How do Keywords and SEO Fit Together?

What’s the best way to choose keywords for your web site for purposes of search engine optimization (SEO)? Choosing the right keywords is so important to your SEO efforts that if you choose the wrong ones, there’s not much point in going any further. All of your other efforts will be counterproductive.

There are two key questions to answer in picking your keywords:

1) What word combinations would most likely be chosen by people looking for what you have to offer?

One-work keywords are almost never ideal. They’re too broad, and likely to be used in too many searches that have nothing to do with your web site. You don’t just want to drive traffic to your site. You want to drive good traffic: people who are actually interested in what you have, not people who get there by mistake and are actually looking for something completely different.

For example, suppose you are selling used Toyotas in Dallas. “Cars” would be a very poor choice of keyword, as it could draw people looking for new cars, or for information about cars, or even for movies with the word “cars” in the title. “Used Toyotas in Dallas” would be better, as anyone who puts that into a search engine is probably looking for used Toyotas available in Dallas.

2) What word combinations that fit the parameters of no. 1 above generate the biggest search volume?

It’s a common but, in my opinion, wrongheaded approach to begin with this question. One can easily be dazzled by keyword combinations that generate huge numbers of searches, but remember, any clicks on your web site that are by mistake don’t count. If someone isn’t interested in what you have to offer, there’s not much reason to want to draw that person’s attention.

However, that said, any word combinations that do work to draw the right sort of traffic and that also generate more searches than others that also fit your web site are a better choice. For example, the keywords “used cars in Dallas” might be better than “used Toyotas in Dallas” because it would generate more searches, and because not everyone who is looking for a used car is interested in only one make. If someone is just looking for a used car, not necessarily for a used Toyota, he could still be a prime candidate to see your web site and be persuaded to visit your dealership, and if your site doesn’t show up in a search for “used cars in Dallas,” that’s a potential customer you will miss out on.

Keyword choice isn’t the only consideration for SEO, of course. There’s also how best to use the keywords you have chosen, creating internal and external links, and other techniques. But the choice of keywords is crucial and putting time into this step can save wasted time later.

Instead of trying to search for someone on the web by their name, try a free people search. You’ll get more results in only half of the time.

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