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The Foundation Of A Successful SEO Campaign: Keyword Research

Yep, it’s true – keywords are the foundation of your campaign and they will make or break your success.

If your phrases are all way too competitive, it’ll take too long to get results and you’ll struggle in the interim.  If your phrases are all too generic, you aren’t going to have good conversions and that is ultimately what it’s about.

So we know good keywords and thorough keyword research are important.  Let’s look at how we tackle it.

Here is an outline of the steps you should follow for keyword research:

  • Start with a brainstorming session to list all possible words and phrases that people would use to find what you have to offer.  Remember to put yourself in the mindset of the potential customer.
  • Do the necessary research to continue building your list.
  • Research your competitors and see what keywords they are using.
  • Look at your web stats and logs and pull words and phrases from there (this is a great source of info, you can find the words that people are already using to find you and enhance your rankings on those words so you can get even more traffic).
  • If you have a search feature on your site, look at the logs and see what people are searching for within your site once they get there.
  • Take the large master list you have come up with and use a keyword tool to determine how much traffic there is and how competitive the words/phrases are.  Remember you can’t live and die by this information, it only acts as a guide for you.
  • Take your list and break it into segments.  You want some “low hanging fruit” – which means keywords that may be longer phrases with less traffic.  These words will be easy to rank for fairly quickly so you can use those as your starting point to drive some quick traffic to the site.  The second segment of your list should be words that are more competitive and have more traffic and will take longer to get rankings for.  You will be glad you selected keywords from each segment because you will be getting traffic from the low hanging fruit while you are waiting for the more competitive phrases to kick in.

Because #4 is so vitally important, let’s break that down a little further.  If your keywords are too generic and not targeted it will take a long time to get rankings and the traffic likely won’t convert as well.  If you use keywords that are way too specific you won’t get enough traffic. The solution?  Use a 3 tier approach.


  • Shorter phrases and single words
  • Generic to your industry
  • Lots of traffic
  • Lower conversions


  • Slightly shorter phrases
  • Higher traffic numbers
  • Phrases are still focused on what you offer

Laser Focused: The Long Tail

  • Longer and more targeted phrases
  • Traffic numbers are smaller
  • People are further along in the buying process so conversion rates are higher

The thought process behind “long tail keywords” is that the more detail someone

types in, the more they know exactly what they want and the further along they are in the “buying” process.

For example if someone types “blue plates” they could want to buy them or they could want info or they could want to see pics – who knows.

But if someone types in “Pfaltzgraff Blue dinner plates for 8” then they know exactly what they want and are more likely to buy.

Typically the longer the phrase, the less traffic there is but the more targeted it is, so it is likely to convert higher.

A solid SEO strategy should definitely implement some long tail because that allows you to get rankings quicker (there is usually less competition on long tail keywords) and it allows the conversion rate to be higher.

You get the benefit from the long tail while you are waiting for your more competitive phrases to get ranked and kick in.

Most people are continually adding new long tail phrases and find that when they add them up, in total the long tail phrases end up becoming a large part of your traffic.

Here are some examples:

• Broad: Generic and competitive keywords:

  • Plates
  • Blue plates
  • Dinner plate

• Focused: Less generic, and less competitive:

  • Buy dinner plates
  • Set of dinner plates
  • Cost of dinner plates

• Laser Focused: Long tail phrases:

  • Pfaltzgraff plates for 8 set
  • Pfaltzgraff Ocean Breeze dinner plate set
  • Buy dinner place settings
  • Replacement dinner plates for sale

Another thing to consider is the searchers intent.  Let’s look at this scenario to understand a little more.

“buy MAC lip gloss ” – the searcher is looking to buy online

“MAC lip gloss prices” – they are comparing prices and probably trying to decide if they will buy

“MAC lip gloss” – they are interested in a specific brand

“lip gloss” – interested in a type of product

You want to capture leads at the different phases, but understand you will convert more at the top level where they are further along in the buying process.

Your SEO strategy should include keywords from each of those “tiers” above.

BUT we’re still not done!  Most people stop here (or often don’t even do all the steps to get here).  So what else is there?

Did you know that 25% of searches each month are brand new, never before seen search words and phrases?  That is shocking.  You would think with the number of search queries running through Google, they have seen it all.

So, how do you handle keyword research and make sure you are staying current?

First and foremost you want to make sure you have outlined your strategy.  Without a plan in place you are likely to forget to do it, and it’ll just rattle around in the back of your brain or sit on a post-it note that gets stuck to the back of another piece of paper in your planner.

So, before that happens, let’s define your plan right now.

You’ve already done your initial keyword research steps as outlined above.  Here is where most people are missing out and need to plan further action.  There is a step 5 in the process…

  • Once a month you should do keyword research and see what new words and phrases come up and add those new words and phrases to your campaign.  If you find once a month is too often, do it every other month.  Just make sure you have a plan to check back regularly so you can take advantage of new search phrases and tap into more traffic.  You could put a monthly reminder in your Outlook or use an online reminder service.  Find a system that will work for you!

Of course all these keywords aren’t going to do any good if you are working on adding content and building links for them.  So if you are adding content to your site like you should be, then adding these new keyword phrases should be easy to work into the new content you are writing.  J

You should also schedule at least a monthly review of your web stats (if not more often).

Check out how much traffic you are actually getting from the engines.  Find out what phrases people are actually finding your site with.  Don’t forget the engines will start picking up your site for “bonus keywords” – which are different combinations and variations of your core keywords that you optimized for.

If you identify some of these “bonus keywords” it’ll give you insight into exactly how people are searching and what they are looking for.  You may find it’s worth adding content for these new phrases so you can try to get even more exposure for them.

You also want to look at how long people are staying on your site, how many pages they are looking at before they leave,  and what pages they leave most often.

Although checking web stats is not often seen as a step in the optimization process, it should be – it is vital to the success and growth of your site – which is ultimately why you are optimizing your site, right?

Category SEO
Jennifer Horowitz

Jennifer Horowitz is the Director of Marketing for – a full service SEO, Web Design & Development and Social ...

The Foundation Of A Successful SEO Campaign: Keyword Research

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