Optimizing Keywords for Search Engines

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies 2002 Conference, March 4-5, Boston, MA.

Effective optimization for search engines requires more than just fiddling with web pages -- you need to carefully select and focus your efforts on specific keywords for maximum success.

A search engine marketing strategy encompasses many elements including an understanding of your target audience, which search engines they are likely to use, and what keywords they might use to find your product or service.

Greg Boser, of WebGuerilla, Sherwood Stranieri of Transcendigital and Dr. Amanda Watlington of iProspect presented on this topic at the Boston Search Engine Strategies Conference.

For example, let's say a company is selling board games on the Web. It would be expensive to target promotion for all of its games, so the company might want to narrow its search engine marketing strategy to the board games that are most often searched for on the Web. How does one go about finding which board games a person might look for, and create a marketing strategy around this?

The foundation of the SEO strategy, according to the panelists, includes:

  • Keyword phrase popularity
  • Competition for the keyword phrase
  • Marketing relevance
  • Site content support

There are several online tools, which can help you to initiate your marketing research:

* Overture's Keyword Suggestion Tool

Overture's keyword suggestion tool allows you to put in a keyword phrase like "games" or "board game" and determine how many people searched for this term, and associated terms in the previous month. We learned that 93,916 users searched for "board game" in April 2002. It also told us that "Risk board game," "monopoly board game" and "clue board game" were some of the most popular specific board game searches.

* WordTracker

Visit WordTracker to double check Overture's suggestions for how often people are searching for board games. WordTracker also indicated there were searches for "Risk board game", "Monopoly board game" and "Clue board game". We noted that WordTracker reported fewer searches on these keywords than Overture reported.

* AltaVista

Visit AltaVista to further verify your keyword research, noting results for "board game" also presents "Others Searched for: "monopoly board games", "board games download", "risk board game".

It's obvious we need to target board games, but more qualified visitors might come as a result of showing up for "Monopoly board game", "Risk board game" and "Clue board game", amongst other specific keyword phrases.

Your search engine marketing strategy has begun. When verified that these words match marketing objectives and are the right keywords to target, your Web site optimization strategy can review the following to ensure keywords are supported:

  • Page titles
  • Product titles
  • Product description, or page content
  • Proper submission of these pages to the search engines

Once optimized and submitted, you can track the success using ranking software (like WebPositionGold, TopDog) and web site traffic analysis tools (like WebTrends, HitBox, and Urchin) to determine if top rankings and incoming traffic occurs.

One search engine submission tool, PositionTech <http://www.positiontech.com>, enables you to determine resulting traffic for a particular page submitted. It then breaks down the number of click-thrus in to daily keyword variances used to find the site, and average search position in the Inktomi network. This can further target your search engine marketing objectives.

You may have to occasionally revise your strategy, based on rankings, traffic and sales or leads from the Web site. For example, if rankings occur, but few leads or online sales are generated as a result - one might need to further research why a keyword phrase is not resulting in leads or sales.

The search engine-marketing strategist may need to review the Web site in order to ensure that the keyword phrases deliver relevant traffic as well as encourage a completed call to action.

The following might be examined:

  • Keyword ranking and corresponding entry page to the Web site.
  • Ensure navigation and/or site search tool, if available, delivers relevant pages for site keyword searches.

For example, it was determined that top rankings occurred for the "sorry board game", but neither site search nor navigation made it easy to find the "sorry board game."

Instead, the Web site informed us, "We're sorry but we were unable to find the sorry game." The client may fail to see the humor here, when they're paying a price to show up for "sorry games", but have not sold any "sorry games."

In closing, after you have determined your keyword research is effective, and rankings have resulted, ensure your site search tools and Web site make it easy to find the products and services you have worked so hard to target. As Dr. Watlington pointed out, "Search term research is an ongoing process."

Laura Thieme is the president and founder of Bizresearch, a search engine optimization (SEO) and Web site traffic analysis company.

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