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There's an enormous amount of data available to us about the keywords people are typing in the search engines, and it's important to be able to evaluate the different attributes of a keyword before we decide whether or not to target one with our SEO strategy. There are three things you'll need to consider when choosing your keywords: relevance, search volume, and competition. Let's start with relevance. The first thing you need to do when you're deciding whether a keyword is relevant to your business, is to ask yourself one simple question: Does the keyword you found accurately reflect the nature of the products and services that you offer? If so, you've nailed it.
The number one objective of a search engine is to find and deliver the most relevant content to its users for a given search term. The best way to understand your customer's search behavior is to put yourself in their shoes. Remember the car example we looked at earlier in this chapter? If you were in the market to buy a car, how would you use a search engine? You probably wouldn't type the word car in and click search. Instead, you'd use something very specific to what you're looking for like "used blue 2009 toyota camry." Now, if you're selling 2009 used blue toyota camrys and you have a page on your website dedicated to them, then that is a relevant keyword.
And the best part about relevant keywords is that they're much more likely to drive conversion actions on your website than more generic ones. The second item to look at is search volume. While "used blue 2009 toyota camry" might be extremely relevant to your business and likely to lead to a sale, it's also not typed into a Search Engine all that often. Search Volume is the number of searches per month for a particular keyword, and if you use a tool like the Google Keyword Tool, it's represented as the average number of searches for the last 12 months.
Because this number is a rolling average, seasonality and other trend patterns are not accounted for. If your business is seasonal, you'll want to take a look at the Local Trends column in the Keyword Tool, or even Google Insights for Search when analyzing your keywords. Now let's have a look at the competition, and what we mean by this is essentially just how difficult it's going to be for us to rank in front of our competition on a search engine results page. Unless you're introducing a new product or technology to the market you're probably going to find content similar to yours already on the Web, and we can look at things like the number of pages about a given topic, authority, and trust of the websites competing with you, back links to their websites, and more.
One way to look at this is by evaluating the keyword in the Paid Search, or Cost per Click markets. The number of search advertisers actively bidding on a keyword can be a good proxy for just how difficult the keyword is going to be on the organic side. And the Google Keyword Tool has a Competition column that shows you this. The SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tool can be another good source of keyword competition data. This tool will analyze keywords and figure out how difficult it would be to rank well in search engine results based on the strength of pages and websites listed in the search results.
Let's tie it all together by going back to our car example where we looked at "car" versus "used blue 2009 toyota camry." We might find that there are lots and lots of these specific types of keywords that don't get a lot of volume but are very relevant to our used car dealership, and not very competitive. Keywords like "used red 2009 toyota camry," or "used blue 2010 toyota camry," or "used blue 2009 honda accord" might not give us a lot of volume by themselves, but taken together, we could be attracting lots and lots of relevant, likely-to-convert visitors to our website.
So let your competitors go after the word "car," and let your keyword research be your guide as you balance how to get as much relevant search volume as you possibly can with the least competition.
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