The second post in the 4-part SEO mini series is here! Today we are going to give you the lowdown on keywords. This is super exciting because keywords play a vital role in helping Google decipher what your site is all about. Personally, I think keyword strategy is one of the most important aspects of SEO that you've probably heard about but aren't quite sure how to implement.
So roll up your sleeves because we'll be going in-depth to give you the tools you need to improve your site with keywords. We're going to talk about how to find the right keywords and them work for you on your website.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST KEYWORDS
First things first! When choosing which keywords you want to optimize, you'll want to ask yourself a few of the following questions I found from Moz's keyword guide:
- Is the keyword relevant to your website's content?
Will searchers find what they are looking for on your site when they search using these keywords?
Will they be happy with what they find?
Will this traffic result in financial rewards or other organizational goals?
Doing some research to find out what keywords will be most beneficial to your business's goals will go a long way. Finding the right focus keywords and implementing them properly in your site can make or break your rankings on Google. Take some time to really dive into what your target audience will be looking for and what they will find most useful!
When brainstorming keywords, try to be reasonable with expectations. I'm not trying to crush anyone's dreams here, but the harsh reality is that Google's rankings are competitive. Ranking for one or two-word generic keywords is almost near impossible if you're not an established business with hundreds of thousands of visitors each day. Not that it can't be done, but it's certainly beyond the scope of basic SEO techniques.
If you're a brand new clothing company that is offering products nationwide, you're going to have a pretty hard time competing for a keyword like 'women's clothing' or 'summer sandals'. Try to be realistic with who your competition is, and understand how you can set yourself apart. Is your clothing hand-made in America with organic cotton? That would be a specialty niche you could capitalize on. So in that case, using a three to four-word keyword string like 'handmade organic shirts' could be most beneficial and have a higher chance of ranking in the top results.
Make sure your site is optimized for keywords that include your brand name.
I've found that it's a good idea to optimize your site using your brand name as your focus keyword for your home page. That way, when people search for your specific name in Google because they couldn't remember the exact URL, they will have no doubt they are choosing the right website in the results. I've experienced this personally with some sites that have been popping up recently with variations of my name, Dapper Fox Design. Ensuring that my site is optimized with the focus keywords, 'Dapper Fox Design', I am able to secure my spot as the first result for this search term.
Once you know what keywords you want to use, you can implement them in your site. Ideally, each page on your site would have a different relevant focus keyword. Let's talk about where to put these new keywords!
WHERE TO IMPLEMENT YOUR KEYWORDS
Make sure you include your focus keyword at the beginning of this page title.
Wordpress >> You can edit the page title on Wordpress by using the box at the top of the page that looks like this:
SquareSpace >> Take note that in SquareSpace, the Page Title can be different from the Navigation Title if you want it to be. This is really helpful! For example, I want my Page Title to include my focus keywords, 'Dapper Fox Design', but I want the same page in my navigation bar to just say 'Contact'. So I entered 'Contact Dapper Fox Design' in the Page Title section, and just 'Contact' in the Navigation Title section. Here's what it looks like:
Left unchanged, the SEO Title is the same as your Page Title. In Wordpress, you have the option to change the SEO Title with the plugin, Yoast SEO. Get in the habit of using your focus keyword in your Page Title and you won't need to worry about changing your SEO Title to something different. In SquareSpace, there isn't an option to change the SEO Title, you simply add your focus keyword in the Page Title section.
Here is a site I've created in the past for Billy Blanco's in Wordpress. You'll see the SEO Title includes the chosen focus keywords:
Make sure you specify the Meta Description! If you'd like to know more about meta data, you can read my other blog post, Why Meta Matters. Meta Descriptions are useful in Google because this snippet is what shows up in search results. The portion of this description that shows up in Google is no longer than 156 characters. So plan accordingly when choosing what to say here.
Wordpress >> You can change your Meta Description using the Yoast SEO plugin mentioned above. Notice on the image above where you just entered the SEO Title, you can also change the Meta Description just below it. Include your focus keyword early on if you can. In the Yoast SEO plugin, you'll notice that when you enter in the description, it tells you how many more characters you have left.
SquareSpace >> In SquareSpace, you'll want to select the page you're working on, and click the settings button. Under Description, you can enter a description that includes your focus keywords. SquareSpace doesn't have a reminder about the number of characters Google will show, so remember to keep it around 2 short sentences long (156 characters). As long as you have your focus keyword, and a brief description of what your page is about, that's all you need. Here's what my description in SquareSpace looks like:
Don't forget to include your keyword in your page URL. This is one that is commonly overlooked, but makes a big difference. These are also known as your Permalinks.
Wordpress >> If you're using Wordpress, you'll want to change the Permalinks from their default setting.
Go into Settings > Permalinks and select the option for Post Name. This will allow your keywords to show up in the URL, and help Google to better understand your site.
SquareSpace >> In SquareSpace, you can change the URL to include your focus keyword too! Just choose the page you want to work on, and select the 'Settings' button (a little gear icon). Under the box labeled URL Slug, you'll enter in the desired URL ending. Remember, this URL Slug is simply what goes at the end of your URL after the name of your site. So if my site is www.dapperfoxdesign.com, the URL Slug for the contact page in this case is /contact-dapper-fox-design. This creates a total URL that reads: http://www.dapperfoxdesign.com/contact-dapper-fox-design.
I'm sure everyone's heard by now, content is king. I've found content to be one of the most influential factors in search rankings. Having high quality, relevant content that is useful for readers is what Google loves. And for good reason- high quality content generates high quality traffic, and better serves your audience.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of keywords in your content:
Include your focus keyword in your primary header (also known as Header 1, or 'H1' for short), as well as a sub-header if you can (H2, H3).
Ideally, the copy of your body should have around 300 words. Create meaningful copy that meets the 300 word minimum, but don't try to cram extra words in just to fill the quota. Use your chosen keyword in the page's copy three or more times. I probably wouldn't recommend going too crazy with it beyond including the keyword fifteen or twenty times (maximum!) since Google will recognize that as spam, and even worse, your readers will see right through it! When you see keywords obviously crammed too many times in a site, it is annoying and will turn your audience away!
Try to include your focus keyword in the first paragraph of your page's copy.
The keyword will need to be written in your content paragraphs exactly as they are in search. For example, the search term, 'Dapper Fox Design' won't count if I use it in a paragraph as 'Design by Dapper Fox'. Using some keyword strings might feel a little awkward, so get creative on ways to work them in.
Image Descriptions and Alt Tags
Having the proper keywords included on your photos will help especially in Google image searches. Get in the habit of adding Image Descriptions or Alt Tags (also known as Alternative Text) to your photos on the site.
Wordpress >> You'll go to Image Details for each photo you include. Simply press the little pencil icon to get to this section. Under the box labeled Alternative Text, you're going to make sure you include your focus keyword. Here's what it looks like in Wordpress:
SquareSpace >> In SquareSpace, you'll enter in a description as a Caption. You can then choose to display the caption or not. I've chosen not to display my caption, so when I exit the editor mode, the caption below my photo will not be seen by my audience. I also like to change the file name to include the keyword or at least a better description of the photo. This makes a difference when people Pin or save your images because this is the snippet that the file name will come from!
And there you have it! Implementing the right keywords into each of these areas around your site is a great place to start. It might seem overwhelming to tackle all these areas, but this is well worth it if you want to rank higher on Google in the long run.
Looking to learn more about basic SEO strategies? Check back on Friday for the next post in the SEO Mini Series.
Have a question about basic SEO strategies?
Feel free to leave any questions in the comments section below, and I'll be sure to answer them!