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SEO Basics: Choosing Effective Keywords

Search engine optimization is the hot topic these days, with everyone trying to optimize their web copy so as to attract more traffic to their sites. To those new to the process, it may seem mystifying: how can using the right words in the right places improve one’s search engine rankings? And what are these elusive keywords and how do you find them?

While there is an art to choosing effective keywords, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to help you get started with choosing the right keywords for your site.

What Are Keywords, Anyway?

Keywords are simply those words someone is likely to type into a search engine to find your site. A specific combination of keywords is a key phrase. Those experienced in SEO attempt to create content that contains such key phrases, so users are more likely to find that content.

It’s important to understand how potential visitors search for your business or product, and to use this knowledge in creating your copy, whether it’s a product description or a blog entry. In addition, knowing what keywords people are searching for may give you ideas for creating pages on your site.

If you sell antiques, for example, and lots of people are searching for a particular type of item you sell, you may want to create a page specifically about that item.

Go to the Source

A good portion of your potential visitors use Google, and Google has a great free tool for analyzing keywords.

When you type a keyword into the Google Keyword Tool, Google will tell you the number of global and local monthly searches for that term — as well as statistics for a hundred other related terms you may wish to consider.

Not all of these keywords will be easy to incorporate into your copy without sounding forced; however, using this tool will provide plenty of ideas, and you may be able to narrow down your list of prospective keywords or make minor changes to your existing copy based on the data.

Set Yourself Apart

A keyword may be popular, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily help your rankings. If you choose a highly generic keyword or phrase, you’ll have a hard time standing out amongst the thousands of pages of search results.

For example, the phrase acting classes brings up 23.5 million results when entered into Google. By contrast, the phrase best acting school san francisco results in around 3 million results — still quite busy, but a whole lot better!

Consult Your Log

You can also research effective keywords by checking your server log files. When a visitor arrives at your site from a search page, your server log files record the keywords that visitor used to find you. This resource can be enormously helpful in seeing how real users are finding your site and determining which keywords to use in your copy.

Identifying the best keywords to use is essential for search engine optimization. So consult with friends, family and even your customers, and begin finding the right keywords to lead visitors to your unique content.

This guest post brought to you by James, who enjoys blogging about how businesses such as acting schools and the best acting school, San Francisco, can best utilize SEO practices.