Open Wordtracker [ http://www.wordtracker.com/ ] and you'll see following proclamation by Brent Winters, President, FirstPlace Software, Inc., the makers of award-winning web promotion software, WebPosition Gold [ http://www.webposition.com/ ]:
"Target the wrong keywords and all your efforts will be in vain."
Why are keywords so important? And what indeed is a keyword? To an occasional web visitor, *keyword* wouldn't mean much. But for a practicing webmaster, the term *keyword* is perhaps more dear than anything.
The way we search
The term *search* implicitly suggests that search engines will return the most relevant results corresponding to the search-term used. A search-term or keyword is basically a word or a combination of words - usually latter - surfers like you and me use to get results we're looking for. People, hailing as they do, from diverse backgrounds, have typically individualistic ways to express search-terms, that differ from one another, yet aimed for identical search-result. Evidently therefore, a website wanting to occupy top positions in search-results, needs to *optimize* for varying combinations of keywords. For an idea on how searches are made using keywords, Philip Morris' this page [ http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/search/search_help.asp ] provides a handy reference, albeit for their site.
In a press release Feb 2, 2004 [ http://www.onestat.com/html/aboutus_pressbox27.html ], OneStat reports that of all keyword searches on the web, 32.58% uses 2-word phrases, 25.61% 3-word phrases and only 19.02% uses 1-word phrase. According to OneStat [ http://www.onestat.com/html/aboutus_pressbox27.html ], global usage of both 2-word and 3-word phrases has increased over the last year, and that of 1-word phrase has actually declined during the same period.
To give another example, WebSearchWorkshop [ http://www.websearchworkshop.co.uk/stats.htm ] quotes an earlier NPD survey to show that out of an online sample of 30000 respondents, *45% search by using multiple keywords or key phrases, 28% use one keyword, 18% search by a pre-defined option (such as browsing through a directory category) and 9% search by typing in a question*.
Since achieving top rank is culmination of many efforts working in tandem, it is all the more necessary that keyword targeting is done in planned manner to remain in reckoning.
Importance of search engines
Notwithstanding growing complaint that search results are steadily loosing relevance, statistics tell us web surfers are increasingly opting for search engines as a main web activity. WebSideStory in a March 12, 2003 press release [ http://www.websidestory.com/pressroom/pressreleases.html?id=181 ] reports that search engines' share in global internet usage has nearly doubled in the past 1 year from 7.1% to 13.4%. If a survey is done today, that figure will undoubtedly be much more impressive.
A birds-eye-view of importance of search engines can be had in this narration at iProspect [ http://www.iprospect.com/web_site_promotion/optimization_analysts.htm ]. Some pertinent points are given below:
- A Georgia Institute of Technology study finds 85% of likely web customers prefer search engines to find their choices, and a study by RealNames reveal as much as 75% web surfers use search engines while journeying through the web.
- 57% of net surfers are recurrent users of search engines -- a popular web activity, next only to emailing.
- Convenience is a major factor for many to locate the ideal information resource through search engines.
When seen with Global Reach [ http://glreach.com/globstats/ ] estimate of *online population* reaching 940 million in 2004, it's fairly obvious there'll be continuing surge of internet marketing efforts in order to attain search visibility. Innovative starategies coupled with intelligent marketing will be the hallmark of efforts to achieve prominent search rankings. In this connection, do have a look at Global Reach's invaluable data on "Evolution of Online Linguistic Populations" [ http://global-reach.biz/globstats/evol.html ].
Keywords matter most
Though not the only weapon in webmasters' arsenal, using relevant keywords is a must to increase possibility of prominent search rankings. The reason is rather simple. Search engines gather and collate texts in webpages and store them in databases. As a web user searches for a website like yours, it is important that the keyphrase or the keyword he uses to do so appears in your webpages. Otherwise your webpage will not show up in search results.
This underlines the need to know various keyword combinations relevant to your website, and at the same time popular. Which is to say that these are keywords mostly used by web users cutting across geographic locations.
Web searchers' fickleness
Dr. Jim Jansen, an Assistant Professor in Pennsylvania State University’s Information Sciences and Technology (IST) in the article *Impatient web searchers measure web sites' appeal in seconds* [ http://live.psu.edu/story/3364p ] observes "A page has to be well-designed, easy to load and relevant to a searcher's needs." Else, within 3-minute interval, 40% searchers will abandon the website and move over to another. 7Search (link provided under the heading 'Keyword Tools') provides an interesting estimate about percentage of searchers visiting your site vis-a-vis its ranking. It says a first rank is likely to fetch about 7% of search traffic, and a 10th rank just 0.35%.
The estimate above drives home another oft-repeated opinion that mere top ranking won't translate into better sales. For that to happen, a website should be able to invoke sufficient interest among its viewers to make them stay longer.
Nevertheless, as search engine marketing gains popularity compared to other forms of advertisements, it is easy to see why good ranking in major search engines is so vital. But then, search engines bring results based on keywords or keyphrases. Without doubt therefore, the first step for success on the web is the ability to select the most relevant keywords and use them properly to derive maximum advantage.
To summarize from the foregoing, we find that:
- While internet population is growing tremendously, a majority of web surfers use search engines as starting platform to meet their online needs.
