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By Barry Hurd

RISMEDIA, Nov. 12, 2007-In the beginning, it all starts with a few simple words. What phrase will prospective customers think of when they find you? With the correct answer to that question, you may have the opportunity to deliver a message to someone looking for your skills. Yet there are other questions that must be answered along the way.

How do you find the right keywords? What phrase do you use? How do you know it is worthwhile to have? Why does it matter?

Simple questions with not so simple answers.

How do you find the right keywords?

There are several ways of doing some of the grunt work of competitive keywords. One of the easiest is to ask your competitor. Simply go to your top ten competitors’ Web sites and click on the VIEW>Source Code option in your browser. You should see a line of code that says something like “META Keywords=” that list a variety of keywords they think is important. By collecting this list off five to ten sites, you can compare them and see what a majority of your competitors believe to be worthwhile.

What phrase do you use?

After answering the first question, you have a list of keywords that your competitors think are worthwhile… but what one is best to use? Ask Google at This site allows you to enter a list of keywords and see the amount of daily traffic that is occurring on each keyword. The important things to look at are the dollar values and daily clicks. Realize higher cost words are more competitive and that sometimes lower cost words may be easier to attain.

How do you know a keyword is worthwhile to have?

Return on Investment (ROI). There are two basic ways to attain keywords online: You can pay the search engines directly for the traffic to that keyword or you can use search engine optimization to gain organic search results. Paying the search engines directly is almost always more costly, but it does have the benefit that you can change the keywords instantly. Reaching the results using search engine optimization allows you to have long-term exposure and keep cost to a minimum. The ultimate measure is how much cost is involved incurring each new prospect or client. Regardless of whether or not you pay directly to the search engine or use search engine optimization, you must track the information. If you have a Web site already, Google provides a completely free and robust analytics platform that can be added to your site by copying a few lines of code. (visit Google and click on the analytics link)

Why does it matter?

Imagine you are a real estate professional in Dallas and come to the conclusion “Dallas Real Estate” is a phrase that would create new clients. According to Google that phrase is worth $3.36 – $4.53 per click, and a daily average of 172 to 216 Internet users look for that keyword everyday. That is a daily value of $580 – $980.

If you can leverage content on your site with search engine optimization to reach 10 to 20 competitive phrases, you effectively have access to thousands of dollars in free daily advertising. Unfortunately search engine optimization is not free: it requires both time and strategic planning. If you are in the market for a quick turn-around and short-term business, paying the search engine directly could be the way to go. If you are looking to grow a long-term asset that develops over time, search engine optimization is more for you.

How do I competitively leverage this idea for my business?

1- Realize that the most high-dollar keywords are competitive for a reason. Do not fight other professionals for the same phrases if you can avoid it. Look for variations and combinations of words on competitor sites that are not being aggressively fought over. Pick a battle you can win that is within your budget (whether that budget is your time or your dollars).

2- Accept the value of the online keywords you are looking at. If the search engine says a phrase is worth $200 a day (or $6000 a month), believe them. If you use an outside consultant to help you with marketing on a keyword, budget appropriately. Expecting to reach a $25,000 term on a budget of $500 is not reasonable.

3- Educate yourself by understanding what keywords your competitors are using. A few hours at the computer can greatly assist you in determining how to spend your own dollars. If you know a competitor is having great success online, mimic that success. If they are failing online, learn from that failure. Either case will save you thousands of dollars.

4- Think outside of the box. Do not fall into the mindset that the online marketplace is created equal. It isn’t. The online marketplace is unbalanced by hundreds of factors, including how you use content, what your niche specialties are, your professional experience, and your company brand. The Internet may not be created equal, but it is an equalizer. It is a new place where the smallest company can be big, or the biggest company can be small.

About the author:
Barry Hurd is president of Social Media Systems, an online marketing and advertising consultant group working with search engine marketing and leveraging social media communities. He has over 15 years of entrepreneurial Internet and online marketing experience. As an author and prolific blogger, he has reached online audiences around the world. Since the mid-1990s, Barry has been involved in numerous efforts to bring forth technical innovation through online business models. Past projects have included NIKE, REI, TMP Worldwide,, Verizon Superpages, Intuit, and RISMedia.

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