Keyword Ranking: Doing Effective Keyword Research

One of the objectives of search engine optimization is keyword ranking or getting your pages ranked for a specific keyword or phrase. So what could be so hard about selecting the right keywords? I mean, they are only logical choices, right? Wrong! In fact, the art of choosing the right keywords involves a good deal of science as well.

As you make decisions about using the keywords that bring the greatest advantage to your page there are a few steps you need to take to do the job of driving traffic to your site pages. Follow them and you’ll likely have pages ranked in the top ten. Don’t follow them and it is more likely that you’ll fail to drive traffic to your pages.

  1. Make a list of potential keywords

The first step is the most logical one to take. Make a list of the main topic covered on a page; one or two words per page will do at the start. If your site has eight pages of content then no more than 8 pairs of words or 16 total words appear on this list.

Once the list is created you need to expand it dramatically. Using the free keyword tool at Google Ad words, enter your two topic words and then search. You’ll be presented with a list of keywords and some additional information that is critical to your success. Repeat this for each pair of keywords that you initially made.

  1. Select the keywords or key phrases that make the most sense

So now you have a list with many potential keywords. Now it is time to narrow the list once again to select the one or two keywords per page that are both relevant to your content topic and are easy to rank for. There are several things to look for here.

  1. Monthly Global Search Volume (popularity)
  2. Number of sites competing for ranking (competition)
  3. Average page rank of the top ten pages (page rank)
  4. Estimated cost per click (cpc)

These data come from multiple sources. Some, like page rank and cpc are returned by the ad words keyword tool. You’ll need another tool to get the true popularity and competition statistics. There are a number of tools available for this purpose. I use Rank Tracker myself but that is a personal choice. I suggest you try out several of the tools available before making a decision.

Determining the best keywords for your site is a matter of first calculating the Keyword Efficiency Index, a ratio that suggests how easy it will be to rank for any particular keyword. The KEI formula is p2/c where ‘p’ is popularity and ‘c’ is competition. The higher the number the easier it will be to rank for. I tend to choose keywords or phrases with a KEI within a range of 5 to 500:1. Higher numbers mean that there is a lot of competition and lower numbers mean that popularity just isn’t there.

Once KEI is determined, I look at page rank. The closer to a ‘pr’ of 1 I can get without exceeding ‘4’ is good. Ideally, a ‘pr’ of zero would make ranking on the front page a matter of a few days but they are few and far between. When the ‘pr’ is as high as 4 then ranking on the front page may take as long as two to three months but I’ll rank in the top 30 or top three search pages in around 2 weeks.

Finally, I take a quick look at the ‘cpc’ estimate. While I don’t have a clear range here, I am looking for keywords or phrases that are at the low end of the range for any given search. I do not put much weight on ‘cpc’ but it may help break a tie when it comes to making a choice.

  1. Know your niche inside-out

Knowing your niche means that you’ll have a clear idea about how to organize the content on your site. If you are unfamiliar with the niche then it pays to do some research to see how others organize that same niche. Following the trend of organization means that you are more likely than not to select keywords that people are apt to search for as opposed to what I call ‘rainbow pie’ keywords.

  1. Selecting the core site keyword

The most important keywords you select are those that get your content pages ranked high. Your greatest effort in research is done here. There is another keyword you must also select and that is the core site keyword. This appears on each and every page, content or information, on your site. It is the glue holding the site together. The core site keyword is as generic as they come, the only time you can use a ‘rainbow pie’ selection.