Since this forum means a lot to us all, I have quite often wanted to contribute here myself. Well, I want to start with keyword research. It's not the only or the best way, it's just the way I do it. In its essence, keyword research is actually a market research. It enlightens the things people are interested in, key part of the strategic planning of an SEO campaign. This piece of info is worth its weight in gold, especially if you know how to use it. Keyword research is the one step that has the biggest impact on the success of your SEO campaign. It is possible to get everything else right in terms of SEO and still have a losing campaign. The reason behind that is because your main ranking terms are low searched, or not searched at all. Step 1: Brainstorming Keywords Before getting started on your new website, it is very important that you spend some time brainstorming all the keywords you think your website or brand should rank for. With a piece of paper and away from your computer, put yourself in the place of people who are looking for your website. You want to rank for the right keyword and this is why the keywords that you choose must be highly relevant. If you are trying to attract people to come to your Chicago law firm, you may want to consider ranking for "law services in Chicago". You will be engaging in the initial step in your keyword research. Try to write down as many keywords as you can. In the absence of a solid idea regarding what your website offers, do not expect that the following steps will be of any help to you. Since I am not a dentist, I don't think I can brainstorm keywords regarding dentistry. Even if I could, I will find very hard monetize that site. What my point is, do not focus on too specialized sites unless this is actually your field of knowledge. Step 2: Keyword Research Step two is where you conduct keyword research properly. With regard to this step, there are some quite powerful techniques and metrics that you will need to take into consideration. We all know that Google gives us a wide spread picture on the online market, showing the terms and searches with its popular Keyword Planner tool. "Avg. monthly searches" is the first of these metrics. It simply refers to the number of searches that a particular keyword got per month. Next in line in terms of metrics is "competition". It's the number of advertisers that showed on each keyword. Typically, difficulty is ranked on low, medium and high scale. This is the part where your need your brainstormed keywords. Open Google's Keyword Planner and choose the option to "Get search volume for a list of keywords". Type your brainstormed keywords and see what you have. You are looking for a low competitive niches with as high as possible monthly searches. Brainstorming 10 to 15 keywords is not enough. What I do next is find related keywords. The first option in Google's Keyword Planner allows you to "search for new keywords". Type your brainstormed keywords and find similar ones. Note that some of them might be more promising then the ones you "brainstormed". Arranging the keywords per average montlhy searches might give you some pretty good keywords at the top. If you typed a word like "men's shoes" into the Google Keyword Planner, it will return lots of words. If you were to sort them by number of monthly searches, you would see that the keywords with the most searches tend to be short phrases, such as "boots". There will be a few of these keywords, maybe ten or twenty. Although these short phrases look tempting, I suggest you leave them for better times. Unless, of course, you really know your way around. If you are just starting with Internet marketing, then I think you should be looking for a phrase with no more than 10.000 and no less then 1.000 average monthly searches. Find some reasonable keywords that satisfy your needs the best. All of these longer phrases (with fewer searches) are called long tail keywords because they look like a tail when they are plotted on a graph. Step 3: Competitor Analysis Just as competitor analysis is important in traditional marketing techniques, so it's in search engine optimization. It involves finding out the keywords that your competitors have chosen to rank for. SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) can educate us a lot. One organic way of testing keyword competition is through performing a search on Google. If you realize that there are lots of paid ads apart from organic search, it means that this is a hot keyword and marketers are targeting for it. As you may know, search engine results are consisted of title, URL and meta description. Once I see the SERPs for a specific keyword, I can evaluate if I can rank this query (keyword). Or at least I can perceive how tough will my competition be. If the query is present into all three search engine result elements, my early conclusion is that this website will be tougher to outrank. However, if the query is not present in one of these elements (especially the title), I encourage myself and will give it a go. The presence of authority sites in top 10 can seriously slow our way on the number 1 spot. Sites like Amazon or official product representatives are hard to outrank unless you know a way around. If you are having troubles encountering these sites (yet you don't want to give up on the niche), I suggest you to consider targeting long tail keywords. I usually go one step deeper in analyzing my competition. I test the site in Open site explorer to check the top 5 backlinks and MOZ popular Domain Authority (DA) metric. If the top 5 backlinks are low-quality and DA is below 25, I know I'll be able to bypass this website even before I show everything I got. There's an exception to this, however, when a hidden PBN links are pointing to a site. Testing all those keywords can be pretty hard to be done manually. It is so slow that it will effectively handicap you. Instead, there are some websites which will help you to do this in-depth competitive research. My preference is SEMRush. It takes a huge list of the most profitable keywords (tens of millions of keywords), and they search Google several times per month. They track who is advertising and which sites are ranking for every keyword. And they track this data all the way back to when these sites first opened. This means you can quickly discover who all your competitors are, and which keywords they are using to advertise. This will quickly provide you with a list of extremely profitable keywords which have been proven to result in sales, and the exact advertising text that the customers responded to! There are also other useful online tools that I use, such as this keyword density tool checker. Too often, I check the keyword density of the top 10 sites on Google so I could find the perfect one for my article. Step 4: Trends The next step involves testing the keywords you believe are worthwhile and most relevant to target. It is very important to consider targeting keywords that look reliable in a time to come. This way you are giving a meaning to your keyword research. I usually do this with Google Trends. Compare the keywords that you think best describe your business or niche. Find a trending ones and focus your campaign around them. You can use Google trends as part of your idea creation process. Regional interest and related search boxes are fresh data that can be used to gain useful insights. Step 5: More Keywords Keyword research does not end here. You need to be always adding fresh informative content to your site. Given that search queries are subject to change over time so as to conform to new trends, it might be ultimately important to come up with similar content for targeting similar keywords. By this point, I suppose you have a decent list of hot keywords with a proven track history of converting to sales. But we are not finished yet. The next step is to get massive keyword suggestions in order to expand the list. List usually used in the process of link building with tools (such as GSA SER). With this step you will build long tail keywords related with your main ones. It's actually the long tail keywords that monetize the best and are easier to rank. While you could try and do this by hand by repeating the steps from above, it will take ages to get a complete list. Instead, you can use some online tools. I suggest Keyword Revealer. You may still have to type your keywords one by one, but at least you will build sufficiently big amount of keywords. You can even use this tool as a replacement of Keyword Planner. It's very easy to manage and has a more user-friendly interface. Plus, it's pretty faster than the Keyword Planner. If you are targeting for long tail keywords, just insert the minimum number of words to least 4. Once you have your list, you can order it by "Average monthly searches". Pick out the suggestions that make the most sense in order to expand your previous list. Repeat this process with another keyword. Several iterations and you already have a profitable set of keywords ready to be banked. Keyword Revealer let's you evaluate certain keyword, showing the difficulty and interest over time, something similar to Google Trends: Step 6: Implementation At this point, you already have the keywords that you are looking to target for. Through testing your chosen keywords, you will not only get to know whether searchers click over to your site but also if those searchers spend some time on your site after clicking on it. Remember that the goal is not just to lead your potential clients to your site but to make them be actually interested with your website as to stay there for some time. The last, but not least, is to have the keywords implemented on your website. All static pages, and this even includes the landing pages, need to have keywords that have shown bigger conversion potential. If you find this keyword implementation hard to be done only by yourself, I suggest hiring a professional writers at oDesk or iWriter that can help you with the task. Many of these guys that have high grades and solid background on how to write SEO-friendly articles.