The web runs on keywords, so targeting the wrong keywords at the outset of your SEO campaign will make it difficult for you to see results. For this reason, it’s important to invest some time in ensuring that you’re building your site around the right target phrases.
Essentially, you want to find the “Goldilocks” of keywords – the words that get good search volume but that aren’t too competitive to rank for. Targeting the keyword “lose weight”, for example, would be a mistake. Even though the search volume is good, you’ll have to invest years of effort before you could even hope to get ranked well in the SERPs.
When it comes to specifics, the ideal search volume for your site will depend on your goals. If you’re planning a small niche-oriented site, keywords with as few as 500-1,000 exact match monthly searches might provide enough traffic to meet your earning expectations. Even if you anticipate growing your site to be much larger, it might still be a good idea to start with these long-tail keywords, as focusing on them will give you the confidence to tackle keywords with higher search volume and, consequently, higher competition.
Determining your ideal keyword competition is a bit trickier. Although many sites will suggest that you simply search Google for your exact-match target keyword and measure difficulty based on the number of competing pages that appear, this approach is naïve. Instead, it’s important to fully analyze the Top 10 results in Google for your target keyword, taking things like domain age, PageRank, page optimization and page backlinks into account.