Building a website that is visually appealing is important, but not necessarily the Holy Grail of success on the web, says Cara Crosetti, Los Angeles-based account director and web specialist with Wickware Communications Inc. of Toronto.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the most important part of any web marketing strategy. And a pivotal component of any SEO strategy is finding the best “keywords,” which can boost your web traffic and help you get the kind of visitors you want.

A keyword is any word chosen by you to be associated with your site in a search. If a user enters one of your keywords in a search, the search engine should connect back to your site. And the more specific, the better. If your target market is ambi-dexterous cricket bowlers, the words “ambi-dexterous” “cricket” and “bowlers” should be among your keywords.

Finding the right keywords for your website is a time-consuming process, Crosetti says, “but it is absolutely critical to having success online.”

Crosetti offers the following advice to help you get started with your keyword research:

> Make a list; check it repeatedly
First, define what you hope your website will accomplish. Next, start making a list of words that help define that goal.

This step may well be the most time-consuming in your SEO process, but it is crucial to your success.

Describe your offering, then put yourself in a prospect’s shoes. What words do you think an ideal prospect might use to find you on Google?

Other helpful ways of identifying keywords could be to list the specific words you use in your day-to-day business; consider any special taglines you use in your emails, brochures or newsletters. Cast a wide net. No idea is “wrong” at this point.

Crosetti recommends you compile all your preliminary keyword ideas in a spreadsheet so they can be assessed easily.

> Research, research, research
Now that you have created a detailed list, it’s time to start digging a little deeper.

Look at other effective advisors websites to see which words they use frequently. This process should help you identify industry-specific words that you might choose. It should also help give your list some structure as you begin to see which words are more frequently used and, which are not.

> Target identified
Once you have begun to streamline your list, Crosetti recommends you then visit Google’s keyword tool, AdWords. (Google also offers AdWords for sale, but you don’t need to consider purchasing specific words yet because you are still in the research stage.)

This tool will allow you to set certain parameters on your search that will help you home in on the words that have been used most in your area over a defined period.

Also, this tool will help you define the quality of the search. For example, if you are planning on selling more ETFs, you can tell the tool to specifically look at broad searches, meaning the letters “E” “T” or “F” show up; or you can set it for an exact match, hence, the likely more relevant “ETF”.

This is the second instalment in an occasional series about how you can use SEO to build your business.

Next: How to become a keyword “detective.”