What is keyword analysis and research?

Assuming you know what keywords are, you know it's important to get them embedded into your website as effectively as possible. That way, when people search on those terms, your website will come up and hopefully you'll make a sale, or at least contact.

But many novice search engine optimizers overlook a step that comes even before this, and it's arguably the most important step of all. And that is choosing the correct search terms in the first place. It's all very well having an effective site that comes up on all your favourite terms, but what if no one else actually uses those keywords, only you?

The main reason this might happen is of course because no one knows your industry like you. For example, an insurance broker might sell 'professional indemnity', so they might insist using that as a search term. But the kind of people that need to go through a broker to get the product probably don't know the technical term for it. They're more likely to be thinking in terms of 'all the insurance I need to not break the law and end up unstuck'.

So how do you find out what keywords and phrases people are actually searching on? Well, we work on a basis of casting a net widely, drawing it in tight and then building on those foundations (if that's not too much of a mixed metaphor, with slight web pun thrown in for good measure - but I digress).

So first: brainstorm; we ask our clients to come up with suggestions and we jot down whatever comes into our minds as well (always trying to think like a customer), and then we use a thesuarus on those phrases. Another good source is competitor's websites - check out the sites which are doing well on some relevant terms you already have, and right-click 'view source' to spy on their keyword metatags - if they're still using them.

Once you have these terms, start feeding them into Google Adwords Keyword Tool to get an idea of the true picture. This incredibly useful tool will tell you how many local and global searches there have been on a given term and to a certain extent, how much competition there is on it (although I for one am eagerly awaiting this to be more defined). Rank your keywords by number of searches, but also keep an eye on advertiser competition.

Don't be afraid to abandon terms that turn out not to be searched on at all, or for which the competition is too steep (unless you have unlimited funds and time, in which case, go right ahead).

Finally, build your list back up from the suggestions Google makes about related terms that are searched on, that you never thought of in the first place. More often than not there are a couple of terms there that aren't intuitive to think of but are entered frequently. If you can focus on some of these, you'll have a much easier ride to that coveted Google Rank #1.

Keep an eye out for other useful tools that tell you more about the true popularity of keywords, don't just shoot in the dark!