The basis of any Search Engine Optimization plan is the Keyword List. This is a document that will direct all of the other activities you conduct, and give you a measurable goal to continually try to attain.
The Keyword List
The keyword list is a list of keywords that reflects how you want Google to see you site. Since you cannot be all things, this list needs to be specific and prioritized. The list must reflect your marketing and strategic goals on the web.
Once the Keyword List is finalized, it will be used as a guide for you when updating information used on the website. The goal is to have the list of keywords provided by Google to match the keywords you specified on your list. This will also force you to create a clear vision for the content on the website.
A strategically developed keyword list can help you target the customers you want and help you target your market.
Since the factors that go into developing this list will fluctuate over time, it is important to reflect that in the Keyword List. Therefore, develop a systematic process to review and update the Keyword List at specific intervals.
Develop the Keyword List
The first step in determining your Keyword List is to see how Google views your site. The best way to do this is to sign up for a Google Webmaster Tools Account. Follow the "Google Webmaster Tools" link in the "Helpful Webtools Links" near the top right of this page. Sign up for an account, if you need to, and follow any directions to set up a site for use with Google's Webmaster Tools.
Once you have this account set up, click on the "Statistics" link along the left side, and select "What Googlebot Sees". This page will present you with a lot of information about how Google sees your site. The first table gives a list of the top terms that are used as links to your site. You don't have too much control over this, but we will revisit it later. Scroll down and look at the table labeled "In your site's content". This tells you how Google sees your site based on the content of your site. The content of your site would include page titles, product names, category names, etc.
As you can see, this list can be very different than what you want Google and your customers to see. How do we change this? The first step is to develop a keyword list that reflects what we want Google to see. There are a few tools we can use to devise this list.
How are You Found?
When web searches come to your site from a search engine you are able to track that visit and what words that person used to find your site. You can do this by using Google's Webmaster Tools, click the "Statistics" link on the left side and click "Top Search Queries". You will see two lists. One represents the searches that your site appears in search results, the other, represents a list of searches that users actually clicked on to get to your site.
These two lists give you a good idea of how customers are currently finding your site, and where your site appears on Google's list for that specific search criteria.
What are People Searching For?
The previous method of building a Keyword list involves understanding how customers currently find your site. It does not represent how customers could be finding your site. We need to know what other ways customers could find your site.
Google offers a web-based software product that allows you see what people are searching for on the web, and how many people are searching for certain terms. This type of knowledge can help you prioritize your keyword list based on what people are searching on. For instance, most customers might find your website based on the term “jewelry”, but we find out that there are more people searching for the term “earring” than jewelry. This indicates to us that we should reprioritize one key word over another.
This software has other benefits by allowing users to drill down into different types of searches to get more relevant information about user searches. This software can also provide information about what customers are looking for, and how you can respond to those market forces in areas such as marketing.
You can get to this software by clicking on the "Google Keyword Tool" link near the top right of this page. You either plug in you website, or a group of keywords, and Google will return to you a list of keywords, their relative competition in terms of ad dollars, a monthly average number of searches, and an estimate of the number of searches for that keyword last month.
How Do We See Ourselves?
Now that you have established some ideas for your keyword list, it is important to step back, and see what items do not appear on the list. What aspects of your business do you see not represented in these lists. It is important to check the popularity of these keywords with Google's Keyword Tool.
Completing the List
Now that we have gotten input from all of these different lists, it is important to devise a systematic way to prioritize these keywords given the different inputs. Once the list is almost completed, it is important to give it one more review with human eyes, and develop the final order of your keywords. This list should be updated at specific intervals, preferably every year, or more frequently.