search engine optimization — basics

Keywords for Features and Projects

The average search is 3.1 words. This small input returns a SERP that is filled with sites that are focused on that content and have made that focus visible through content SEO best practices and are deemed most credible by Google's analysis of whom is linking to sites that focus on that content. Selecting the right 3 keywords is obviously critical for connecting your site to users searching for your content. If there isn't a match, you are unlikely to see much traffic from search. 

Your content isn't likely to be "considered" by the search algorithms for inclusion on the SERP unless your content contains keywords that match the 3.1 word search term entered by the typical user. Researching and analyzing keywords can help you focus your content and help define your information presentation.

Keyword development is a process

So how do you determine what keywords to use? 

Developing keywords is a process. As you go through your analysis you will continually improve your understanding of how visitors search for and find the information you have published. Just like the entire SEO process, developing and using keywords will improve over time if you continue to monitor and analyze user behavior. 

First, your keywords must be "real." Do not add keywords to your document that are not genuinely part of your content. You need to analyze your content to see what are the naturally occurring keywords in your content.

Feature and enterprise project journalists and beat bloggers frequently become subject matter experts and are aware of technical terms and subject-specific vocabulary. These industry or trade specific terms may be good keyword candidates for technical reporting. The general public will likely need a more general keyword set. Understanding the target audience is a primary consideration for SEO in general and for keywords in particular. A member of the general public may not want to dive into a mathematical analysis of Google's Page Ranking  algorithm, but an SEO specialist at a Silicon Valley start-up will "bounce" if the content is obviously written for a casual user. The role of SEO is to link the right content to the right user; keywords are the foundation for bridging content to users.

Should you re-write your content to include keywords that your users actually use to search for the type of information you are publishing? Yes. Your content is most valuable by connecting to users. 

Google Keyword Tools

Google has two good free tools for developing keywords. Google Adwords has an external keyword tool that is available to everyone—no Google Adword account required. This tools allows you to type in a keyword and immediately see related keywords and statistics indicating the volume of searches using the term.

The Google Keyword Tools also can analyze the keywords on a web page. For example, if you are building a content around the general topic of immigration you might want to analyze the keywords used on community sites that cover the immigration issue. This will help you understand the language of the issue from the POV of the community.

Google Zeitgeist examines "Search patterns, trends, and surprises" provides insight into global, regional, past and present search trends. Google Zeitgeist is actually home to several tools.

  • Google Trends - For a broad look at search query data, enter up to five search terms to see relative popularity over time.
  • Trends for Websites - Google Trends for website traffic data. Type in a website address to see visitors by region and related sites visited.
  • Insights for Search - A deeper dive into search query data for marketers and power users. Create your own lists of "most popular" and "fastest rising" queries for different geographic regions over time and by topic.
  • Hot Trends - The top 100 fastest-rising search queries right now (U.S. only). Updates throughout the day.

The "People" Keyword Tool

Right from the conception and initial development of your project, ask people what keywords they associate with your content. As you listen to the answers you'll learn how to structure and present your content in terms that are meaningful (and searchable) by your target audience.