How to Pick Keywords to Target for SEO

The first step in search engine optimization is deciding which keywords to optimise your site for. Keywords are what users type into the search box for their search query. Three primary criteria go into selecting the right keywords to optimize your website: relevance, volume, and difficulty.


You want to pick keywords related to your business. When crafting your list of possible keywords, it is best to think from the prospect's perspective. Try to think about what keywords a prospect looking for your product or service is likely to type into Google. Come up with many different variations.

Estimated Search Volume

Even if you get the number one spot in the Google search results for a keyword, it doesn't guarantee you're going to get lots of visitors to your website. The amount of traffic you will drive to your website is dependent on how many people search on that keyword. To pick great keywords, you need to have a sense for the approximate number of times users search for that word in Google. Check the resources section at the end of the book for information on tools you can use to help with determining search volume for keywords.


This is a measure of how hard it will be to rank for the keyword, based on the strength of the competition and your own website's authority. Ranking well in Google is a competition. Of the thousands of web pages trying to rank for a given keyword, only 10 can make it to the front page. So, if you have a new website and are trying to break in to the top 10, you'll have to displace someone else. For some keywords, this is relatively easy to do, if the existing top 10 are relatively weak. For competitive keywords, the strength of the competition may be high, and ranking on the first page may be very difficult.

Its all a balance

Picking the best keywords is an exercise in balancing these three factors: relevance, search volume, and difficulty. You shouldn't just solve for one factor. For example, picking a relevant keyword that has very high search volume is not going to mean much if the difficulty is so high that you'll never be able to rank. Similarly, picking very easy words that have very weak competition is not going to generate much traffic if only a few people a month use that term to search.

Where to start

When picking your keywords, you should start with a list of relevant keywords for your business.Then, determine what the estimated volume is for those keywords and how much competition there is for that keyword. If you're just getting started, you should probably begin with keywords that have relatively low competition. If your website doesn't have much authority yet in the eyes of Google, you're unlikely to rank well for a highly competitive keyword. In addition, if you don't make it into the first page of the search results, you are not likely to get much traffic from those keywords. Choose keywords that have relatively low competition instead. Then, as you build authority for your web pages, and start ranking for these keywords, you can move up to higher volume keywords that have more competition. (If you need assistance with this then it may be worth enlisting the services of a Freelance SEO Consultant who can guide you through this and the rest of the search engine optimisation process.)

Think from the viewpoint of your potential customers

When coming up with your initial list of keyword candidates, it is important to think from the viewpoint of your potential customers. Don't just think about how you would describe your business, think about what users searching for your business might type into Google. For example, you might describe yourself as “interior design for businesses.” You'd then come up with several variations on interior design, and maybe even interior decoration (because users often confuse the two). However, perhaps some of your potential customers don't use the phrase “interior design.” Instead, they might use “office space design.” The key is to put yourself in the shoes of your potential customer. A very effective way to know how your customers might search for you is to watch them. If you have an existing website that gets traffic from Google, you can use analytics software to see what terms visitors are already using to get to your site. This doesn't work well if your site is poorly optimized and the only traffic you're getting from Google are people searching on your company name. In most cases, looking at this kind of data yields new insights into potential keywords that you can add to your list.

Using PPC for Better Data

If you have even a modest budget, you should consider launching a small PPC (pay-per-click) advertising campaign to determine what your best keywords might be. This is particularly useful if you are just getting started and don't know which keywords will work. When you run a PPC campaign, you can pick a set of keywords and begin generating traffic almost immediately. Often, with SEO, it can take weeks or months before you rank well enough for certain keywords to see any traffic. Further, you can channel the traffic to a specific web page, such as a landing page (discussed later). This way, you can measure what the conversion rate is for traffic from various keywords. The benefit of getting this conversion data is that you can make even better decisions as to which keywords to pick. Remember, the purpose of inbound marketing is not just to get more traffic to your website, but to convert more of that traffic into qualified leads and customers.

SEO Consultant

This article was written by Gaz Hall, a UK based SEO Consultant on 4th April 2020.

Gaz has 20 years experience working on SEO projects large and small, locally and globally across a range of sectors.

If you need any SEO advice or would like him to look at your next project then get in touch to arrange a free consultation.