The key to a successful online presence and an effective search engine optimisation strategy is by having relevant keywords. Very simply put the best keywords are those that most accurately reflect the words and phrases that your online visitors will use to search online for your website.

By creating your own list of relevant keywords you’ll find it easier to tap into your pool of online customers. You’re likely to find that your website traffic will increase and it will be far more targeted and therefore they will be far more likely to want to engage in a relationship with your business.


Typically keywords are words and phrases that people type into search engines to find goods, services and information. Much research tells us that most people when searching use more than one word to find something on the internet, and that they will keep refining their words until they come across a page of search engine results that gives a list of website links that satisfies what they’re looking for. If this is the way that you search online it is more than likely that your customers are using this very same process too.


Once you have a good list, your keywords will contribute to your websites search engine optimisation and ultimately help shape your online strategy. There doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast rule about how many keywords that you should have but I normally suggest to clients that a good start is to create a 20-30. Your keywords can then be used to help build your website’s text copy, provide relevant search engine optimisation tags within your website’s code, help to develop social networking content like blogging, tweets and other online commentary.

Search Engine Optimisation

Search engines use keywords from your website text content and specially tagged code to establish a ‘theme’ that helps it to rank each page of your website. Amongst other indicators, the strength of your ‘theme’ combined with relevant and credible back links leading back to your site will establish your rank within the search engines for your keywords. Most often a web designer/developer would implement the search engine specific tags within the site’s code that is unless your website’s content management facility allows you access.

You can see any website’s meta-tags by clicking on the View or Page menu’s in your browser then selecting the option that says, ‘source’ or ‘page source’. The code will open in your text editor.

The tags to watch out for are:

Title tag: looks like this <title>words in here</title> Currently the most important of the in-code optimisation tags. The title tag is revealed in the very top blue bar of your internet browser. Typically organisations use this field to simply state their business name. Ideally place 2-3 of your most important keywords/keyphrases here providing they are relevant to the information displayed on that page.

Meta-tags: These are placed within the code of your website. The meta-tag ‘keywords’ will simply list the keywords relevant to the individual webpage they are on and the meta-tag ‘description’ will retain a 1-2 sentence statement about your business and the content of the individual page that utilises 2-3 of your keywords. The search engines prefer that the description is informative and not hard-sell.

Alt tags and link ‘titles’: You’ll know if a webpage has these enabled by running your mouse over any on-page links, menu links or images and having a small yellow rectangular box appear with text inside. Not only do these help with search engine optimisation by listing relevant keyword(s) but provide sensible non-visual navigation cues for website accessibility.

H1 tags and Bolding: As well as making it easier for visitors to digest chunks of text on your website, using headers and bolding of words helps the search engines to determine better the ‘theme’ of your page and therefore helps with your search engine rankings. H1 to H6 are simply six standard ‘codes’ that web designers/developers will use to create section and paragraph headings.

Text Content: Your list of keywords will be crucial in helping you create the text copy for each of your webpages. As well as providing useful information to visitors the search engines will read the text on your website and look for any similar keywords that are used frequently in a natural and organic way. Search engines are very clever in recognising when a website has simply listed all their keywords over and over again solely for cheating the optimisation process and they will either ignore it completely or black list the page from their results.

Online presence outside of your website

Your keywords can also help better your online presence outside of your website. Here I’m talking in terms of social media and social networking. For example, if you’re registered with LinkedIn, the online business networking directory your profile should be littered with your main keywords. If you have a business related blog or use a micro-blogging tool like Twitter, your list of keywords can help shape your blog topics. Or if you say use Facebook for business, again these have opportunity for relevant keyword placement, and providing all of these social media sites link back to your own website, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much they can help with your search engine rankings.


Getting together a list of keywords isn’t difficult but to be successful does require a small amount of time spent researching and refining the words. Let’s take for example a local website that sells DIY hardware.

I have found that typically when first asked to provide a list of keywords a business will send a list of between 10-15 singular words that they feel are relevant to their business. In this case, I may have received a list that said ‘hammers, nails, fences, paint, screws, timber, tools, drills, lights, bulbs, bathrooms’.

Imagine for a minute if someone in a search engine simply types ‘nails‘ what kind of website is likely to be thrown up in the results. A quick search reveals mostly website’s about fingernails, nail varnish and nail care. Nothing at all on the first page about fencing or building nails. And let’s face it, the majority of us won’t go past the first page of search results before refining our search.

So immediately we can see that unless you’re an corporate multi-national who’s very image is ‘nails’ or your business operates in a very unusual and niche industry, then your website isn’t going to do well with singular words.

The first step in creating your keywords is to make a generic list, then think about the journey that someone will take to find your business online – a journey that can often take days of online research as opposed to impulsive offline purchasing.

Gary Reid from Search Works, (taken from a recent .net article) says that the first type of search is called ‘navigational’ where a search query will include a brand name, a web address or a company name. The second type of search is called ‘informational’ where highly generic phrases will be used for example ‘fence palings’ or ‘concrete nails’.  And the final leg of the journey is called a ‘transactional’ search where typically 3-5 word phrases are used to really narrow down the search, for instance, ‘white porcelain door handles’ or ‘brand model colour size location’.  The key is to have a list of keywords that represent each stage of this journey and that are specific to each page of your website. It’s worth noting that the search engines when evaluating your webpages don’t like to see too much repetition.

Once you have a list the next step is to ask friends, family and customers for their input. There is no harm in asking customers how they found you or what they might do to search for you online (if they didn’t know your business name).  More often than not when I help customers with this part of their keyword creation, they find that outsiders to their business will use different words to the jargon that they use on a daily basis. So it is really important to make sure that you’re using the words that your customers would use and not simply what you assume.

The next step is to take this bigger list and try these out in a search engine to see what type of results that you get.  This is excellent for many reasons, you’ll instantly see what works and what doesn’t as the results will either show your type of business or not. Once you start finding keywords that work, you’re likely to find your online competitors and can then look at their websites and see what keywords that they’re using by looking at all the optimisation factors as listed above.

Again you can see any website’s meta-tags by clicking on the View or Page menu’s in your browser then selecting the option that says, ‘source’ or ‘page source’.

Now that you have a pretty good list, you can also make use of many online tools to check your keywords for popularity and frequency of use and for suggestions as to alternative but useful keywords that you may not have come across. For example:





Set about having all the search engine optimisation tips above implemented. Look at your website content – does it need an overhaul, do the words need rewriting? Have your web designer/developer add or refresh the ‘tags’ that need improving if you’re unable to. Look at ways you can expand your web presence past your website through social networking alternatives and use your keywords to help with the content of these. Take time to review your list once in a while, keep checking that they’re relevant to your business and that they’re working for you.

Have Google Analytics installed on your website, it’s an excellent tool and will provide some feedback on keywords used to find your site and it’s FREE.

As Gary Reid said, ‘blindly optimising for a set of keywords is a quick way to waste time and money’. Certainly in today’s economy making use of inexpensive marketing techniques is crucial and having smart keywords will definitely go some way in helping to avoid wasting time and money. Particularly for small businesses it will help in quickly targeting your online marketing efforts so those very important customers who are out there really searching for you and your business will find you and not your competitors.