Choosing The Right Keywords
Which keywords should you optimize your site for?
By Sumantra Roy

In this article, we focus on the correct way of finding out the keywords for which you should optimize your site. This article will give you the formula for the Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) - a mathematical formula which I have developed to help you determine which keywords you should be optimizing your site for.

Step 1: Open your text editor or word processor and write down all the words and phrases that you might have searched for if you were looking for a company which offers products and services similar to yours. For example, suppose your company organizes packaged tours to Australia. Here's a list of phrases that I might have searched for if I were planning to make a trip to Australia:

tourism in Australia
travel to Australia
traveling in Australia
travel agencies in Australia
traveling agencies in Australia
Australian travel agencies

Of course, the keywords that came to your mind may have been different. But that's not important - the important thing is to get an initial list of keywords.

You may be wondering why I have not used single word keywords. Here's why:

Firstly, single word keywords tend to be hyper-competitive. A search for "tourism" or traveling in any search engine will probably generate hundreds of thousands of pages. While it is possible that you may get your page in the top 10 for such a single word keyword, it is quite unlikely.

Secondly, because of the sheer number of pages that single word searches can throw up, most search engine users have realized that they can get more relevant pages if they search for phrases rather than individual words. Statistical research has shown that most people are now searching for 2 or 3 word phrases rather than for single words.

Thirdly, single word keywords won't get you targeted traffic. When people search for "tourism", they are not necessarily looking for tourist destinations in Australia - they may be interested in any other country of the world. Even if you got your site into the top 10 for tourism, you gain nothing from such visitors. However, when someone searches for "tourism in Australia", he/she is your potential customer, and hence, it
makes sense for you to try and get a top ranking for your site for that keyword.

Hence, whenever you are trying to generate keywords, try to be location specific. Try to think of keywords which apply to the geographic area that your product or service is designed to serve.

Step 2: Find out what your competitors are doing.

A great way to obtain a list of the keywords your competitors are trying to optimize their sites for is to visit

Type in your first keyword (i.e. tourism in Australia) in the "Enter a primary keyword or keyword phrase:" text box. Enter all the remaining keywords in your list in the "Optional secondary keywords or phrases:" text box. Separate these keywords by spaces. For the "How many suggestions do you want?" question, choose "A Lot". Click on the Generate Suggestions button. This site will then go to the search engines, search for your keywords, and will then display the keywords present in the meta keywords tag of the top ranking pages. While all the keywords that it displays will not be applicable for your site, it will throw up quite a few good keywords for you to consider.

Suppose that among the keywords that the JimTools page has displayed, the following keywords are applicable for your site (and have not already been added to your original list):

tourism Down Under
traveling Down Under
traveling to Australia
Australian tourism

(This is just a hypothetical list. The actual keywords that it lists will be different and will obviously change with time). Add these keywords to your original list. However, don't add a keyword to your list unless it is really relevant to your site. For example, your competitors may have the names of their companies in their meta keywords tag. Obviously, you should not include it in your keyword list. Similarly, if your competitors
sell products which you don't, they may have it in their meta tags, but you should not include those keywords in your list.

As an interesting side note, note how your competitors have used the word Down Under as an alternative to Australia. You too should keep a look out for that and try to use multiple forms of a word whenever you can and whenever they are applicable for your web site.

Another point to note here is that if you have read other articles on finding the correct keywords for your site, you may have been advised to include common typos in your keyword list. This, however, has both advantages and disadvantages. The benefit, of course, is that if you optimize your site for a common typo and manage to obtain a higher ranking for that typo, a person who has made that typo while searching will be able to find you, thus increasing the traffic to your web site.

However, your objective is not just to get a higher search engine ranking, but to get a higher ranking and translate that higher ranking into higher sales. Keep in mind that the pages in your site are going to be visited not only by search engines but also by humans. If you create a page in your site which is optimized for a particular typo, that page is going to be seen by the visitors to your site who have inadvertently made that typo while
typing in the keyword in the search engine.

Imagine the kind of first impression you will be making on such visitors if they spot a typo in your web site. Even though the visitor himself has made that typo, when he forms the first impression of your site, the last thing he is going to consider is that he himself made the same mistake. If, for example, you had optimized one of your pages for the keyword: "turism in Australia", (assuming that turism is a common typo) the first
thing that a potential customer of yours may think is: "Well, this company is supposed to be involved in tourism, but doesn't  even know the spelling of tourism. Who knows how many other such goof-ups it will make if I ask it to organize a trip for me to Australia? Better look somewhere else." And your potential customer has gone for ever. Hence, in my opinion, you should not optimize your site for any typos.

Coming back to the main topic of this article, once you have searched for the original keywords in your list and added the relevant keywords which the JimTools page has displayed to your list, you should have a fairly large list of possible keywords.

Once you have those keywords, we can move on to the fun part - finding out which of these keywords are the most popular!

Step 3: Find out which keywords are the most popular

Go to the following web site:

The keyword susser simply queries's search suggestion tool with each of the provided keywords or key phrases, combines the reports, sorts them by popularity, eliminates duplicates, and emails you the resulting report. By scanning down through the report and extracting the ones that are actually relevant to you, you can get a list of the keywords you really want to target.

Type in your email address in the box provided, and then type in the list of keywords that you have developed in Steps 1 and 2 in the "Suss these words" box. To speed things up, you can use your operating system's Copy and Paste feature. Simply copy all the keywords from your text editor or word processor and paste them into the "Suss these words" box.

