Before you can start optimizing your site for the search engines, you must first know which terms you want to target. A good start would be to choose 3 or 4 keywords you would like your website to rank well for. With these keywords in your mind you can then set a goal to rank in the top 10 results on Google for each of them (we refer to Google because if you can rank well there, you'll rank well on the other search engines). These keywords can be either broad or specific, but you'll want to study our list of pros and cons of each before choosing.
A broad keyword is one that many people search for, because they may only have a vague idea of what they're looking for. Broad keywords tend to be very short and aren't very specific (e.g. "shoes" or "sports"). These keywords are difficult to rank #1 for because so many other websites might have an article or two that mention shoes. However, if you can rank well for a broad keyword, you will be receiving a great deal of traffic.
Summary: Hard to rank for, but worth it in the long run. We recommend that beginners only choose a broad keyword if their industries are not very competitive.
A specific keyword is something that contains many adjectives or words that make the search very targeted. The people doing these types of searches know exactly what they want (e.g. "used black high heel shoes"). These keywords are much less competitive and are easier to rank for on search engines. The downside is that they receive a great deal less volume of searches per month. In terms of traffic, you will need to have several #1 rankings for specific keywords to equal one #1 ranking broad keyword.
Summary: Easier to rank for and it's highly targeted traffic. The only downside is that the number of visitors you will receive is relatively low.
unique or branded keywords
These are the words that are specific to only your company. They are one of the most easiest ways to get traffic. However, some companies will release a new product, with a unique name, and then forget to optimize for that keyword on their website. Their SEO savvy competitors can then pick up the slack and take over the top rankings for these terms. If you have a popular brand or product, make sure that you have optimized for these freebie keywords.
keyword research tools
Keyword research tools are 2 parts voodoo magic and 1 part hard statistic. This is partly due to Google not releasing actual numbers and partly due to overeager SEO Tool developers trying to sell their products. Because there is such a sizable uncertainty in all keyword research tools, it is best to use as many different sources as you can,. Even with multiple sources, you should only take the information you gather as a recommendation, rather than a fact.
Yahoo has been releasing their keyword search information for years, and many tools are based off of this specific data. We've collected a wide variety of helpful tools that will give you a general idea of which keywords you should target when making and optimizing your websites.
picking a short list
To put the optimizing tactics that we teach to good use, we recommend that you try to target no more than 2 or 3 keyword phrases per page. A common mistake by many SEO beginners is to stuff 500 different keywords on one page and wait for the #1 rankings to roll in. That might have worked 10 years ago, but the algorithms that search engines use these days are much more sophisticated and are not tricked by this. That's why it's best to start small, and be concise with the keywords that you choose. New sites in particular will find it nearly impossible to rank well for many keyword phrases upon first starting out.