In March 2008 the 28th most popular search term, according to the New York Times, was “drugs”. Considering the way many people approach keyword research, one might think this made March a good month to be a drug dealer.

If only keyword research was as simple as that.

A Closer Look At Keywords

Looking a bit closer, we find what phrases containing the word “drugs” are the most searched for:

1. Drugs
2. Drug abuse
3. Prescription drugs
4. War on drugs
5. Drug addiction
6. Illegal drugs
7. Drug use
8. Drug bust
9. Drug testing
10. Prescription drug abuse

Now, with this new information, we can see that most likely, a majority of searches for “drugs” are being made by people who are worried about a loved ones possible drug problems, or maybe a concerned teacher researching the problem.

In light of this development, the drug dealer option is immediately looking a little shaky.

Maybe a rehabilitation centre would be a more feasible possibility.

The strength of keyword research lies not just in its ability to get good search placements but rather in the ability to give you information about what your target market wants. This gives you the ability to fulfill that need.

Needs Change, So Will Your Market

Keyword research cannot be left to stagnate, it has to be constantly changing, evolving to keep up with current trends.

For instance, let’s return to our “drug” example from earlier. In March, remember, “drugs” was the 28th most searched-for term. Looking back five months at November 2007, “drugs” was 29 on that same list, with pretty much the same list of related popular phrases.

This tells us that the drug concern has been relatively constant over the last five months, and will probably continue to remain steady. On the flip side, however, lets consider another popular search term: “Microsoft”.

In November of 2007, when “drugs” was sitting at number 29, “Microsoft” was reigning on high in the top spot. Thats right, “Microsoft” was the number one searched for term in November 2007.

Five months later, when “drugs” had moved only one position, to occupy 28th place, “Microsoft” had dropped so completely it was no longer even present in the top 50 most searched-for terms.

A drop in rank like that could hurt someone who’s optimising for the word “Microsoft”, especially if they haven’t correctly applied keyword research.

Keyword research can save you from a catastrophe like this in two important ways:

1. By not putting all your eggs in one basket. You should never Entirely optimise for just one keyword, even your primary one. Always have several keywords throughout that your website is optimised for. Keyword research will reveal several options of keywords for which you can optimise. Use them.
2. Keyword research would give you a heads-up that a sudden crash of your keywords was on the way. Thus giving you time to research more keywords, and optimise for those before the hammer drops.

The bottom line? Keyword research is pretty much a necessity in the world of online marketing today. Don’t engage in it at your own peril, or that of your business.