James Martin shows a few simple keyword tips to help you drive more traffic to your Web site.
As a small business owner, you’ve already got way too many items on your to-do list. So how do you add yet one more thing—search engine optimization—to the list?
“If you have more money than time, hire someone to do SEO for you,” said Matt McGee, a Search Engine Land editor, search marketing consultant, and author of the Small Business Search Marketing blog. “But if you have more time than money, try to do it yourself. Ninety percent of SEO isn’t all that difficult, as long as you can take the time to learn it.”
One do-it-yourself method that any small business owner can do is to use relevant keywords when writing blog posts or creating other Web content.
As defined by Search Engine Watch, a keyword “is a word or phrase entered into a search engine in an effort to get the search engine to return matching and relevant results.” Ideally you should have three goals in mind when selecting keywords. You want to use keywords that accurately describe your content, words that people actually type into search engines when looking for something online and keywords that aren’t found on millions of other Web pages.
For best results, your keywords should be part of a larger, on-going online marketing plan that takes into account your business’s branding, goals, and challenges as well as your customers’ needs, advised Martin Falle, CEO of SEO Research, a search engine marketing company. Also, pay attention to what your competitors are doing, in terms of optimizing their sites for the search engines.
You can use the following keyword-related techniques improve your page ranking in search result pages.
Research Your Keywords
Start your SEO efforts by creating a list of relevant keywords that best describe your product, service or the material you’re creating.
To get ideas, ask your customers which words or phrases they most often use to search for businesses like yours, or for the products or services you sell. Include your customer service reps, employees, potential clients who contact your business, as well as people who walk into your store, said McGee.
You might be surprised by what you learn, McGee added. For example, you might describe an iPod on your product pages as a “portable media device,” when in reality most people search for “MP3 player.”
Once you have your list of keywords, do a little research with one of several keyword research tools to see which words might work best for your business.
Google’s AdWords’ free keyword tool offers useful but fairly basic keyword analysis. Though it’s geared toward potential advertisers using Google’s sponsored links program, the AdWords tool can show you how frequently a keyword was searched in the prior month or year, how competitive each keyword is, a list of related keywords you might not have considered, and more.
Be sure to read James Martin’s article, Search Engine Optimization: SEO Tips for Small Business.
WordTracker and Keyword Discovery provide more advanced keyword analysis. For example, both tools rank words and phrases with KEI, which Wordtracker defines as Keyword Effectiveness Index and Keyword Discovery calls Keyword Effectiveness Indicator.
KEI is a number based on how frequently a keyword is used in searches and on how many Web pages the word appears. A high KEI ranking indicates that Web searchers use the phrase with some frequency, but there aren’t alot of pages that contain the phrase. The upshot: The higher the KEI, the better your chances of being found in a search for a particular keyword or phrase.
Ideally, you should use more than one keyword research tool. “None of the tools are perfect, and they each have different ways of gathering data,” McGee explained.
WordTracker costs $329 a year or $59 per month; there’s a free seven-day trial. Pricing for Keyword Discovery ranges from $599.40 to $1,895 per year, or $69.95 to $199.95 per month. A free trial is available indefinitely, but it offers limited results and features.
Get Specific with Your Keywords
The more specific you can make your keyword phrase, the better your chances of ranking highly in searches for that phrase. This is especially important if you’re in a highly competitive field.
Take real estate, for instance. The generic keyword “real estate” recently had a Google KEI of just 0.09, according to Wordtracker. No fewer than 413 million pages in Google’s index used the keywords real estate—meaning your page about real estate is competing with 412,999,999 similar pages for eyeballs. It’s extremely unlikely, then, that your page will show up anywhere near the first few results pages of a Google search.
For best results, use keywords with a Wordtracker KEI of at least 100, said Thomas W. Petty, CEO of the Bay Area Search Engine Academy, which offers SEO workshops in Sacramento and San Francisco. A KEI rating of 400 or higher is even better, Petty said.
Taking the real estate example further, the phrase “commercial real estate logos” recently had a Google KEI of 2,921.00. While there are fewer people searching for that term, your chances of ranking highly in search results for that term are excellent.
Optimizing for this phrase is unlikely to help the average realtor, of course. But it could represent an untapped opportunity for a graphic artist who designs commercial real estate logos. In fact, some entrepreneurs get ideas for new businesses, products or services to launch just from studying KEI and performing other keyword competitiveness research.
Use Your Keywords Carefully
There isn’t any universally accepted formula for using keywords for SEO. However, most experts agree on these guidelines:
Focus on one keyword per page, along with a few variations.
Place your keyword at the beginning of your Web page’s HTML title tag. The title tag is extremely important in telling search engines what a page is about. Don’t use the same title tag on all your Web pages, either. Instead, develop keyword-rich title tags that describe each page. Include a call to action, and explain a benefit of your product or service.
Use your page’s keyword again in the page’s HTML header tag, <h1>, and subhead tag, <h2>.
Place your keyword near or at the beginning of the page’s body copy. Sprinkle the keyword a few more times throughout the text. But don’t use a keyword in a way that appears gratuitous or unnatural when someone reads your page. You’ll turn off readers. And you could even get penalized by Google or other search engines.
Add the keyword to anchor text (the underlined word or phrase that appears in a clickable link). Too often, inexperienced Webmasters will use click here as the anchor text for a clickable link to, say, a blog post they wrote, said Joe Mancuso, search engine marketing expert at SEO Research. From an SEO standpoint, that’s a missed opportunity. One reason is that anchor text helps tell search engines what a page is about, which in turn helps the engines determine how relevant a page is to a particular query.
Don’t Bother With Keyword Metatags
Metatags are information about a Web page that, in most cases, a site visitor doesn’t see. Many Webmasters have abused keyword metatags in hopes of boosting SEO. As a result, most search engines stopped taking metatags into account when determining page ranking. In fact, a recent Google blog post clearly stated the company’s position: “Our web search…disregards keyword metatags completely.”
Monitor Your Progress
Google Analytics is a free, easy-to-use tool that provides insights into where your site traffic comes from, the keywords that visitors to your site used to find you, and much more. It “provides more data on your site traffic than most small businesses will ever need,” said McGee.
“SEO is not something you set and forget,” McGee added. “It’s an ongoing, long-term process. You have to stay on top of it, keep track of it and learn what works and what doesn’t.”
James A. Martin is the co-author ofGetting Organized in the Google Era. He writes about SEO and helps businesses optimize their sites for search engines.
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