyword Research Tool as their starting point.
Google publish data relating to the search terms used on their website. This allows users to compare multiple keyphrases, find related terms (based on Google’s algorithms), and decide which key phrases are best suited.

Sites like Wordtracker, Majestic SEO etc offer similar data, although my personal recommendation is to find as many as possible and compare data from each – I’ve used some in the past claiming that only 15 people per month in the UK search for “Nokia”!

Experian, the credit rating specialist, offer a service known as Hitwise<;. Available to companies (although not marketing agencies) and individuals for an annual fee, Hitwise is one of the best known tools of its type. Using data gleaned anonymously from ISP’s across the world, marketers can target keyphrases based on demographical data (age, location, sometimes even lifestyle), analyse trends over long periods of time (Hitwise archive this data), monitor “clickstream” (which websites direct visitors to yours, and where visitors go after leaving your site) and much more. Hitwise is my favourite tool for keyword and user behaviour research.

How Does An SEO Use This Data To Optimise My Site?

There are different techniques for this, and the success of each depends on the target audience, layout of the website etc.

My personal preference is to carefully research the data, distilling it down into a list of both high search volume (ie. “popular”) search terms and “long-tail” (search terms that may not be as popular, but are very specific and offer a greater likelihood of making a sale), and utilising both in a search marketing campaign.

One word of warning: the more popular a search term is, the longer it will be before your site ranking improves. Expecting instant results is unrealistic, unfortunately.