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SEO Tips: Choosing Relevant Keywords

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.

How do you choose the best keywords to optimize search engine results?

How do you choose the best keywords to optimize search engine results?

Keeping up With Google

Google Analytics has begun encrypting keyword data for websites (Search Engine Watch). What this means is that keyword data will not be passed along to website owners. The good news is that websites will be less tempted to stuff their articles and content with keywords, giving more favor to sites that organically include them. The bad news is that website owners will have a more difficult time understanding what brings visitors to their sites. It's akin to batting at a piñata while blindfolded and hoping for some traffic candy to fall out!

Additionally, Google unveiled its "Hummingbird" search algorithm ( This was more than just another update; it's a whole new paradigm. What Hummingbird does is evaluate keywords in context. This is a challenging technological feat since the algorithm must interpret intent and content! Obviously, Google is trying to weed out poor-quality sites and give more credence to those that have genuinely relevant content. This is very good news for quality content producers!

But the fact remains that both marketers and writers will need to still include relevant keywords to their topics and audiences to even hope to be found in any search algorithm. Here are some SEO tips to help choose keywords, regardless of what is going on in the world of online search.

Getting Inside Your Customers' Heads

As noted in the featured case study, selecting the wrong keywords can balloon expenses without desired results. So how can writers and business owners pick the best ones? Crawling into customers' heads can help understand their motivations behind what they type into the Google or other search engine browser bar.

The first step is to go to Google AdWords Keyword Planner (formerly known as the Keyword Tool) if you have a Google AdWords account. Or you could use another free search traffic tool, such as (if you don't have an AdWords account).

Let's take a very broad term such as writing help. Who might be entering that term into a browser bar?

  • Writers who are struggling with their own writing.
  • Businesses who might be looking to hire writers.
  • College students that are taking rhetoric or who are writing papers and reports.

Talk about different motivations! Writers want to perfect their craft. Businesses want to buy. College students just want to get through the semester with an acceptable grade. Here are some alternative, narrower terms that might be more appropriate for each market:

  • Writers: creative writing exercises
  • Businesses: content writing services
  • College Students: research paper help

Remember to think about the problem that is running through a person's mind when they type a term into the browser bar. Often when people type in a term that's too broad, they'll get a lot of search results and many won't be relevant. That will likely prompt them to be a little more specific about their issue on a second try. Those second tries are the ones to attract.

Tale of Two T Shirts: An SEO Case Study

As a promotional products distributor, my specialty niche markets are USA and union-made products. I have a special website, USA and, just for them.

One of the primary product categories this market looks for is union-made T-shirts with logos printed on them. To help promote that my company carried them, I decided to use Google AdWords.

Now, the big question: What keywords to use? So I used Google's Keyword Tool (which is now Keyword Planner) to find some relevant terms. I thought terms along the lines of "union T-shirts" would work. Technically, they do... almost too well.

After adding these terms to my ads, my Google AdWords traffic—and expense—went sky-high! Unfortunately, sales did not grow along with traffic. Why? I sell printed T-shirts to unions, associations, and businesses. People who were typing in terms such as "union T-shirts" were consumers looking for a union version of Land's End! They were submitting orders for one or two shirts. Or quickly visited and bounced out of my site. Ack! That is not my market.

So then I refined my selected AdWords keywords to terms that included references to printing and logos. My traffic plummeted. But so did my AdWords expense and the hassle of responding to inappropriate inquiries.

Is There Enough Search Traffic?

Once several potential keywords that are relevant to the target market are identified, then it's time to select those that have the best chance of being typed into the browser bar by prospective customers or readers.

Your keyword research using either Google AdWords or a free research tool (such as shows the amount of monthly Internet search traffic that each term generates. Ideally, it would be good to target those choices that have a couple of thousand hits per month. However, on some long tail keywords and markets, a few hundred might be a stellar result!

