What Do They Search For?

Well, if you're talking the most popular searches of all time, the answer -- or at least one possible answer -- can be found at the Lycos 50. However, if you're interested in search engine marketing, then search term popularity can be misleading. Fortunately, there are some tools out there which will help you choose keywords for you site.

First, why choose keywords? Or, better yet, what are keywords? Well, keywords can mean a couple of things, but for our purposes, they are the phrases which people type into the search engine, looking for your site. Actually, chances are that they aren't looking for your site, but something you sell.

So, let's say you're a builder on Cape Cod. For keywords, you might start with "builder," "construction," and "cape cod." They are appropriate words to describe your business and the services you offer, but they aren't going to get you where you want to be in the search engines -- and here’s why.

A quick search on the Overture Keyword Suggestion Tool shows that roughly 28,000 people searched for the word "builder" on their site last month. That's not bad: 28,000 potential customers in a month? Except, we have no way to know whether or not they were searching for a builder on Cape Cod or in Denver. In fact, we don't even know if they wanted a home built or a Web site.

Well, how about "cape cod"? Again, we don't know if they were looking for a map of Cape Cod or a builder. Furthermore, though there were roughly 46,000 searches for the term "Cape Cod" last month on Overture, Google shows that about 1 million pages on the Internet contain those words. The chance that your site will edge out the other 1 million pages is slim to none.

A better approach is to focus on a combination of keywords. For instance, though the phrase "cape cod builder" saw only around 108 searches last month, there are only 16,000 pages out there with that combination of words. The phrase is also fairly specific in that you have a relatively good idea of what the user is looking for.

Admittedly, 106 is a pretty small number. Luckily, Overture suggests other possible combinations, including "cape cod home builder." A search on Overture for "cape cod home builder" reveals other possible keyword combinations. Continuing on this course, you will certainly find combinations that you hadn't even considered. In fact, it has been my experience that most businesses are surprised to learn what words people actually use to find their business.

Once you've found the best keywords to focus on, where do you put them? Many people have heard of "invisible" keywords hidden in the page. They are generally referring to the meta keywords. Unfortunately, because these words couldn't be seen by the visitor, many people abused the meta keywords. Now, search engines ignore the meta keywords.

What you need to do is to put your keywords everywhere someone can see them. Put them in the title of your page. Rewrite the text on your page to include those words. Change your links to keywords. Just keep in mind that people are going to see these too. It doesn't do any good to get people to your site if you've made the text on the site an unintelligible list of keywords.

It's difficult to choose the right keywords. It's even more difficult to work those keywords into your site. However, the real challenge for many businesses is realizing that what the user searches for may not be what they had expected. You may use words like "fine" and "elegant" to describe your product. The user doesn't. Giving up the marketing spin and learning about your users is often the most difficult part of any search engine strategy.

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