SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the Holy Grail of the Internet. It is the magic (and secret) formula that Google, and other sites use to determine which results get listed first. It's natural for any business with a website to want their results to appear at the very top of the list when potential customers is searching. But with so much confusion about how to achieve this, we're going to dive into one of the ways you can really pack a punch with your SEO- getting the right keywords. The 10 strategies for creating and optimizing keywords we're covering today are designed to help you swing things in your favor.
If you haven't already, don't forget to check out the Dapper Fox 4-part SEO Mini Series right here on the blog. It covers all the basics for Wordpress and Squarespace websites to get started on your SEO strategy.
1. FIRST, THE BAD NEWS
The most common search words and terms are called 'Head Terms'. The reality is that any small business will never be able to capture the top search spots. Large companies have so much capacity, volume, and capital such that they will always dominate this arena. The good news, however, is that the little guy/gal still has a chance.
Long-Tail Keywords are the phrases that customers type in when searching for the product/service they are looking for. These long-tail keywords are typically 3-5 words long, and are more specific. So phrases like, 'yoga studio park city' or 'organic cotton yoga pants' is probably going to give you a better chance at showing up first. This is because when a phrase becomes very specific, you're competing with fewer sites and therefore showing up higher in the rankings!
2. BE THE CUSTOMER
One of the easiest mistakes to make as a small business owner is to get caught up in everything you have to offer. The reality is, if a customer can't find you, it doesn't matter how wonderful your business is.
Stop for a moment and be the customer. If you were looking for this product/service - where would you start? What would you search for? What variations of searches would you do? A search for 'yoga clothes' is very different from 'what are the most popular women's yoga v-neck tank tops'. Take some time and critically analyze who your customer is and what they're going to be searching for.
A related strategy is to study your competition. Find other companies offering similar products/services and see which search phrases lead to their sites. Then make sure to include those keywords in your site as well. Don't forget to place these keywords in your body copy, heading and images. If you haven't already, check out the 4-part Dapper Fox SEO Mini Series for more information on how to place the keywords around your site.
3. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
While it might be an ego boost to look at your search results and see thousands of views on your website, if they aren't buying anything- it doesn't matter. It would be better to see hundreds of views from customers making purchases. Your profit will be determined by converting 'views' to 'purchases'. It only makes sense that your success will be contingent on how well you define YOUR customers, the people who want exactly what you have. Take some time and clearly define: What is the customer's specific unmet problem or need that my business solves? Use this information to tailor keyword-rich content to show how your audience's problems can be solved with your specific product or service.
4. GOOGLE 'SUGGESTIONS'
You know when you start searching for something in Google, it suggests various solutions for you? By performing those searches as if you were a customer, you can see what Google is thinking. Begin typing all of the variations you can think of from a customer's perspective and see what Google suggests. When you find phrases that apply to your product/service, take note to make sure that your website uses those long-tail keywords exactly as they appear on Google's suggestions.
5. GOOGLE 'RELATED SEARCHES'
A similar tool is found at the bottom of the search page. See what Google classifies as 'related searches'. Again, the key here is to not think in terms of what you have to offer but, rather, in terms of what the customer is looking for and how Google leads them to find you. Again, make sure you use these suggestions verbatim in your own website copy/verbiage.
6. UTILIZE A VARIETY OF KEYWORD RESEARCH TOOLS
There are resources available that can help you analyze searches and get ideas. Consider it your thesaurus for search phrases. Use keywords and see all of the ancillary paths they lead you to:
- Google's Trends
- WordStream's Free Keyword Tool
- WordStream's Keyword Niche Finder
- YouTube's Keyword Tool
- Twitter Search
7. ANALYZE YOUR ANALYTICS
By paying close attention to your website analytics you will be able to see what is working so far. If you discover search terms that are being used, you may want to seriously consider having pages dedicated to each of them. Again, see the customer, be the customer, and then respond to the customer!
In Google Analytics, you can view these search queries by going to: Traffic Sources >> Sources >> Search >> Organic. One place to look might be question keywords (searches that begin with what, why, how, etc.)
8. SEARCH QUERY REPORTS
If you're running a PPC campaign (AdWords), you want to make sure you're analyzing your Search Query Reports. Just as you would in Google Analytics, you have the ability to see searches that brought customers to your site. What is critically valuable here, however, is the ability to see conversions. Again, it's nice to have visits, but it's the profit brought in by customers purchasing your products/services that is the real marker of success here. If you have long-tail keywords that are converting visits to purchases - capitalize on that!
9. SEARCH OTHER SEARCH SITES
Demand Media owns eHow, Cracked.com, and other sites. They have an army of programmers that uses powerful algorithms to find long-tail keywords that it can then target to content. You can see where their searches lead and what phrases are common. Even if they have a page that matches your product/service, chances are they have mass produced it and the quality is low. If they are targeting a certain phrase, it's almost guaranteed that there is high search volume for that. Another easy thing to do is to search for synonyms of the words you’re currently using.
10. THE SECRET FORMULA
My step-dad, Russ, told me this personal story once, and I think it perfectly applies to this situation. He was a high school teacher trying to recruit students for a new specialty class that was being offered the following year. During the registration period he announced to all of his classes to sign up for this class next year. When the registration results came in, only 7 students had actually signed up for the class.
The next year, however, he tried again. This time, he approached different students while the others were working and said "I’ve really enjoyed having you in class, I think you’d be great in my new program next year". He repeated that on an individual basis over the course of the registration period. The results this time were staggeringly different, with 60 students signing up for the course!
What I learned from Russ's experience was that the key is to find a way to make your customer feel like you’re talking directly to them.
Long tail keywords are one way of doing that – it makes the customer feel like you knew exactly what they were looking for. Look at everything you’re offering and see if you can change it from a generic, mass-approach to one that is customized and feels like a personal invitation.
Google and other search sites are constantly changing the 'rules'. And the rules are never known in the first place. As companies find out how to ‘game the system’, Google finds out about it and changes their system to stop it from happening in the future. They even have ways of verifying ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ techniques. This is keyed toward determining if companies are using deception or not. If you want to maximize your long-term growth, spend time creating pages that have valid content and keywords that genuinely represent the content it leads to.
The world of search is fluid. Getting things right takes lots of trial and error, figuring out what works for your specific niche and website, and a bit of elbow grease. Figuring out quality and relevant keywords for your site is one of the best steps you can take toward getting your SEO in shape to start working for you! Focus on your content, think like your customer, and keep trying and adjusting!