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Keyword research is a critical part of an SEO campaign and is a decisive factor in whether or not the campaign will succeed. It is important that it is done at the very beginning and is not rushed. After all, the goal is to not only rank well for many search terms but to also rank well for the most-targeted, highest-converting search terms. If you follow these tips then you will be able to get the most from your SEO campaign.

First, discover your target audience. Look at your website and choose the best words to describe what your target audience would be searching for if they were looking for your products or services. Since I have a passion for aquarium fish, I will use aquarium fish as an example for this post. I built a site that offers information on keeping aquarium fish, but more specifically it focuses on freshwater aquarium fish. So, I just identified my target audience as people interested in freshwater aquarium fish. This gives me my main search term.

Having decided what my main search term is, I can now build a list of related search terms that will also be appropriate to target in my keyword research. Some good terms might be types of freshwater aquarium fish, breeding freshwater aquarium fish and freshwater aquarium fish tanks. A great tool to build a list of search terms is the Google Adwords Keyword tool. As you come up with different ideas for search terms, you can enter them into the tool and it will provide a list of additional terms that are closely related.

With a growing list of search terms, my next recommendation is to avoid becoming distracted by search volume numbers. It is easy to enter a search term into Google’s keyword tool and become distracted by all the terms the tool provides. Keep in mind that while large numbers look impressive, the terms may not be the most targeted relating to your website. Ranking for those terms could result in a huge bounce rate and wasted hours of optimization work.

Consider this example: I have a site about aquarium fish and Google’s tool tells me that the term “fish” is related and achieves 30,400,000 global monthly search volume. That’s a big number, but the term fish is very broad and will be difficult to rank for. Even if I do get my site to rank for this term, everyone searching for “fish” won’t necessarily be searching for what my site offers. When using the Google keyword tool, be sure to look at search volume numbers using exact match. This provides a more accurate number of how many people are actually searching for a specific term. Changing the match type to exact on my previous example changes the search volume from 30,400,000 to 1,500,000. It is still pretty big but not as high as the first number.

My last suggestion is to use long tail terms. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the term “long tail,” it refers to search terms that contain multiple words and are more specific or targeted. Long tail search terms have a lower search volume than the broad terms, but are less competitive which makes them easier to rank for. They are also more targeted which provides a higher conversion rate. Long tail often include the broad search term within them, targeting both terms. Referring to my aquarium fish site, I determined that freshwater aquarium fish was a good search term, because my site is about freshwater fish and has no information on marine fish. The bonus to targeting freshwater aquarium fish is that the term “aquarium fish” is contained inside the longer search term.

Keyword research is vital to SEO and can determine if the SEO campaign will succeed or fail. Don’t get lost in search volume numbers and don’t forget those long tail search terms.