4-Step Plan to Getting the Most Out of Your Keyphrases

Every January, amidst off-key renditions of Auld Lang Syne and second-rate champagne, we make resolutions for the New Year. We resolve to lose weight, to exercise more often, or even to quit smoking. As e-business professionals and webmasters however, there is one resolution that we should add to our list: the resolution to use keyphrases more effectively.

Keyphrases are common terms visitors enter into search engines to find products and services. When used effectively, keyphrases can increase the amount of qualified search engine traffic your website receives.

Before you start debating the merits of lime green over teal green for your website’s color scheme, before you start writing copious amounts of marketing copy, in fact, before you do anything, it is a good idea to do some keyphrase research.

The two main objectives of keyphrase research are:

  • To find the best keyphrases for the products and services you offer.
  • To find common sense keyphrases that people understand, and would actually search for.

Below are 4 important steps to help you achieve these goals.

Step One: Brainstorming
The first thing you need to do is consider your business and the types of products you sell. Now write down a list of keyphrases that directly relate to those products. Avoid jargon, gobbledygook or marketing buzzwords, and instead, try to put yourself in Joe consumer’s shoes. What search terms would the average person use when trying to find such products?

Let’s say for example, that you run an online business that specializes in gag gifts. You might initially come up with keyphrases such as whoopi cushions, fake vomit, rubber chickens, etc. This will not be a definitive list. In fact, most of the terms you come up with will probably be discarded later on. But for now, it is a good start.

If you are having trouble zeroing in on keyphrases, try using Overture’s Search Term Suggestion Tool

Overture is a pay-for-placement search engine that allows you to register and bid on keyphrases. Fortunately, without having to do either, you can use the suggestion tool to find out how many times a term was searched for during the preceding month. The tool also displays a list of related search terms that include your keyphrase. Note that the order of the words in your key phrase is irrelevant.

Step Two: Digging Deeper
Now that you have a list of keyphrases in hand, it is time to start researching in earnest. A powerful tool that will help simplify the process, is a specialized database called Wordtracker. Wordtracker is much more precise than Overture’s Search Term Suggestion Tool. Wordtracker’s database contains millions of queries from and (metacrawlers that query the main search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and AltaVista simultaneously) compiled over a two month period.

Using our hypothetical gag gift business once again, let’s say you enter the keyphrase “whoopi cushion” into Wordtracker’s database. Wordtracker will tell you how often people searched for the term and how many competing sites use the same keyphrase.

Suppose you discover that “whoopi cushions” is not a highly searched-for term? Using Wordtracker’s lateral search results, you can easily find related terms that are more popular — “gag gift” for example.

Step Three: A Few Calculations
Finding a highly searched- for keyphrase that relates to your products is all well and good, but if your competitors have all optimized their web pages for the same keyphrase, you will only be another small fish in a big pond.

The best keyphrases are not just the ones that are popular; they are the ones with fewer competing web pages.

This is where the concept of KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index) comes in. To calculate a keyphrase’s KEI, you square the popularity of the keyphrase, and divide it by its competitiveness (the number of web pages returned in a search engine’s results pages when you search for an exact keyphrase).

The formula for KEI is (P^2/C).

P = The popularity of the keyword.
C = The competitiveness.

Fortunately, Wordtracker incorporates the KEI into its database, so you don’t have to do the calculations yourself.

Let’s say the keyphrase “gag gift” has a count result of 1500 in Wordtracker’s database, and a competing result of 20,000 in AltaVista. The KEI rating for gag gifts (in AltaVista) would be 112.5. Of course, you would also have to calculate the KEI for the other top search engines as well.

The higher the KEI rating, the better the keyphrase.

Step Four: Putting it All Together
Once you have found your main keyphrase (you may also wish to include secondary keyphrases on inner pages) it is time to start optimizing your content.

Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Place keyphrases in Title tags, Meta tags, and in the <H1>-<H6> tags.
  • Use the main keyphrase at least 3-5 times in the body of the home page.
  • Place keyphrases prominently in the beginning of paragraphs, alt tags, hyperlinked text, and bold text.
  • Write copy that is between 250-300 words in length on each web page, and make sure the text focuses on the keyphrase.

Final Words
Keyphrase research can be a time a consuming affair. It may take as many as 2-3 days to collate and analyze all the data. Still, it is well worth the effort because it offers such a high return on investment. So if you keep one resolution this year, make sure it is to use keyphrases more effectively. After all, you can always lose weight, exercise more often, or quit smoking next year.

-Julie Joseph

Julie Joseph is a search engine optimizer and copywriter at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.

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