Is Keyword Research Necessary for Website Development?

It certainly should be!  I will start by saying this…if you have a website design company or website development firm building you a site but they do not know anything about organic search engine optimization (SEO), your site will not be set up properly for achieving natural rankings.  It is often a tough pill to swallow when someone just spent $50,000 on a website but then find out that it is invisible to Google.  There are many important steps that should be taken during the website design phase of an Internet marketing campaign that will ensure long term visibility in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

So what does this have to do with keyword research?  Let’s first define keyword research and then apply that definition to help answer this question.  Keyword research is a process used by search engine optimization professionals to determine what key terms and phrases best apply to a given website or online marketing campaign.  For example, if a company that sells shoes on their website, they would first want to begin by defining their exact goals and brand niche.  Keywords associated with “shoes” are going to be very competitive so the company would want to narrow the focus and generate a list of terms directly associated with their products. 

Here are some steps to take when starting keyword research:

  • Determine the business goals you want to achieve through your online platform
  • Define your brand, products, and services
  • Start an initial list of terms you would want your site to appear for
  • Use both broad terms and very specific terms (and combinations of them)

A good Internet marketing company will use your initial list to begin research but will also do extensive research on your industry as it applies to online searches.  Many times the terms and keywords a company thinks they should appear for may not be the most appropriate terms for traffic and conversions.  For example, a company owner may want to appear for terms more associated with their brand.  During the research process though it might be discovered that those terms are never searched.  This of course means that the terms are not competitive but there may not be a need to use resources to focus on them if they won’t drive targeted traffic.

The difference between broad/generic terms and “long tail” terms:  Broad terms are generally defined as the more competitive and less specific keywords associated with a search.  For example, if you sell used cars in downtown Philidelphia, you may not want to try to focus on just the term “used cars”.  Broad terms like this are very competitive and some sites will not have the ability to reach page one of Google.  Many experts believe the broad terms are useless for conversions anyway.  If your site appears for broad terms like this it will drive large amounts of traffic and be great for brand exposure, but in the long run it will be the more specific terms that will convert. 

Using this example, someone who types in “used car dealer downtown Philidelphia” will be much more likely to convert than someone just searching the terms “used cars”.  This is why using a mix of long tail keywords is so important too.  Long tail terms are the more specific and often geographically targeted keyword phrases.  Another example would be to compare a broad term like “Manhattan apartments” and a long tail term like “Manhattan highrise apartments near Central Park”.  The long tail terms like this generally have a higher conversion rate for obvious reasons…they are more specific and will drive more targeted quality traffic.

We won’t go into the intricate details of developing a good keyword list right now because I want to get into the discussion of how important it is for website development.  Why spend time and money building a site if it will never have the ability to appear in the natural search engine placements.  Makes sense right?  Unfortunately, this is where many website design firms fall short.  It is imperative to understand at least the basics of SEO in order to build the proper framework for a website. 

A good Internet marketing company will build a website keeping the following things in mind:

  • Proper keywords associated with each page
  • On page content – ensuring those keywords are used
  • Title tags – using most relevant keywords associtaed with each page
  • Meta descriptions – the source code must contain a description that uses the keywords associated with the page
  • Keywords – the source code will also show a list of the most relevant keywords for each page
  • H1, H2 tags – these must be embedded in each page as well to support the title tags and content on the page – again, keywords must be used
  • Site map – I don’t know how many times I have seen fancy websites that do not even include a site map; without this the search engines can not properly index your pages and you will not rank

All of the elements above can of course be handled during an orgainc search engine optimization campaign but they really should be handled during the development process…otherwise, you will just have to spend more time and money having an SEO company or online marketing company redo the work!  Save yourself time and energy and hire a website development company that knows SEO!

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