Which Came First: The Keyword or the Content?

by Deidre Rienzo on February 18, 2011

When you build a house, you start with a foundation. When you build content for your website, you need a foundation, too. This foundation is made of keywords.

Before you create your website copy, you need to know which keywords and phrases your prospects are searching for (that best describe your business) so you can use them throughout your site. This will help your website show up in Google’s search results when people search for these particular terms, boosting your organic (non-paid) search engine rankings (SEO).

Web-savvy writers can focus website content on your important keywords, but if these keywords aren’t realistic and accurate, you’re wasting time and money.

Example: If you own a bakery in Brooklyn, one of your keyword terms might be “cupcakes in Williamsburg.” But just because you’ve guessed this keyword doesn’t mean it’s going to be realistic or effective. Heck, it doesn’t even mean people are searching for it! Imagine building your website content around a keyword that gets an estimated zero searches per month?

When it comes to keywords, you should rely on research, not guesswork.

Here are seven tips on finding the best keywords, and having a realistic keyword-based foundation for your website content.

  1. Start with brainstorming. If a prospect needs what your business provides, what do they search for in Google? Make a list of which terms come to mind. This is your starting point. Too many people start with brainstorming—and end there.
  2. Check your Analytics. Google Analytics is free and easy to use. The tool gives great insight into your website, including which terms people are using to find it. If you have Analytics, use it. If you don’t, get it.
  3. Go beyond guesswork. The Google Keyword Tool will give you real information about your keywords. Are they relevant? How many people are searching? Which related terms are people searching for? Just plug in the keywords you’ve come up with so far, and it will suggest others based on competition and traffic level. Also, by entering your website into the Google Keyword Tool, it will suggest keywords based on your current website content.
  4. Size up the competition. Which keywords are your competitors using? You can get an idea by plugging in their websites to the Google Keyword Tool and seeing which search terms are suggested. Or you can size up the meta tags on their websites.
  5. Be realistic. If you are aiming for the top Google ranking for a term that only gets searched once a month, you can probably set your sights a little higher. But if you are trying to compete for some of the biggest terms on the internet, with companies much bigger than yours, that’s unrealistic.
  6. Be specific. The broader the term, the more competition you face. If you’re a small event company, it’s better to choose keywords like “corporate event planner Boston” than the more expansive “event company.” Knowing the traffic and competition for your keywords will help you figure this out.
  7. You can’t have it all. Unless you’re a giant company, you won’t be on Google’s first page for 100 different keyword terms. Refine your list. Based on knowledge, not on guessing. Pick only the most relevant terms and go for those. You want to provide your copywriter with a list of no more than 20 keyword terms.

Do you actually know which terms your prospects are using—or are you guessing? If you’re choosing keywords without the right research, you’re basically building your virtual house on a swamp sans foundation.

Your content should be as effective as possible. So don’t skip this important step by playing guessing games.

Do you know what people are really searching for? If not, we can help. And if we’ve missed a step, please share with us.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff February 18, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Excellent info! Thanks for the insight.

Mistina Picciano February 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Thank you for reading and commenting. Any special requests for upcoming posts?

Ivey February 23, 2011 at 2:16 pm

We couldn’t agree more!

Bill Treloar February 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm

20 keyword phrases? Depends on how many pages are to be optimized. For a single page, I’d say you can only optimize for about three; no more than 5. We have clients getting first page rankings for well more than 20 keyword phrases … but that’s over several pages, not a single page.

Randy Duermyer February 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Thanks for the comment. You make a good point. Deidre’s post was about building a foundation and mentioned that much larger (giant) sites would focus on more keywords.

I’ve also seen clients who want to focus on thousands of keywords for a five or 10-page site. But even for very large sites, knowing your “top 20” can be beneficial for follow-on efforts, such as messaging, link building, article posting, etc. and can help you stay focused as well as provide a base for future expansion. Spreading your efforts too thin can have the result of not getting ranked for anything. Essentially wasting both time and money.


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