How to Develop a Keyword List

Keywords are not necessarily individual words, but, “keyword phrases” – groups of words that together form the keyword for which you want your site to be found.

The more specific you can be with regard to the combination of words, the more likely you are to be found by your target audience. So add a geographic location or niche word to your keyword. For example, I would use “website designers Central Mass.” instead of “website designers”, and “PHP programmers” instead of “website programmers”.

Here’s some steps to help you build your keyword list.

  1. Brainstorm: Write up a preliminary list of keyword phrases.
  2. Test those keywords: Go to Google (or the search engine that you are targeting) and enter the phrases on your keyword list. You do this to verify that “like businesses” display on the search engine results pages (SERP). The results will give you an indication of whether the keyword phrase you entered is too general or too specific.

    Remember, you can help yourself get found on the Internet by adding words related to geography (Marlborough MA, Central Mass, MetroWest Massachusetts), price (affordable websites, competitively-priced websites, hi-end websites), class/type (brochure websites, eCommerce websites, blog websites, interactive websites, custom-designed websites), and industry (i.e. b-to-b websites, b-to-c websites, general business websites).

  3. Review statistics: This is for existing websites. Skip to the next step if you are developing a new website.

    Review the keyword search terms that are bringing visitors to your site. This will tell you what terms visitors are actually using. Typically, you will find that the keywords contain your business name. That means that people who are searching for you are finding you. That is good.

    If your focus is on bringing in new business from people who are not yet familiar with your business, you want to see “generic terms” listed in the statistics. If you do not, your work is to update your Web pages to include the relevant “generic terms” so that the search engines can categorize your website within those terms. For example, it is good that “Adventures Online” is getting found by people who are familiar with the firm. In order for me to bring in new business from people who are unfamiliar with Adventures Online, I would update my Web pages to include generic terms like “website designers Central Mass”.


  4. Inquire: This is for new websites, although can be helpful for existing site owners who are fine tuning their keywords. Interview your clients or ask them to take a survey to let you know the terms they would use to find your business. Another choice is to conduct a focus group to learn the terms that they would use.
  5. Research: Now that you have a refined list of keyword terms, use a tool to test the “relevancy” of your terms. Online keyword research tools like Wordtracker and Trellian can help you optimize your list of keyword terms so that your site gets found on the Internet. Use the information that they provide to learn the popularity of your keyword phrases, and, pay attention to the order in which the words are placed. For example, I might learn that it is best to use “Central Mass. website designers” rather than “website designers Central Mass.”, and “website developers” instead of “website designers”. Other online keyword research tools include:’s Keyword Suggestion, and Yahoo! Search Marketing Keyword Inventory Tool.
  6. The Nth degree: If you really want to take it to the Nth degree, add to your list common mispellings and typos, abbreviations, slang and synonyms.

Going through these steps to develop your keyword list, particularly the Research and Inquiry steps, helps you discover new opportunities (keywords you had not thought of) and correct misperceptions (discard keyword terms that you thought would be good).

Developing a keyword list is the first step. Now create/update your website! The list will only help you if you use your keyword terms throughout your website.

Happy Surfing!


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