An Overview of Search Engine Optimization
No single search engine optimization strategy will impact your site's position on search engines, rather it is a combination of efforts that will increase rankings. As such, there are no "Get Rich Quick" schemes available, and no one can guarantee a #1 position on Google. Years ago, there were blackhat techniques that may have worked, but today's search engines are smart enough to recognize these unscrupulous tactics.
For best results, search engine optimization should be a portion of your diverse marketing strategy.
How Search Engines Work
- Search engines crawl (access) your site with bots, spiders and/or crawlers.
- Search engines download your site to a server, then access the results there.
- They do not search the “live” Internet when you do a search.
Facts About Search Engines
- 91% of adults go to a search engine every day for information
- 80% of searches originate from a mobile device
- Mobile users prefer watching fast loading video instead of reading a lot of text
- Usability, credibility, trustworthiness, and site attractiveness are very important
SEO Best Practices
Below is a short summary of Google's Best Practices. Essentially, you can think of SEO this way: if a person would like the page, then a search engine will also like the page.
- There should never be text positioned off the screen or otherwise hidden on the page
- View your site with no stylesheets; it should still make perfect sense
- Links should follow standard convention, blue underlined text - however, it may be hard for designers to embrace this.
The Keyword Tag is Obsolete, but Keywords Persevere
Because of ongoing stuffing of keywords into the meta tag, the major search engines essentially ignore the keyword tag. However, the keywords that are still very important are the ones that appear in your content. You need to match your content to what people are typing into search engines.
Think of how you personally search for things. If you needed pizzas delivered for a Super Bowl party, what would you you type in? Pizza? Probably not. Most likely you'll type "best pizza delivery in Miami". Keep this type of behavior in mind when you are creating your content.
Your goal should be to match the phrases people use to provide the answers that they want. Be true to your business; don't try to force your business into keywords / search phrases just because they are popular. The more that the page's intent matches the visitor's expectations, the higher the conversion rate will be.
Do not go for keywords if your business doesn't offer the product. Here's an example: don't target the word "luxury" if your business doesn't provide luxury items.
Doing keyword research may provide you with ideas about things your business could offer. Here's an example: You provide hiking tours, but not cave tours. However, you notice a lot arriving at your site after searching for cave hiking. This can become an opportunity, and you could start offering cave hiking.
- Keywords are not the <meta> keyword tag, but rather the words that appear in your site.
- Keyword research is not a science, it's more of an art.
- No strict rules guaranteeing success - each case is unique
- The general term doesn't always tell you what people want.
- California Travel - this is too broad of a topic
- california spa vacation package in southern california - this is a very specifc topic
- The way people think is typically in a specific format; they know exactly what they want.
- Keywords put users thoughts into action
- Keywords are a summation of people's needs as they type them into search engines
An In-Depth Look at Keywords
The Long Tail Keyword
Most people focus on the head of the tail keywords and don’t focus any efforts on the long tail keywords. People that are ready to buy will use this type of more specific search.
Head of the tail - the global keyword that gets the most attention.
The Long Tail - incorporates 3, 4 or 5 word terms that are much more specific and are searched for the least.
Consider This Keyword Example:
Head of the Tail: Technology
Long Tail: using technology to help middle school student
Use a keyword spreadsheet that tracks on what page the keyword is located
- Use Analytics tool to export relevant keywords
- First, find keywords that are relevant, and remove irrelevant keywords
- Keep them organized, and avoid duplicate content
- Color code the 'main categories' that you notice showing up
- IE: Location, product, vacation packages, etc.
- Organize your keywords by topic, categories, and subcategories
- Build pages that focus on your keywords phrases.
- Search for synonyms and find commonality
- Look at your product from a different point of view
- Example: Resort, Spa, Vacation Getaway, Bed and Breakfast
- Analyze where your keyword appears within the search phrase
- Keyword: hiking
- Search Phrase: Southern california hiking trail
- Prefix: Southern california
- Suffix: trail
- A good keyword spreadsheet is a great tool to give to your content creators.
- Search Volume + Competition = Opportunity
- Try to find search terms with high volume but low competition that still matches your business model.
- This is where you can find areas that the competition hasn't discovered.
Keywords - Plural VS Singular
Use both the singular and plural, but use them in strategic ways. There is often a huge difference in the search volume between plural and singular.
- Use plural keywords when delivering information about a specific product.
- More people tend to search for the plural version
- Tends to deliver a lot of visitors
- Use Plural for general content
- Beginning of the buying cycle
- Use singular keywords when delivering general overview information.
