Understanding Search Engine Optimization: 5 Tips for Keyword Best Practices
For any brand to be profitable online, the marketing strategy Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a tactic that should be actively and aggressively pursued. Because SEO is multi-faceted and can get very technical, most small business owners shy away from the entire field or feel pressured into finding a creative agency to take over the work. However, with a little guidance and some monthly dedication, creating a solid SEO foundation and continuing the practice of optimizing your website pages is an attainable goal.
While we’re going to get into the more practical aspects of SEO in a moment, but first let’s go over what SEO is and what it is not.
In its purest form, SEO is the process search engines use to help users find answers to their questions. Fundamentally, websites should be created and content should be written with the end user in mind. If a website does not answer users’ questions clearly and organically, search engines will not show it to a majority of the searchers because it may not truly be beneficial to the end users.
On the flip side, search engine optimization is not a race to get to page one in Google. The process of trying to ‘rank higher’ should be approached cautiously and with the realization that it’s a long-term strategy.
You will rank well if you focus on creating valuable content for your end user.
Because of this important principle, strategic steps should be taken to ensure you are creating the best content possible that is directly targeting your ideal audience. In the meantime, the process of working key words and phrases into your content so your valuable information doesn’t go unnoticed is important. This SEO tactic is called keyword research and content optimization.
Understand the Purpose of your Website and your Target Audience
While this may seem basic at face value, no brand can accurately start optimizing a website if they don’t have a clear picture of the mission and their audience. If you already have this information, great! Skip this step and start your research.
However, if you have yet to nail down key factors such as age, interests, and location of your target user you may not be able to truly find what your target market is interested in and what terms they’ll use to find a brand like yours.
Create a detailed profile of your ideal customer and use that information to inform your keyword research.
Find Valuable Keywords and Phrases
Now you’ll be able to put the pedal to the metal and ramp up your research. Start by pulling up a couple of free programs to help. My personal favorite is Moz.com. They recently released a free version of their powerful keyword tool – Keyword Explorer – and although it has a limited number of keyword searches per month, it’s still a valuable tool to have in your SEO tool belt.
Another great option is Google’s Keyword Planner. Just be aware that the Keyword Planner’s results are based on paid keywords in Google AdWords campaigns, so for organic traffic you may not get the most accurate data available.
Start your research by searching a common keyword you want your website to rank for. This could be anything as vague as “women’s dresses” to something as specific as “little black dresses for petite women”.
Now here’s where the above-mentioned programs will do the heavy lifting for you. You’ll be able to see…
- Monthly Volume (number of searches for the keyword per month)
- Difficulty (how difficult it will be for you to rank over competitors)
- Organic Click Through Rate
You’ll also be able to see a list of Keyword Suggestions that can guide you to additional, valuable keywords.
So, here’s what to look for in a valuable keyword:
- Long-tail keywords (a key phrase is often easier to rank for because it’s more specific and has less competition surrounding it)
- High Monthly Volume (ideally 11 searches per month and up is worth going after. However, if a keyword has thousands of searches the competition may be too stiff to rank for it right off the bat)
- Low Difficulty. Create a list of your highest priority keywords – start with 10-15 keywords – and make sure to reference it when creating new content on your website or optimizing existing content.
Determine Keyword Placement
After you have your list of keywords determine how you can work them into your website. Never force a keyword into a web page. If it does not organically fit into the content, find a keyword that will fit. Google will negatively rank your website for keyword stuffing.
Work your keywords into the body copy of the website, page titles, meta descriptions and also alt tags of the images. While there’s no rule as to how many keywords to work into a web page or how many times to use that keyword on the page, a good rule to follow is 2-3 keywords (or one keyword used 2-3 times) per about 800 words.
TIP: if your website is built on WordPress, download the Yoast SEO plugin to optimize your meta descriptions and page titles. Shopify has this feature already built in.
Create New Content
If you find a keyword that is going to be very valuable to your brand but it does not fit with your current content, explore the option of creating a new page of content for that specific keyword. This is the reason most SEO strategists suggest creating a blog to complement an e-commerce website. A blog allows you to organically work keywords into your content that may not fit elsewhere on your website.
Never Stop Researching
Stay ahead of the trends by continuing your keyword research, even after the initial discovery session. Use the program Google Trends to find out what search terms are trending, then find valuable variations of those terms and see if you can add them to your website content organically. This is one of the best ways to stay one step ahead of your competitors.
While it may seem like keyword research and implementation is the unicorn of the SEO world, it’s not a guarantee for traffic and exposure. It can take months to overtake your competitors for a specific keyword – especially if your competitors have been online for a longer amount of time than you have been.
Understand that you’re playing the long game with SEO, but if you keep up with the practice and optimize consistently it will only benefit your website.