The term "keyword" could not be more appropriate, since keywords truly are the way to open the doors of search engine success. In-depth research and wise keyword choice are crucial in the creation of a thriving sales-generating Web site that is popular with potential customers and the major search engines.

For any online business, the goal of search engine marketing is to achieve high rankings in the major search engines for keyword phrases specific to the products or services offered.

Furthermore, it is just as crucial to ensure that the keywords chosen are the ones most likely to convert to sale or action. Traffic is great—sales are even better!

When should keyword research begin, and where are these keywords used?

Effective keyword research needs to begin as early in the business planning process as possible—whether a business has an Internet marketing agency conduct an aggressive search engine optimization campaign, whether the company has an in-house development team, or whether the business owner plans to learn to optimize the Web site on his own.

If a new Web site is being built, keyword choice takes place as the Web site is being planned. The search terms with which customers seek services and goods are used in more aspects of search-engine-friendly Web site development than are immediately apparent. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • The copy text that appears on the Web site
  • The title tags at the top of the Web site pages
  • The meta keyword and description fields
  • Alternate text tags for labeling images

Industry and company-specific keywords are also used in press releases and informational articles. Many businesses choose to supplement natural search engine optimization with pay-per-click campaigns such as Google AdWords and Yahoo's Overture. Accurate choice of the keyword phrases most commonly used by the target market is essential for success in these sponsored-link ad campaigns.

The biggest challenge for the established company will be to keep a fresh perceptive and attempt to view their old and well-known Web site through the customer's eyes.

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David A. Salinas is CEO of Digital Surgeons ( Reach him via