Keywords are another way to hone your message and focus your topic online. And to that effect, thankfully, they are also the key to Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

“Keyword,” the term we typical say, really means “key phrase.”

Key phrases are multiword keywords with the intention of being highly specific with a narrow focus, also called long tail keywords as coined by Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine.

Long tail keywords will help with many issues, but important is they better target your audience and they are less competitive than single word keywords covering a broad spectrum. Unless you’re a big brand, you’ll need keywords with high search rankings and lower competition to begin working your way to the first page of search rankings.

Do you want a keyword for “movie”, when you’re a movie critic specializing in “scary monster movies?”

Try to get into the head of your customer, what would they search for?

Insert each keyword from your initial list into Google and other search systems. Do the results match your expectations?

At this point you need to brainstorm and think creatively. Again think like a consumer; think about your product or line of products and any special offerings you’re promoting. How would you go about your search as a consumer for the offerings overall and, when applicable, for each particular product or service offering.

Can you segment your target audience – maybe some users would search for technical information, others for pricing and brand.

Localize your keywords if your site is targeting other regions or countries. It’s resume in the U.S. and curriculum vitae in the UK.

Organizing your keywords

Start with your root word and add variations, descriptions, and other related words. To keep track of this process, set up a Permutation Matrix, as illustrated in the SEO Warrior by O’Reilly.

A keyword permutation matrix begins with a column for root word, a column for variations on the word, and a column for descriptions. Your root words may be auto, vehicle, and automobile — dealer and dealership.

These words can then be mixed with with modifiers across the matrix, adding such descriptions as “award winning dealership” or “award winning car,” “low mileage automobile,” or “sporty car.”

Also columns within this matrix should be specific to the business offerings. These columns would be about the made, model, and type of car (staying with the above car examples).

Other tools to use

Use your thesaurus! Some have Microsoft Word which has a good keyword research tool according to SEO Warrior. I also use Merriam-Webster dictionary (and don’t be distracted by the word games, or do!).

Use the Google Keyword tool. Use the one through AdWords even if not planning a PPC campaign and by doing so you’ll also get an idea of competition for your keywords — also you can find out how much per click it would cost to use the keywords, which is another measure of popularity and competition for a keyword.

Choosing your keywords is an ongoing process

Test, analyze results, tweak, start again.

Keywords and anchor text go hand in hand

Once you choose your keywords use them within your compelling, appealing, to-the-point content; and place the most important items with keywords “above the fold,” or what users are likely to see without scrolling down on your website.

Bold your keywords and use keywords, as appropriate, for cross linking and inbound links.

Cross links are linking important terms or keywords within your website, and Inbound links are those links coming back to your site from other websites. When you have control over them, like in a directory listing, make sure the inbound links use the keyword within the anchor text.

Caveat: Do not stuff your content with keywords; keyword stuffing will be detected by web crawlers and could cause your site to be blocked from search results!

Here is a start on how keywords will boost your S.E.O. Some principles change as algorithms change, and as web crawlers become smarter at scanning your site.

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Molding my "Approach to Art and the Written Word" by observing color and following light, form, and time. Always learning new ways of working and interacting within local and online communities. Taking in the sights and sounds and making notes.