It seems keywords are making the top of SEO list time and time again. The problem is that some optimizers do not understand the rightful purpose of keywords. Keywords should not be solely embedded for the purpose of reaching the top of search engines. Search Engine Optimization should not be the primary focus of any website. The primary and number 1 focus should always be the visitors. If you create a website for your audience and for your visitors then you should rank fairly. I can't see why any legitimate website can not rank properly within search engines, after time and dedication. Search Engine Optimization main purpose is ranking faster within search engines. Instead of gaining a good balance of traffic within 1 or more years, it is possible to gain a good balance of traffic within 6-9 months with SEO.
Keywords play a major factor in SEO and search engines in general, but the question is are keywords for the search engines or the visitors? The visitors are the ones who are trying to find your site by typing in a keyword, but the search engine is the one locating your site and delivering your site to the visitor based on the searched keywords. Therefore I would have to say, keywords, visitors, and search engines all work hand in hand, but if you focus on the visitor and not the search engine, then you will reap greater rewards. A webmaster should have a plentiful of quality and researched keywords, which becomes the sites core. To receive a good balance of keywords you need to think like your visitors or know how your visitors think. It boils down to research and tracking your visitors. Tracking visitors on your site is business-wise and is not an unethical practice, it’s your website (business). In an offline business you are well aware when a visitor opens the door to your business and comes in the store, the same applies online. It becomes unethical when you continue to track visitors when they exit your site, when you invade visitors’ privacy, or when you intentionally collect personal information about a visitor without their consent or knowledge. Tracking a visitor within your site does not need to be intense, the common web log files are helpful enough. With the web log files you should be able to track the keyword used to find your website, track where a visitor came from to find your site (the referrer), track the total number of unique visitors, track the total number of all visitors, track how many pages were viewed, track the path visitors take within your site, and much more information is available through the web logs. There are many tools that can translate your raw web log files into graphical and legible text, such as: Nihuo or Web Log Expert which both offers a free log analyzer download as well as an inexpensive analyzer for more detailed stats and more features. There are other upscale web log analyzers which are mostly for enterprises or larger sites but are extremely detailed and rewarding, such as: Web Trends, Deep Matrix, or Urchin (which has recently been acquired by the search engine giant 'Google'). Knowing your visitors can only benefit your site. If you have a new website without any visits then you will not have the benefit of knowing your visitors and you will have to create your visitors habits, by using good judgment and research to determine which keywords best suits your site. Your best effort should provide you with at least 250 keywords and keyword phrases, depending on your site category.
Once you have tracked your visitors and/or have completed researching keywords, you are ready to make informed decisions and begin the process of elimination. Many argue to stay away from popular or general keywords because the market for popular and general keywords is flooded and over-crowded, you will never be able to compete. My sentiments exactly, but remember keywords are for visitors, not search engines...so yes, I recommend including popular and general keywords as long as the keyword(s) show room for opportunity. Meaning, it has been used by your visitors...as a solitaire keyword or within a keyword phrase. Creating keyword phrases is important because at least 95% of internet users search using keyword phrases, not many use one word. With that said, you should still include a few solitaire keywords. Use singular and plural expressions for keywords. Once you have gathered all your keywords make two lists, one list can be titled active keywords...keywords which you are currently using or plan to use in the near future. The second list can be titled inactive keywords...keywords which have been eliminated and may never be used. Eliminate keywords based on your research, visitor data, and site category. Regardless how general your site is try to have only one focus audience, this zooms in on your target, makes marketing the site easier, and more successful. When done eliminating you should have a plentiful of keywords and keyword phrases. Generally, the goal should be to have at least a combination of 100 keywords and keyword phrases. This number may be greater or lesser depending on your site category/niche market. Keyword research can be accomplished a number of ways. I would recommend using best judgment and sticking to your site topic. If your site is about “the rules of playing baseball” then anything pertaining to the rules of baseball should be included as keywords. Remember think like your visitors, if you were a visitor looking for 'the rules of baseball' how would you search...your search words would probably be something like "rules of playing baseball"...."baseball playing rules"...."playing baseball rules"....rules of baseball"...."baseball rules"...."how to play baseball"...."baseball and the rules"...if your site contains the 'rules of baseball' then each of those keyword phrases will be sufficient for inclusion into your active keyword list. A few links that can help with keyword research are: NicheBot, Wordtracker, Google Keyword Tool, Digital Point Keyword Tool. Some of the main attributes which you want to research is how often the keyword/keyword phrase is searched for within search engines, how much competition there is for the keyword/keyword phrase, and if you are considering pay-per-click then you would probably like to know the average cost per click for each keyword/keyword phrase. You should not rely 100% on any of these reports or other reports from any third-party because there are many deterrence which may offset the reports, you should collect data from each of them and derive a census report which will allow you to make an informed decision.
Think about your visitors each step of the way when using keywords. Which keywords will catch their attention, directly or indirectly? Meaning, if a user searches for 'baseball rules' then when the search engine searches through billions of web pages...it should pull your web page into the results because you have a entire website dedicated to baseball rules and the entire site is centered around keywording. When the search engine crawls through the billions of web pages it should see that your web page title has "baseball rules" within the title, your meta-tag description has “baseball rules” within the description, your meta-tag keywords have “baseball rules” within the keywords, the link to the page is titled “baseball_rules.htm”, and the content on the web page itself has a proper amount of keyword density, basically, the keyword phrase "baseball rules" is plastered throughout the web page mostly leading towards the top of the page. I know most of what I have just mentioned is Search Engine Optimization practices and techniques, yes, that is true, but in actuality the entire process is for the visitors not the search engine. If you create your site easier for the search engine to find then the visitor will also find it easier and faster, but at all times it is important to keep the visitor in mind. Many SEO practitioners would include any keyword about baseball such as: "baseball"..."major leagues"...."major league baseball"...."minor leagues"...."minor league baseball"...."atlanta braves"...."new york yankees"...."baseball players"….etc. Those keywords are for the search engines not the visitors. If a visitors enters "atlanta braves" as a search keyword and your link is displayed as an result the visitor will be disappointed when he clicks on your link and does not find any solid information pertaining to the "atlanta braves"...instead he/she is greeted with "baseball rules". The visitor will immediately back out without referencing your site or indexing it for later retrieval because it does not pertain to their search quest. Once in a while you may become lucky and get someone who stays because it does mention baseball, but if you tracked conversions, it would surely sink, using this method. The better you target your visitors the more success you will have on the web. Properly using keywords to target your visitors and not the search engines will aid in more ways than one. It will create a healthy online circuit and greater chance for success. Imagine if each time you search the web...you had a perfect search! You only needed to search once, because exactly what you were looking for was found in the first results.