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The Wrong Keyphrases Can Kill Your Search Campaign!

Posted on February 13, 2008

By Aimee Beck

They say the best place to start is at the beginning. And while that may sound cliché, it's true nonetheless. The beginning of a successful SEO copywriting strategy starts with in-depth keyphrase research (KPR). The keywords used in Web copy are what make a page relevant to the search engines and to the searchers.

So why is KPR so important to the overall success of a SEO campaign? I'll tell you.

"Over 80 percent of all online transactions begin with a keyword search."

When you dive into a SEO copywriting gig without properly researching keyphrases—the campaign will inevitably fall flat on its face. It's that simple. And here's why:

Keyphrase research gives you power—it lets you tap into your sixth sense, crawling inside the heads of both the search engines and the searchers. KPR is, in a way, a mind-reading tool giving you access to how users are thinking when they search online. Once you understand the thought process behind how searchers are thinking when they use the Internet to find stuff, keyphrase research will help you zero in on the target audience and feed them the info they're looking for.

Somewhere along my travels, I heard someone compare KPR to GPS. You start with basic information, plug it in to a tool and you're pointed in the right direction. It's a brilliant analogy. Here is a quick checklist of tools I like to use in the early stages of my keyphrase research—long before I start strategizing:

SEOTool Kit, Optimize Your Website Traffic
  • or the Google Term Suggestion tool These are fairly well-known tools available online that let you dig even deeper into KPR data, showing you what keywords people have used to find your site. With these, you can learn how many people are searching for a certain phrase, how many other websites are competing for that keyphrase, and you'll also uncover word and phrase variations that you might not have thought up on your own.

  • Website analytic tools (like ClickTracks or Google Analytics) Data that comes directly from an existing site gives you an easy to read glimpse into how folks have been finding current pages. It gives you data to show which keywords and phrases visitors were using to find particular pages. It tells you how long visitors stayed on that page (giving you an indication on whether or not they read the page). And it also tells you which pages visitors were leaving (which can give you an idea on what pages might need more copywriting clean-up).

  • Sleuthing and Scoping This method is a little old-fashioned and more labor-intensive. But it works! So stick with what works, right? Scouring the Internet to see what the competition is doing (what they're doing right and wrong) is always useful information. Keyphrase research doesn't mean you have to reinvent the wheel. If your competition is successful, find out how they're getting those coveted top rankings. With that information you can build your own strategy to ethically bump ‘em down, leaving room for you (or your client). also has a Density tool that lets you check the keyphrase density of any site—including competitors.

Quick Insider's Tip: When you right click on a web page and highlight "view source," a notepad file will open up showing the page's HTML code. That's where you'll find the keywords tag, which looks like this: < "meta name="keywords" content="insert keyphrases here, and here, and here.">

Now that know a little more about some of the industry's top KPR tools, let's answer some common KPR questions.

What happens when you have a popular keyphrase with multiple meanings?

Let's say you've done the KPR and you find that "backyard patio" is a highly searched term. Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's right for the page. If you type "backyard patio" into Google, you'll see websites about backyard photography, concrete patio building companies, and even home and garden TV shows.

The ultimate goal with a search campaign is to achieve top positions in the engines for highly relevant keyphrases. If your keyphrases are irrelevant, you won't reach the right audience. And if you don't reach the right audience, you won't convert. So what good are rankings without conversions? Think about who your audience is, then research and choose specific keyphrases that match. Keyword Research Tool - Create Your Free Account Today!

What about misspellings?

This is a common pitfall to avoid. Best practices insist that you never, ever compromise the quality of your writing to suit the keyphrase. For example, "dictionery" is a highly searched term according to Would you trust a dictionary from a website that couldn't spell dictionery? Using a misspelling on a page simply because it gets a lot of searches doesn't give the website a very good reputation.

Spelling variations, on the other hand, are often acceptable. For instance, "email" and "e-mail" are both considered correct. Just avoid mixing the two together on the same page—that looks like a typo and again doesn't give a very good impression. Choose a spelling and stick with it.

What if the keyphrase gets a lot of hits and it makes sense for the page—but I just can't work it into the copy?

The painful answer to this (at least the rule I live by) is that if it doesn't work in the copy, it doesn't work. No matter how great the keyphrase, no matter how popular it is, if you can't make it work in a sentence, don't use it. Sometimes it hurts to toss out the keyphrase you so desperately want to use. But if the term makes your copy sound stilted, choppy or grammatically incorrect, you might get a higher ranking but you'll lose out on the conversion. And in my opinion, it's just not worth the risk.

All of these tips and guidelines are meant for the initial keyphrase research stage of the SEO campaign—before you start per-page keyphrase strategy. Once you've done the ground work, the strategy phase is really fun and creative!

About the Author

Aimee Beck is the Director of Search Strategies with SuccessWorks Search Marketing, Inc. and co-founder of, a new online resource for everything copywriting. She can be reached at

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