You’re not an SEO expert and you don’t want to be. It all sounds a bit overwhelming and Google probably just tossed out the Zebra update and scared all the good website owners back underground for the next two months.
Yet search is important. It’s how people find websites every day for services, for shopping, for research. And where there are people, you want your site to be.
I’ve listened to so many site owners lament their lack of search positioning, but when I look at their sites, there are no keywords to be found. SEO may be complex and multifaceted but there’s one truth you can hang your hat on every time: if you want your site to show up for a particular keyword, you must focus at least one page of your site on that keyword.
Ok, so you know that you need to focus on keywords and that your site has to be optimized for the words people are searching for. But how do you know what keywords they’re searching for?
The good news is there’s no magic and no great mystery here. Here’s how you can find the best keywords to use on your site without burning a whole lot of brain cells.
All you need is the understanding of your products, services and customers that you already have and access to a simple keyword tool.
Make A Descriptive List Of Your Products And Services
Whatever you do or sell, write it down. When you see it “on paper” you’ll be able to see holes in your terms and phrases that could be filled with more descriptive terms.
If you sell “cabinets” write that down. Now expand that with functions, adjectives or other details that would make the term more relevant to someone searching.
“Cabinets” may make sense to you but can mean a lot of things to someone else. Bathroom? Kitchen? Filing? Wood? Steel? Modern? Antique?
Be as descriptive and specific as possible. This is called finding your “long tail keywords” and they’ll be far easier to optimize for and far more likely to drive targeted traffic to your website. If you sell “antique filing cabinets” then it hardly matters how many people are searching for “cabinets” if they only want something modern for their kitchens.
Make A List Of Questions Your Customers Or Prospects Ask
If your customers are asking, you can bet that other people are asking.
The single most-trafficked post on this blog is “How Much Should A Website Cost?” Why? Because I can’t think of a single person who wants a website who hasn’t asked that question.
If you’re a photographer and your customers are constantly asking how much a wedding portrait costs, or what color they should wear to a photo shoot to complement their bright red hair, use those questions as the focus of a page on your site or blog so that when people look for those terms, your site will be more likely to show up.
Consider Your Geography
If you do business locally or in a specific geographic location then optimizing for anything but that location is simply a waste of time. No amount of traffic from people looking for a car wash in California will help you if your business is in Iowa.
Append your geography onto every term you use. “Massachusetts pet sitter” or better yet, “Boston pet sitter” will go a lot further and bring visitors that actually have the potential to turn into paying customers.
Do A Reality Check
Once you’ve got your lists and terms, it’s time to make sure that people are, in fact, searching for those terms.
You can do that with a bit of simple research.
I like the Google keyword tool. It’s free and it gives you an idea of what words people are searching for, how many people are searching for them and how many other websites you’ll be competing with to get their attention.
Take one of your products, services, phrases or questions and type it into the keyword tool. The results will clue you into whether you’ve got good terms or should be considering other possibilities.
Let the keyword tool do the brainstorming for you. You may find new ideas or alternative words and phrases that are more likely to be searched, or have less competition.
You can explore a bit further by picking an interesting word or phrase from the results and plugging it back into the keyword tool to see what else pops up.
Look for words and phrases that are the most relevant to you and have the best balance of high search volume and low competition.
Stay away from keywords that have low search volume and high competition – those are a waste of your time.
But don’t avoid words with low search volume if they have low competition. Even if only a few hundred people are looking for those terms, you’ll have a better chance of getting your site front and center if nobody else is trying to beat you there. Qualified traffic is qualified traffic!
One bonus of the Google tool is that you can export your keyword selections to Excel and save them. Then you’ll have a reference when you’re ready to get to the work of optimization and a built-in blog topic idea gallery!
You don’t have to be an SEO expert to explore keyword possibilities and dig to the bottom of the best terms for your business. You are uniquely qualified to discuss, teach and brainstorm about your business. You know your products, services and customers inside out, so even if you do choose to hire a search optimization professional for the heavy lifting, a few minutes and a little bit of research can get you a lot closer to ensuring that you’re using the right keywords for your website.
Need help with your SEO? Leave me a comment or get in touch and let me know how I can help. I’m available to consult with you, research, brainstorm or do all that ugly work you don’t want to deal with!
Join the discussion 6 Comments
Great post! I haven’t really been focusing on EXACT keywords, but it sounds like I need to be. Thanks for sharing.
You actually don’t have to be as exact as you think… in other words, you don’t have to have the exact phrase “Boston pet sitter” in your content to be found for it. You can include alternatives like
pet sitting in Boston” to similar effect. It’s more important that your content sounds natural than has an exact phrase, as long as you have the WORDS that are most important (ie: if you don’t mention Boston at all, then that won’t work. But you can mention it just about anywhere.)
Well, that was a great detailed explanation on how to find descriptive and specific keywords.
I like your advice of using questions from customers as for sure those are questions people who are browsing the web are asking as well.
I remember back in the days I was confused about keywords, yet it’s very simple. Just make sure you are as detailed and specific as possible (long tail keyword phrase) and you will get a more targeted market. You don’t need to attract everybody to your site, just those who are really interested.
Thanks for those great keyword tips 🙂
The question idea is the best one I’ve found for driving traffic. People actually go to Google and literally ASK. So why not answer? Works me for, I bet it will work for plenty of people!
Great post Carol with some excellent tips! I also get a lot of ideas from Google Insights and Google trends as they give me an idea on trending keywords and where they’ll be a year from now. Adding local keywords is also a great tip. I also like to use Moz’s keyword difficulty tool to see how difficult it would be to rank for a particular keyword.
There are some good tools out there! I think people sometimes don’t know what to look for so hopefully this will give them a place to start. I’ve talked to loooooots of people about their SEO and the words they want or think people use are so far off. It takes some research!