With so much buzz over Search Engine Optimization (SEO), page rankings, and Google’s ever evolving algorithms, I am sure you have heard the term “keywords” tossed around more than a few times but, really, what are keywords?

Simply put, keywords are words, or more commonly phrases, that a user types into a search engine in attempt to find information relevant to a specific topic. Search engines use content from your website to determine if your website will be listed among the results for the user’s search query.

Sounds pretty straight forward, right? You just pick words that describe your business and what you sell or do, use them in your website content and ads and “Voila!” you’re done. Not so fast there, chief.

Keyword research and analysis is an incredibly crucial aspect of web development and web based advertising. Although it can be time consuming–especially the first time around–the payoff can be immense.
Before I get too caught up in the research phase lets back up and examine the whys behind doing keyword research and analysis.
  • Selecting the right words – Yes, as a business owner you know your business and offerings better than anyone but do you know what terms your potential customers are typing into search engines as they are trying to find products or services like the ones you offer.
  • Making smart choices in regards to competition–Is the competition too fierce on certain keywords? Some keywords may seem like a great choice until you consider your competition, making them just not worth going after.
It is better to use long tail keywords versus broad keywords. For example if you sell widget parts and repair services I would not suggest using “widgets” as a keyword but rather specific keyword phrases such as “widget A replacement parts”. Users that are searching for “widget” may not be looking for repairs or parts and if they happen to land on your website for the search results they will leave the site quickly once they realize you do not offer what they are looking for. Keep your keywords specific and relevant to what your potential customers will be searching for.


Keyword research is only a small, albeit very important, aspect of SEO. It should be the first step in building or overhauling your website content. The very best keyword research results are likely to come from a SEO professional but there are some keyword research basics that you can do on your own, the steps below are also a great place to start even if you are bringing in a professional so that they have a solid starting point from someone that knows the business well.
  • Start with a list of words and phrases relevant to your business. This is the easy part!
  • Use a tool, such as Google’s Keyword Planner, to expand your list. Note that you will need an AdWords account to use the Google Keyword Planner. Pay close attention to the average monthly searches and the competition level of each suggested keyword.
    This is where having an expert on your side is going to help. Use the suggested keyword data to select words that you feel would be beneficial to compete on. Ideally you want words with high traffic and low competition but that is going to be a rarity in most businesses.
  • From here you can expand your keyword list even further by using tools such as UberSuggest. This can get rather time consuming and once you are finished you can repeat the process in the Keyword Planner with these new words until you have a solid list of keywords to work with, you will be surprised to find how many phrases you will end up with that were not on your original brainstorming list!
Remember, the steps above do not replace the work of an experienced professional and will not assure that you get high rankings in search results. However, this is a great place to start. If you plan to do 100% of your keyword planning and research on your own I absolutely recommend delving into the subject a bit more before you start. Keywords and search engines can be tricky and it is helpful to have a good understanding of what you are in for.