Search engine marketing can be a tough nut to crack — but it’s more important than ever before.

Search engine optimization is critical for every brand, but with so many factors at play, it can be difficult to gauge the effectiveness of your company’s SEO efforts. A successful SEO strategy is built upon the selection of precise and effective key phrases that drive search engine referrals — a process that is equal parts art and science for digital marketers. After all, if a brand cannot effectively identify the terms and phrases that consumers use to search for its products or services, the company is unlikely to reach its target audience.

Let’s take a look at how marketers can develop an effective, dynamic search term strategy:

Start With the Basics—But Don’t Oversimplify

As you work to select effective keywords and phrases, ask yourself a simple question: what products and services does my company sell? “All too often, people dramatically over think the most basic keyword research concepts,” says Michael Mothner, founder and CEO of Wpromote. Focus on the tangible, and put yourself in the shoes of a digital consumer searching for your product.

You should not, however, deconstruct your terms past their point of relevance. “If you sell dog food online, the root words dog and food alone would be very poor keywords because on their own, neither dog nor food do a remotely good job at describing what you sell,” says Mothner. Though this example is quite obvious, fight the urge to include overly-broad root keywords.

Explore Variations

Say your brand sells women’s shoes. It might make sense, given the advice above, to select “shoes” as a keyword. However, from an organic SEO perspective, you are unlikely to rank highly for this term unless you are a huge, highly authoritative site — or (Google rewards keywords that match website addresses). Instead, consider “women’s work shoes,” “hand-crafted shoes,” “Fashion heels,” or other, more genre-specific terms that accurately describe your product.

Consider an SEO Audit

If your site has already published a significant amount of content, consider an SEO audit. By ranking each of your site’s published items by traffic volume, marketers can get an idea of how SEO-friendly a website already is. You can then update and optimize your current content for search. Moz and Search Engine Journal both provide helpful guides to conducting an effective SEO audit.

Guiding Your Content Strategy

Think about keyword strategy as a circular process: rather than first creating content and later selecting keywords to accompany it, consider what you already know about how consumers are searching for your site. That’s not to say that all effective content must be reverse engineered, but existing content may be improved by the incorporation of keywords and phrases that have already proved successful for your site.

For example, a marketer looking to optimize a piece of content about “organic small batch kombucha” should consider using the phrase in a variety of places: the title of the page, the page’s URL, in different variations throughout the page copy, meta tags, and image file paths. Leverage what you already know about your user’s needs and expectations to achieve higher rankings and increased traffic.

Constant analysis of the keywords and phrases that send traffic to your site is a crucial piece of the SEO puzzle. It gives your brand a chance to peer inside the minds of actively searching consumers and cater to existing needs and interests. Once you’ve built a targeted list of effective keywords, improve them through optimization and continue to track your progress. Using precise and consistent keyword evaluation and revision, brands can identify new trends in keyword demand, determine which keywords need adjustment, and discover which terms are driving traffic and leading to conversions.

Author Jamie Ayers

A graduate of Skidmore College, Jamie works at L&T as a content strategist, account manager, and editorial lead across a wide range of industries and fields, specializing in the digital economy, experiential marketing, and campaign-led initiatives. His other interests include electronics, Agatha Christie novels, and being outside.

More posts by Jamie Ayers