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Keyword Strategy – SEO’s Most Critical Element – Part 2

In the “first part of this post”:, I outlined several places that you can find good keywords for your website. In this post I will provide some keyword selection tips and outline how to group your keywords and position them on your site.
*Keyword Selection Tips*
When selecting keywords for your site, it is best to look for phrases that describe your products/services in the most clear and logical way possible. Below, I have outlined a number of selection tips for you to consider.
*_Evaluate the market for your keywords_*
In order to select the best keywords for your site, you have to be able to evaluate how competitive the market is for each term and determine whether you have sufficient resources to compete.
You can gauge the level of competition and projected traffic for your keywords/keyword phrases by using some of the keyword suggestion tools that I outlined in my previous post. However, I highly recommend that you try out the “Keyword Difficulty Tool”: developed by SEOmoz. This tool will provide you with detailed information about the top ranking sites for a search phrase and give you good idea about what you will have to do with your site in order to compete. You can use this tool to compare terms that you are interested in and determine which ones are the most suitable for your keyword efforts.
*_Keywords vs. keyword phrases_*
It is often said that shorter keyword searches represent shoppers and longer keyword searches represent buyers. Single keywords (or short phrases) are not highly targeted and are much more difficult to rank well for. Longer, more targeted keyword phrases can generally be associated with greater purchase intent and will typically yield much higher conversion rates.
The goal of your keyword strategy is to drive qualified traffic to your website. Avoid using too many overly generic terms. Try to select *2 to 5 word phrases* that are specific to the contents of the page that you are optimizing.

*_Use overlapping phrases and keyword qualifiers_*
Find keyword phrases in your list that share some of the same terms (or try to come up with some). For example, if a page ranks well for “internet marketing” it should also be able to rank well for “internet marketing services”.
Qualifiers are common words that frequently apply to your keyword phrases (examples include: “information”, “services”, “tips”, “help”, “free” etc.). Create a list of qualifiers and use them to enhance your keyword phrases whenever applicable. Often the most important qualifiers to have on your list are geographic locations (country, province, city, county, region).
By using overlapping phrases and keyword qualifiers you will be able to tweak your keyword list to capture as many relevant keyword variations as possible.
*_Misspelled keywords, word stemming and plural keywords_*
Sometimes misspelled keywords can represent a very high number of searches. Obviously, you don’t want to have misspelled words be visible on your page, however, it is a good idea to include them in your keywords meta tag.
Word stemming refers to the use of root words as synonyms for other words. For example, the word “climb” will be treated the same as “climbing”. Most search engines use word stemming, but in many cases the search results will vary. It is best to add the most commonly used versions of each word.
You will also find different results when searching for singular and plural keywords. It is best to include both.
*_Hyphenated keywords_*
Most search engines treat hyphens as spaces. If you have hyphenated keywords in your list, check the level competition and traffic for the term with and without a hyphen. If the word can be used both ways, you don’t have to worry about which version to use.
*_Don’t forget to use brand names_*
Brand names are the most overlooked keywords. A lot of searchers use brand names as search terms, so it is good to include them. If nothing else, add them to your list of qualifiers.
*How to Position Keywords on Your Site*
Your keyword strategy must be tied to site planning. Before you begin placing keywords on your site, it is very important that you have identified the focus (or theme) of your website and the pages that you intend to optimize. A large reason that many SEO campaigns (and web sites in general) fail is because they are too broad and unfocused. As the goal of keyword strategy is to attract qualified traffic to you site, the keywords that you select must be specific and relevant to the pages that they are applied to. Having great keywords is useless if you don’t have a clear and consistent website strategy.
*_Establish a keyword hierarchy and set keyword priorities_*
Typically, your keyword list will consist of primary keywords, secondary keyword phrases and keyword qualifiers. I have outlined some keyword organization suggestions below, however, as your site gets more complex so will your keyword strategy.
Your primary keywords should include more general terms and shorter phrases that describe the overall contents of your website. These terms are very highly competitive and difficult to rank well for. The main purpose of these keywords is to present themes that you want search engines (and users) to identify on your site. In most cases you won’t be optimizing your site for these keywords, but they are very important. I would suggest that you try to limit these to about 5-10 terms.
Secondary keyword phrases are the longer, more targeted search phrases that represent the bulk of your keyword list. These are the terms that you will use to drive the vast majority of qualified search engine traffic to your site.
A good strategy is to use your primary keywords as categories to group related secondary phrases under. This will help you to establish a focused strategy and remain consistent with the theme of your website. I would try to group about 5-7 targeted keyword phrases with each primary keyword.
You can set priority levels for your keywords based on the amount of search engine traffic and level of competition for each term. Identify your highest priority keyword phrases and add a list of qualifiers that can be used with each phrase.
Try to position your primary keywords on your home page to establish the themes of your website. Use your secondary keyword phrases and qualifiers to strengthen these themes and narrow the focus of your strategy as you move deeper into the site. This presents search engines (and users) with clearly identifiable, “theme based” paths through your site content and drives highly targeted traffic to pages that you want to have high conversion rates on.
For example, imagine that you own an internet marketing website. Depending on how you have structured your site, you could divide this theme into different internet marketing services (viral marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing, online advertising etc.) using primary keywords for each service offered. Then create category pages that focus on each of those primary keywords using some of your slightly more specific keyword phrases. Finally, you could have destination pages that are specific to the individual services that you offer in each area. These pages should be highly optimized with keyword rich content, including your most highly targeted keyword phrases and qualifiers.
When positioning your keywords, think along the buying cycle and how it relates to the hierarchy of your website. Someone searching for “internet marketing” could be interested in any number of things and is not likely ready to buy. However, someone searching for “search engine marketing services in Toronto” is much further into the buying cycle and likely much easier for you to convert.
*Common Keyword Problems*
I come across many different problems with keyword strategy, but there are two common problems that I would like to point out.
*_Keyword cannibalism_*
Many companies seem to use the same list of keywords (or several of the same terms) on every page of their site. This creates an issue of *“keyword cannibalism”*. By heavily targeting the same terms on multiple pages, you are forcing the search engine to decide which page is the most relevant. This reduces your ranking potential for each term. Essentially, your pages end up competing with each other for exposure.
*_Using too many keywords on a page_*
You can’t optimize a web page for over 20 different keywords/keyword phrases. Each page on your site should target only a few different terms. Typically, I try to restrict the amount of keywords that I use on a page to 1-2 primary and 3-5 secondary phrases and qualifiers. Remember that each term you add to an optimized page decreases its focus.
Keyword strategy is essential to any SEO campaign. I have outlined some good places to find keywords, provided a few selection tips and made some suggestions about how to position them on your site. However, the use of keywords in an SEO campaign goes into much more detail than this. I will try to post more information about keywords and how they relate to both the on-page and off-page elements of your website.