How To Choose Best SEO Search Terms

Determining proper search terms (keywords and keyphrases) to focus on is critical to achieve the best possible search engine and directory rankings.

SEO vs. SEM
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) includes any web design techniques used to achieve the best possible “natural” or “organic” search engine results.  These are the regular (main) listings on each page of results.  Some SEO methods are incorporated during site development and some can be added at any time or on an ongoing basis (such as link building).  Most methods don’t cost a lot of money, but some require a considerable investment of time.  The time commitment will prove to be worthwhile as it is amortized over the life of the site at no financial cost.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) basically includes any techniques to produce traffic that cost money. Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is the best example.  These “paid listings” or “sponsored results” appear alongside or on top of organic results for the same terms.  PPC terms are often sold through auctions.  More general or popular terms (such as “dogs”) are more expensive to bid for than targeted or less popular ones (such as “poodles” or “german shepards”).

Another SEM technique is inclusion in paid directories, either general (such as Yahoo Directory for $299), regional (state or city-specific)  or industry-specific organizations.

SEM is online advertising and requires an ongoing budget.  You can start, stop, or make changes to campaigns at any time and improve your results through analysis of traffic and sales.  SEO does not produce such instantaneous results.  It can take as long as 4-8 weeks to see “natural” effects.  To “cover all bases” a combination of SEO and SEM is often employed.
Broad (generic) terms vs. Targeted (specific) terms
From Wikipedia.org: “Not all sites have identical goals for search optimization. Some sites are seeking any and all traffic, and may be optimized to rank highly for common search phrases. A broad search optimization strategy can work for a site that has broad interest, such as a periodical, a directory, or site that displays advertising with a CPM [cost per thousand impressions] revenue model.

In contrast, many businesses try to optimize their sites for large numbers of highly specific keywords that indicate readiness to buy. Overly broad search optimization can hinder marketing strategy by generating a large volume of low-quality inquiries that cost money to handle, yet result in little business. Focusing on desirable traffic generates better quality sales leads, resulting in more sales. Search engine optimization
can be very effective when used as part of a smart niche marketing strategy.”

In other words, “drill down” to your particular specialty within your broader category, similar to the structure of directories.  Concentrate on these more specific terms:
Apparel > Footwear > Athletic Shoes > Running Shoes > Nike
Travel > Vacation Packages > Adventure Trips > Safaris > Kenya Safaris
Health > Nutrition > Dietitians > Vegan Dietitians > Chicago Vegan Dietitians

A page for each search term?
Create distinct pages for each search term so that any individual page might rank highly enough to appear within the first 3 pages of directory or S.E. results, even if it is not the home page.  If you have several products or services, give each it’s own page where you can highlight the distinct terminology and characteristics.  When the differences are slight, consider writing a page or article on one of them where you simply replace one possible keyword for another.  For example, you may use the word “car” on one page and “auto” on another page.

Concentrate on your company’s strengths and dominate your niche!