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July 6, 2011

Back to SEO Basics: Choosing Keyword Phrases

SEO-Tips

With all the talk in the SEO world focused on “content marketing” lately, many website and business owners are focusing their SEO attention on their blogs and the long-tail traffic they can receive from people looking for general information. While that’s great on many levels, often I see that their main service and product category pages have been neglected in the Keyword Research CloudSEO department. This is not only a shame, but a waste because these pages should be the cornerstone of your SEO campaign. When you optimize the top-level pages of your site, you can target competitive keyword phrases that will bring search engine visitors who are looking specifically to buy the products or services that you offer.

In my previous “Back to Basics” article, I explained how to research keyword phrases for which you would ultimately optimize your website. Be sure to read that one first, and do the necessary keyword research before you try to choose which phrases go on which pages.

Keep this at the forefront of your mind: As you try to choose the best keyword phrases for each page, you will have to work them into the content of that page. They absolutely must be highly relevant so that you don’t drive your copywriter crazy when s/he sits down to do the writing.

Without further ado, here are my 13 steps to choosing keyword phrases:

1. Create a new worksheet in Excel.

2. Using your existing website’s navigational structure (or the wireframes if you’re working on a new site), create a column heading for your home page and each top-level category page featured in your main navigation.

3. With your previously compiled keyword phrase list in hand, find 3 to 5 of the most competitive phrases that are highly relevant to your business and website as a whole, and paste them under the home page heading of your spreadsheet.

4. If you have existing content, do an internal website search to learn where you might already be using some of your important researched keyword phrases, and paste them into your spreadsheet under the proper page heading. In order to find the exact phrase within your site, be sure to use quotes when doing your site search. You can use Google for this by typing:

“your keyword phrase” +site:yoursite.com

into the search box.

5. Review your web analytics to learn which landing pages are currently receiving keyword traffic, and paste those phrases into your spreadsheet appropriately. (This is so you don’t lose any existing search engine traffic.)

6. Using your original keyword research, match your main keyword categories with their appropriate main category landing pages, and paste the most relevant and sought-after phrases under their spreadsheet heading.

7. Review any leftover competitive phrases that don’t seem to fit well into your top-level category pages, and determine if they would make sense on deeper product or service pages. If so, add those pages and phrases to your spreadsheet.

8. Review the rest of the keyword phrases for which you have not yet found a related page, and determine if they are truly relevant to what you offer. If they’re too peripheral, remove them from your keyword lists.

9. Now try additional site searches for your phrases, but this time, do it without quotes. This will show you the pages of your site that are using some of the words that exist as part of your keyword phrases. Review the content on those pages to determine if your phrases would make sense within that content, and add them to your spreadsheet as necessary.

For phrases that don’t seem to fit into the existing website, try the following additional steps:

10. Carefully read through each page and decide upon its ultimate theme.

11. Review your remaining keyword phrases, look for those that might be synonymous with the basic theme of each page, and paste them accordingly into your spreadsheet.

12. Once again, if you still have phrases that don’t seem to have a good home within your website, determine if they really are relevant to what you offer, and remove those that seem to be stretching it.

13. Finally, if you *still* have phrases with no corresponding pages, find out why. It’s likely that your website is missing important information, in which case, simply add new pages that cover the missing areas, and add them and their corresponding keyword phrases to your spreadsheet.

At this point, any keywords that are left are most likely the less competitive phrases, the long-tail type of keyword phrases. This isn’t a problem, and in fact can help provide you with ideas for content that can use them in a natural way at some point in the future. Keep them handy and use them as a source for new content ideas on your blog or within videos.

What you should have ended up with is a page-to-phrase map that you can provide to your professional copywriter. This keyword map will provide the theme of each page of your site, as well as which keyword phrases to keep in mind while they’re writing. If the writer has trouble using some of them, you may need to revise or rearrange them onto different pages.

Don’t be afraid to make changes down the line as necessary. Think of this document as somewhat flexible. It’s a lot easier to choose the phrases when you’re not doing the copywriting, but that means you’ll sometimes get it wrong. If you want the best content for your site visitors and the search engines, listen carefully to your copywriter’s feedback and be sure to adapt accordingly.


Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a SEO Consulting company in the Boston, MA area
since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen.

4 Responses to “Back to SEO Basics: Choosing Keyword Phrases

    avatar Ahmed says:

    I’m surprised you have not touched upon the Panda update and how it’s effecting plenty of online Businesses. SEO has changed dramatically and I’m not sure using “Keywords” is going to be as effective any more.
    Google have changed their algo and it will be appreciated if you can shed some light on the subject. I have talked to many disappointed developers who have seen their traffic decrease by more than 50%.

    avatar Software says:

    Well-written as always Jill; many site owners and newbies need to be reminded of the SEO basics from time to time!

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Ahmed keywords will always be an important piece of the SEO puzzle, I.e., using the best ones naturally in your content.

    That said, I did just write about the panda update over at TalentZoo: http://www.talentzoo.com/news.php?articleID=10677

    avatar NYC Birthday says:

    Jill, this is a really great article, and I like the idea of using a spreadsheet to really map out your site structure. Thanks so much for sharing!

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