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With all the fuss around SEO, SMM, SEM, and a slew of other technical web terms that cloud the brain, it’s easy to get lost in the hype. But let’s get down to basics. What is REALLY going on here?

Let’s paint a picture…

The Importance of Keyword ResearchSomewhere in let’s say Georgia there is a guy sitting down at his computer and looking for somewhere to eat when he goes to California on vacation. He’s just typing words into the computer. Words that any normal person would type; “best San Diego Restaurant” “Seafood San Diego”, etc.  As a restaurant owner you would want to come up for that search. Easy enough, right? Right! This is where it all starts. The KEYWORD.

The Importance of Keword ResearchKeyword research is something that is often overlooked by small business owners, mostly because they don’t really understand it.  The assumption is, if you have a website, they will come. If you blog, they will come. If you have pretty pictures, they will come. Not true! They will only come if they can FIND you. It is your job (or your web professional) to hone in on what your ideal clients are typing in the search bar to find you.

If for some reason the budget isn’t available to have a professional do keyword research for you, we at least want to make sure you have some tools to do it yourself. So we’re giving you a way you can do it for free because it’s just THAT important to your web presence.

So here we go!
Using keywords effectively can be broken down into two steps.
Step 1 – Keyword Research
Step 2 – Placing your keywords strategically into your website

Today we’ll cover the first.



Goolge Adwords ScreenshotThe objective is simple. Find words that a potential client would type in to find you. Compile a nice list, and then implement them. The tough part is, how do you compete with the thousands of other sites that are doing the same thing?

This is where the COMPETITIVE RATIO comes in (the picture to the right is showing competition results in the “green bars” that relates to “PPC” or “pay per click”.  This does not necessarily apply to the competition level by actual websites that are coming up first for a particular search).

Say you sell pet supplies. If you simply focus on the keyword phrase “pet supplies” your small business is now competing with websites like PETCO, Pet Smart and several other big name companies with big marketing budgets. Instead, try and find keywords that are still being searched, but are not being focused on as much yet and are still relevant to your business. Keywords that you will have a more realistic shot at competing for.

For example, if you do most of your business locally, try adding your location to the search term, ie: “pet supplies san diego”. The searches for this term may be less but the competition is less as well, thus giving it a better ratio.  The fact that your website and business is also more closely related to the search (pet supplies in san diego) means that the people that visit your site will have a higher chance of “converting” into a sale.


Here is a more detailed example:

Let’s pretend you own a dog grooming business for celebrities in Hollywood.  Which searches would you want to come up for?


Keyword/phrase 1:
Keyword/phrase 2:
Dog grooming


Celebrity pet grooming Hollywood
500,000 searches per month on Google
1,000 searches per month on Google
competition: high
competition: medium-low


Of course at first glance you may feel compelled to go for the search term that has a high amount of searches, but you have to consider the quality of those searches.  The majority of the people typing in “dog grooming” are not even looking for a service like yours.  Some of those searches could even be someone doing research on the dog grooming industry to see if they want to start a career or business in that field.  Also, keep in mind that because the competition that is already on the first page for that search term is high, it would take a fairly large monthly budget and a lot more time in order to “beat” all of those other websites.

Now with the other search (Celebrity pet grooming Hollywood), you may only have 1,000 people searching for that per month, but they are looking for exactly what you do and so your conversion rate will be high.  You will also be able to be on the top of the first page in Google for that search with a smaller monthly budget and in a smaller amount of time because the completion level is much lower.

Really it’s important to keep things simple, try not to over-complicate the process and think like your ideal clients think.  What searches are people doing that your business is specific or at least relevant to?  It is also important to focus on just 1 or 2 main keyword terms in the beginning, and depending on the situation, probably in the future as well.
OK, so now you have picked 10 or so keywords that you would like to come up for in Google.  Now what?  How do you dwindle them down to just 1 or 2 main keyword terms that you are going to focus on?

You need to type them into Google and see who shows up.  Out of those websites that show up in the first 3 positions you need to find out how much THEY have invested in their own SEO.  How many pages do they have on the site?  How many “backlinks” do they have for their site?  What is their page rank?  All of these things and more need to be analyzed before choosing the keywords that you want to try and be at the top for. We have our own tools but below are a list of tools that you can use to do some of this research on your own.  Remember that you should have a professional doing this for you if possible as there are many other aspects that need to be analyzed, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be helped before you have a workable budget 🙂

Tools to check out the competition:

Google Adwords can be used to find out how many people are searching per month for a specific “keyword phrase” and it will also show you the competition level on that keyword phrase for “PPC” also called “Pay per click”.

Googling “” shows how many pages a competitor has in total.

Backlink checker finds how many back-links a competitor has.

Google Page Rank shows the over-all “page rank” of a competitor.  In general the higher the number, the more clout they have with Google.

Once you have used these tools to get a general idea of the competition level for each keyword you are considering to focus on you can pick the best and easiest 1 or 2 out of the list and start your campaign.


Take our company for example. Most people would think it obvious for us to want “Web Design” as one of our keywords. The truth is though; someone who types in “Web Design” could be a student looking for more information on the industry, someone wanting to see examples of good web design to put in their blog, etc.

As long as the search volume is still there, the more specific you can get the better. For example, “ affordable web design ” or “ san diego web design ”.

This is just a guess, but as a small to medium sized business owner I am going to assume that you have a website so that you can make more sales?  So if someone types in “dog grooming” or “dog groomer”, which one do you think is actually looking for a service to spend money with?

So have fun with it and remember to keep yourself grounded.  It’s really easy to over analyze this process and of course you want to focus on the right words for your business, but if you simply hone in on specific keywords that are highly relevant to your business and then understand the intention behind those searches, you will do just fine.