You’ve likely heard the term SEO thrown around, but simply knowing that it stands for Search Engine Optimization, and has to do with how search results appear online, doesn’t really help you answer the important questions for your business and website. What you, as a business owner or marketer need to know is how you can actually leverage SEO to help drive more traffic, leads, and ultimately revenue for your business.
You don’t need to be an expert to get started, but understanding key areas such as keyword strategy, how to utilize SEO tools, optimizing content, and internal linking will get your website ranking much higher on the Google ladder. If you are looking to boost website traffic so that you can increase sales, you can start by following these basic guidelines.
What Is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results – often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results. In layman’s terms, it’s the higher your page ranks on the search engine, in turn making it more visible to visitors who are searching for your services. Note: This is different from the paid advertising results that show up at the very top and right of a search engine page.
For example, Sally is looking to find a cleaning service near her home. She just moved to a new city and doesn’t have any references from friends, so she turns to Google to find a reliable and local company. She types in “best cleaning companies in Tampa” and in seconds has hundreds of options to choose from. Those ranked highest in the search could become more likely to get her business simply because that’s what she sees first, instead of a stellar cleaning company hiding on page four of the Google search. This is why SEO can be so critical for your business. Your website ranking will determine how many people are not only exposed to you, but eventually whether they choose to use your services.
Of course, there are many variables that come into play when making a buying decision, so this is an oversimplification of the process for the sake of an example, but the important role that search plays in the research and decision-making process cannot be overlooked.
Creating a Keyword Strategy
The main purpose of SEO is to help people who are looking for your services find you. This also includes helping people find answers to their top questions about your business or industry and finding relevant content that is applicable to research they are doing. To do this, you have to match the keywords you use and content of your website to what people are searching for.
If you want SEO to work for you, you need to make sure your goals match the goals of your potential customers. Sure, lots of traffic to your site is great, but it’s not about traffic (or at least it shouldn’t be). It’s about figuring out what they need, and then creating website content and copy that matches those needs… and ultimately ensuring you are optimizing this content with keywords that bring in visitors! So how do you discover what those keywords are? Research.
We all know research can be tedious, but it’s an indispensable part of the process. You need to find the right keywords that ideally:
- Have a high search volume
- Have lower competition
- Make sense for your content, customers, and business (context)
Here to aid in the monotony of keyword research are lots of tools including Google AdWords Keyword Planner. Google’s keyword planner provides results based on actual Google searches, and if you’re logged into an AdWords account, it will even provide a list of keyword ideas customized to the site on the account. It’s important to keep in mind that this tool is used for paid advertising and may not always provide the best keywords for organic ranking, but it’s a good keyword generator.
Long Tail Keywords
Another term to understand and consider is the “long tail keyword.” First popularized in a Wired article, this concept describes a theory where lots of lower traffic keywords can collectively bring you more visitors than a few high-traffic keywords. And not only more visitors, but higher quality visitors as well.
Take, for example, Amazon. They are likely to get thousands of visits from the keyword “book,” but they get millions of visits from all the individual book titles (i.e., 50 Shades of Grey, The Da Vinci Code, etc.). Individually, The Da Vinci Code doesn’t generate close to the volume that the keyword “book” does but the volume of many independent book titles collectively is more powerful than any one keyword.
This example on a smaller scale can be seen with that same cleaning company mentioned above. If they were simply focusing their keyword strategy on “house cleaners” or “cleaning companies” vs. more targeted, long-tail keywords like “best cleaning companies in Tampa” then they might not show up for that more targeted keyword search.
When you combine them, especially starting out, your long tail keywords should make up the bulk of your traffic. Don’t just focus on keywords getting massive amounts of traffic, rather take note of those that have less competition, yet are highly relevant. Those are the magic keywords that will drive the most qualified traffic and are going to be the easiest to convert into sales.
Inserting Keywords Into Your Content
You’ve taken the time to discover the best keywords for your business, now it’s time to implement them. Websites that rank highest in searches have discovered the golden rule: finding a balance between writing content for SEO, and creating conversational copy that will actually appeal to real humans.
It sounds like a sci-fi movie but search engines actually have bots that crawl your web page “reading” it to discover what you’re writing and subsequently decide which keywords the page should rank for. You can help influence these decisions by specifically optimizing the content based on those keywords you did so much research on.
