The Lowdown on Finding—and Using—Keywords
by Penny Sansevieri
According to a recent survey by Hitwise, search queries on all major search engines are getting longer and longer. Searches using five keywords are up 6 percent; searches using eight or more keywords have risen an astonishing 22 percent; and one- and two-keyword searches dropped in popularity by 3 percent.
When you’re optimizing your site for keywords and keyword strings, it’s good to remember that longer can mean better—the difference between a site found and a site buried on page 54 of a Google search.
When we think of keywords related to a topic, we often go to “root” keywords or, in lay terms, the first words that pop into your mind. For example, if someone were to say: “Give me a keyword for books,” you might say: “Publishing.”
That root keyword may seem like the right word to you, but it may not be a word that your reader or customer is using to search. Therein lies the key. You want to find the keywords that people in your market are actually searching with. For example, if you’ve written a diet book, you might think that your consumers are looking for keywords like “lose weight” when they might instead be keying in terms such as “drop five pounds fast.”
Similarly, if you’ve written a book on saving money that has a chapter on getting the best auto loans, you may think that “auto loan” is the way to draw people to that chapter. But what if your consumer searches on the term “car loan” instead? Your keyword “auto loan” will go unnoticed.
Keep in mind that seasons, news items, and trends can influence search patterns. So, for example, around the holidays you might find that searches start to go up for “holiday diet plan” because women want quick ways to drop a dress size for that big holiday party.
The best keywords have some commonalities: strong relevance to a topic and a high search volume. This means that when you try to get away from root words, you shouldn’t get overcreative and use words no one is searching on. And it also means that you should focus on the age-old marketing term supply and demand. Whatever your search term, you want to make sure that there’s a lot of demand, but very little supply.
As for how many you need, that depends. I would start with two sets of keywords, see how they work for you, and expand from there.
Discovering What Words Searchers Use
You’re best equipped to decide what words have strong relevance to the topics in your book(s). To get a sense of the words that have high search volume—the ones most people are, in fact, using as they search—take advantage of the Google Adwords keyword search tool (adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal). It will give you an overview of search patterns and of how popular a word is vs. how much supply there is for this word, although it won’t give you actual search numbers.
Another useful keyword research activity is searching on your competition to see what words bring them and their books to the top of searches. You need to determine what competing words are, how soon they show up in searches (particularly Google searches, since Google is such a popular search engine), and whether the market they’re geared to is one you want to compete in (for instance, terms likely to draw amateurs in a book’s field are not going to help if the book is for professionals).
When we worked on a book called The Answer by John Assaraf, the author said he wanted to use the search term “entrepreneur.” I discouraged him, because he would have gotten lost in the shuffle of a billion other sites. Instead, we suggested focusing on the search term “grow any business,” which came up when we did our research. We found there were a lot of searches using this term but very few matches for it.
That’s the key—a term that fits your market, a lot of searches on it, and very few appropriate sites.
Deploying the Terms You Choose
Once you’ve zeroed in on strong keywords, where will you use them?
First, add the words to your Web site copy. This is important. You’ll want to use the keywords in your copy without stuffing it; using too many keywords may mean that your landing page doesn’t make sense.
Then add the keywords to your page titles. Many Web designers forget this, so it’s good to remind them.
Also add keywords to your URL. Or if the precise URL you want is taken, add a variation.
Next up are your press releases. Why? Because you’re sending them out online (or, if you’re not, you should be), and with all the clutter on the Internet, you’ll need these keywords to get them noticed.
Here’s a quick rundown of guidelines for keywords in releases:
• Use keywords in the headline and the first 50 words.
• Use keywords in hyperlinks, whether you’re linking to a page on your site or to any
other URL; this will increase exposure to your release.
• Don’t let keywords, or anything else, drive your release over 600 words.
And finally, let’s talk anchor text. Any search engine marketing expert will tell you anchor text is important. So what is this exactly? It’s the hyperlinked text that you click on to follow a link. Most people overlook this text if it says things like “Click here” or “Follow this link.”
If used well, though, anchor text can help with your site ranking. And it’s not that difficult to use it well; you just need to understand a few basic concepts.
• Anchor text should be descriptive. Specifically, it should describe the link you’re providing with keywords that reflect the page it goes to.
• Use the high-traffic keywords for your market in anchor text too—but only if those keywords relate to the page the link accesses.
• Knowing where to use anchor text is almost as important as the text itself. All external links should be anchor text, but Web designers may forget that internal links (i.e., links leading to pages within your site) should be as well. Your home page is a critical place for anchor text links. If you have a blog (and you should), make sure that any article, Web site, or blog you reference has anchor text in a hyperlink.
Creating these hyperlinks is easy, especially if you’re using them in a blog since most blog software has simple one-click anchor text creation widgets.
So take some time and go through your site to make sure that anything you have hyperlinked is anchor text. Stay away from nebulous terms, which won’t get search engine pickup. Make the text focused and specific. It doesn’t have to be long, but it can be multiple words.
When you focus hard on your market and on what that market wants and then figure out which keywords and search terms your readers/consumers use, you will go a long way toward helping your message rise above the noise.
Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., teaches self-publishing and marketing as an adjunct professor at NYU and is the author of five books, including Red Hot Internet Publicity. To learn about her books or her promotional services, including The Virtual Author Tour™, visit amarketingexpert.com. To subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Best Results from Google Alerts
If you’re using Google Alerts to keep track of mentions online, make sure that you’re using all possible keywords. Search book title, industry keywords, author’s last name, and your site and blog URLs.
And when you insert URLs, don’t use the www. So, for example, if I’m using the URL www.amarketingexpert.com, I will set up my Google Alert for the keyword amarketingexpert.com.
If you’re looking for paired words, use either the + sign or quotation marks to indicate that (e.g., “IBPA Independent” or IBPA + Independent).
To identify a single word only, use the + sign before the word. For, let’s say, Twitter, you would use +twitter in your search box.