Keyword research is one of the most critical areas in search engine optimisation and as such, should take a great deal of your focus when constructing any online marketing campaign. Making snap decisions and rushing your choice of keywords will have a negative effect on any return on investment you will gain from your campaign.

It is incredibly important to take on board the consequences of targeting the wrong keywords. Your customers and the search engines themselves may never find your website. You could find your site ranking highly for obscure terms that generate low volumes of searches and are of no value to your business. This is a waste of both your valuable budget and marketing energies. The other side of the coin which is just as negative can result from being over ambitious with your targeted choice of keywords. It is important to consider the competition your prospective choice of keywords are likely to have. A mistake here will lead you into direct competition with established websites who have generated great authority with the search engines. This kind of competition will result in poor rankings unless you have the budget to contend at this level.

The first step you should take is make a list of all the keywords you consider will be associated with your company’s website or a particular project that you want to promote. It may be best to transpose your keywords into a spreadsheet to facilitate editing and filtering of your data. At this point it may be beneficial to get input from friends and colleagues because you need to incorporate ideas that a customer may use in their search for your website or your product and this will usually be quite different to what you might expect.

The next step is to put your list of keywords into a keyword suggestion tool which will generate suggestions in line with your subject, this process often yields really useful words and phrases that you would never have thought of yourself. We now need to analyse your list of keywords to find the ones that are going to be most beneficial to your project.

You will need to use a Keyword Tool which will interrogate the search engines to find out how your keywords are already in use. There are a number of Keyword Tools available commercially, some will incur a cost if you choose them whilst others may offer an initial free trail period. One such utility that you may find useful is Keyword Examiner. Whichever tool you choose will return a host of information relating to your keywords, thus enabling you to find their efficiency. For the purposes of search engine optimisation we need to determine the search volume (how often a term is used in customer searches) and the competition (who else is using your keywords).

The search volume results are quite straight forward to interpret, i.e a high number results from a high number of searches containing your keyword and a low number results from a lower amount of searches. The competition results are revealed by looking at the “In Anchor” and “In Title” results. “In Anchor” refers to the number of times your keyword is used by a competitor in the anchor text of a link on their website, the “In Title” refers to the number of times the Meta Title of a page includes your keyword. Both these results will give you an idea of how much competition there is for your keyword.

The ideal result from your keyword research is to find that they achieve a high volume of searches and a low volume of competition for your preferred keywords, the Holy Grail! However as you will find in reality, this is not always the case and you may have to re-evaluate which keywords to use in your campaign. You may find that one of your favoured keywords has a very low search volume whilst yet another is showing a lot of competition. The problem could be that your keyword has both high competition and search volume results and in the above examples it would be best to disregard these keywords in favour of ones that will perform better for you.

A compromise needs to be made and you should choose from keywords that you will be competitive with and still return an acceptable volume of searches. This may seem like you are surrendering great keywords, when in fact you are ensuring the best possible success for your online marketing campaign and remember there is nothing stopping you from using the more popular keywords at a later date when you have increased your own sites authority through a well planned campaign of search engine optimisation.