Q and A: What keywords should I be optimizing for?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I’m not sure about keywords. Should the most used keywords be used to promote a website to the search engine, or least used words?


Great question Florence,

There is a great deal of confusion over how to go about selecting which keywords to optimise, and part of the confusion is because there is not really a “correct” answer.  The keywords to choose for optimisation will depend on what you are offering, what your goals are, the niche you are targeting, and may very well include  high volume (popular) keyword phrases or low volume (long tail) keywords – or a combination of both.

At first, it might seem obvious that the high volume phrases should be the ones that are most important, as these are likely to generate the most amount of traffic.  But high volume phrases also tend to be more competitive, and you are likely to find it much more challenging to achieve good rankings for these phrases.  Also be aware, that high volume phrases might also be more “general” in nature, and the people using these phrases may be more likely to be in “research” rather than “buy” mode, so even if you get the visit, they may be less likely to follow through with a sale.

Lower volume phrases, tend to be more specific, and are also likely to be much easier for you to achieve good rankings.  Low volume phrases (which are often known as “long tail” keywords) are also more likely to have a higher conversion rate, and although generating less traffic may actually provide you with more sales.

Ultimately, the keywords you optimise for should be the ones that convert the best – i.e. the ones that result in the most sales, leads or enquiries.  You should be able to determine this by analysing your site usage statistics (analytics), or if you are running a Paid Advertising (PPC) Campaign, you can look at the types of keywords that are generating sales – these are the keywords that you should be optimising for organic search.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting (Brisbane SEO Consultant)

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Q and A: Why is my regional keyword research so inconsistent?

QuestionHi Kalena

I feel like I am stuck with my keyword research.

I am researching SEO keywords for an Australian business that specializes in tree removal and tree felling. The keywords I chose for them were “tree removal” and “tree lopper” however when I enter these into Keyword Discovery for Australia I get nothing (although “tree removal” comes up quite a bit for global search).

These keywords best describe the business and although the tree removal operator prefers not to be called a tree lopper he is happy for me to use this term for search engine purposes. Yet when entering these keywords into Google it seems a lot of competitor sites come up. I am confused! Can you help?


Hello Louise

In my experience, most keyword research tools (such as Keyword Discovery or WordTracker) are highly inconsistent or downright inaccurate when it comes to regional search databases.

What I would do is to use the global database when choosing the best keywords to target and then see how they go in terms of bringing you traffic. You can tweak the keywords as you go based on the response and traffic you get. I would start broad e.g. “tree removal”, “tree felling” and then narrow your market based on the responses you receive e.g. “tree removal [city]” or “tree felling services”.

Another way to measure your potential regional market is to set up a basic pay per click campaign using Google AdWords, targeting Australia only and targeting the keywords you wish to test. Then monitor the number of impressions that your keywords get. Note I said impressions and not clicks. Set the budget low or design your ads in a way you don’t necessarily attract clicks (so it’s a cheap and dirty experiment).

The number of impressions you get per week will give you a ballpark idea of how many Australian searchers are looking for those particular keywords in Google per week.

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Q and A: What Does “Not enough data” mean in the Google Keywords Tool?


Dear Kalena…

Any idea about this: When i select USA as a country in Google keyword tool and I search for ‘link building’ as a keyword… after data get displayed, from show and hide option i have selected show ‘local search Volume’.

When I scroll down a bit more, I see this: for key ‘affordable link building’ there is ‘Not enough data’ under local searches, but I can see ‘260’ monthly searches under global searches. What does it mean?

Does it mean – that keyword is no one searching from USA (as I selected my local country USA) but globally it’s being searched by some small portion of people around the globe but not from USA, because it is showing ‘not enough data under ‘local search volume’?

If that is a case, than it means I shouldn’t target those keywords for USA which are showing ‘Not enough data’ under local search volume, because there is no one searching that keywords and I will waste my time isn’t it?

What is your opinion on this? Thanks in advance!


Hi Arshad,

The Local Monthly Searches column in the Google Keyword Tool provides an approximation of the number of monthly searches for a particular keyword, averaged over the last 12 months, for the “locality” specified. The “Not enough data” message (which in the current version of the tool shows up as a “-“) does not necessarily mean that the search volumes are too low to report, it indicates that (for whatever reason) there is insufficient data to calculate an average. This may mean that there are low search volumes for your selected area – but could also mean that for some reason the data over the last 12 months is incomplete.

Any decision you might make on whether or not to target a particular keyword phrase within a particular region, should not be based solely on search volumes. If a keyword phrase is highly relevant, and/or if it has a high conversion rate, you don’t necessarily need high traffic volume for it to be a worthwhile phrase.

Keyword Tools provide an approximation of historical search volumes, but it is often the relative volumes between keyword phrases which is more important than the actual volumes themselves.

Your question does highlight though that whatever tools you use, it is VERY important to understand the source of the data, and what rules have been applied in gathering and collating it. Without an understanding of this, any analysis you do, or any interpretations you make from the data may be invalid.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting (Brisbane)

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Q and A: What is the best way to present keyword research to a client?

QuestionHi Kalena

Another quick one if I may. In terms of providing keyword research to a client – could you please provide an example of what this might look like?


Hi again Trina

I generally present the client with an Excel spreadsheet which has different tabs at the bottom with each keyword theme highlighted.

Within each tab, I collate the keywords in various ways e.g. alphabetically, by potential traffic, by KEI (keyword effectivness indicator) and by SEO potential.

Some keyword research services will do this for you e.g. SEO Research Labs

We are actually in the middle of editing our online Keyword Research 101 Course at Search Engine College. It goes into much greater detail about this topic. I don’t wish to provide a sample spreadsheet here, as it will be part of the Keyword Research 101 course curriculum, but a sample keyword research spreadsheet will be included in the lesson material for that course.

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Q and A: What’s the difference between free and paid keyword research tools?

QuestionHi Kalena

I have been looking into some free keyword research software and noticed there are a few out there; even Google’s free tool has gotten good kudos.

In lesson four of the SEO 101 course, you mention a few SEO tools that if we wanted we would have to eventually pay for – can you please let me know what the main differences are between the free and paid versions?

And if, I am just starting out in SEO and have a limited budget if the free versions will do what I need.


Hi Trina

The main difference between paid and free keyword research tools is usually the number of keywords you can research. Also, some of the paid tools give you the ability to search specific databases e.g. Australia only or the last six months of search data versus the last five years of search data.

Our Search Engine Wiki has a pretty good list of keyword research tools. One great new tool I haven’t added to the Wiki yet is Ispionage. It’s particularly useful when researching target pay per click keywords for your AdWords campaigns, because it shows what your competitors are targeting.

Oh and try Raven Tools too. It’s more of a holistic SEO tool but it has great keyword management functionality.

Also don’t forget my previous blog posts about keyword research – they might help too.

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