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Why are keywords so important to SEO? This blog explores some of the most important ways to uncover keywords that make your content more accessible. And I mean ‘content’ here in the widest possible sense, whether it be an article, a tweet, elearning, blog, video, or whatever. Strategic use of keywords will make your content easier to find.   

What are keywords?

Keywords are what your content is about. To be useful, keywords need to be accurate. They need to identify the main topics with words that are commonly used and readily understood. When you put your keywords into titles and intro paragraphs, you capture people’s interest (at least the right kinds of people), and you capture the interest of search engines, too.

Where do keywords come from?

Simply said, keywords are derived from the content.  Look at any content and you can usually, though not always, discover keywords by simply asking the question, “What is this about?”

Take, for example our Business Intelligence page. Ask yourself, “What is this page about?” and you might come up with different answers like,
•    It’s about business intelligence software
•    It’s about SAP business intelligence software
•    It’s about SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence software

Each of these answers would be true, and together, we can discover critical keywords and phrases that would help identify the content. For example, ‘sap’, ‘business intelligence’, ‘software’, and ‘businessobjects’.

But we’re dealing with search engines, so we need to ask another question, “What keywords might people use to search for this content?”  Now the answer might be something different, “When they search for Business Intelligence content, most people search using the acronym ’BI’.” This would be a good reason to add ‘BI’ to our list of keywords but also cause us to wonder, “What other search terms might people use?”

Aligning keywords with search terms

The example above shows that while keywords belong to the content, search terms are related to people who use search engines. Our challenge becomes; how can we align our keywords with the search terms likely to be used to search for our content?
Among other tools, the SCN team sometimes use Google Insights for Search to look at the worldwide “Web Search Interest” of different search terms. 

For example, the following result compares the four search terms: ‘sap bi’, ‘sap business objects’, ‘sap business intelligence’, and ‘sap businessobjects’ and shows that people are far more likely to search using ‘sap bi’ than any of the other alternatives.

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On the other hand, when we look at the growth of interest in these search terms over the same period of time, we see another story: ‘sap business objects’ and ‘sap businessobjects’ are growing fastest relative to the rest.

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Now that we have some data, how should that affect our use of keywords? 

How to investigate keywords

•    Look at the content. Ask yourself, “What is this about?” If the content is well-written, you should be able to quickly identify most keywords. Web analytics tools like Google Analytics or Omniture can give you empirical data on what keywords people actually use to access your site.
•    Ask subject-matter experts. Authors, producers, and other content creators know their content, and are usually active in professional communities and organizations. Ask them about related terms and expressions that might be commonly used in the industry or profession.
•    Analyze other web pages and sites. Look at your competitor’s sites. Go to pages that rank ahead of yours in search results. What keywords are they using? Tools like KGen and SearchStatus can help you identify how they are using keywords.
•    Find out how people search for your topics.  Google has lots of empirical data and some nice tools that can show search terms that are related to a keyword. Use Google Insights for Search to compare the Web Search Interest index of various terms as we did above in the case of ‘business Intelligence’.

Tools for developing keywords

There are numerous tools for discovering, researching, and analyzing keywords. Here are a few:

•    KGen. This tool shows you keyword density for your pages or any other pages on the web. KGen uses a keyword cloud to depict how a crawler would see your page if it had eyes. Words (and hence, font sizes) are weighted according to word position and frequency of occurrence. This is a FireFox add-on.
•    SearchStatus by Quirk An easy way to view the HTML SEO metatags on a page. Find out how the top pages are using metatags such as ‘title’, ‘description’, and ‘keywords’ metatags. You can set “Don’t follow” to be “on” and see all the blocked links. This too is a FireFox add-on.
•    Google Trends Use this tool to compare usage of search terms over time.
•    Google Insights for Search Compare the “Web Search Interest” of different search terms.
•    Google Analytics can report the search terms that people use to access your pages.

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