An SEO campaign begins by getting to know the landscape of the industry and competition online in addition to target audience behavior. One of the most important steps in the initial phase of the process is keyword research. Keyword research is a necessary component in order to determine how people are searching for what the website offers. These keywords need to be incorporated into both on site and off site content in order to gain visibility in the search engines. Keywords set the foundation of the entire campaign.
Keyword research best practice is to manually go through the site page by page and brainstorm a potential list of keywords for each page. Plug each of these potential keywords into a keyword research tool (we recommend the Google AdWords Keyword Tool) to see what relevant keywords are suggested and what the search volume/competition data looks like.
A common mistake that many website owners make throughout the keyword selection process is not being open minded enough. They are often hesitant to stray away from a core set of keywords that they have their heart set on to target. They might focus on 10 or so keywords that they've already determined are the most important to rank for and focus solely on those keywords. The thing is, this strategy means that there are lots of missed opportunities.
Each page of a website should serve a distinct purpose that separates it from all of the other pages. If multiple pages of the site have content that is very similar and targets the same keywords, it means that those pages are essentially competing with one another for search engine attention and can create a bad user experience on the site. If you find that lots of pages could target the same keywords, it might make sense to merge the information onto one page with very strong content as opposed to lots of pages with "OK" content. Each page should be viewed as an opportunity to target additional keywords, not the same keywords over and over again.
Typically the handful of keywords that website owners want to focus on are the ones that have the highest search volume. They are distracted by the number and don't fully understand what it means. The keywords with the highest search volume are also the ones that are the most broad and competitive. Website owners need to be open to the idea of targeting more niche (long tail) keywords that have lower search volume, but also have lower competition. Incorporating long tail keywords into the mix is beneficial because searchers that use long tail keywords are typically more targeted visitors that know exactly what they are looking for and are further along in the sales cycle.
Targeting a variety of relevant keywords is the best SEO approach today. The search engines want to see a natural approach to keyword usage. Using the same core set of keywords over and over again (specifically as anchor text) can appear to the search engines that you are being a spammer. Incorporating a variety of new keywords into the mix keeps the search engines happy and improves the number of visitors to the site that are searching using a variety of keywords.