For Internet advertising or online writing, there are two strategies for utilizing this keyword data:

  • Internet Advertising. Select only the most relevant potential keywords since selecting broader terms will result in huge amounts of irrelevant—and expensive!—traffic clicking on those Pay Per Click (PPC) ads.
  • Online Writing. Integrate as many relevant terms into the post or article as possible without overdoing it. Caution must be exercised so that these terms fit naturally into the text, especially with Google's increasingly more sophisticated algorithms which will be looking at both keywords and context.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 16, 2015:

You're so right, Gene! Knowing enough about the people you want to reach is the key to making web marketing (or any sales effort for that matter) work. And it's tough skill to teach. Truly, it best comes by being immersed into the culture of the community you want to reach. That takes too much time for some web wizards or marketers looking for shortcuts to success. Thanks for adding your experience to the conversation! Have a great week ahead!

Gene Poschman from San Francisco Bay Area on February 15, 2015:

A great article. I worked in web site development training and with a number of brick and mortar business that wanted to get onto the internet.

B&M had the advantage that they already relationships with vendors and purchasing power. The next issue was to determine what people would use to search for the products they would use. From day one I taught that key search words and phrases must be repetitious, but they must also logically fall within content to be readable and useful. A difficult battle at least.

When training web consultants, the issue was convincing them that they needed to learn enough about their clients business to ask intelligent questions.

It is no wonder I prefer writing detective stories from the 1930s now.

Gene Poschman

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 25, 2014:

Hello rajan jolly! Once you learn how to think about keywords, it'll be hard to go back to not including them as part of your writing plan. That's what happened for me. But in reading many of your hubs over time, it looks like you have a pretty good handle on your topics and the keywords surrounding them already. Thank you, as always, for your kind support! Have a lovely weekend!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 25, 2014:

This is an excellent article Heidi and one that has taught me how to search for keywords and related terms. Thanks.

Voted up, useful and shared.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on December 17, 2013:

Hello Pro-Hubber! Glad you enjoyed the hub. SEO is a constantly changing landscape, but focusing on keywords will still be important no matter what. Have a great day!

Pro-Hubber from Florida on December 17, 2013:

very interesting and informative hub. thank you for sharing

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 17, 2013:

Hi bevel2! Thanks for stopping by. Glad you found it helpful. Have a great day!

bevel2 on October 16, 2013:

Awesome tips and thanks for the share.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 16, 2013:

Hi Elizabeth/epbooks! Glad you found the info helpful. SEO is a constant changing landscape and it's tough to keep up with it. But well chosen keywords will always be helpful for gaining traffic. Good luck as you begin working with it!

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on October 16, 2013:

This came at the right time as I'm trying to figure out all this ado about SEO so I'm happy to learn about it from you. Thanks for this information. I believe I do have google ad words- just gotta go find that password now! Voting up and sharing!!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 15, 2013:

Hello alancaster149! Agreed, for fiction and more creative works, keywords are tough territory. I'm hoping that as Google's algorithms get more and more sophisticated, they'll be able to have a whole new way to direct traffic to all the talented creatives, especially here on HP. Have a lovely week!

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 15, 2013:

Interesting and relevant, probably a great help for Hubbers. I sometimes have to scratch my noddle to think of apt summaries of my works. Coming up with titles that Hubpage editors don't think too irrelevant is a test of the grey matter as well.

Unfortunately the site owners here don't have a niche for Historical themes, so I have to look up and down the available listings for an 'ersatz' solution. I've been pulled up about my choice but no substitute idea is ever offered, so 'Political and Social' has to do for the time being. On my own 'Northworld' site I've come up with some cryptic solutions to headings that don't confine the writer - i.e., me - or squeeze me into a literal straitjacket.

Finding intriguing titles and subtitles for books is another exercise in relevance vs creativity

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 15, 2013:

Howdy, billybuc! Thanks for the kind comments. SEO is a never ending project because the rules keep changing. :( But being aware of things people are searching for online can be an online writer's best friend... always. Have a lovely day!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 15, 2013:

Valuable information for the keyword crowd. Learn this lesson and several like it and success is at least a possibility online. Well done and thorough as always, Heidi!