It's been six years since I've written about selecting keywords for search engine optimization (SEO). In that time, the basics haven't changed, but now different tools are available.
Number of Competitors
To find out how many web pages are competing on the same keywords you're optimizing, you can use "number of pages" displayed on the search results page. However, that number contains pages that just happen to contain the keywords and aren't your competitor. So this way isn't really accurate.
Instead of just searching with keywords, use the "allintitle:" operator for Google. By using this operator, Google searches for pages that contain the keywords only in the title tag. You won't get a higher ranking just by putting the keywords that are in the title tag, but it shows your intention of optimizing the results by using those keywords. Therefore, you'll get a more accurate number of competitors.
For example, simply searching on Google with the keywords "digital camera" returns 107 million pages. In contrast, when you search by using allintitle:"digital camera," non-competitive pages will be excluded (like this page, which contains the keywords, "digital camera," but doesn't do anything with them). In the second search, only 37 million pages were returned.
It's important to note that if you use the allintitle: operator without double quotes
Google searches for pages that contain both "digital" and "camera" in the title tag. So "digital SLR camera" is a match. But, if you use double quotes
Google only looks for exact matches. So "digital SLR camera" isn't a match.
Today, Google is letting us use its keyword tool for free, so let's pick some keywords as an exercise.
First, use the tool and find out what keywords people actually type in the search box and how often. Say, for example, we're selling digital cameras, so query using the keywords, "nikon digital camera." Then pick relevant keywords from the results that Google returns.
In the list below, I picked only five sets of keywords for this exercise, but you'll need to pick all relevant keywords for actual optimization:
- nikon digital cameras 450,000 times (local search)
- digital nikon camera 2 million
- nikon digital slr camera1 million
- nikon coolpix digital camera823,000
- nikon coolpix 5700 digital camera5,400
Now, using a normal Google search, search each keyword using the allintitle: operator to find the number of competitors. You will get the following results:
- nikon digital cameras 4.4 million pages
- digital nikon camera 16,000
- nikon digital slr camera2,000
- nikon coolpix digital camera1,900
- nikon coolpix 5700 digital camera542
The rule of thumb is to pick keywords with lots of searches but fewer competitors. For example, "digital nikon camera" was searched for more than four times more than the keywords "nikon digital cameras." But in terms of competitors, "digital nikon camera" has only 1/300th of the number of competitors compared with "nikon digital cameras."
Perhaps, then, "digital nikon camera" sounds like a winner. However, Jill Whalen of highrankings.com recommends picking keywords with less than 1,000 competitive pages. This depends on each individual's skill, but optimizing for keywords with more than 1,000 competitors would be wasting time. Therefore, "nikon coolpix 5700 digital camera" is the choice for optimization. As you can see, these days you need to narrow the keywords to specific products to get a realistic SEO.
Ongoing SEO Plan
Whatever you do, don't forget that search trends do change. This means that the best keywords for optimization today might not be the best ones tomorrow. Also, the high ranking that you scored can be beaten at any time. If you want to stay on top, you'll have to keep optimizing. Don't just hire an SEO professional and then forget about it. Instead, make an ongoing SEO plan.
© January, 2010