Then, click on the Suss! button. The Keyword Susser tool will soon email you a list of the keywords which resemble the keywords that you had typed in, along with the number of times people have searched for those keywords in the GoTo search engine during the last month. The keywords will be arranged in descending order of popularity.

Now, open any spreadsheet program. I assume you are using Microsoft Excel. If you are using some other spreadsheet program just change the spreadsheet related procedures outlined here to fit your program.

Create 4 columns - one for the keyword, one for the number of times the keyword has been used by users in GoTo, one for the number of sites that appear in AltaVista for that keyword and the last for something I call the Keyword Effectiveness Index (don't worry - I'll explain what KEI means later on). In order to ensure that you can follow what I am saying, I recommend that you add the following column headers to the first four columns of the first row of your spreadsheet:

No. of Competitors

In case you don't want to take the trouble of creating your own spreadsheet, download the file from The file contains
a sample spreadsheet in Excel 97 format.

Then in the table that you have created in your spreadsheet, type in each of the keywords that the Keyword Susser has thrown up in the first column and the number of times those keywords have been used in the second column. In order to ensure that you can follow me, make sure that you type the first keyword in the second row of your spreadsheet. Instead of typing, you can speed things up by using the Copy and Paste feature, i.e. by copying the keyword from the email and pasting it in your spreadsheet program. Of course, you should only bother adding a keyword to your spreadsheet if it is applicable for your site.

Step 4: Find out how competitive your keywords are

Go to AltaVista ( Search for the first keyword that is present in your spreadsheet using exact match search (i.e. you should wrap the keyword in quotes, i.e. you should type a quotation mark before typing the keyword and a quotation mark after typing it). AltaVista will return the number of sites which are relevant to that keyword. Add this number to the third column of the spreadsheet in the same row in which the keyword is present. Repeat this process for each of the keywords present in your spreadsheet.

Once you have done that, your first column will contain the keywords, your second column will contain the number of times people have been searching for those keywords and your third column will contain the number of sites you are competing against to get a high ranking for those keywords.

Now it's time to calculate the KEI!

Step 5: The Keyword Effectiveness Index

The Keyword Effectiveness Index is the square of the number of people who have searched for a keyword in Goto in the last month divided by the number of sites which appear in AltaVista for that keyword. It is designed to measure which keywords are worth optimizing your site for. Higher the KEI, better the keyword. How the formula for the KEI is arrived at is beyond the scope of this article. If you want to know, send a blank email to

If you had used the spreadsheet file that I created for you (see Step 3), you won't need to enter the formula for calculating KEI yourself. The KEI would be automatically calculated for you the moment you enter the values in columns 2 and 3. You can go straight to Step 6.

In case you didn't download the file, here's how you can calculate the KEI.

I am assuming that you have created the spreadsheet columns in the way I recommended in Step 3 and that you are using Microsoft Excel. If you using some other spreadsheet program, you will need to adjust the formula to the requirements of your spreadsheet program. Click on cell D2. Type in the following exactly as it is shown:


Then click on the Copy button to copy the formula, select all the cells in column 4 which have keywords associated with them and press the Paste button to paste the formula. The KEI for each keyword will be displayed.

Step 6: Finding the most effective keywords

Use your spreadsheet program's Sort feature to sort the rows in descending order of the KEI. In Excel 97, you would click on the Data menu, click on the Sort menu item, choose KEI from the drop-down combo box named "Sort by", click on the "Descending" option next to it, and then click on OK.

And guess what - that's it! You now know the keywords you should optimize your site for. You can now start optimizing your site one by one for each keyword, starting with the keyword with the highest KEI. Exactly how many of the keywords you choose to optimize your site for largely depends on the amount of time that you can spare from your normal business activities. But whatever the number of keywords that you target, it obviously makes sense to go for the most effective keywords first.

Tying up the loose ends:

The above method of using's Search Suggestion feature to
measure the popularity of keywords is based on the assumption that people who use as their search engine are more or less representative of all the users of the Internet. In my opinion, that is a pretty safe assumption. While the actual number of people who searched for a particular keyword in any of the other search engines may be different from GoTo, I see no reason to believe that the relative popularity of the keywords would be different. If 1000 people searched for a particularkeyword and 50 people searched for another keyword in GoTo (i.e. a ratio of 20:1), then it is quite probable that the ratio for another search engine is also close to 20:1. The actual numbers for a more popular search engine than GoTo may be 3000 and 150, but the ratio, in my opinion, will be pretty similar.

One way to verify whether the ratios are actually similar is to use MSN's Keyword bidding service at Scroll down the page and in the text box below "How much does it cost for Keyword listing on MSN Search?", type in the keyword that you want to check, and then click on the Check Price button. The site will soon display a
page containing last month's impressions of that keyword.

Although MSN does not give you the exact number of times people have searched for a particular keyword (it only tells you whether the number falls within a certain range), it can give you a rough idea of the relative popularity of each keyword. I have conducted numerous queries using both GoTo and MSN's tools and have seen nothing to indicate that the relative popularity of keywords in the two search engines is different.

In addition to this, remember that GoTo lists the number of people who have searched for a particular keyword in the previous month. Hence, you might consider repeating Step 3 in the next month in order to ensure that the figures for the previous month are no aberration.

This article may be re-published as long as the following resource box is included at the end of the article:

Article by Sumantra Roy. Sumantra is a search engine positioning specialist. For free articles on search engine placement, subscribe to his 1st Search Ranking Newsletter by sending a blank email to  or by going to


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