A strategy to pick the right SEO search phrases

When you start looking at search engine optimization, you’ll quickly find that it all comes down to keywords. Or rather key phrases. These are the words your potential customers enter in search engines to find what they are looking for.

If you know what these search phrases are and you optimize your website for them, your site might be just the one they find. That's what SEO is all about. But how do you find the right search phrases?

This page demonstrates to you a great strategy to help you find the best SEO search phrases for your business.

Best of all, it's free.

Imagine you want to start a small business selling medication for sick pet fish, a fish pharmacy. Fish medication is expensive in pet shops. Many people buy pharmaceuticals on the Internet, and many fish owners do research online, when their fish fall ill. So the business opportunity is obvious to you.

You decide to build a website with shopping cart software, so people can purchase your products directly from you. You have found an SEO friendly e-commerce solution to get started. But what search terms should your website be optimized for?

Step 1: brain storm some search terms

Start by brain storming possible search terms. Try to think like a potential customer of your products. What would you be searching for, if your fish needs medication?

Get a few friends or collegues together and ask.

If you already have customers, ask some of them on the phone. Write down everything that comes up — at this stage you want ideas, not opinions on the quality of the ideas. That comes later. 

Your brain storming session has resulted in "fish, sick fish, ill fish, fish medication, fish doctor, fish medicine". Not a lot, but it is more than enough to get started. This is because you can expand this short list with the help of keyword suggestion tools.

You will find details on these tools on the page "Free SEO tools for keyword discovery".

These keyword tools will not only return how often Searchers look for specific search terms, they also suggest other search terms, which might be useful. Your mission is to analyse the results of these keyword tools to increase your short list, until you can isolate the one or two top performing search phrases, which can attract the most visitors to your web site.

Finding and integrating these top performers in your online shop will take some time. But it will be time well spent, if you want your shopping cart to be busy.

You can only optimize your web site for a small number of search terms. So the better they are, the better your results will be.

Step 2: Look for better terms

Enter all the search terms you have come up with in the keyword tools and carefully study the suggestions. Sometimes the keyword tools will return better search phrases, which get searched more often. Sometimes you will find a good possible term inside other search terms suggested.

The term "fish" returns a large number of suggestions, but none of them are related to your business. You can therefore ignore them. But don't ignore suggestions with a low search count during this research stage. They might contain a gold nugget.

For example the term "ill fish" from the brain storming session turns out to be rarely searched. However among the terms suggested by Google is "ill diseases", which has hardly any searches against it.

That's not surprising, since the term doesn't make any sense. But the word "disease" is certainly worth exploring. So you add the possible search term "fish disease" to the list of search words.

This is where your knowledge comes in. When looking through the suggestions, you have to decide which words could be useful to experiment with. The better you know your field, the easier it is for you to pick up on the useful suggestions.

Only pick suggestions which relate to your field, to ensure these suggestions help you drill down to the best search terms for your website. The Google keyword generator returns the term "Fish treatment" — another avenue to explore.

The term also triggers an idea: when people need fish medication, they want to treat or heal fish. So you add "fish treatment, treat fish, heal fish" to the search phrases to be reviewed.

Step 3: Find the most popular search phrases

While you review the search term candidates, you should copy them into a spreadsheet program, together with how often they have been searched.

Once you have the results for all terms in the spredsheet in two columns, you can simply sort the spreadsheet on the column containing the number of searches. Now you know which term is most popular.

Step 4: Pick the best term

Here are the top results of our research so far:

 fish     274,687  original brain storming session 
 fish disease    2,627 created from keyword suggestion
 gold fish disease   1,994
suggested for fish disease
 aquarium fish disease  1,077 suggested for fish disease
 tropical fish disease  1,015 suggested for fish disease
 sick betta fish  696
suggested for sick fish
 sick fish    637 original brain storming session 
 fish doctor    490 original brain storming session 
 fish medicine  281 original brain storming session 
 fish medication  112 original brain storming session 
 fish treatment   37 created from keyword suggestion
 fish treat   32
created from keyword suggestion
 heal fish  0 created from keyword suggestion

Only one search phrase from the original brain storming session has survived among the top five: "Fish".

It's not even a very good phrase for search engine optimization, when you think about it.

It is too broad.

Most people looking for "fish" don't need fish medication. So even if they were to see you in the search results, they wouldn't buy your products. And the ones looking for you might not find you, as they do a more specific search.

The good thing is, that your investigation has brough up another star performer: "fish disease".

A term you hadn't even thought of, when starting out.

That is the power of keyword research.

Clearly "fish disease" is the main term to target for the search engine optimization of your fish pharmacy website.

However don't ignore the other keywords you have found. Use them to create additional pages for your website to attract even more customers to your website, starting of course with the search terms with the most searches.