Keyword selection

How Search Engine Optimise your website
Part 2: Keyword Selection


The most fundamental and important part of Search Engine Optimisation is choosing the right keywords. Selecting the right keywords, brings in the right traffic which best enables businesses to convert visitors to customers and multiply online sales.  Selecting the wrong keywords can lead to wasted time and energy, and also a failure to increase web traffic or only have unsuitable visitors reaching your site that do not find what they are looking for.


There are many methods to determining the right keywords. At Sprout Online, we believe the best method begins with stepping into the shoes of your target market, to understand them entirely and know what they would enter into the search engines to find you.


A process to help identify what your target audience may be searching for is to find what we call “base keywords”, and then add “modifiers” to form suitable keyword phrases. Confused? Well, here’s exactly what we mean…


Base words  

Base words are the generic words that a customer may enter to find you. Usually this would be your profession, your service or your product. If you are a plumber, there is a very high chance that a person will enter the word “plumber” or alternatively the service of “plumbing” as a part of their search phrase to find you’re a plumbing service. If you’re selling medicine and your business is a medical store, there’s a very high chance that a member of your target market will be entering the word “medicine” or “medical store” as part of their search phrase to find a good medical store where they can get goods they’re wanting.


Identifying these base keywords is the starting point to forming a list of appropriate keywords that people may be entering to find your product or service. For many inexperienced with SEO, they will usually start and stop with these generic keywords. I’ve seen far too many people resolutely select generic keywords to target like “plumber” or “toy store” thinking that’s where the traffic is at and they subsequently put their focus and money to getting these types of keywords highly ranked. There are two prominent problems with this. The first is that generic keywords are very competitive and Google bends its algorithm to favour high authority sites like Wikipedia for generic keywords. Often, you will also see for government sites, or other industry authorities or really big companies dominating top rankings for generic keywords. Google favours these sites and it’s extremely difficult to knock them off their perch. Be careful of any SEO agency that says otherwise!


The second reason why these keywords are unsuitable for targeting is that people entering them in are often not looking for your service.  A person entering in “plumbing” into a search engine may not be looking for a plumber at all but rather may want to find out more about the topic of plumbing and how it works. Alternatively, a searcher that enters in “plumber” into Google may indeed be looking for a plumber, but not one in the locality that you’re based. Generic keywords are problematic. They are highly competitive meaning they are very difficult to get onto top page, and secondly, they often do not render quality customers that are specifically looking for your product or service – in other words those who are likely to make a call or enquiry and go for your business.



For this reason, generic keywords should rarely be targeted. The better approach is to take the generic keyword, which we call a “base word” and add to it other words to form a more meaningful, targeted and effective search phrase. To add to a base word, it is important to derive a suitable list of modifiers that can combine with base keywords to form effective keyword phrases.  What exactly do we mean by this? First, let’s understand what’s a modifier.




Modifiers are words that add to a base keyword to make it more specific. By making a keyword more specific it becomes more targeted and has a better potential of attracting the target market you are after. A classic and most commonly used modifier is a location.


Location Modifier


If we take a base word like “plumber” and add the location “Melbourne” to form the keyword phrase “plumber Melbourne” we can already see that this keyword becomes much more specific. A user that enters in a keyword “plumber Melbourne” is very likely looking for a plumber in Melbourne. In fact it is highly unlikely they would be looking for anything else. A keyword like this cuts away the fat, it signifies a user’s intent – the service they are looking for and the locality where they want to find it.

A location modifier is any location that is added to a base word. Eg:


Tax accountant Brisbane

Medical Clinic Perth


Such location modifiers become especially effective for those in service industries. Listing the key areas you target and combining them with base keywords can be a really effective way to generate a good list of suitable keyword phrases.



A verb that signifies intent

Another example of a modifier is a verb that indicates the intent or purpose of the user. The most common of this modifier type is the word “buy”. Eg:


Buy toys

Buy laptop


Other verb modifiers signifying intent may be words like “rent”, “hire” or “get”. Eg:


Rent van

Hire function room

Get coupons


Understand your product or service and also your target market. Identifying what verbs your target market may use when looking for your product or service can yield words that when combined with base keywords form highly effective and targeted search phrases.


An adjective that signifies intent


Another modifier that is often used when searching is an adjective to better define the intent of the one making the search. Common adjective modifiers are “cheap”, “quality” or “luxury”. Eg:


Cheap TV

Quality shoes

Luxury accommodation


Once again, knowing your product or service and your target market will yield the right adjectives that the customers you want are entering to find what you offer.




Finally, a user may use a brand to specify their keyword search. Eg:


Apple computer

Nokia mobile


If you sell products of notable brands that people are searching for, specifying a search phrase using brand modifiers is often a great approach.


Identifying all these modifiers in the categories above-listed is an important part of keyword selection. When determining suitable modifiers, always think from the perspective of what words your target market will use, not necessary what words you will use. If unsure, it is always a good idea to ask your customers what types of words they would use for each modifier category, so as to derive an effective list. An effective focus group can provide useful information shedding light on the best keyword phrases to select.



Combining modifiers with base words


Once modifiers are determined, it is best to them combine them with base words to derive a suitable list of keyword phrases. Some keyword phrases may be a combination of two or more modifiers with a base word, eg:


Buy quality shoes

Affordable TV Adelaide

Second hand Toyota Corolla


Having a solid list of keyword phrases that consists of modifiers and base words will then allow you to check the data and examine which ones will be most effective to target.


A more sophisticated and modern approach is to also use a method of classing keywords into groups, often referred to as Keyword Concepts. I won’t cover this topic as I’m hoping to keep things as simple as I can for now. However, be on the lookout for a specialised post on Keyword Concepts in the upcoming months that will give you information on how grouping keywords and creating pages for each concept class is a useful practice for SEO today.


If you’re wanting to see some data before you confirm a list of keywords you’re willing to target, you may want to perform an analysis, the subject of our next topic.


So stay tuned.


To view this series on How Search Engine Optimise your website from the very start, click here to go to the start of the series – How Search Engine Optimise your website: Part 1 – An Introduction to SEO.


To check out the next post in this series check out –How Search Engine Optimise your website: Part 3 – Crunching the numbers: Performing a keyword analysis


Our to use Sprout Online to SEO your website and get effective web rankings that provide a return on investment, just check out our SEO page.

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