If you’ve read anything about search engine optimization, you’ve probably heard about the importance of keywords: Make sure your keywords are in your page titles! In your URLs! In your headings! In your alt tags!…
But how do you decide which keywords to focus in on?
Here are a few free tools to help you out:
If you use Google Analytics, check out the following reports:
- Traffic Sources > Keywords will show you keywords used on external search engines that lead visitors to your site, then show you what happens once they enter your site.
- Content > Site Search > Search Terms will show you keywords used for your internal search, which are often not specific enough to target as keywords for public search engines, but will still give you valuable insight into your visitors’ goals and vocabulary.
And in Google Webmaster Tools:
- Your Site on the web > Search queries is similar to the Google Analytics’ Traffic Sources > Keywords report, but reveals more about what’s happening on the search engine side of the equation. How far down on the page does your page appear? What is the click through rate?
Nice perk: Both of these tools make it easy to monitor keyword performance over time. In Webmaster Tools, you can “star” certain terms that you want to keep an eye on. In Analytics, you can set up reports to arrive in your email inbox as a reminder to check back periodically.
Also see: If your CMS provides reporting, check for reports similar to these.
Google Adwords Keyword Tool
Understand the larger keyword universe, and how you fit into it
Don’t be misled by the title: Even if you aren’t using Adwords, you can benefit from this tool. For any keywords you enter, it will return the relative popularity of the phrase (in # of searches) and give you an idea of how competitive it is. It will also give you tons of additional ideas to add to your list.
Nice perk: You can download the data as a spreadsheet and work with it offline.
SEOMoz’s Term Extractor
Analyze specific pages of your site
Use this tool to get the search engine’s view of important keywords on a specific page. Do they match the keywords you’re targeting? If not, you can make changes to page elements (Title, URL, heading tags, and alt tags, among others), then try again until you are satisfied with the relative weight of the keywords for the page. This is a great before-and-after test as you optimize pages throughout your site.
Nice perk: You can add this as a browser button/bookmark to analyze the page you’re currently browsing with a single click.
Also see: If you use Google Webmaster Tools, go to Your site on the web > Keywords. This report gives you the equivalent of the Term Extractor tool, but on a site-wide rather than page-specific level.
And lastly, if I lost you at “if you’ve read anything about search engine optimization,” Google’s SEO Beginner’s Guide (PDF) is a good place to start.