Most of the Internet-savvy world uses search engines to find new resources on the web. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is the art of making your web site score highly with search engines, thus giving you much better exposure to those searchers.
The first step in optimization is to understand what the search engines are looking for; you can take a look at this article if you are not familiar with the way search engine robots work. In a nutshell, searchers will enter a phrase that they think represents what they are looking for, such as “movie trivia,” and the search engines will present them with the pages that relate best to that phrase. Your task as a web page developer is to first, decide which keyword phrases best represent your site; and second, tweak your web pages so that your site fits those phrases, which means you’ll show up near the top of the returned searches list. This article will focus on the keyword selection part of the process – step two will be covered in a future article coming soon!
There are two basic strategies for selecting your site’s optimum keyword phrases. You can aim for a very popular term with a lot of searches, in which case you will be competing with thousands of other sites that are also trying to optimize for that phrase. The competition is intense, but since there are so many searches for the most popular phrases, cornering even a tiny fraction of the searches will translate to a lot of hits.
The second option is to pick a less popular set of keywords, usually by homing in on a more specific phrase (such as “vampire movie trivia” rather than “movie trivia”). These phrases will have a lot less traffic, but you’ll also have far fewer competitors – which means you’ll have an excellent shot at putting your site on the first page of returned searches, if not pushing your site all the way to the top.
As a rule I lean towards the second strategy. Getting your site on the first results page – nearly impossible with a very competitive keyword phrase, unless you are an SEO professional – greatly increases your odds of getting searchers to your site, plus you’ll be getting a better class of hits if your search phrase is pretty specific. For example, if your site is geared towards horror movie information and tidbits, someone searching for “vampire movie trivia” is much more likely to be interested in your site than someone searching for the more generic “movie trivia.”
The Google AdWords Keyword Tool is extremely helpful when you’re brainstorming for keyword phrases. You can start out by entering your site’s URL and see what phrases the program thinks are the best fit for your site. Then, you can get a list of related search phrases and pick out a few that appeal to you. It will also provide rough estimates of how many searches each phrase will get, so you won’t waste your time optimizing for a phrase that gets four searches a week. The tool is designed for use with the Google AdWords program, but happily the Keyword Tool itself is free – you don’t have to sign up with AdWords to use it.