Which Keywords Should You Target

Earlier today in both a conversation with a client and while posting on a small business forum it occurred to me that very often people are unaware of the keywords they should be targeting on their web pages. You can probably list several obvious keyword phrases that relate to your site, but are these obvious keywords what you should be targeting and optimizing your pages for?

Let’s consider as an example a site that sells computers and computer components. The most obvious keyword is ‘computer’ followed by ‘computer components.’ That’s what you sell right? That’s what you assume people wanting your products will be searching for isn’t it? The two terms are also typed into search engines quite a lot of times every day and more searches means more potential traffic and more potential sales. Seems obvious that these are the keywords to use when optimizing your pages.

The Most Popular Keywords Aren’t Always The Best

Well maybe not. It’s just as likely someone searching for either term is simply looking for information and isn’t really looking to buy anything. Maybe they just want information about how a computer works or are looking for information about how to use all those components to build their own computer. Those computer builders may be your potential customers, but if they’re not looking to buy at the moment they’ll more than likely click away from your site as soon as they can’t find the information they’re looking to find.

There’s also quite a lot of competition for both keywords. 4,300,000,000 results in Google for ‘computer’ and 340,000,000 for ‘computer components.’ It’s not going to be easy to rank well for either term. As much as you may wish it weren’t so, it’s going to take a lot of time and money before you ever see your site on page one, if you ever do. And if many of the people who ultimately find you there aren’t going to make a purchase was it really worth all that work and money for that top spot?

How People Use Keywords

People tend to use shorter generic keyword phrases when they are first starting their search. They’re not exactly sure at first what they want and so aren’t aware of all the words that might help narrow down the results to find what they’re really after. The person looking for a computer might not be aware yet of what kind of computer they want to purchase. As they do more esearch though they’ll be better able to narrow down the choices by typing longer and more specific phrases into search engines.

They move from typing ‘computer components’ to the more specific ‘motherboard’ and then to ‘Athalon 64 motherboards.’ By the time their search grows to ‘Asus Socket 754 ATX motherboard’ they are looking to buy something. If you can get your site found for the last keyword in the research chain you stand a much greater chance of converting that searcher into a paying customer. The long Asus keyword phrase comes back with 607,000 results in Google. Much less competition than the original obvious phrases and consequently much less time and effort to find your site on page one. And while a few hundred thousands results might still seem like a lot of competition, in truth it’s not that competitive as many of the pages in the results won’t have been optimized.

Conclusion

It’s true that if you can get your pages ranked for ‘computer components’ you’re going to get a lot more traffic and you should still be optimizing pages for the generic terms, but given the difficulty of getting ranked and the much lower conversion rates it’s much better to start your site by optimizing for those longer phrases. And while each of those longer phrases gets less searches each day there are a lot of them. Taken in combination the search volume will more than match many of the generic keywords. As your site ages and you begin to build the links required to compete on the more obvious terms you can target your pages for those keywords. If you do it right you can even target both at the same time.

Your goal when choosing keywords to target is to look for the keywords that will convert on your site. The volume of search traffic you get from any one of them is less important than how often the people using them make a purchase. By targeting longer keyword phrases you’ll still get traffic, and even better, quality traffic that will convert more often. It will be easier and take less time to get pages to appear in the results and more of the people who find you will spend money on your site. So which keywords do you think you should target?

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