The cornerstone of any search engine optimization (SEO) is a solid, targeted keyword universe. If you have a good, well researched, keyword universe, then you will have strong target keywords on your site pages and your rankings will improve and bring in more visitors.
What factors make for a good keyword universe? There are a large number of factors, but here are three of my top requirements:
1. All keywords must be absolutely relevant to your business.
Companies often err by trying to target keywords the want to rank for though they may not specifically describe their business. Avoid these and stick to your strengths, or else a large portion of your SEO could end up being unproductive.
Know thyself and keep your keyword terms as specifically targeted as possible.
2. Absolutely relevant keywords are good, regardless of whether or not there is a lot of competing sites for that term.
Many SEO firms use a service called Wordtracker, which helps develop keyword lists and ranks valuable terms by a formula measuring number of searches versus number of competing sites. The theory behind this is that targeting keywords with fewer competing sites will enable a site to rank better.
While these less competitive terms may be attractive, by no means are they the only terms worth considering. Focusing on the terms that are the most specific descriptors of your product and services, regardless of competition, will enable your site to rank well.
I am not saying Wordtracker is not a valuable tool - it is an excellent way to start building a keyword universe. It is just a start, and competing site counts is just one variable to judge a good or bad keyword.
3. Keep focused on the terminology of your customers, not of your business or industry.
All organizations can fall into the trap of communicating with customers using their own industry lingo. Doing this with keywords can cause your site to really miss the majority of potential search traffic.
A good example is in the hotel industry. Some hotels end up targeting and industry term such as "accommodations" or "lodging" when their potential customers are really using "hotels." These industry terms have only about one tenth of the searches of "hotels."
There is no one formula for selecting the best keywords, just as there is no formula for a successful marketing program. Staying focused on your customer needs and how your products or services meet those needs will provide the best perspective on which keywords are valuable much more than competitive ratios or other formulas.