There are so many steps and techniques to search engine optimization, it’s helpful to remember the key step that must be done at the start of your efforts. It’s called keyword research (or keyword analysis).
So what is it?
It is the process of narrowing down and selecting those phrases that you want to rank well for in the search engines. This is a tactical process. If done correctly, you will have a short list of valuable phrases that lots of people are searching on but also have lower levels of competition (that is, the amount of websites that are also “chasing after” those phrases). The problem is many sites do SEO without properly conducting keyword research first. They in fact are going after phrases that have unknown value. This is a critical mistake.
So how do you do it?
The first step is to brainstorm a list of phrases you and your cohorts feel are the best ones to target. Ask coworkers, friends, family… basically anyone you can watch let phrases they would search on to get to your company website.
Next, take this list and use a keyword analysis tool (my two favorites are www.wordtracker.com and www.keyworddiscovery.com). Take a few hours to explore the tool you decide upon. Tools like these are subscription-based, so plan on plunking down between $75 to $100 for a month of usage. For a less precise but free option, you can always use Google’s Keyword Analysis Tool. Crunching your initial list through tools like these will allow you to distill your list down to 10 or 15 very powerful phrases to target.
Finally, you take your list and begin placing the chosen phrases throughout your site (in the meta-tags, URL strings, headings, contents, and so on). When done carefully, you will have the firm SEO foundation you need. The last thing you want to do with SEO is pick phrases that no one in your target audience is searching on!