There's no question that the hardest part of a website's content strategy is keyword analysis. Defining with clarity what your message is so the search engines can deliver your content to the right audience is critical. And that's true whether you're starting from scratch or revamping an existing site.

It's a lot of sifting through keywords, hundreds of them in fact, to find ones suitable to your business and to strategically build content off of. Having hundreds of keywords to work with also gives you a pool of ideas to keep you publishing steadily.

Content remains king and steady publishing helps keep you visible in the search engines, namely in Google. Google's crawl bot loves finding new content and the more you publish, the more that crawl bot returns to index the new content on your site.

To start, you need to grab those hundred or so keywords. The best place to go for that is Google's own Keyword Tool for Adwords. This alone will give you indicators to help determine competition and search volume, but what you're after here, really, is numbers and each search can poop out about 800 ideas.

Categorizing Your Keywords

This is where a lot of folks hit a wall. They see all those words and numbers and they freeze up. The easiest way forward is to sort all related keywords into like groups. Place product terms in one group, how-to terms in another, so forth and so on.

These groups become your category structure if you have a blog on your site. Category titles will be the higher competition words that you have no chance to rank for. They're easy to spot. Look for one or two string phrases with incredibly high search volume and chances are, you ain't ranking for it. Make it a category.

So, how do you know which keywords are going to produce? You don't. It's easy enough to determine the competition of a keyword, but you never know if one will be a winner. There are formulas that try, but almost all of them fall short. It's more a matter of slinging enough mud against the wall until something sticks.

How to Determine Keyword Competition

One way that has been effective for me is the Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI). It takes the monthly search volume (from the Adwords Tool) multiplied by itself and divided into how many sites are listed in the search results. Results using quotes around the search terms seem to be more precise.

Generally, the higher the KEI the easier it is to rank for that keyword.

What sucks, obviously, is doing this for hundreds of keywords and phrases. Fortunately, you can find software that automates the process for you, like the tool at www.keywordstrategy.org.

How to Analyze Keyword Search Data

Most people go into a content strategy project thinking results will be instantaneous. Surprise! It can take several weeks or even months to see significant rankings for your keywords. I have seen results in a few days' time but those are usually long tails that get zero traffic.

And it's the traffic that matters.

Ranking at the top does no good if no one's searching for your term. After some time you will see traffic patterns for your content in the raw data of your analytics reports. Again, I prefer Google's analytics program. What can I say, it's free.

Say your website is about early education and you find several keyword phrases about "when kids start to read" in your data. This is your low hanging fruit. Go and write an article about when kids start to read. Make it as informative as possible and then wait.

Rinse and repeat.

It's the best approach for new companies with no authority in their market, or no brand presence. You build content off your visitors' keywords and make your product the call to action within that content.

So, the whole process of keyword analysis can be a huge undertaking, but it's necessary for a successful content strategy. It does become a lot easier once you have a regular flow of data to work with. Your traffic will point the direction. You can steer once they reach your site.

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