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Keyword research is a vitally important part of your website’s marketing, whether you are running pay-per-click (PPC) ads, optimizing your website, or launching an off-page SEO campaign. In fact, proper keyword research should be the foundation on which you build all of your marketing and search engine optimization strategies. Identifying the right keywords for your website has a tremendous amount of power — it can be the foundational step that helps you to succeed online beyond your wildest expectations, or it can be the first step on the road to your online business’s demise.

Why keyword research is important

The greatest power that keyword research holds is in its ability to help you shape, or control, your website’s visitors. By developing your marketing strategies and SEO campaigns based on proper keyword research, you are bridging the gap between those who are looking for whatever it is that your website offers, and your website itself.

As an example, let’s say that you are a website designer, and you create custom-built websites for your customers. Many somewhat-SEO-savvy individuals automatically think that ‘web design’ would be a great keyword phrase to target in this situation. After all, it’s hugely popular — tens of thousands of other websites are targeting the keyword phrase, so the natural association, for some, is to assume that it’s a good keyphrase to optimize for.

However, there are a couple of downfalls here. First and foremost, the phrase ‘web design’ is so popular that it would be nearly impossible for the average website owner to achieve decent rankings for that keyphrase. Secondly, and arguably more important than the first point — by targeting the phrase ‘web design’, you’re not really connecting with your target audience.

By targeting a general term for your SEO and marketing campaigns, you’re going to inadvertently pick up highly untargeted visitors, that is, if you manage to grab any sort of placement for a general keyword. Using our example above, by targeting ‘web design’, you are also going to receive traffic for, “how to start a web design company”, “web design ideas”, “flash web design templates”, and so forth. In your situation, these types of visitors are not likely to be of any benefit to you.

However, when you apply a bit of keyword research to your plan, whether you use free keyword research tools, or you subscribe to a keyword research service, you can narrow your focus and pre-qualify your visitors before they land on your website.

Improve user targeting with long-tail keywords

If you’ve been toying with the idea of keyword research for any amount of time, you’ve likely come across the term, “long-tail keywords”. Long-tail keywords are simply an expanded version of a general keyphrase. For instance, a website designer looking to narrow their focus for their SEO and marketing campaigns may focus on ‘small business web design’, ‘web design [and] marketing’, or ‘Chicago website design’ as their primary keywords, depending on their business.

Not only will these pseudo long-tail keyword phrases be much easier to rank for in search engines, these keyphrases will convert into paying customers phenomenally better than the general terms would. While this is very important in your SEO campaigns, this is even more important in your pay-per-click campaigns where every visitor to your website is another few dollars out of your pocket, at least with website-design related keywords.

It doesn’t matter if you’re using free keyword research tools, software, or you’re hiring somebody to perform your keyword research for you — you should always start your SEO and marketing campaigns with comprehensive keyword research. Not only will you find it easier to achieve first-page listings for long-tail keywords, you’ll be connecting with your target audience, and that’s one sure-fire way to have an extremely successful, and profitable, online business

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