How to Use SEO Keyword Research to Optimize Content

If your website was state-of-the-art in 2010 (or even 2015), chances are that your search engine optimization scores aren't great. Constant updates to Google's algorithms mean things have changed, and if your content and SEO keyword research hasn’t kept up, you may find your website’s ranking slipping lower and lower as your competitors adapt and compete.

Initially, keywords that were optimized for search engines were enough. Now, though, Google ranks sites based on whether or not they contain the intuitive search terms people use to find goods and services.

That means the keyword “jeans” won’t be enough — you’ll have to specify “cotton bootleg jeans” or “stretchy skinny jeans” or “where to buy all-cotton jeans” or even “dad jeans” to stay close to the top of search engine rankings.

Basically, search engine optimization has evolved to solve problems for searchers, and your use of SEO keyword phrases is crucial to being found now that everyone has a website. When users type their queries into a search engine, Google searches its indexes and matches the words used in the query to content.

Then, it delivers a list of websites that answer the user’s question. Those keywords need to appear in your copy, but they also need to be strategically placed so Google can find them and your web site ends up on the first page of search. As many as 92% of users don't move beyond the first page of Google's search results. To be found, you'll need to do some leg work.

How to Begin Doing Your SEO Keyword Research

Start out by making a list of topics and keywords that describe your business: menswear, widgets, semiconductors, bike repairs, etc. Use as many synonyms as you can think of — this list should be as long as possible.

It may help you to think of the index of a reference book. Imagine a nonfiction volume about wild cats and the number of entries that would appear in the index to lead you to the relevant page or section of the book.

In the case of a book index, those entries wouldn’t appear just one way--they would also be reversed. For instance, there would be an entry for South American wild cats and another for wild cats, South America. SEO keywords can be thought of in much the same way.

At this stage of your research, it pays to be as thorough as possible. More keywords are better.

Test your keywords by typing them into your search engine (you'll get the most bang for your buck with Google) and see what comes up on the first page of the search results. If you see your top competitors, you’re on the right track for developing great SEO content.