Keyword Discovery and Keyword Selection

A lot of thought should go into keyword discovery and keyword selection when it comes to your site. Part II of our seo basics tutorial will focus on keywords and help with some ideas to discover as many possible keywords as possible and once having discovered those keywords how to select the best ones for your site optimization. Keywords like everything else seo is often as much art as science, and while there are a variety of scientific methods to choose the keywords for your site many times it will come down to how well you know your potential customers and how they search.

Keyword Discovery

Keyword discovery is the act of finding as many possible keyword candidates as you can for your site. I’m not talking about a list of 5 or 10 keywords. I’m talking about discovering hundreds or even thousands of possible keywords. The way to begin is to brainstorm a list. Start with the obvious keywords. These shouldn’t be too difficult. If your site is about promoting your banquet hall then you’ll probably list banquet, banquet hall and banquet room very quickly as possible keywords to target. Try to come up with a list of 5-10 obvious and general keywords to describe your site. These obvious keywords will tend to be shorter phrases (1 -2 words) and be the major keywords that describe the overall theme of your site.

Once you have your obvious keywords list expand that list by thinking of related keywords that might also describe your site. Does your banquet hall also offer catering services? Maybe catering services would be a related keyword phrase for your site. How about wedding receptions or office occasions. Maybe facilities or event planning. How about dance floor assuming your hall has one. You’re looking for other words people might use beyond the obvious that they may use to find your services or products. See if you can come up with a list of 30 keywords related to your obvious keywords. These related keywords may be other services you offer or a different way to refer to your main service. A thesaurus might be a good tool to use here.

Once you have a basic list of obvious and related keywords work on expanding that list by finding qualifiers that you can place before and after your keywords to turn them into longer keyword phrases. For our banquet hall example we might add the word rental at the end to create the phrase banquet hall rental. If your business has a physical presence or is local in any way then your location is a great qualifier you should absolutely use. ‘banquet hall rentals in Charleston Illinois’ becomes one of our expanded keyword phrases. Some common qualifiers are free, professional, best, inexpensive, and services.

Another ideas for keywords is brand names. if you sell any brand name products by all means use that brand in your keywords. When people are ready to buy they’ll often use the brand and specific product in their search. After I’ve spent a few weeks researching the merits of digital cameras I’ll be searching for ‘canon eos digital rebel’ now that I’m ready to buy one. Always use product and brand names when you can and include them in your keyword list.

Fortunately there are several tools you can use to help you in your keyword discovery. Three free and popular tools are WordTracker’s Keyword Suggestion Tool, KeywordDiscovery’s Free Search Term Suggestions Tool, both of which will give you information about the number of searches and the Google AdWords Keyword Tool which will offer related keywords as well as providing some other interesting data about them. WordTracker and KeywordDiscovery both offer paid versions of their tools that show more than the top 100 results as well as a host of other features.

Keyword Selection

Now that you’ve come up with a rather large list of keywords for your site how do you decide which ones you should actually use? You probably won’t want to use all the keywords you’ve discovered or have enough content at first to handle all those keywords. Remember that list was only possible keywords for your site. You want to select a variety of keywords that you can realistically get your site ranked for and ideally ranked within the first couple or three pages at the major search engines. You’ll have a much better chance of appearing in the results pages for the phrase ‘banquet hall rentals, Charleston Illinois’ than you will for the generic ‘banquet hall’ keyword phrase. Notice though that the more generic keyword phrase is still contained within the longer term so you’re using the generic term whenever you’re using the longer keyword phrase.

While it might seem like you should only focus on the most searched for phrases this isn’t always the case. You ultimately want keywords that will lead to conversions and a keyword that sends 50 visitors to your site 10 of which go on to make a purchase will be better than a keyword that sends 1000 visitors your way that all quickly click on their browser back button. People tend to use generic keywords in searches when they are in the early stages of information gathering and when they are closer to making a purchase their search phrases tend to expand and include more details. Being found for ‘banquet hall rentals, Charleston Illinois’ is more likely to lead to an actual rental than being found for banquet hall.

The competition for the keywords is also an important factor. The best keywords will often have the most competition and it may be years before you can realistically get your site in the search results for those terms, depending on the industry your in and the keywords you’re targeting. Many keywords though don’t have a large amount of competition and it’s quite possible to be on the first of the results pages for these terms in a matter of days. They won’t provide the same quantity of traffic, but show up on enough of them and the traffic might add up to the same.

Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) is used to measure the number of searches for a given keyword compared to the competition for that keyword. There are variations on the basic formula, but at it’s most basic it’s expressed as:

KEI = p2 / n

where p = the number of searches
and n = the number of competing pages

Keyword research companies may use a number other than 2 as the exponent like 1.5 or 2.25 and they might multiply by some constant to make the final number more readable. The basic concept is still comparing the number of searches to the competition. Finding the number of searches can be done using any of the keyword discovery tools I mentioned above. They all use different databases for determining how often keywords were searched so you want to compare the numbers from the same source. You can find your competition simply by typing your keyword into a search engine and seeing how many results you get. You can further refine that by searching for something like intitle:”your keyword phrase” since as a general rule your competition will most likely be using the keywords in the title of the page. We’ll cover page titles more when we get to on page seo.

The keyword phrases with the highest KEI will be the keywords that will be easiest to get your site ranked for. They may not be the best to use however. They may produce so few searches that they aren’t worth the time to optimize a page for them or they may prove to be less relevant to your site than some other keywords. Somewhere in all this analysis comes the art of keyword selection. The more you look at and study keywords and analyze them the more you’ll get a feel for the art. Your own experience with your business and your customers will also help your keyword selection art. Sometimes all it takes is knowing that many of your customers refer to one of your products in a certain way that’s not so obvious to find some golden keywords you can use on your site.

Overall Keyword Strategy

So what should your overall keyword strategy be? It’s a question a little beyond the scope of this post and will depend somewhat on the overall goals of your site. However one strategy you can use is to let your keywords follow the structure of your site. By this I mean use the more generic keywords on your home page and main section pages and as you get deeper into your site let your keywords get longer.

For your camera site your home page might focus on the keywords camera and then as your site branches off into sections about digital cameras, 35mm cameras, camera accessories your keywords would follow suit. Your digital camera section might then go on to contain subsections on professional digital cameras and point and shoot digital cameras. It might further contain pages on point and shoot cameras under $200. Using this approach you might structure your entire site navigation around your keywords. A great way to get traffic is to build pages around each of your longer keyword phrases and then group those pages into related sections.

After determining your keywords you’ll still need to build your website and optimize your web pages. I’ll be covering each as well as link building as I continue this basic tutorial on seo. All of your optimization efforts do start with keyword discover and keyword selection though, so it should be your first step in optimization. There is certainly more to keywords than what I’ve covered here, but hopefully you now have a better handle on both discovering new keywords and selecting which to use on your site.

SEO Basics Tutorial

Part I: Introduction
Part III: Site Building For SEO
Part IV: On Page SEO
Part V: Link Building
Part VI: Tips For Getting Backlinks
Part VII: Summary And Thoughts

« »

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.


  1. I have an open beta site that makes keyword discovery a lot easier by giving you a starting point. The site will analyze your web page and produce a keywords meta tag that is 100% reveliant to your page.

  2. I’d sooner start by brainstorming a list of possible keywords. Producing a meta keywords tag no matter how relevant to the page isn’t exactly the most useful thing as search engines essentially ignore the tag.

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