No matter the level of knowledge you have when it comes to search engine optimization, you should know and understand what terms you want your web site to rank for in the search engines. This may sound simple; however, it is often one of the more overlooked, complex, and vital components to getting your site ranked.

Most site owners want to rank for the terms that have the most searches because that should bring in the most traffic. And that is absolutely true. More often than not, this means ranking for a broad term. Broad terms are just that: terms that covers a wide variety of categories. For instance, a term often used in many examples, ‘dog training’ is a broad term. Yes, ‘dog training’ has a large search volume, but that also makes it a large target for all of the marketers out there attempting to rank their sites for ‘dog training’.

What you need to do is break your keywords down to long-tail terms. A long-tail term is often a more specific term that is encompassed by the broad term. More often than not, the long-tail term is also comprised of more words. Sticking with the broad term of ‘dog training’, we can dig a little deeper and find terms such as ‘dog obedience training’ or ‘puppy potty training’. Both of these terms have a lower search volume, but they are easier to target because you can write and offer content specific to those terms rather than the broad term. Of course, these two terms may not be drilled down deep enough and may still be tough to rank for. If that is the case, you should just keep drilling down and looking for longer-tail terms.

For instance, again sticking with ‘dog training’, we can look at specific breeds and specific situations. The term ‘husky obedience training’ has a smaller search volume, but it’s hyper-targeted for those who are interested specifically in obedience training for their husky. You can also look at ‘great dane puppy potty training’ because it will bring in the people who are actively searching for information on how to potty train their Great Dane puppies.

There are some key thoughts when it comes to keyword selection for your SEO campaign. You want to start with the easier terms, most often the long-tail terms. First, they are typically easier to rank for. Second, they will bring in traffic for those specific terms. If you offer the information your visitors are looking for, they will be more likely to come back to your site or even share it with their friends via social media.

Though long-tail search terms often provide low search volume, if you target and rank for enough, the cumulative search volume may actually exceed the search volume of your original broad term. Over time, with great content and hyper-targeted long-tail keywords, you may start to see your site rank for the broad terms as well because people love to share. They will share on their social media as well as their blogs. Add to that the traffic you are getting from ranking for the long-tail terms, your site will begin to grow in authority and brand, and Google loves both and you should be rewarded with better rankings over time.

As stated before, keyword research is often overlooked, but it is the most vital step towards getting your site ranked in the search engines.

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