By Tim Kimber

Today, more and more businesses are getting online to take advantage of the internet’s wide reaching sphere of influence. This presents a problem for smaller businesses as they cannot afford to be generalised with larger and more recognised brands. For instance, a search of ‘buying DVDs’ is more likely to bring up brands like Amazon, HMV and Play.com rather than ‘Bill and Ted’s Movie Store’.

Buying specific keywords is therefore paramount in order for a business to narrow their advertising efforts and ensure they are quickly and easily recognised online. The reality is that there simply isn’t enough space on the first few pages to list each site. Thus, the right keyword will ensure that businesses reach their targeted customers. While there are multiple sources available to buy keywords, Tim Kimber, Head of Microsoft Office Live has the below tips designed to help [/b]businesses[/b] facilitate the process more effectively.

1. Choose the right keyword/phrase

Arguably, the most important thing about buying keywords is the choice of the keyword. When choosing your keywords, you need to be specific almost to the point of being pedantic. Many businesses pick words that are far too broad and that is guaranteed to put your website out of the running for the first results page. Remember that instead of shifting through loads of search returns, customers are more likely to do another more specific search. You need to think about which keywords would get your site the best possible position on the results page.

Businesses should also invest in keywords that are most likely to provide return on investment or yield the highest revenue. You need to identify which keywords deliver the highest sales conversion. Don’t be afraid to implement a trial by error method of using several keywords or phrases and doing a search to see if your business turns up.

You might also want to consider using phrases instead of keywords. This increases the chances of reaching your target audience as well as eliminating larger competitors. For instance, using the example mentioned above, Bill and Ted might want to include ‘independent film seller’ as a phrase. This will automatically exclude the bigger chain brands and allow for a more successful search.

2. Know your customer

After choosing the right keyword, you have to make sure that it is relevant to your customer base. This is especially true for smaller businesses that have a niche product or service and want to develop a loyal customer base.

Put yourself in the position of the customer. Think about what keywords your customers are likely to use and reflect that in your choice as much as possible. Remember to use a bit of flexibility and not match it word for word as you don’t want to miss out on reaching other customer bases. Always start with more specific keywords and once you achieve good rankings for these, you can afford to broaden your keywords a little to match.

3. Know your medium

Now that you have identified the right keyword and your customer base, you need to be aware of how search engines work. By getting an insight into the mechanics of the process, you are able to utilise the benefits that other competitors might not be aware of.

Search engines basically store information about billions of webpages, which they retrieve from the web directly. When a user enters a query into a search engine by using key words, the engine examines its index of webpages and provides a listing of best matching web pages according to its criteria. There are a range of search engines available to you. My advice is that you do some research and look for the best search engine for you. Everyone is tempted to use the most popular ones but take your time to evaluate the benefits of each one.

4. Spending on your keyword

Never underestimate just how many of your customers use search engines when looking for a particular product or service. Instead of paying for your keywords, why not consider bidding for them? Pay per click (PPC) auctions are used to sell positions in search engines. This has its advantages because you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. The downside of course is that you might end up paying for unwanted clicks. For instance, if you’re selling car insurance to low-risk women drivers, you’ll inevitably receive clicks from women who aren’t suitable for the policy. In effect, you can end up paying for nothing. There are services available that provide tools which allow businesses to target customers in different ways, thereby making it easier to specify when you want to advertise and to whom. For example, Google Search allows businesses to target by time of day and location and Microsoft allows you to target by age and gender as well as time of day and location.

5. Anticipate common spelling mistakes

A very good tip that most businesses do not take advantage of is the inclusion of common spelling mistakes. A good number of words are misspelt during internet searches and if one of your keywords includes one of those that are commonly misspelt (for example believe, receive, maintenance, medieval etc), you can actually turn this into a benefit. Many customers do not even realise that they have misspelt a word; they just assume that limited results are available. Because many other businesses don’t know or pay attention to this strategy, you have a better chance of being in the top results page.

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