Researching keywords for your website is integral to your internet marketing and SEO strategy and should provide you with: insight into popular search terms relevant to your brand/site; the ability to target valuable search traffic to your website; and an improved user experience by providing relevant content.
Some key metrics to investigate are:
Keyword popularity: This details monthly search volumes for each of your keywords, providing a great indicator of the size of the potential market.
Keyword competition: Analysis of the level of competition for your keywords. Generally the more competition there is, the harder it will be to perform for this keyword, both in terms of SEO and PPC (pay per click).
Trend analysis: Find out when the best time of year is for pushing a particular keyword. This is a simple and great way to help choose your content and budget your online ad spend.
Keyword targeting: Ensure your content pages are optimised for a chosen few keywords. The key here is to understand your objectives and therefore what words relevant visitors will use to find you. Sounds simple, but requires some thought!
The bad and the ugly
There are many techniques used to achieve high search results and the industry roughly splits these into two categories: Black Hat and White Hat.
Black Hat SEO refers the practice of deceiving the search engines to artificially boost your rankings. It's always been popular as a seemingly fast and easy way of achieving high results, not on the merit of your content but by hoodwinking the search engines into the belief that your content is relevant to that term.
The good news for users is that as soon as Black Hat techniques are devised, the search engines find ways of spotting them and penalising sites that use them.
Some examples of Black Hat techniques include:
Gateway pages: Creating highly optimised pages targeting a particular search term, only to redirect the user to a completely different web page. Most search engines consider this practice highly dishonest and penalise offenders accordingly.
Keyword stuffing: Overuse of keywords in an attempt to trick search engines into thinking your content is more relevant than it is.
BMW's death penalty
In 2006 Google delisted BMW from its index for breaching the search engine's terms and conditions by adopting Black Hat gateway pages to rank for the key phrase 'used car'. The gateway pages were optimised for the term but when a user clicked on the results they were redirected to BMW's regular German homepage. If you're interested, you can read more here.
This was a huge turning point, highlighting the dangers of Black Hat techniques and proving that it isn't just the small boys that can get penalised.
Top tip: if it sounds like Black Hat – or even a bit grey – avoid!