A lot of people ask, “How can I SEO my site?” Here, we break it down to the basics of how to do just that. Keep in mind that this is merely an overview that you can use to get an idea of what needs to be done to your website. Once you have ascertained the areas that need work, create a campaign that outlines how you plan to touch up those areas.
Step 1: Keyword Research & Analysis
The keywords and phrases you use are the basis of your entire SEO campaign. Get them wrong, and no matter how much work you do, you can lose a lot of potential customers. Keyword research allows you to find out how your visitors find information and a better understanding of how to focus your content.
A few basic ideas to understand before starting research and analysis:
- “Geo-targeted” simply means adding your area. If you choose to geo-target, you must also decide whether you want to geo-target your immediate area (such as zip code), city, state or country.
Example: rather than “Google analytic specialist”, you would use “Google analytic specialist, Mississippi”. The state’s name is your geo-target.
- Although the difference isn’t as large as it used to be to search engines, there is still a difference between singular and plural keywords. When researching keywords, pay attention to which version has more people searching for it. However, don’t forget to look at whether you can naturally use the form you choose.
Example: “specialist” may return more or less search results than “specialists”.
- The order of words in the search term matters. When doing your research, pay attention to how your keyword tools list the words. Some always list them in alphabetical order. The closer to the beginning of a title, description or heading, the more prominence (or weight) a word will have to the search engines.
Example: “seo professional” brings back different results than “professional seo”. In most cases, you will not rank the same for both key phrases.
- Keywords, key phrases and long tail keywords are three entirely different terms:
Keywords – generally one or two words with a high search volume. The problem with using only keywords is that the wider the term, the less chance of getting targeted traffic.
Example: Someone searching for “golf” may be looking for courses, clubs, shoes or clothes.
Key phrases – generally two or three words that help narrow down the overall search term.
Example: “golf courses, Mississippi” or “golf clubs, Mississippi”
Long tail keywords – multiple keyword strings of at least four or five words with an extremely tight focus on your specific product.
Example: “high quality golf clubs, equipment, shoes and accessories”
The long tail keywords not only include the long tail, but also can be broken down into several other quality search terms.
Example: the long tail keyword example also has “high quality golf clubs”, “golf clubs”, “high quality golf equipment”, “golf equipment”, etc.
The easy part of keyword research is creating a list of possible, relevant keywords to use. You know your industry, or should, and you know what your site will be about, or should. The hard part comes when you start researching to find out what terms the visitors use. Remember, most are laymen – that’s why they’re looking for you.
As an example, we’ve dithered back and forth over whether to use “organic seo” as one of our key terms. We know what it means, but what does it mean to people searching for seo providers? Is it a positive addition or a negative one? These are things you’ll also need to consider while researching.
The best place to start is with a key word. Ask yourself, “What is my industry?” Then, ask yourself what visitors might call your industry. Develop keyword clusters, or groups, about a topic or subject using the answers. The main keyword in each group becomes the main keyword for your site’s high-level directories.
Step 2: URLs, Meta Titles and Descriptions
URLs - Using keywords in urls is a fairly easy concept to understand. Not only does this help the search engines get an idea of what the page is about, but it also helps the visitors. Which would you be able to understand better, example.com/1234/5678 or example.com/golf/clubs? If possible, always use the main keyword for the page as the page’s url.
Meta Titles – While the meta title are someone important to the search engines, they’re even more important to the visitor. You see this part at the top of each search engine result. Using keywords in the title is all well and good, but make sure the title is enticing to visitors and relates to the search term they used, not necessarily the search term you think they should use.
An important thing to remember when writing meta titles: Your keyphrase does not have to be exact. For instance, if your key phrase is “Google analytics specialist”, your title can be written as: Google Specialist |Analytics & Ranking. Even though the keyphrase isn’t in the exact order, you will still rank for your key phrase. Play around with word order, but don’t sacrifice the reading quality just to make the search engines happy. Lastly, never use the same title tag on more than one page.
Meta Descriptions – Description tags must be informative, enticing and clickable. The first view visitors will have of your site, the description is your business card. The worst mistake you could ever do is stuff it full of keywords. This is marketing at its most powerful: don’t waste in on search engines that can’t buy anything.
Step 3: Check Your On-Page Optimization
Look over your content. Does it match the key words/phrases you’ve chosen for each page? Did you spend so much time trying to target search engines that you forgot about your visitors? The rule of thumb for content optimization is this: If you’re forcing your keywords to fit the content, either change the content, or change the keywords.
No matter how many visitors you get, it won’t do any good if they don’t convert and follow through with what you want them to do. Your description may get them there, but the content does the work. It’s imperative, for the purposes of growing your business, that your content is visitor-friendly. Yes, use your keywords or phrases in the content, but always – always – use them as they fall naturally.
Over 200 factors go into determining where your site falls in the search engines. On-page (or on-site) include:
- Information in the title
- Information in the description
- Information in the page and paragraph headings
- Page content
- Page speed (how fast your website loads, as of 2010)
Off-page (or off-site) factors include:
- Number of pages linking to you site
- Relevance of pages linking to your site (in terms of content – theirs and yours)
- How reputable the pages are that link to your website
- What words those pages have used to link to your website
- How long that link has been pointed at your website
If you haven’t already, add Google Analytics to your page. Take three months and watch what comes back from the reports while doing keyword research. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, spend another month creating an SEO campaign based on the reports. Your campaign can include anything from changing keywords, titles, descriptions and content to article marketing, link building, social networking and more.
In conclusion, remember that good SEO takes time, patience and basic knowledge (and good advice!). It’s trial and error, even for the best of us. You may find yourself with #1 ranking for a search term that no one searches for, which doesn’t do you any good. If something goes wrong, take a deep breath and dig into research again. If you can’t figure it out, remember we offer SEO consulting when all you need is a guiding hand. Yes, a shameless plug, but there it is.
Don’t forget to drop us a comment and let us know how your campaign is doing!