The first thing you have to know is: No keyword research — no SEO. Why? Because keywords are the cornerstones of SEO. And, trying to promote a website without having the right keywords brings no results. It's like trying to find a buried treasure without knowing where exactly it's hidden. Think of a situation like this: you know there're heaps of pure golden coins and shining diamonds buried on an island, but the old pirate map you have is half burnt, and you just can't find the right place on it. So you can dig the ground as deep as you wish, but you won't get a grain of gold. Now what's the bright side of it? The right keywords are the best investment in SEO. It's the case when money doesn't matter. Think of this: if you have 5 great keywords, your chances to make a fortune are huge. And if you have 5 thousand dollars, you still need the 5 great keywords. ;) 100% sure, with this guide you'll pick out really good keywords, use them at really right time — and turn them into really big money. Once again, the thing I know for sure is: if you do what the book says, there's no way to fail SEO. Now, don't waste your time, go ahead! So what's a keyword for SEO? This is a word people will type in Yahoo! or Google or other search engine to look for products or services they need and you offer. Before I give you my example, meet my son Mike. His girlfriend gave him an iPod for his 19th birthday, 3 weeks ago. Today Mike's going to buy new headphones and makes a query in Yahoo!, typing in headphones. Now, if he sees your site at the very top of the search engine's results page, this means that you rank first by the keyword headphones. Also, it means that Mike is much more likely to visit your site and buy from it, then from a competitor's site that has a #4 ranking. We can make queries using one or several words, like, headphones or iPod headphones. Terms for query that contain several words are sometimes called keyphrases. So iPod headphones is a two-keyword keyphrase. So to get a #1 placement in search engines, the first and the most important step is to choose the right keywords and keyphrases for which you want to rank first. Why do I call this step the most important? I'm often asked: "Why think so much of keywords?" The answer comes together with experience. Keywords are the crucial starting point of any SEO campaign. They are the material an SEO works with. Just like a cook can't make an apple pie with wrong fruit, or a potter can't make a plate with bad clay, an SEO can't make a website succeed with wrong keywords. Pick the good keywords, and you're half-way to success. Get the wrong ones — and you'll make a dog's dinner of the whole campaign. You will need the results of this first step all way through Sure, when you get done with this step, you won't see any effect on your website's traffic. But the keywords you'll single out will be critical for the greater part of your future optimization work, be it onpage optimization, directories submit, link exchange or other. But let's not leap ahead. I'll put prior things first. The simple truth about keywords Now, I want to dwell upon one very important and rather contradictory thing. It's about the length and composition of keyphrases. When people make searches in Google or other search engines, most often they type in 2-word phrases, and just a bit less often 3-word phrases. 1-word phrases get fewer searches, and if the keyphrase is longer than 3, it gets fewer uses, with each word added. So in general, if you choose long keyphrases, you're getting less traffic. The only exception is 1-word keywords. They also don't get too many searches. But the coin has its reverse. Let's talk about targeted traffic. Please think of this: if a person types in headphones, who can guess what exactly one expects to find? Say, my son is in fact interested in inexpensive headphones for running, and you sell professional stereo headphones. So Mike comes to your website, maybe thinks it's well designed — and hits the back button in his browser. But what if he were looking for 900 MHz wireless stereo headphones and would type it in Yahoo? If you sell this kind of headphones, then your chances to get Mike as a purchaser would at least double — and this happens with any visitor. Here's what we call targeted traffic: people come to your website because they are looking for what you offer. If they type in a search term, find your site, come to it and buy — this means that the search term they used converts. If they come to your site after the search, look it through and leave — the keyword does not convert. You only get a visit, but not a sale. So remember: you need keyphrases that convert. The longer and the more precise your keyphrases are, the sooner you'll get your traffic. Why? Because it's easier to optimize a site for a unique phrase with little competition. So here's the summary: it's rather hard and not wise to get to the top with a single-word or rather broad-sense keyphrase. The longer and more precise your keyphrase is, the fewer visitors you get, but the more targeted your traffic is. The narrower the search term you target, the greater part of visitors convert into real customers. My recommendation is: try to find the golden mean. If you're not sure, start with two- or three-word keyphrases that better express your customer's needs.