How to Pick the Right Keywords for Your Website

How to Pick the Right Keywords for Your Website
Kate Headen Waddell - Tue May 12, 2009 @ 10:24AM
Comments: 19

Understanding web keywordsWho's searching for you?

The term “keywords” actually refers to words or phrases that search engines like Google use as one piece of the search result puzzle. When choosing keywords, it’s helpful to think of your website as a delicious snack in the grocery store, and keywords as the label you put on it to tell the search engines what visitors are going to find inside.

I say that they are only one piece of the puzzle, because each of the search engines has their own closely guarded formula for determining your site’s rank. These factors generally include a lot of things you don’t have direct control over, like how long your site has existed, how many times someone has searched for those terms and then clicked through to your site, how long visitors stay on your site once they get there, etc., etc.  For more information on boosting your site SEO, see my earlier post, 4 Simple Steps to Turn You Into an SEO Web Copywriting Pro.

Picking your keywords

Picking your keywords is part science, part psychology. So what’s the best way to pick your keywords?

1)      Sit down and brainstorm

Pretend you are a potential customer looking for exactly the products or services your company offers. What are you going to type into Google? Brainstorm as many terms as you can. If you have a very localized service, don’t forget to use the name of towns in your service area.

2)      Look at the competition’s keywords

Type each of your search terms into Google and see who the top five organic listings are for that term. Click on each link, and when you get to the home page, go to the browser toolbar and click View > Source. A notepad with the page’s html code will open up. Look for a line that starts with: <meta name="Keywords" content=. Everything in quotes after “content=” are the keywords. Here is where you will have to use your best judgment, because not all sites, not even those at the top of the rankings, have good keywords. If you see a list of 25-100 keywords that include everything but the kitchen sink, proceed with caution. If you see a focused list of 4-7 keywords take note.

3)      Test them out

There are dozens of paid and free sites you can use to test out your keywords.  Copyblogger has thorough review of some of his favorite paid tools here: I like to use a combination of two free sites, the Google AdWords Keyword Tool ( and the Free Keywords tool from Wordtracker (

First, I enter the keyword into the Google tool to see how many times someone has searched for that term in the last month/year/what-have-you. If it’s a lot, I make a note of it. Then I go over to the Word Tracker tool. This tool shows you all the recent searches that included the keyword. If the top five don’t have anything to do with what you mean by that term, use that to temper what you found out about its search volume from Google. When you find a search string that is relevant to your company AND gets a lot of hits, consider using that as a keyword phrase instead of just the single keyword.

4)      Narrow it down

You need to end up with 4-7 keywords. Take your top performers from your keyword research and add back in keywords that may not have shown a lot of hits, but are very specific to your offerings. Then start cutting the least relevant and most general terms until you have the right number. Keep in mind that your goal is not to attract the highest number of visitors, but the highest number of qualified visitors.

Now that you have your keywords, give them to your web designer. Those of you comfortable with html can add them into the site code of each page, anywhere between the <head> and </head> lines. The code is: <meta name="Keywords" content= keyword, keyword, keyword”>

Visit our other blog posts on SEO for more information on boosting your site's rank.

Comments: 19


1. Stephanie Tilton  |  my website   |   Tue May 12, 2009 @ 03:49PM

Great post Kate! I especially like the section about checking out your competitor's keywords. Here's another tool that folks may find helpful - it verifies if your site is in the top three pages of a search engine result for a specific keyword.


2. Kym Mellsop  |  my website   |   Thu May 14, 2009 @ 06:46AM

Does a keyword have to be one word or can it be a phrase and count as one keyword eg "real estate" -is that one keyword or two? just curious. your articles are so very informative.

3. Laurie Phillips  |  my website   |   Thu May 14, 2009 @ 09:20AM

Great suggestions. I started out being too focused on getting my posts finished to give SEO much thought. It shouldn't surprise me that I started getting many more hits once I did!

4. Kate Headen  |  my website   |   Tue May 26, 2009 @ 10:18AM

Thanks for all the comments! Kym - Keyword phrases, like "real estate" count as one keyword, mostly because this is something a person would always type in together when they are looking for you.

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