- Web searchers do not want to waste time for a website if it fails to meet his expectations, even though it would have ranked high in search results.
- A majority of web searchers prefer using multiple keywords to find their choice of websites.
Piecing facts together, what emerges is search engines' popularity is on the rise (if not usefulness; but that's a different story). And so too searchers' preference to use multiple keywords to find their choice of websites.
The way forward
If convinced that keywords are lifeline of your web venture, next comes planning your keyword targeting strategy. The web is now a global phenomenon, and the potential market is no longer confined to a single location or country. That being so, a prudent approach would be to know what would people of other regions/countries look for in search engines if they want to view your site. Fortunately, there are ways to find that out.
To begin with, start querying yourself, your colleagues, friends, relatives and others as to what search-terms would aptly describe your website. Collect thereby a hundred or so keyphrases. Next, arrange at least two brainstorming sessions, spaced over a few days, in which to participate all who suggested those keyphrases. The aim will be to closely watch relative importance of keyphrases chosen and then trim the list by half, leaving out those that appear less important.
Scott Buresh in the article *Search Engine Keyphrases And The Power Of The Modifier* [ http://www.webpronews.com/ebusiness/seo/wpn-4-20040206SearchEngineKeyphrasesandthePoweroftheModifier.html ] suggests using descriptive adjectives, nouns and other suitable modifiers to appeal to wide cross-section of search traffic. And Jayde's *Keyword Selection* [ http://www.jayde.com/set/keyword.html ] process lays down certain ground rules in order to bring in more relevancy in your keyword selection exercise.
Work out your keywords
Once your initial keyphrases are ready, comes the most important step. Take help of one or more keyword tools. With a good keyword tool, you can 'weigh' relevance of each of your keyphrases with actual search-terms used. In fact the keyword tool will itself suggest many other popular keyphrases, relevant to your keyphrases, some of which you wouldn't probably have thought of. Since the keyword tools keep track of virtually all searches made on major search engines worldwide, feel assured that you'll get the most relevant search-terms used by aggregate viewers.
Finally, armed with keyword tools' suggestions, you'll be ready to further prune the big list to something you feel comfortable using. Perhaps another group discussion might help to thrash out a shorter list. Remember, it is better not to use more than 4 to 5 keyphrases in one webpage, lest the *weight* per keyword (keyword density) becomes thin and not sufficient to attract search engines' preferred attention.
At this stage, if necessary, take assistance of qualified SEO specialist or content writer to appropriately configure your webpages with selected keyphrases. Be aware that like keyword selection, keyword placement too is equally important, if not more. According to Robin Nobles [ >http://www.seo-news.com/archives/2004/jan/29.html ], search engines like Google is known to pull *snippets* from any one or combination of 9 different areas of webpages in response to search queries.
Keywords tools come in different hues for different applications. The most important of course are keyword selection tools. My first choice is Wordtracker [ http://www.wordtracker.com/ ], which offers free trial to get a feel of how it operates. Their paid service opens up exciting ways of *discovering* your keywords. While Wordtrackers' is a do-it-yourself service, SEO Research Labs' [ http://www.seoresearchlabs.com/ ] is a package offer for what they say *Keyword Research for Bottom Line Results*. Another fine tool is Web CEO's 'Keyword Popularity Research', which is offered as a part of Web CEO Suite [ http://www.webceo.com/pricing.htm ].
Among other keyword selection tools, Good Keywords' [ http://www.goodkeywords.com/products/gkw/ ] is a free software from Softnik Technologies that queries several search engines to enable you find your best choices. Yet other popular sources are Overture Inventory [ http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/ ], Google AdWord Keyword Suggestions [ https://adwords.google.com/select/main?cmd=KeywordSandbox ], 7Search [ http://conversion.7search.com/scripts/advertisertools/keywordsuggestion.aspx ], etc. GlobalPromoter [ http://www.globalpromoter.com/keyword_suggestion_tool.cfm ] too, among many others, provides free searching of Overture network for your keywords.
Some other useful keyword-related tools and resources are given below:
- Marketleap's keyword verification in search results [ http://www.marketleap.com/verify/ ]
- KeywordStats toolbar [ http://www.keywordstats.com/ ]
- Webjectives' Keyword Density Analyzer [ http://www.webjectives.com/keyword.htm ]
For more resources concerning keyword research and many other web promotion topics, consider owning writer's ebook, *Sure Web Success with 1001+ Top Web Promote Links* [ http://www.ezypost.com/eb/top_web_promote_links.htm ].
As with any set-up where there's a close and constant interaction with visitors, it is necessary to keep your website in top-shape, relevant, interesting and inviting. Keyword research is a vital part of website management and a continuous process. It's worth staying glued to happenings around, and keeping track of keyword-usage pattern from your web-logs. For, who knows where you stand tomorrow in search results for your chosen keywords!
For more information on keyword planning and also other web promotion resources, consider owning Partha Bhattacharya's highly informative ebook, Sure Web Success with 1001+ Top Web Promote Links [ http://www.ezypost.com/eb/top_web_promote_links.htm ], that bridges gap between possibility and certainty of your web success. Partha's website, EzyPost, also offers nicely-designed ready templates [ http://www.ezypost.com/web_templates/website_templates_1plus/1plus_1.htm ] for websites.