If you do any kind of work on a website, you’ve probably heard of search engine optimization aka SEO. An SEO strategy is important to ensure new and returning visitors find your site. While there’s a lot that goes into optimizing a website for search engines, one of the most important elements is the website copy.

The copy on your site helps tell search engines and users what you’re all about. A good keyword strategy — or a list of focus phrases and a plan on how to incorporate them — can help. Though it’s clear we’ve moved past the days of keyword stuffing to improve rankings, there’s no denying that using a keyword strategy to focus your writing and content is extremely beneficial but first you need a keyword list to start from.

Here are a few, shall I say, key steps to creating a solid keyword list:


I always begin my keyword discovery with a little brainstorming session. Think about the purpose of the site, the company, the brand, the products or any goals. Write down any words you think a consumer would use to search for you. Don’t worry about trying to filter yourself — there’s no such thing as a dumb idea. You can weed out bad keywords later. Just try to create as large of a list as you can.


Now that you have a good start, it’s time to dig into your list with a little research. I like to turn to the source itself for my research — Google. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • Go to Google and search for one of your brainstorm keywords. Check out Google’s autocomplete function for some possible longtail keywords. Take a look at the results to make sure they are generally on the right track. Don’t forget to take a peek at the bottom of the page to find some of Google’s suggested searches for even more great keyword ideas.
  • Visit Google Trends to learn more about search volume and popularity based on time and location. This handy tool also makes similar suggestions.
  • Check out Google AdWords Keyword Planner for more insight like the number of searches for a particular keyword or how competitive a keyword is. Keyword Planner will also show you similar keywords and help you weed out the bad ones.

Check Out the Competition

Don’t forget to check out the competition. It might sound backhanded or like you’re cheating the game, but it’s smart. And you better believe they’re checking out your site as well.

Find a handful of businesses or organizations that you consider direct competition or that are doing the same thing you are in other markets. Visit their sites and click around. Make note of what you see, the wording they use, how they label things and their navigation. Do certain words appear frequently? Are there any obvious keywords you may be missing?

Try using the MozBar browser extension to help dissect what words the site is using in its page title, meta information, headings, alt tags and more. Or checkout a site using the SEO Site Checkup tool to get a look at the most common words used on a site as well as SEO strengths and weaknesses.


Now that you’ve got a list of words and phrases thanks to your brainstorming, research and competitive analysis, it’s time to refine. Ideally you should only be focusing on one to two keywords per page on your site. That doesn’t mean there can’t be some overlap, but trying to focus on too many things at once can dilute the context and understanding for search engines and users.

Make a list of all of the pages on your site (if you have a big site, you might want the help of a tool like Screaming). Then pair keywords that would fit best with each page. Try to use the best, keywords first and weed out any so-so options. The more focused your list, the better.

Put it to Good Use

Finally, it’s time to put all this work to good use and begin incorporating your keywords into the website copy. If the copy already exists, look for ways to tweak your text. Also consider using your keywords in elements important to SEO like navigation, headings, meta information, page titles, alt tags and more. In combination with your website copy, using keywords in these locations will help tie everything together, providing context and symmetry for search engines and users.

Overall, few elements of your website are more important than the content found throughout it. Making sure to provide a cohesive, informative experience for both search engines and users is critical. A keyword list and strategy doesn’t take long to put together, but can help immensely with your broader efforts. Good luck and happy strategizing.