As we looked through the client website, it became clear why they were getting very little traffic. Their website was a well-kept secret. Unless you knew to look for this website by name, you wouldn’t find it in Google. The website didn’t use SEO keywords and the result was that almost nobody was coming to the website. Let’s take a look at how you can discover the right keywords for your business and show up at the top of the search engines for those search terms.
What are SEO Keywords and Why Do They Matter?
When people know that they want to do business with you, they can search for your business by name in the search engines. While this works great for bringing your website up in front of the people who already know you, the key to really making your website work like an ATM is that your website should show up in the search engines when people are looking for information about the products or services that you provide.
The words, phrases, or questions that people type into the search bar on Google are called keywords or keyword phrases. SEO stands for search engine optimization. The point of SEO is to optimize the pages on your website so that your webpages show up when someone searches in Google for your target SEO keywords.
It is extremely important to use SEO keywords so that your website is easy to find in the search engines. Using SEO keywords on your web pages in the right way is essential if your website is to show up in the search results when someone uses these words in a Google search. But first, you’ve got to know how to create a list of the right words to target.
Keyword Seed List
Creating the list of SEO keywords to target on your website begins with the creation of your seed list. A seed list is used to collect all the ideas of which keywords and phrases could be useful for you. This list is part brainstorm and part cursory research.
Begin by listing the different keywords and phrases that you think your website should show up for when someone searches for those words and phrases. At this point, don’t limit yourself or evaluate – go ahead and record all the ideas that you have.
What questions are you asked by prospects and clients? What words and phrases do they use? Using the vocabulary that your clients and prospects use in your keyword list is important in order to show up in the search engines in front of this audience.
Who are your competitors? Make a list of the competitors that come to mind. A Google search will uncover even more competitors. Go through this list of competitors and visit their websites, one by one. What keywords are they using? Add the keywords that are in use by your competitors to your keyword seed list, if they also apply for you.
Your keyword seed list now contains your own ideas, questions that prospects and clients ask, and the keywords that your competition is using. Now we have a good starting point for identifying and selecting the best SEO keywords for your business.
SEO Keyword Research Tools
Are there keywords that you shouldn’t target? In an ideal world where you are not limited by time and money, you could target an infinite number of keywords. However, in the world in which we live, you must prioritize. You’ve got to choose which keywords to start targeting right now and which keyword phrases you won’t do anything with right now. How do you know which keywords you should target for SEO and which you shouldn’t?
SEO keyword research tools are ideally suited to answer this question. There are a variety of free and paid keyword tools and each one promises to make discovering and selecting the best SEO keywords easy. The reality is that this is part art and part science. There is a lot of technique that goes into keyword discovery and selection.
The Google Keyword Tool has been replaced with the Google Keyword Planner. The way these tools all work, is that you input your keyword seed list and the tool will show you related search phrases that may or may not be relevant for you. These tools also provide an idea of how many people actually use these keywords in their search queries. Knowing the relative popularity of your keywords is a big factor in selecting which words to target right now. Keyword research tools also provide an indication of how many other websites are also targeting each of the keywords in the list. Knowing the competition that you’re up against on any given phrase provides insight into how much effort will be required to make your website show up at the top of the search results for that phrase. Some keyword tools also provide you with information about how much it would cost you to advertise your website on the first page of Google for a particular keyword phrase.
Sometimes the information being sought after isn’t immediately clear from the search term. In other words, the intent behind the search can be ambiguous. In general, targeting single words for SEO won’t be profitable. Instead, focus on search phrases where the search intent is clear. This is what can drive a lot of highly targeted traffic to your website.
For example the intent behind a search for the word “shoe” is ambiguous. What is the person looking for? Are they looking for running shoes, dress shoes, casual shoes, shoe stores, shoe design, etc.? Because it is a single word and the intent of the search is unclear, it would not be profitable to invest in making your website show up at the top of the search results for a search term like this.
By targeting search phrases where the search intent is clear, you’ll be focusing your efforts on words that will bring highly targeted search traffic to your website.
Each page on your website should focus around one specific keyword phrase. This isn’t to say that you can’t have other keyword phrases on that page, but rather that each page should have as its primary focus an SEO keyword phrase that you are targeting. Be sure to use both the singular and plural forms of your target keyword phrase. Singular and plural forms of an SEO keyword, as well as variations of the keyword phrase are like clusters. Each keyword phrase variation should be used, as appropriate, on the pages that target the primary keyword phrase in that cluster.
Adding Keywords to Your Website
Keywords are added to your webpage in a variety of different ways, some of which are seen only by the search engines who read your website. Ideally your website should use SEO friendly URLs. This means that instead of your website having a page like this – domain.com/design/p=127, you want to use URLs that are in the form of domain.com/interior-design/office-design/. In the first example of the URL, you will notice that there are no keywords in the address. Design doesn’t count as a keyword by itself because it is just one word and search intent can’t be discerned. In the second example, the search engines are able to see from the URL that the page is about interior design for offices.
The title of your page should contain your primary keyword phrase. The subheadings on your page should contain relevant keyword phrases as appropriate. The blocks of text and even the image alt text should contain the keyword phrases as appropriate for the page.
Black Hat SEO – (Things to Avoid)
Black hat SEO is a term that is used to describe a variety of different tactics that people have used to trick the search engines. Black hat SEO techniques are not successful long-term and can result in a website being penalized and even banned from the search engines!
The best way to avoid accidently making a mistake with SEO is make sure that you are not trying to show the search engine something different from what you are trying to show the actual people visiting your website. Avoid things like using text that is the same (or very similar) in color as the background. Some saw this as a way of adding keywords to their website that the search engine would see but people would not. This kind of thing can get your website in trouble in a hurry.
Don’t stuff too many keywords into a webpage. How many is too many? A good rule of thumb is that your webpage should look good and be considered normal by your target audience. If your webpage looks good and reads fine for your prospects and customers, then you don’t have too many keywords on your page. If your website has so many keywords that it reads funny, then your page should be edited so that it doesn’t stand out as unusual for its usage of keywords.
There is an art to finding the right balance between enough and too much repetition. Writing is an art and although there are rules that can guide you, a lot is in the eye of the beholder. Here are some helpful guidelines.
Repetition is a form of emphasis. Subtlety has its place and it isn’t in your keyword usage. Don’t rely on people to infer context – you must provide it explicitly. Reading habits are changing. Although some may read every word faithfully, the majority of people visiting your website scan the page rather than it read carefully. As such, your pages should be designed to accommodate this type of reading behavior. This is done by chopping long paragraphs up into shorter paragraphs. Add paragraph headings where there are significant changes in the flow of thoughts. Emphasize key points by calling attention to them with paragraph headings, bold face type, italics, or underline. These formatting changes allow a person to quickly and easily scan your page, locate what is of the greatest interest to them, and then read that area carefully. It also provides the perfect framework for keyword usage and repetition. If you stick to keyword repetition as guided by the principle of making your page well suited for scanning – you’ll strike the right balance with the repetition of SEO keywords.
Two Different Audiences
To have your website show up at the top of the search engines for your target keyword phrases, your site must be designed to accommodate two different audiences – customers and search engines. To accommodate the search engines, your site must contain the keyword phrases that you want to rank for. To accommodate the people visiting your website, it must balance keyword usage and repetition with appropriateness to the average reader. Just because you know what your website is about, doesn’t mean that Google does. You’ve got to use the keyword phrases on your page that you want to show up for in the search results. Start by listening carefully to your customers, they’ll tell you the keywords they use and that you should be using too.