- Companies tend to bid more on the singular version
- Tends to deliver a lot of conversions
- Use Singular for specific product names
- End of the buying cycle
Brand Based Keyword Research
Type in the keywords associated with your direct brand name.
- Example Keyword(s): Downtown Pizza Company (NOT just pizza)
Research if people are searching for reviews of your brand.
- Example Keyword(s): Downtown Pizza Company Reviews
- Opportunity: Consider contacting your customers to write honest reviews
- Never pay for reviews or reward customers for reviews
Research if people are expecting things that you don't offer
- Example Keyword(s): Downtown Pizza Company Delivery
- Opportunity: Consider offering delivery
You can see what people are searching for in order to get real market intelligence:
Use Keywords to Determine Your Offerings
- Business offerings
- Product offerings
- Marketing campaigns
- Press releases
- Public relations opportunities
Remember: Keyword research can help you enhance your OFFLINE business as much as your ONLINE business.
Keyword Marketing Ideas
- Research how people search - this can help you define your approach
- Example: People search for Vacation Ideas 3.2x as much as Vacation Packages
- Example: 'Dog Friendly' is added to many searches in certain areas.
- Keywords are the building blocks of an online marketing strategy
- Keywords also provide strong market intelligence and information to help with off-line advertising.
- Once you learn how people search for your product online, you can use those same terms in other forms of marketing. Ad Buys, Press Releases, Social Media
- Analyze your competition:
- What they are doing?
- How they are ranking?
- Why are there sites at the top?
- Analyze your profit margin.
- Determine your ROI (Return on Investment)
- Is it worth it for your business to spend more?
- It might make sense to spend a LOT more to increase ROI.
Keyword Seasonal Trends - Google Trends
- There are trends and seasonal variations in keyword popularity.
- Google Trends help you see at what point during the year a keyword is popular or not.
- Opportunity: Create specialized landing pages that match the season.
- Choose the correct location
- Change the time - just look back 3 years. More than that usually isn't necessary
- Consider drilling down the categories and Google departments (images, news)
- There may be a forecast to predict the future.
- You can overlay a news component if your content relates to news
- Regional Interest
- Consider targeting unique landing pages to specific regions, cities, states, etc.
- Related Interest
- Shows keywords that are similar to yours
- Opportunity to add content to your site
- Rising Keywords
- Related keywords that are growing in popularity over time
- Compare different keywords, keyword phrases.
- Look for trends over time
- Look for volatility - check for either spikes in traffic, or consistent traffic
- Consistent traffic - invest in more robust content
- Example: Football - (consistent traffic)
- Spikes - keep content fresh for the season.
- Example: Super Bowl (spikes in traffic)
- Keywords + Trends = Predictability
- Learn the language of your customers so you can use the right words at the right time.
- Customers will use different language than a seasoned professional in the industry
- Example: Customer searches for 'Stump Cutter', but the industry term is 'Stump Grinder'
- Optimize your website to coordinate with trends.
- The right content, at the right time, for the right searcher.
Create Content People Want to Read
Search engines want the best sites in their search results. For this reason, you should focus on creating unique, useful and diverse content for your website. You should never copy and paste from another site, nor should you paraphrase their content; search engines can pick up on plagiarism faster than a college English professor. Some studies even suggest that poor grammar can also adversely affect your rankings.
Only 16% of people websites read word for word, and that's only after they've scanned for exactly what they are looking for. It's safe to assume that 80% of all the words on your website go unread. And this percentage is increasing over time. People's eyes jump around the page until they find what they are looking for, so it's important to make your text easy to scan, and the key points (AKA fixation points) should be attractive and eye-catching.
Scannability - Emphasis Your Key Elements
The following components on your website will attract the most attention from visitors:
- Bulleted Lists
- Bold Text
- Call to Action Buttons
The paragraphs on your website should be concise; reading a website is not like reading a book. Try to limit your paragraphs to fewer than 300 words. Furthermore, promotional and redundant sentences should be removed - many websites that lack substantial content simply rephrase existing sentence in order to increase the appearance of substance. And just like you learned in English class, your paragraphs should remain focused on the topic at hand.
Be True to Your Business
You started your small business to do what you love, and your website should reflect that. Do not add content that you have discovered to be popular in an attempt to get higher rankings. If you run a small bed-and-breakfast, you should not try to focus on keywords like "luxury spa resort". People will quickly realize they have arrived on the wrong website and hit the back button.