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Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I hate when people type their e-mails in all capital letters. It's hard to read, and shows little regard for the laws of English punctuation. Just call it a pet peeve of mine, as a former reporter and copy editor.

But, I decided to cross my own disdain for this practice and use all caps in this headline. Why? Because regardless of all the hype over how many and what types of incoming links a site needs to perform on the major search engines, success is first and foremost determined by identifying the right keywords and optimizing the web site for them.

Case in point: We recently worked with a client that runs an established company, a brand leader in its industry. As part of our research into the "Performance Keywords" by which this site would best drive traffic, we asked the client for their list of keywords. We do this to establish a baseline from which we do our research, and usually the client will get some of it right. They will be able to identify some of the money words by which Internet users are finding their site.

Usually, however, by the end of our research, we will have found a number of keywords they didn't give us that perform just as well or better than ones they are using. In this particular case, more than half of our recommended terms were ones they hadn't provided and that were not being used on their site. The result is that the site is not being easily found by many Internet users searching for sites like theirs.

Depending on the strength of the keyword, that can mean the difference in traffic of tens of thousands of visitors. Carry it through and it also means lost opportunity for sales.

Fortunately, the client expected as much. They'd been managing the site themselves for some time and had reached a point where they felt it was time to bring in the professionals in order to maximize the value of the site.

But, for many businesses, ego gets in the way of having the most effective web site. The client feels "they know their business, they know their customers" so they do their own interpretation of optimization and then wonder why it didn't work.

There are lots of things that can affect the success of a web site. Most people understand the relationship between search engine positioning and site traffic. But still too few realize the relationship between keyword selection and site traffic. Being No. 1 on a keyword that no one searches for might be good for the ego, but does nothing to drive sales.

Because no business likes to hear they lost potential business because the prospect couldn't find them, A SUCCESSFUL SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION PROGRAM ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS SHOULD START WITH A KEYWORD RESEARCH PROGRAM.


Read more about what's involved in a Keyword Research project.