But, remember the golden rule: Writing for SEO bots only can come off as cold and boring, which won’t help convert those readers into customers.
It’s much better to focus, first, on the readers, creating content and copy that is engaging, interesting, informative, and conversational. From there, you can work the keywords into sentences, so as to not sacrifice the integrity of your content.
Let’s go back to that house cleaning example. The owner of the company might have an About or Services page on their website where they discuss what makes them different from the competition. This would be a great place to incorporate information on why they think they are one of the “best cleaning companies in Tampa” in a natural and unforced way, which is also aligned with their keyword strategy.
Content Optimization – Things to Keep in Mind
As noted above, much of what Google is looking for lies on your actual website pages, which is why having great, strategic website copy is key to any SEO strategy. However, there are other ways to be sure every single page of your website is optimized properly. Here are some key areas to keep in mind:
Titles – You only get one chance to grab the reader and make a great first impression. Spend some time crafting titles that will encourage the reader to spend time on your site.
Links – Linking out to quality sites and content is a strong way to compliment your own content and in turn, encourages other sites to link back to you. Additionally, linking internally within your site to other pages keeps readers on your website longer. Not only increasing page views, but the potential of converting the reader into a customer. You can easily create internal links with anchor text. This is usually the clickable blue text that is in a hyperlink.
Quality – It’s not rocket science; when readers can’t go anywhere else for the type of content you’re producing, they’ll be loyal readers. It’s always important to produce unique content and not fall into that mindset that plagiarized material will go unnoticed. This creates duplicate content and search engine bots can actually penalize you for doing so.
Freshness – Another way to boost your search engine results is to produce lots of great, fresh content on a regular basis.
Code and Alt Text for Images – Bots don’t only read your content, they also read your codes and alt text for images you have embedded in your page. Consider updating these parts of your page with your keyword research.
There are lots of SEO tools to help you optimize your content. For example, if you use WordPress as a platform, they have a great SEO plugin that not only handles a lot of the technical aspects, but forces you to choose a focus keyword and makes sure you have your content optimized for that keyword.
Another wonderful and free SEO tool to consider is Google Trends to discover what’s trending, compare search results, and see what words and phrases have been searched for over a certain period of time. Somewhat the reverse of Google Trends is Google Correlate. As Google explains on their FAQ page: “Google Correlate is like Google Trends in reverse. With Google Trends, you type in a query and get back a data series of activity (over time or in each US state). With Google Correlate, you enter a data series (the target) and get back a list of queries whose data series follows a similar pattern”.
Soovle is another fun way to discover the most searched for terms across seven popular websites including Google, Yahoo, YouTube and Amazon. A final freebie we love is Ubersuggest. With Ubersuggest, you can get thousands of keyword suggestions which instantly generates keyword ideas based on real queries. Last but not least, dubbed the Swiss Army Knife of SEO, Scrapebox is a paid, one stop shop providing all of your SEO needs.
The reality is that SEO isn’t gibberish. Some marketing companies would have you believe it takes a techie and years of HTML study to understand it, but we believe SEO is a reachable goal for everyone, especially for your business. Of course, mastering the subtle nuances takes time, but the fact is we can all learn the basics in just a few minutes, using them to increase the rank of our page in any search engine.
From Amateur to SEO Superstar: Next Steps to Getting Found Online
- Explore the SEO tools listed above and figure out what you’re most comfortable using. Get familiar with those tools so you can use them to your advantage.
- Start by developing a keyword strategy unique to your business. Remember, this doesn’t need to be perfect, just get started and choose some keywords that make sense to focus on first.
- Take some time to research the best keywords for your website.
- Consider using a mix of broad and long tail keywords so that you are covering all of your bases.
- Create a plan to craft unique content and copy for your website.
- Do you have a dedicated copywriter?
- Is your writer using the golden rule? (Write for people, but keep search engines in mind!)
- Start by freshening up all your existing content and uncovering opportunities for additional copy or pages on your site that follow your keyword strategy.
- Be sure to track and continuously optimize your efforts. SEO takes time, hard work, and patience… but if you follow these best practices you’ll put yourself and your business in a great position moving forward.