When it comes to search engine optimization, keyword research is one of the be-all, end-alls of increasing your website’s search engine rank and attracting visitors to your site. From the blinking cursor in a search box on the screen of a potential client to your website, keyword research is the link that ties one to the other.

In short, keyword research is the process of examining and testing keywords on your site to determine what the most efficient terms are to bring the right consumers to your site. It’s not just about getting visitors—it’s about getting the right visitors.

Finding the right keywords for the right people takes time, as does building up the search ranking on your site. Particularly if your website is competing against major brands, it can take years to build up your website’s ranking. The reward for putting forth this time and effort can’t be overstated, especially with such a low barrier to entry in learning to understand the motivations of consumers.

To get started with keyword research, you need to know what brings customers to your sight. Google Analytics is a good starting point for this: A line of code embedded in the web design of your site is all it takes for you to learn what visitors are looking for, how many of them are looking for things on your site and—most importantly—what search terms they’re using. This begins the trial-and-error process of keyword research: By testing and research various keywords, you can fine-tune your website’s keyword usage to improve your site’s search ranking.

The first step of research is picking out a keyword and typing it in on a few major search engines. It’s wise to understand what websites already rank for the keyword you want to use, and this can also garner insight on the keyword’s popularity. If there are a multitude of search advertisements above and alongside the organic results, the keyword is likely very popular and lucrative. Explore all keywords you wish to use and use tools like word maps and word association lists to come up with associated keywords. Google Adwords can also help you in coming up with words and phrases.

From there, it’s trial, monitoring and adjustment. Study how well the keywords work and how much traffic they bring to your site. Adjust them if they need to be optimized, or change them if they’re having little or no effect. Over time, your website’s rank will improve and traffic will increase, and all the work put into making your website that much better will more than pay off.