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Google is stingy about revealing its keyword data, although Brian Dean of Backlinko has put together a pretty good list of how the search engine giant does it.

Of course, Dean readily admits that some of his factors are proven, while “others are SEO nerd speculation.” Still, keywords play a major role in traffic, especially if you use the right keywords. As MOZ points out, 70 percent of web traffic for a given page comes from keywords you didn’t try to optimize for.

If that little nugget proves anything, it’s that picking out keywords willy-nilly won’t get you the kind of results you’re looking for. So, what’s your keyword game plan? Here are four great tips for picking out keywords that will convert:

  1. Search volume isn’t everything: Here’s a little secret you won’t hear from most internet marketing services in Toronto: Search volume is important, but it’s not the end-all, be-all. “Don’t rest all of your keyword success on search volume,” Ervin and Smith says. “Dig a little deeper.” Keep your industry in mind when doing your keyword research; they should have fairly high search volumes.” This is particularly important for niche industries. “Just because you may be in a niche industry doesn’t mean a keyword strategy isn’t worth pursuing,” Ervin and Smith says.
  2. Keep an eye on your competition: See what the competition is ranking for, then overtake them. As Search Engine Land says, “Understanding who your competitors are and the keywords they’re optimizing for is critical to staying relevant, competitive and profitable in your pursuit to acquire more revenue.” A word of warning, though: If the keywords you picked are all ranked high by major brands, then you should probably come up with another iteration. Otherwise, it could take you years to rank for those keywords. Aside from simple organic searches on Google and other major search engines, you can find plenty of paid and free tools that show your competitors’ profitable keywords, like Spyfu.
  3. Don’t be so robotic about it: Think about how you search for things online, Track Maven says. Chances are, you probably type in actual questions. Guess what? Google is well aware of that – and its Hummingbird update makes sure it accounts for these types of conversational searches. Make sure your list includes question keywords. For example, if you have a digital marketing agency in Canada, then a keyword phrase like, “where can I find Internet marketing services in Toronto?” will help drive traffic to your site.
  4. Long tail keywords are your friend: As Search Engine Journal points out, PPC advertisers love long tail keywords because they’re more likely to generate quality clicks at a much lower CPC compared to more competitive keywords. For example, you’ll be happier with a phrase like “buy girls size 6 shoes online” than just “girls shoes.” One super simple way to identify long tail keywords? Simply type in a search term and see what Google suggests. “These are terms that you should consider targeting,” Search Engine Journal says, “because it is likely that google users will use them to search for your product or service.

meniceJake Rigdon is the executive editor at Nimble Media, a writing service based out of Toronto. You can reach him on FacebookLinkedInGoogle+Twitter or by email at jake@nimblemedia.ca.