The world of SEO or Search Engine Optimization is all about helping the search engines find websites with expertise on what the user is searching for. The old world of search engine indexing focused on a series of computer codes that lived “behind the scenes” on your website and had names like meta tags, meta keywords, and meta descriptions. It was considered normal to repeat about 20 of the same keywords over and over on your entire website in order to “tell” the search engines that your website should be on the first page of search results for those keywords. However, this kind of behavior can get your website penalized in the new search landscape – so what do you need to know to make sure your site is ready for the new rules?
Choosing the right keywords
Today’s SEO is all about subject matter expertise. Your first step should be to audit all the keywords you have competed on in the past. If, like most businesses that have internal SEO experts or have done business in the past with an SEO consultant, you have a long list of around 20 keywords, you need to pare those down. Best practice in the new search engine world is to narrow it down to no more than 3-4 topics. For example, you might have a long list like this (if you own a local coffee shop):
|coffee shop coffee||bakery coffee shop||coffee bakery||bakery and coffee shop|
|bakery on the main||coffee shop bakery||main st bakery||music coffee shops|
|bakery on main street||coffee and bakery shop||coffee shop and bakery||bakery main street|
|coffee house coffee||mobile coffee shop||coffee shop in||main bakery|
|coffee shop franchise||coffee shops in||coffee shop coffee shop||main street coffee shop|
However, not all of those terms are going to be great at driving traffic to your website. In order to understand how best to get the list down to the top three terms, go to Google’s AdWords, select tools in the menu option and then Keyword Planner (used to be called Keyword Tools):
Then enter your list of keywords into the search box along with your site information:
Once you click on the blue “search” box, you’ll get back a list of results that look like this:
The trick is to find high-volume, low competition keywords to foxus on. The “Local Monthly Searches” column tells you how many United States searches happen on those keywords every month. The “Competition” column tells you how many other businesses (like yours) are trying to rank on those exact same terms.
Based on the analysis we get back, we decide the best three terms are: coffee shop coffee, coffee shops in, and coffee bakery. (Keep in mind there is no one “right” answer, I’m choosing those three because I want to focus on my main product which is coffee, optimize for my local audience by focusing on my location, and also get more traffic for my baked goods.) The three that look best to you (where you are an expert) should be the three that you pick.
What if I don’t know which keywords are right for me?
If you aren’t sure which keywords best describe your business, you can use this same tool. Instead of cutting and pasting a list into the box above, put your website into the website box:
For this exercise, make sure you check the “only show ideas closely related to my search terms” box before clicking on “search.” Google will then display a list of relevant keywords it has detected on your website in the list below. You’ll go through the exact same exercise of finding 3-4 that best describe your business’ main focus areas.
Implementing those keywords on your website
Once you have your short list of 3-4 key terms, then take a critical look at all of the writing on your website. If you find that you use the same terms more than twice on any page, delete redundant terms. Try to make sure every page of your website mentions at least one of the three keywords you have chosen. An example is below:
Also, make sure your writing sounds natural – again, don’t sound like a robot or machine by repeating the same terms over and over. If it doesn’t make sense to you when you read it out loud, you probably shouldn’t have it in your website copy.
This article focuses on getting the right keywords and eliminating all the writing you may have on your website that doesn’t focus on those subjects. The next step is to restructure your content in your navigation to reflect these changes, which we will cover in the next issue.