How To Identify the Best Keywords for Your Website

Author: Stephanie Taylor Christensen | November 16, 2015

The words, images and product names your website includes can help improve your search engine ranking, increasing the chances that those who are interested in the types of products and services you offer can find your business online.

But how do you know what terms people use to search–and how do you incorporate them into your website in a way that works for your business?

Here’s a step by step guide to identifying the best keywords for your website.

What’s your business about? To identify which keywords are most relevant for your business, start by giving some thought to what it’s about, what it offers—and why customers need or want it. Brainstorm these questions, and write down anything that comes to mind: What do you sell? Why do people need or use it? Is your target audience limited to a specific location (if so, what cities/states/areas)? What kinds of questions do customers frequently have about your business or its products?

Try to come with a list of about ten words and phrases—even if they’re similar. Going back to the cleaning business example, your list might include terms like “house cleaning companies in Portland,” “affordable cleaning service in Portland,” “cleaning companies for landlords,” etc. The list will serve as the brainstorming tool you can rely on to generate keyword ideas; great creative!

What terms do the people you want to reach use? The list of terms you’ve brainstormed may be relevant to what your business does—but how well do the terms you think people use to find your business match up to the data Google has about their search activity?

Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner is a fantastic (and free) tool that helps you easily identify which search terms you may be able to incorporate into your website to help drive more traffic to it. Perhaps even more importantly, it helps you assess which terms are most likely to work to your advantage, based on the competitive landscape.

Start by creating a Google AdWords account (you are not obligated to purchase paid advertising to use the Keyword Planner tool). Once you’re signed in, input your product or service category, your website and your product category.

From there, select “Get Ideas” to see a list of suggested list of phrases and words that Google’s data indicates people use to search for products or services like yours. (You can fine tune the audience you’re trying to attract within the tool, too). Repeat the process using your brainstormed list of ten or so terms.

Where can you compete? Next to the suggested terms Google’s Keyword Planner provides, you’ll see a number (average monthly searches), competition rank (low, medium or high), and a suggested bid. If you don’t intend to buy ads, but simply want to focus on building online content that could help drive traffic to your site using relevant keywords, focus on the words/phrases that have a fairly high search volume, but are ranked “low” or “medium” in terms of competition. Because there are fewer competitors using paid advertising to attract customers who search using these terms, it’s more likely that the content you have on your site that incorporates these keywords will appear in search.

How can you say it? The current rules of content marketing with keywords requires a sensitive balance of incorporating important keywords, without looking like you’re trying. Try to use keywords naturally in headlines, content descriptions, headers, and towards the upper half of your post or article—but only to the extent that the keywords and phrases fit in a way that’s relevant and natural, based on the content.

Remember that the images you use to support written content and the image titles, tags, and file names play a role in your content efforts, too. Because images cannot be “read” by a search engine, the terms you use to name and organize them act as their identity.

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