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It's been sometime since I've worked on my site and am starting to do some optimization again and doing some keyword research. My questions are:
1) Is it better to go for long tail; not-so-competitive keywords or higher trafficted keywords?
2) How do I start doing a shortlist of what to target for as there are many combinations and synonyms for my targeted keywords.
Then analyze each keyword’s ranking vs. the optimization of its landing page. For example, if you’re getting some traffic for “distance running training” but your landing page for that keyword ranks in Google in the middle of page two and hasn’t yet been well optimized, then you should expect a decent bang for your buck by spending some time on that page and working to bump it up to page one. Do this for all of your keywords.
Once you’ve completed all of that, move on to the harder-core tasks of keyword research and content creation. My keyword research tool of preference is Nichebot because its excel-exportable lists are generated not only with a (very) rough ballpark of daily traffic potential for each keyword but also with a tailorable computation of the amount of competition that exists for each keyword. Whether you prefer to massage your lists in excel or within NicheBot’s online environment (which is quite robust) it’s easy to sort your columns to view which keywords fall into the sweet spot of less competitors and higher expected traffic.
Then, starting with the most appropriate combinations of keyword relevance, keyword competition, and predicted traffic, start creating content that will support a page focused on each keyword (and maybe a small handful of closely related but secondary keywords or phrases). When creating your pages, keep in mind your optimization basics: A page name that will get the keyword included in the URL, a short title tag that uses the keyword near the beginning, a description meta tag that broadly and succinctly describes the information on the page, an H1 header near the top of the HTML, and two to four (or more) paragraphs of content that utilize your keyword in a variety of forms, as well as broad spectrum of vocabulary that closely relates to your keyword.
And there you have it. Before you know it, your site will be all optimized, you’ll have your feet propped up on your desk and your hands clasped comfortably behind your head and you’ll be thinking to yourself “Shoot, if I knew it was going to that easy, I wouldn’t have waited so long to take care of it! ;)