Keyword research to improve SEO should be the first place you start when writing new content for your site. In many instances, it should be the first place you start before designing your site. While it's true that in the new search engine era content is king, it isn't enough to just have unique and compelling content. You need content that is going to be found in order for it to be read. Chances are that no one will ever read about your great product or wonderful service if you're not on the first page of search results. Following the four rules of keyword research will help in your quest to reach the top in the ranking wars.
Rule # 1: Keyword Relevance
Many people often overlook relevance in their keyword research. They try to find words and phrases that have high search volume and completely disregard whether those terms have anything at all to do with the product or service they're trying to market. Their goal is to get visitors by any means possible. In the days before Panda and Penguin (if you're unsure of what these are, you probably need to hire a professional to do your SEO), "keyword spamming" was rampant. For instance, a company selling skin-tight leather pants might use the "Black Hat," or unethical, SEO technique of placing the highly searched phrase "nicki minaj" hundreds of places throughout its site in transparent text. The hope was that out of the millions of people searching for Nicki, a small percentage might actually turn into buyers. Today, that dog won't hunt, as my grandpa was fond of saying.
Keyword spamming is dead, killed by the new and improved Google ranking algorithms. Today's internet users are also much more savvy. If they see a site in the results that appears to have no relevance to their specific search term, they're not going to click through to your page. Choosing relevant keywords that bring targeted traffic is essential to generating visitors who have a high conversion probability.
To sum up, always identify and choose keywords that have the most relevance to your site overall content. Critically analyzing your content and effective keyword research will allow you to do this. Your visitors, the search engines and your bank account will thank you for it!
Update: On September 23, 2013, Google implemented their "encrypted search" policy that effectively hides all keyword data in Google Analytics. While this changes the way webmasters are able to determine where their specific visitors are coming from, we have yet to see how this will affect general keyword research and SEO. Currently, general keyword research is still available through webmaster tools of the major search engines, including
Google Adwords Keyword Planner and Bing Keyword Research Tool. Read our article on Google's new policy in our Breaking News section.