Selecting keywords is a pivotal step in your search engine optimization (SEO) process, according to Cara Crosetti, Los Angeles-based account director and web specialist with Wickware Communications Inc. of Toronto.

“You want to find out which words people are searching,” she says, “and which ones will fit best for your business.”

After you have brainstormed and created a long list of words related to your business, your next step is to begin to pare down that list into a more focused lineup.

Crosetti offers these tips on refining your keyword list:

> Expect revisions
The lengthy list of potential keywords you have assembled represents your “internal” views, Crosetti says — words you and your team came up with.

These words do not necessarily match what your ideal clients or prospects are typing into search engines when they’re looking for a financial advisor.

So, plan on revising your list as you continue your research.

> Know the trends
Want to know whether your keywords are “hot” or not?

Crosetti recommends you visit Google Trends ( to find out how popular your words are.

The “trends” feature lets you test potential keywords by your province or region and by category — such as “financial services.” Once you have customized your search options, enter your potential keyword. Google will give the word a score on a 100-point scale based on the word’s popularity.

(Note that this score may not be absolutely accurate for your purposes, but it is a useful guide in helping you choose keywords.)

> Choose the middle ground
While you should avoid words that score abysmally low, you should also try to avoid words that score extremely high.

Find that middle ground, Crosetti says, particularly if you are running a smaller, independent practice. Selecting words that score very high will put you up against the large institutional firms that have limitless resources.

“You want to find a sweet spot,” says Crosetti. That means finding words that are relevant to your practice, but also offer a score that can give you a chance to compete.

It’s also important to be aware of the scale of the search. A low search number on Google Trends could still mean you can attract 20,000 views, for example.

> Go long
If you are not satisfied with the results from your keywords, think about how they can be elaborated upon.

Your list likely contains a bunch of short-tailed keywords —simple, one- or two-word combinations, such as: “mutual fund.”

Try pivoting from short-tailed to long-tailed keyword, which can be three-, four- or five-word phrase, to help you gather more information. That means taking “mutual fund” and translating it, for example, to “Canadian dividend mutual fund.”

“It all comes back to knowing what you are looking for,” Crosetti says. “The evidence will be there.”

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

Next: Putting your keywords into action.