Ease the Brain-Strain of Keyword Lists

Last week, we talked about the importance of keywords and where to use them on your website to beef up your search engine optimization. Now we’ll share how to generate keyword lists without overheating the thing between your ears (for you literal readers, that would be your brain).

If you think of your keyword list as a Christmas list, you can see how specific words make a difference. Maybe this year, you want an "iPad 3", but in your anxious haste, you put "tablet" on your list. You might receive an Android, Blackberry or Kindle tablet (and hopefully not a smooth flat slab of stone suitable for carving spiritual rules). Same thing with search, “iPad 3” is a specific tablet computer, but it might not appear in a search for just “tablet”.

That’s a simple example of what you have to think about when brainstorming your keyword lists. Obviously you want to select keywords that will drive traffic to your site. For this reason, keyword quality is more important than quantity, so use these 3 tips to create a high-quality keyword list for your business:

1. Begin with the end in mind (What do you want people to find?) - If you are creating a list for your own business, then you're one step ahead of the game. You are the expert and know the key benefits and details of your offering. Beware, though, that you may know your business too well, so avoid slang or jargon that your prospects might not use for searching.

If you are working on a keyword list for a client, learn as much as you can about the company, the industry, and their customers. Online resources such as Google, Bing, Linkedin, blogs, and message boards can help you in your research, but your client should be number one! View your client's webpage! This is where their products and offerings are on display, so make sure that the keyword list is in sync with their website.

2. Make up imaginary people (Who are you targeting?) - We sometimes define “personas” of potential visitors. These are usually built around how they might use our product, but can also be based on other factors like geography or language. For example, if we are selling shoes online, we may have a persona called “The Pro Athlete”, who might have specific desired shoe characteristics, and another persona called “Weekend Warrior” who wants high value for reasonable price. Whether you use personas or not, the key thing is to think like your customer!

3. Read their minds (How will prospects search for you?) - What will they type into the search box? Customers think about your business differently than you do. To help ease brain-strain, we suggest a couple of things. One is to use an online thesaurus to show you words that you might not have used. We also used to recommend using Google Sets which could quickly generate large lists of related keywords, but Google “retired” it last year. As an alternative to Google Sets, you can use a Google Docs spreadsheet to do what Google Sets used to do (see video).

Categories are helpful to start with. Using the shoe example, you might start with the following categories: Sandals, Sports Shoes, Boots etc. Then you can drill down to include types and brands. For the Sports Shoes section we could have running shoes, walking shoes, golf shoes, and wrestling shoes.

As we noted in our post about blog writing tips, “check the periphery" of your customers’ experience for other keywords. The Weekend Warrior may search for blister guards or an ice pack after a hike or run. Make sure to include these periphery keywords as they can drive traffic.

Getting the right keyword combinations takes some time and experience, but you have to start somewhere. Next week, we’ll take a look at some keyword research tools that provide even more powerful ways to choose the best keywords for your site. Until then, please share your tricks and tips for creating keyword lists. We look forward to hearing from you!