When a user enters a search term, or keyword phrase, at a search engine, regardless of whether it is Google, MSN, Yahoo! or AltaVista, the engine runs through the billions of pages in its database and awards each page a "relevancy score". The higher the score, the higher the listing will appear on the results page. If your site doesnt contain the keyword used by the searcher, the only score its going to get is a zero. Your first task then is to make sure you know which keywords are most relevant for each of your sites.
There are three ways to figure out which keywords work the best for your particular site:
1. Check Your Competitors
2. Check the pay-per-clicks
3. Use specialized tools
Checking your competitors is the easy way to find out what ranks them higher than you for your particular niche. Simply do a search on one of the search engines for your best keyword, and go to the top five sites on the results page. When visiting, check the page source by going to View-> Page Source. This will open up the HTML file of the site you are visiting. In the head portion of the page (it'll be the first thing you'll see) look for the phrase "meta=keywords content="their keywords here" (It will be enclosed in ) and this will give you a list of their top keywords. Keywords should be listed in this meta tag with the highest ranking keyword first. One very big advantage of doing this research is that it gives you an idea of how your competitors have optimized their pages, and if not done properly, you have the advantage in doing your own pages in the proper fashion.
Checking the pay-per-click sites such as Overture or FindWhat will also let you see what keywords people are bidding on. The downside is that they require you to open an account, and it may cost a few dollars, but it is worth the extra expense to be able to check bids on PPC. Googlefight is also a good resource to find which of two keywords are more relevant. Although limited in use, it is rather fun to play with, and gives relevant reports.
Specialized tools are the best way to check keywords for popularity and competition. Wordtracker, a paid subscription site, is an invaluable resource for researching top keywords. At $250 USD a year, it is not cheap, but the time saved and excellent returns are worth the investment. Wordtracker has a free trial search that can be used, although it is somewhat limited in return of relevant keyword phrases. You can also purchase a subscription for monthly, weekly, and daily. Daily fees are about $8 USD, and is a worthwhile investment. A lot of research can be done in 1 day, and if you are prepared with basic keyword brainstorming, you can get a lot done in a day's time.
As you build your keyword list from your root keyword, be mindful that when people search for product to buy, they generally use two to three phrase search terms. If they are doing research, they will search with the root word. For example if I wish to research "flowers" then that is the term I will input into the search engines. If, however, I am looking to purchase, I would use the term "buy red roses" or "buy cheap bouquets". With careful planning and taking the proper amount of time to research root keywords, you can be successful with the proper optimization of your web pages.
On my website, http://www.for-the-record.biz, there are more articles for the beginning marketer - everything from beginning to learn CSS to search engine tactics.
About The Author
Alden Smith is an award winning author who has been marketing on the internet for over 7 years. His site, http://www.for-the-record.biz, is loaded with articles and information for the beginning blogger and internet marketer.