About to start building/rebuilding that site? Stop right there! This blog is a must read before you do anything.

Building a site with SEO at its heart is really important and will save you a lot of money in the long term. Applying SEO elements or rejigging a site structure retrospectively is often more costly in the long run as you may have to move whole sections of your site, which is sometimes difficult to do.

OK, so now we have established it is important to think about SEO before, during and after the build. How do you pick the right keywords to focus on? Well, I am glad you asked…

Existing data

This is often the best place to start. Take a look in your Google analytics account and find out which terms people are using to find you. You will find this in the “Traffic Sources” section within the “Organic traffic” section. The only thing to note with analytics data (SEO specifically) is that it is a result of what you have on your site, i.e. you will not get any traffic to your site on the term ‘tasty cheese’ if you don’t have any content on your site about ‘tasty cheese’. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a market for that term, so don’t use analytics data in isolation. You need to use other data to help.

If you have run PPC accounts before, this is great data to use (assuming your PPC account is well set up!). PPC data is a result of the terms that you have chosen to put in your account and not ones that may be in your site content. You can use SQR’s (Search Query Reports) to find out which terms people actually use to find you.
Using PPC data to choose keywords for SEO Sleeping Giant Media
N.B. This is made up data.

What you can take from this data:

Impressions: how big the market is.
Average CPC: an idea of how competitive the market is on that term
Average Position: just sanity checks the CPC data (generally you pay more for higher positions so need to look at average CPC within the context of its position).

What’s great about this type of data is that you will also be able to see what the users do when they arrive on the site, so not only will you be able to gauge the size of the market based on the number of impressions on the account, you can also see if the terms are relevant to the users by looking at what they do when they get to the site, i.e. if you get 100 visitors on a search term that then instantly bounce off the site it is probably not that relevant. However, if you get ten visits on another term, all of whom stay on the site for two minutes and view eight pages, then this looks to be a more relevant term.
Using PPC data to see relevance of keywords for SEO

External data

Sometimes you don’t have existing data so you need a start point. Here are some tools to help:

– Keyword Tool

Within Google Adwords there are a number of tools that help you with selecting keywords. One has the clever name of “Keyword Tool” where you can put in some keywords and it gives you information on how much volume there is and how much competition there is. It will also help you think of other terms that could be used in the account.

– Google Trends

Google Trends is a great site to help you gauge what terms are hot and what are not. Ideally you want to find things that have an upward trend on them so you know that things will get better and better.

A few things to note about these tools:

– They don’t show you search volume on lower volume longer tail terms. Google will often say “not enough search volume to show graphs”. This again doesn’t mean it couldn’t be valuable to you as there could be ten or so per month. Now if you target 100 of these terms the overall volume may be really good.

– You can only see volume and competition. In order to make this research valuable you need to sanity check it from a customer’s perspective (as you should with anything!). I would suggest adding your own relevant score next to each keyword to help you refine it down.
Add relevance score to PPC data when picking SEO keywords

So hopefully you now have a place to start! If you have any questions please feel free to use the comments section below and we’ll get back to you.