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December 1, 2008
Tips on Deciding What Type of Keywords to Select
 
Search Engine Optimization Keyword Research Techniques and Tips on Deciding What Type of Keywords to Select: Niche-Oriented or Broader Relevant Keyword Phrases
 
As the size of the title indicates, the quality and quantity of keyword research that you perform will have a major impact on the overall success of your Internet marketing techniques. There are more layers of complexity to researching keywords than merely looking at raw search engine data to see how many times a given word or phrase is entered into a search field each month. There’s a lot to consider, but like most other tasks, the more you do it, the more proficient you’ll become.
 
Here are some Search Engine Optimization keyword research techniques and tips to help get you started:
 
Niche-oriented vs. broad—Simply put, if you optimize your site’s content for broader keywords, it will take longer, cost more, and require a greater volume of content to rank well for them. It’s still possible, but plan on making it a long-term objective. Niche-oriented keywords generally allow much greater flexibility and ranking opportunities in the short- and long-term.
 
Know your target audience—Is the demographic you want to attract older or younger? Male or female? White collar or blue collar? A good way to determine this is to ask site visitors to fill out a brief questionnaire for a coupon or giveaway. Knowing your target audience will be incredibly valuable when determining keyword selection.
 
Use free keyword research tools—There arelots of free keyword research tools on the Internet, such as WordTracker, Google AdWords, Keyword Discovery, and others. There are plenty of research tools that charge fees, as well. You’re better off using this data to inform rather than to make your final decisions, because these tools only provide raw data. They generally do not take important factors like your specific target audience into consideration.
 
Check out your competition—Look at your competitor’s websites and make a list of the keywords they’ve chosen to optimize. There are free and paid keyword tools for this, too. Keywordspy.com, spyfu.com, and many other tools provide rudimentary or detailed keyword analysis of competitors’ sites. But always bear in mind that these lists are generated by software and are poor substitutes for human analysis.
 
Use geo-specific modifiers—People are becoming a lot more sophisticated at finding local businesses on the Internet and are more inclined to use longer, more descriptive keyphrases (also called long tail searches). These are much easier to rank well for, and should definitely be part of your overall optimization plans. Instead of optimizing your content for ‘brakes and mufflers’, optimize for ‘Boston brakes and mufflers’ or ‘South Boston brake and muffler repair shop’. You can even use the name of a specific neighborhood as a modifier. This approach works for smaller cities and communities anywhere in the country, and you can also use local nicknames, zip codes, and abbreviations.
 
What words would you use to find your business through a search engine? Make a list, don’t be afraid to be specific, and optimize a page for each of these keyphrases. This requires extra effort and expense, but it will be worth it over time.
 
If you keep an open mind, are prepared to add more pages to your site, and approach your keyword research objectively, the process will be less arduous and produce better results. You can also hire an Internet marketing expert to assist you. Although this will cost a bit more initially, you’ll gain invaluable insight and a professional’s perspective on the keyword selection process.
 
Keyword research is dependent upon the specifics of your situation. If you choose to hire an SEO expert in the early stages, the knowledge you gain will surely help you conduct your own successful keyword selection and optimization in the future.

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Nick Stamoulis is the president of the full-service Internet Marketing Firm, Brick Marketing.  Nick’s philosophy and strategies can be found in his SEO blog the, Search Engine Optimization JournalNick Stamoulis is also the editor and publisher for seven Internet marketing-related blogs: Pay Per Click Journal, Social Marketing Journal, Blog Marketing Journal, Email Marketing JournalLocal Advertising Journal, and Online Publicity Journal.

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