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Now and then, some ingredient of online marketing transfixes me and I must have the answers. All of them. Immediately. I’m obsessive that way. I research who the authorities are, buy books, subscribe to feeds, opt-into email, and go absolutely Googleptic for a spell.

My latest fixation is keywords. Keywords, keywords, keywords, keywords. (There, we got that keyword stuffing thing out of the way fast.) Of course, I know what they are and why they’re important (check out that link if you don’t), but I don’t know everything there is to know about mastering the use of keywords for search. So I thought I’d slay that beast.


My search for keywords wisdom began with a search.

I put “best keywords” in Google. Brilliant, I know.  After the SERP (search engine results page) offered the Google AdWords Keyword Tool in its top spot, the page pointed to some strong stuff. (This keywords thing is amazingly effective.)

“6 Free Tools to Get the Best Keywords for Your Site” was a helpful article that pointed out some weapons you’ll want in your arsenal including Wordtracker and the SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool.

A link to served up an interesting tool, which reports the keywords that are most often used on your site—or any site. And at this site’s landing page were many other SEO tools. I understood a few of them and tinkered a tad.

Content Marketing Institute’s “How Your Customers Can Be Your Best Keyword,” by content strategist Ahava Leibtag summarizes some of Marcus Sheridan’s big keywords-focused ideas for generating traffic with your blog.

The last link on the SERP page one was a Google+ entry by Kristi Hines, where she pointed to a very information-packed guide to keyword research she wrote for KISSmetrics. Kristi’s how-to articles are always as powerful as they are practical, so I give this one a blue and white thumbs up.

I read several e-guides and tip sheets.

My dive got deeper. And as is usually the case with my SEO research, more reading really didn’t deliver more clarity (so you’re not alone). That said, though I didn’t discover gold, I’ll toss a few nuggets at you that seem sensible.

  • Going after keywords you already rank for is a prudent strategy.
  • Wise choices consider traffic volume, the competition level and the potential for conversion.
  • Conversion-ready keywords (for instance, “buy” or “hire”) up your chances for snagging a sale.
  • Paid search is a smart way to put keywords to the test before making long-term commitments.
  • Your money keywords are going to be 2 to 5-word phrases.
  • Google Insights is a great tool for identifying trends, finding where and when searches spike, and filtering out terms that might dilute your findings.
  • Get outside your own head and remind yourself to think like your customer.
  • Don’t obsess over keyword density, keyword frequency and keyword prominence. They’re simply not that important.

I put out an alert.

Google Alerts: heard of this? I mention it from time to time to clients and invariably learn the casual, or even business-oriented user of web services tends not to know about it.

Google Alerts are email updates you subscribe to for anything keyword-based. It’s like the clipping services us marketing folks used to subscribe to in the pre-Internet era. If there’s news circulating about a subject, your company, competitor, industry, celebrity, event, team or you name it, it takes you all of 10 seconds or so to tell the Google Gods what you want to know, what forms of media you’d like to know about, how often you care to receive alerts and where you’d like them delivered.

Handy, eh? I propose you think of it a keyword research tool and put it to work. In doing so, you’ll make all kinds of discoveries you never expected. You’ll find new ideas, alternative angles, sources, sites, and insights you never saw coming.

For instance, as a website copywriter, online marketer and content marketing consultant, I was fishing for keyword ideas where these areas might overlap in keywords concepts that would lead interested prospects to my inbox. In response to a couple of stabs I had at it, Google’s Keyword Tool revealed what looked to be a promising keyword where search volume was reasonably high and competition was attractively low: “copy content.”

I went to, entered my criteria, and immediately received results that reminded me search engines and the human mind don’t always think alike. As it turns out, almost all hits for “copy content” have nothing to do with what I do, copywriting, and everything to do with what I abhor, plagiarism. “Copy content,” it seems, is what people search for when they want to copy content. My bad. Bad keywords. Bad thing to do, too. Good thing I checked.

I spoke to a professional SEO.

Conveniently, I have a new client whose current focus is increasing his Alexa ranking, which in a nutshell, is a measure of your website’s traffic. Alexa computes the reach and number of page views and attaches a value to the calculation.

In examining his challenge, I looked into the data his Google Analytics account collected the past 5 months. I found he generates a fairly good amount of traffic and the number is growing at a healthy clip. However, his bounce rate (people who visited the site, but didn’t click anything) was alarmingly high. And, as you might imagine, based on the metric I just alluded to, the site’s “duration per visit” was bad, to say the least.

So I asked my associate and confidant at Noxster SEO Company, for his take. Mucho pronto, he said, “It all traces to not getting relevant traffic for his industry.” So simple. So on the money.

Being the responsible journalist I am, I did some further research on this. I’ll spare you the details and quote you this insight from

Quality content and quality links should be the linchpins of your SEO strategy. They can be challenging to develop and maintain but should pay dividends in the long run.”

Relevance. Quality content. Quality links. What’s this seeker of the great secret to conclude?

The real key to using keywords is making your keywords count.

I understand if all that wordplay and alliteration sent you spinning. To be clear, in coming through on the promise I made in this article’s headline, what I want to get across is this:

Your best keywords are (and always will be) the ones for which you are able to offer real knowledge.

That’s about it. Secrets can be surprisingly simple.

No search, no amount of number crunching, magic tool, Google Alert, e-guide, e-book, e-mail, e-ticket, or all-knowing e-vangelist of SEO is going to give you the best keywords. The best keywords to USE (I said USE, not CHOOSE) are the phrases you can write about, talk about, and establish authority on—today and everyday. Because what really boosts your SEO is authority.

So what I want you, me and all us seekers to see is: you need not search for the secret to using the best keywords for search. There’s nothing to search for. When the cameraman zooms in for your close-up, if you’re blabbering away at keywords outside of your area of expertise, your shifty eyes will give you away in an instant.

Welcome to the information age. Your journey may start with keywords, but when you find what you seek, it’s because you trust the source.