Many of our recent posts have touched on the topic of SEO and how things like effective inbound marketing can improve it. Early on in the inbound marketing series we broke down the meaning of SEO itself. Generally inbound marketing is something that you engage in for its own benefits, but that has potential to boost your SEO as a side benefit. Now, though, we’re going to focus on a few things you can do with the specific goal of improving your search engine results.
You may already know that one of the most common methods of tweaking SEO is through the use of keywords. What exactly are keywords, though, and how should they be used for maximum effectiveness?
Defining and Choosing Keywords
In search engine terms, a keyword is a word or phrase that a user might include in their search. For example, if I’m downtown and I’m craving a burger, I might pull up Google on my smartphone and type in “burgers downtown Knoxville.” In this case I’ve used three independent, single-word keywords. If I was looking for a bicycle shop in Knoxville I might type “bicycle shop Knoxville” – in this case “bicycle shop” is a single keyword. (Of course, Google frequently tailors search results to a user’s geographic location even if a place name isn’t included in the search, which is one of the reasons why claiming your local search engine listings is so important for your SEO.)
So how do you determine what keywords to focus on? If you’re just getting started, try to brainstorm words and phrases that someone might type in if they were looking for a business that provides the services you offer. Keep it simple – remember that the terms that you’re familiar with about your business might not be the terms that a layman would think to search for. If you’re a dry cleaning business that uses ozone cleaning you might want to have a section on your page discussing the benefits of ozone cleaning, but don’t expect that many users will type “ozone cleaning” into Google.
If you’re not sure what terms your target audience might use, ask around! Talk to people in your target demographic and ask them what they would search for if they were looking for the service that you provide. Post on your business’s social media asking your followers the same thing.
Smart Keyword Usage for Organic SEO Results
Once you’ve got a solid list of keywords – start small, maybe 5 – make sure that those keywords are being implemented on your website. Google associates your website with keywords based on the content of your site, so you want to make certain that the keywords your potential customers are using to look for you are there in your content for Google to index.
While making certain that those keywords are present is important, it’s just as important to not go overboard. Remember that you want your site to look and read as a professional representation of your business, and shoehorning a keyword into every corner and repeating it in your text without valid context isn’t going to come across well.
Also, Google is smart. Some people might suggest to you that there are ways to fool Google by either adding misleading keywords into the framework of your site or way overusing the keywords you’ve chosen. Not that you would ever consider doing anything so sneaky, but just for the record: don’t try to fool Google. They’re already aware of just about any method used to fool their algorithms and if they discover that a site is trying to boost its results by those methods that site will get severely penalized.
You want your keyword usage to be natural, which shouldn’t be difficult if you’ve chosen your keywords well. If you own a bakery it shouldn’t be a challenge to use words and terms like “bakery”, “cupcakes” and “wedding cakes” within the context of your site. You don’t need to use the same keywords over and over on any given page, either – especially if you use them in prominent places.
In Google’s eyes, not all content is equal. There are certain parts of your website that Google will weigh a little more heavily than others. Your page headings, for example – Google’s algorithms logically expect that the headline of a page is going to include a relevant description of that page, and so they give a little more consideration to the words used in that headline than they do the plain text on the rest of the page. Take advantage of this. If your Home page’s headline currently says “Welcome To Tony’s Diner,” for example, you could change it to “Best Breakfast in Knoxville!” The new heading would be more enticing (and less repetitive, since your business’s name is probably on your logo anyway!) and would give your site a boost for a couple of good keywords.
Similarly, blog post titles weigh heavily, so if you are blogging to improve SEO make sure that your post titles are relevant and descriptive.
Anchor text – the text that is clickable when you link to another page – is also weighted. If you’re creating internal links – linking from one page of your site to another – avoid using generic terms like “click here” for your anchor text. Instead, structure a sentence with a link something like this: “Learn more about Slamdot’s SEO Package!” Not only will this give you an opportunity to fit keywords in with a good context but it will make the links fit more seamlessly into the content of your site.
Monitor Your Results & Gauge Your Progress
Optimizing the keywords on your website is a great, simple and effective way to start boosting your SEO. Try this – search for your site using some of your focus keywords and make note of where you rank in those searches. Then apply some of the suggestions in this post. Check your rankings again a few weeks later and chances are you’ll see an improvement. Pair these tweaks with some consistent inbound marketing and you’ll be well on the road to strong SEO!